SHIFT conference

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, right, visits with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper after speaking at the opening day of the SHIFT summit on Thursday at Snow King Hotel. The third annual festival, which brings together recreationists, land managers and conservation advocates to find ways to advocate for the protection of public lands, continues through Saturday.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told people attending the annual SHIFT conference Thursday that conservation is vital to their states’ economic futures.

“The energy industry is number one, but we recognize the balance that is required to have tourism number two and [agriculture] number three,” Mead said. “We celebrate that … we recognize what [conservation] means in terms of our dollars … and we try to answer the question, How do you get the next generation of conservationists, the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts?”

According to Mead, outdoor recreation in Wyoming generates $4.5 billion annually in consumer spending, $1.4 billion in wages and salaries, and $300 million in state and local taxes.

While it’s important for the state to nurture that industry, both governors noted it’s just as important to share these wild lands with the world and inspire a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

“To drive down Togwotee Pass and see the Grand Teton, it’s a reminder to us all how precious these outdoors are,” Mead said. “When you hear the enthusiasm in a child’s voice, when you hear the awe in their parents’ voice you know what it means to have these great public lands.”

In 2015 Mead created a task force to look at the health of Wyoming’s forests and their use. The group recommended a strategy to expand outdoor recreation programs and support the travel, tourism and recreation industries.

“But we want to do more,” Mead said. “We want figure out how to make that business strong, to continue to figure out what is this fine balance that we need with the utilization of our public lands and how we leverage our private lands for this. Those aren’t easy questions.”

To continue that work, Mead announced a new task force to promote outdoor recreation, improve access to public lands, invest in outdoor recreation infrastructure like trails, signage and bike lanes, remove barriers to outdoor recreation, facilitate classroom instruction, recruit outdoor equipment gear manufacturers and distributors, and market to people and businesses looking to relocate for lifestyle reasons.

“If we fail to create that next generation of people who appreciate the parks, who appreciate recreation, appreciate the outdoors, we are failing to create the next generation of conservationists,” Mead said. “If we don’t have an opportunity for today’s youth to utilize the public lands, we don’t have the opportunity for our sportsmen and anglers to utilize the public lands, we are going to lose that interest, we’re going to lose that relevance. Utilization is critical and conservation is critical.”

Contact John Spina at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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(1) comment

jeff muratore

I wonder if the State Land Board, who the Governor is President of the board, will take into account how the proposed Bonander Land Exchange will remove 4200 acres of accessible public land from sportsman and the public in general?

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