Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey today hosted a dedication ceremony for two new National Conservation Areas near St. George, Utah. The celebration kicked off National Tourism Week and underscored how tourism to our nation's public lands strengthens local economies.
The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area became part of BLM's National Landscape Conservation System in 2009 with the passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Legislation introduced by Utah Congressman Jim Matheson and former Utah Senator Bob Bennett sought to establish the NCAs to conserve, protect, enhance and manage the public lands for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
"Today is about celebrating these two crown jewels of Utah and the fact that generations to come will be able to enjoy and appreciate their iconic landscapes," said Secretary Salazar. "We can't forget, too, that these special places are huge economic engines for the local communities as people from across the nation come to enjoy the great outdoors. Here in Utah, 5.7 million visitors spent time on public lands in 2011 alone, and outdoor recreation contributed $490 million to the economy."
Salazar noted that the outdoor industry creates an estimated 6.5 million jobs in the United States and pumps an estimated $730 billion a year into our nation's economy. Additionally, in 2011 international and domestic tourism supported 7.6 million jobs with international visitors spending an all time record of $153 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services, making travel and tourism the nation's number-one service export.
"Through the creation of a National Conservation Area, we are able to protect traditional uses of such lands and expand the economic benefits for the neighboring communities," said BLM Director Abbey. "One of the most incredible things about this designation is the amount of community participation and collaboration that went into the process. Outstanding partnerships have been developed among the surrounding communities; non-government organizations; tribal, state and local governments and other federal agencies."
In addition to unique geologic formations, scientifically important fossil and archeological resources, each conservation area offers extensive opportunities for recreation with more than130 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
With the Red Mountain Wilderness as the backdrop, the public ceremony at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in Ivins, Utah, also featured the Dixie High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard and a blessing by Glenn Rogers, Southern Paiute Tribal Elder.
"We are especially mindful that these lands are the historic homelands of the Southern Paiute People," added Abbey. "Our stewardship of this very special place must honor the connection between the Southern Paiute and this landscape that still speaks to the People."
The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area: The Red Cliffs NCA covers 45,000 acres of public lands in southwestern Washington County. The towering Pine Valley Mountains lie to the north, while the communities of Ivins, Santa Clara, St. George, Washington, and Leeds surround the NCA. Red Cliffs NCA includes all of the 11,700 acre Cottonwood Canyon Wilderness and approximately 8,300 acres of the 18,700 acre Red Mountain Wilderness within its boundaries. Red Cliffs NCA is within a transition zone between the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin Desert, and the Colorado Plateau and provides habitat for an unusual mix of native plant and animal species, including the Mojave desert tortoise, Gila monsters, and the Shivwits milkvetch -- a small native plant that grows only in Washington County.
The Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area: The Beaver Wash NCA covers 63,500 acres 22 miles west of St. George, Utah, and 13 miles northwest of Littlefield, Ariz. Located in the far southwestern corner of Utah, the Nevada and Arizona state lines border the western section of the NCA. Beaver Dam Wash NCA includes scenic landscapes dotted with the Joshua trees, desert shrubs, and wildflowers that typify the vegetation of the Mojave Desert. Habitat for threatened and endangered species, including the Mojave Desert Tortoise and Southwestern willow flycatcher, are protected here.
The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land -- the most of any federal agency-- primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs.