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What Is 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 — grapple with  “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.

The GNAR Initiative exists to help western GNAR communities – and the public lands around them – thrive and preserve the things that make them special.  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. We strive to help provide communities with resources and education to help them work toward this goal.

Check out our video below!

We help communities through our three pillars:


The GNAR Initiative provides education and learning resources to GNAR communities through our webinar series and other efforts aimed at building awareness and understanding of the unique experiences and concerns of western GNAR communities. Our core team also trains graduate and undergraduate students to understand and work in the unique contexts of GNAR communities.

Capacity Building

Planners, public officials, consultants, and others working with western GNAR communities are seeking tools, information, and resources to assist in addressing challenges. We strive to provide a range of capacity building and planning support for GNAR communities and the people working in them. Check out our GNAR Network or Toolkit Pages for more info.


The GNAR Initiative serves as a hub to foster and support multi-university and trans-disciplinary research aimed at better documenting and understanding 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.

Check out The GNARly Blog

GNAR in the News:

As Utah’s ski tourism grows, locals’ needs are neglected

At 6:45 a.m. on a recent powder day, the notorious “red snake” — the locals’ not-so-affectionate name for the winding line of vehicle taillights — formed at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, extending for miles down Wasatch Boulevard towards S...

To Save the Soul of a Mountain Town

In Aspen, Colorado, and other alpine communities, the future depends on making sure the weirdos and oddballs are still welcome. That’s what gets concerned locals the most animated: any suggestion that their neighborhoods are becoming exclusive playgrounds...


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The GNAR Initiative is a program of:


In partnership with USU Extension and the Environmental Dispute Resolution Program at the University of Utah

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We are always accepting donations to help support our critical work. You can donate using the PayPal button below.
It will show as you donating to USU Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, our parent organization, however all donations through this site are marked for GNAR purposes. Please let us know if you need any sort of official notice of your donation.