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Understand our unique stewardship

Utah's landscapes are dramatic, beautiful and diverse. From the rugged canyons and extraordinary red rock formations that define southern Utah, to the towering snow-capped ranges and breathtaking vistas of northern Utah, this great state inspires all. Yet for all the boldness that characterizes Utah's iconic landscapes, April's delicate blossoms remind us of the sensitivity of the natural environment.

Utah's economy is also defined by contrasts. From the dense urban hubs in Salt Lake and Utah valleys, where high-tech and manufacturing industries thrive alongside financial institutions and outdoor equipment companies, to the rural areas, where natural resource development, agriculture and outdoor recreation drive growth, this great state provides stability and opportunity for each of us. While a steady parade of accolades praises Utah as the nation's economic leader, such economic vitality is not a given. It must be diligently fostered.

Earth Day is a time for celebration and reflection. It prompts equal measures of appreciation and concern — appreciation for the bounty of creation and concern that we pass on this bounty undiminished.

As governor and as a grandfather, I want future Utahns to enjoy a prosperity which allows them to have rewarding jobs, support their families, and benefit from great education and infrastructure. I also want them to enjoy the health and spiritual rewards of the great outdoors. Each state policy should be crafted with an eye to fueling job creation and economic development, while preserving human and environmental health, both for us and for our children. Utah's environment and Utah's economy are both unique, and so it becomes our stewardship to identify and advance unique solutions.

Earth Day inspires a sense of humility. Personally, I am humbled by the knowledge that government decisions are imperfect, that no policy, no matter how well-intended, ever strikes the perfect balance among society's values; and yet it's our responsibility today and every day to embrace the challenge, strive with our best intentions and arm ourselves with the best information to achieve that balance.

Our success as a state and as a society in addressing our environmental challenges will be accomplished using many tools. Certainly, regulation plays a role in protecting the public and keeping industry accountable. But I believe that the ingenuity of the American people, working within the creative power of the free market, will do more to drive truly transformative environmental breakthroughs.

Take, for example, recent headlines stating that the United States is the only nation on earth that has reduced carbon emissions since 2008. While the economic downturn played a role in that decline, other nations affected by recession increased their carbon emissions. The difference is technology. Recent analysis shows that the increased use of natural gas has played a significant role in reducing the average carbon intensity of each megawatt hour of electricity generated in the U.S. This is a case in which technological breakthroughs in the area of oil and gas production have led to significant environmental progress.

Technological advances are also bringing down the cost of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. As these important resources become more competitive, they will become a growing and increasingly critical part of our energy portfolio.

Through technological advancement and policies supported by an informed and engaged public, we can improve our environment and our economy. Let's harness our singular dedication to our families, our communities, and the natural world to provide the clean, abundant and reliable energy we all want and need.

Please join me in celebrating Earth Day, a day that exhorts us to constantly find new and better ways to engage nature and each other.

Gary Herbert is governor of Utah.