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Originally published on the Salt Lake Tribune on July 29, 2016.

Towering ponderosa pine forests, aspen stands, grasslands and meadows — these are not the landscapes people typically picture when envisioning the Greater Grand Canyon area. Yet they’re there, on the public lands that lie beyond the rim. And they provide an incredible opportunity to experience the unexpected, to venture into new areas and to push boundaries.

Of course the area also boasts towering cliffs, deeply incised canyons and clear-flowing springs often associated with the Grand Canyon.

Admittedly, as president of Petzl America, my thoughts gravitate to the area’s great climbs, but that opportunity for surprise is what ignites the passion for exploration that is central to Petzl’s mission, and to so many other companies that will gather in Salt Lake for the Outdoor Retailer show.

Increasingly it seems Americans are tapping into the pioneering spirit inspired by places like the Greater Grand Canyon, stepping out of their comfort zones to try something new in the outdoors. The result is a thriving, and increasingly important, outdoor economy. In Arizona and across the West, outdoor activities generate millions annually for the local economy and are major job creators.

Some adventurers come just for a visit, but a growing number are deciding to stay. Research has shown that people are increasingly interested in living in areas with outdoor recreation opportunities. What was once perhaps a hobby is becoming a way of life for many — and public lands play a central role.

These are places where everyone can go to play, to connect with one another and with nature. The land itself presents the challenge and the opportunity for growth. But the experience is only as good as the environment. The public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon have tremendous potential for profound experiences. However, a climb with a view of uranium mines or a ride through clear cut forest is profound in a different and tragic way.

While these threats jeopardize experiences for sports enthusiasts, we cannot ignore the broader real and long-term risks to local communities and tribal nations, many of which are already living with the polluted water and toxic legacy of past uranium mining.

It’s time to step up and safeguard the natural and cultural resources of the Greater Grand Canyon. The proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument would do just that.

A national monument designation would be good for the environment, good for communities and good for business.

A recent study by the Small Business Majority found that national monuments designated by President Obama have added $156 million per year to local economies.

President Obama should add Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument to his legacy. As a business leader, I know a thing or two about pushing forward practical solutions to help people progress — and this is one of them. We cannot afford to stay static; a national monument is needed to preserve the outdoor experience of these public lands.

Nazz Kurth is president of Petzl America, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

 

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