Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue


Introduction There has been a long history of collaboration on research projects between the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation (Utah State Parks) and Utah State University’s Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism (IORT) that began in the late 1970s when IORT was founded and continues to this day. This was especially true during the time of the administrations of Governor Leavitt (1992-2002) and Governor Walker (2002-2004) in Utah when Courtland Nelson served as Director of Utah State Parks. IORT and Utah State Parks have mutual interests based on the mission statements of each, with a common goal of enhancing the quality of life of Utah residents and visitors to the state through the provision of quality outdoor recreation opportunities and experiences.

With respect to IORT, in 1998, the Utah State Legislature approved Senate Bill 35 to provide continuing funding to Utah State University to establish and support an interdisciplinary program of research, extension, and teaching to provide a better understanding of the relationships between outdoor recreation and tourism, natural resources management, community economic vitality, and quality of life issues for the citizens of Utah.  Then Utah State Parks Director Courtland Nelson was very supportive of this bill to “reinvigorate” IORT. Because Utah State Parks is responsible for protecting, preserving, and managing many of Utah’s natural and heritage resources through Utah’s State Park System, there is an inherent need for information generated through rigorous research on which to base the development of management decisions, policy and planning, and implementation. During this timeframe, IORT was able to provide research-generated information for Utah State Parks, in order to assist the agency in meeting its needs and fulfilling its mission. At the same time, Utah State Parks, as a partner in collaboration and cooperation with IORT, assisted IORT in fulfilling its own mission.  IORT’s Research Charge includes the following:

    1. Identify research needs in outdoor recreation and tourism for local communities, counties, travel regions, and natural resource management agencies in Utah.
    2. Define relevant issues in outdoor recreation and tourism and help coordinate public and private sector efforts to study and solve problems.
    3. Identify and generate supplemental research funds from state, federal, and private sources.
    4. Provide a clearinghouse for research data and publications of findings and professional papers.
    5. Collaborate with scientists and professionals in Utah, the West, and elsewhere, to develop affiliated research and report findings to enhance the knowledge base in outdoor recreation and tourism.

IORT’s Research Focus includes two broad areas:

    1. Studies of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Participation in Utah

Goal: Understand outdoor recreation and resource-based tourism in terms of supply and demand, and user behavior, impacts, perceptions, and attitudes, to generate information relevant to the decision making processes of public land management agencies and other stakeholders in order to provide quality experiences for the citizens of and visitors to Utah.

    • Focus on outdoor recreation and resource-based tourism.
    • Generate empirical data useful for decision-making and policy formulation and implementation.
    • Analyze current visitor use and predict future trends, along with implications for changes in outdoor recreation and tourism development and public land management policies in Utah.
    1. Studies of Social, Economic, and Environmental Benefits and Costs of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism for Travel Regions, Counties, and Local Communities in Utah.

Goal: Understand social, economic, and environmental benefits and costs for regions, counties, and local communities in Utah to help maximize positive aspects of resource-based recreation and tourism development, minimize potential negative aspects, and mitigate unavoidable social, economic, and environmental impacts.

    • Focus on the role outdoor recreation and tourism play in local community development.
    • Generate empirical data useful for decision-making and policy formulation and implementation.
    • Specific areas of focus include:

a) role of outdoor recreation and tourism in economic diversification; b) social, economic, and environmental effects of outdoor recreation and tourism in resource dependent communities; c) present conflicts and potential opportunities for synergistic approaches between traditional commodity-oriented uses of public lands and newer pressures for outdoor recreation and tourism; d) relationships between outdoor recreation-related public land management policies and local economic development.

Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service