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The GNAR Initiative

The GNAR Initiative is a collaborative program between the University of Utah, Utah State University and multiple regional partners.

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. Some GNAR communities welcome this development, whereas others would prefer to remain “undiscovered.” Regardless of their perspectives on development and where they are on the development trajectory, 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.

The GNAR Initiative helps western GNAR communities preserve the qualities that make them special and thrive amid change. It does this 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:

The Recreation Economy Isn't As Resilient As We Thought

Riding out the boom-and-bust tourism economy Fruita has grown to count on a booming outdoor recreation economy. Mike Bennett, the city manager of Fruita, Colorado, was camped out at 18 Road, a popular mountain-bike trailhead, when I called him on a Tuesda...


The GNAR Initiative is proud to partner with:

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The GNAR Initiative is a program of the USU Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism