SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 100 outdoor-recreation companies riled Utah's Republican establishment Tuesday by formally petitioning President Barack Obama to designate a national monument surrounding Canyonlands National Park near Moab, a major tourist hub for everything from mountain biking to navigating the area's famous slot canyons.
Leaders of the outdoor industry — including Mountain Hardware, The North Face and Patagonia — say they know they're going up against political opposition in Utah and want to take the idea to a national level.
"We believe this sends a powerful message to all of Utah's congressional delegation," said Peter Metcalf, president and chief executive of Black Diamond Equipment Inc., a Salt Lake City-based company that has been acquiring other hardware makers around the globe. "This would become one of the greatest national monuments in the West."
With Congress refusing to move any land-protection bills, the companies are reaching out to Obama, who can use his presidential authority and political capital after reelection to designate a monument on his own, said Ashley Korenblat, president of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, a mountain biking town that draws people from around the world.
The outdoor-industry leaders say Utah is blessed with a $4 billion recreation economy that's more important than mining or oil-and-gas drilling on federal lands around Canyonlands National Park. A monument would protect 2,200 square miles around a park one-quarter of that size. It would take in more of the Colorado and Green rivers and the Dirty Devil River, and such landmarks as Labyrinth Canyon, Fiddler Butte and Robbers Roost.
The proposal clashes with Utah's political leaders who are demanding more control over energy development on federal lands. At issue is legislation signed in March by Gov. Gary Herbert giving the federal government until 2014 to relinquish control over nearly 47,000 square miles of land in Utah — national forests, federal range lands, national recreation areas and the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which President Bill Clinton designated by fiat in 1996.
"We certainly hope we don't have another Bill Clinton approach to creating a monument," Herbert said Tuesday in a statement issued by his top aides. They said nobody had pitched the latest monument proposal to Herbert personally.
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