research button

education button

toolkit button

contact button


The GNAR Initiative

Small cities and towns outside of significant natural amenities such as national parks, public lands, ski areas, and scenic rivers throughout the western United States are becoming increasingly popular places to visit and live. As a result, many of these gateway and natural amenity region (GNAR) communities—such as Jackson, WY, and Moab, UT—are grappling with a variety of “big city” issues, including severe congestion, lack of affordable workforce housing, and concerns about sprawl. Other GNAR communities are just beginning to, or may soon, experience significant growth and tourism pressures. Effective and proactive planning is critical for helping GNAR communities preserve and enhance the qualities that make them such desirable places to live and visit.

Check out our video below!


We help communities through our three pillars:



The GNAR Initiative acts as an intellectual incubator to foster and support multi-university and trans-disciplinary research aimed at better documenting and holistically understanding the opportunities and challenges in GNAR communities. It also develops, supports, and studies evidence-based strategies for helping western GNAR communities thrive amid change. To learn more about our research projects and findings, see our Research page.



The GNAR Initiative trains graduate and undergraduate students to understand and work in the unique contexts of GNAR communities.  The Initiative also supports continued education courses and other efforts aimed at building awareness and understanding of the unique experiences and concerns of western GNAR communities. To learn more about our educational efforts, see our Education page.

Capacity Building

Planners, public officials, consultants, and others working with western GNAR communities are seeking tools, information, resources, and other forms of support to assist these places in addressing the interconnected challenges they face. The Initiative provides a range of capacity building and planning support for GNAR communities and the people working in and around them. Check out our GNAR Network or Toolkit Pages for more info.


GNAR in the News:

What to do when your small town is overrun by the rich

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, there’s a look old-timers exchange when a newcomer, decked out in brand new cowboy boots and blinged out jeans, walks in. “You know, the look women sometimes give each other when a man is talking,” Claire Fuller, a lifelong Jacks...

Western Cities See New Residents, Changing Vibe

Since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered offices across the U.S., white-collar urbanites have been looking for a little more elbow room. Thousands of homeowners and well-off renters, particularly those in expensive coastal cities, share in a dream: Cash i...

Sign Up Below to Stay in the Loop!

Receive the latest research, resources & webinars straight to your inbox by joining our email list

* indicates required


 We are proud to partner with:


The GNAR Initiative is a program of the Institute of Outdoor Recreation at Utah State University

We are now accepting donations to help support our critical work. You can donate using the PayPal button below.