Two times each year, for around the last two decades, the outdoor industry holds its biggest extravaganza in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Outdoor Retailer show, better known as "OR", is where the biggest brands in the business of the outdoors show off all their latest and greatest. Not only do these shows repeatedly place Utah's outdoor industry in spotlight, they reportedly bring over $50 million in direct spending to the state each year. OR is big business for Utah. In the last two days, however, two of the most prominent outdoor brands — Patagonia and Utah-based Black Diamond — have called for the show to cut its ties with the state and take that big business elsewhere.
Historically, siting the twice-annual OR shows in Utah has made a bevy of sense. Utah is an outdoor-lover's mecca whose offerings span a diverse array of activities including fishing, hunting, skiing, climbing, hiking and much more. The state also has some of the most manifold and stunning public lands which represent not just the backbone but the entire skeletal support system for Utah's vibrant outdoors economy.
Over the last several years, however. Utah's leadership has led an ever-increasing assault against those public lands and not only in Utah, but across the nation. Utah congressman Rob Bishop, with his strong ties to the draconian ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Commission), has long been the poster child for this Utah-led war on public lands and public access. But Bishop has not been the only Utah crusader against public lands. Rather, Utah's entire D.C. coalition (2 senators and 4 congressman) have consistently voted in virtual unison against public lands protection and in favor of public lands transfer, defunding of the Land and Water Conservation fund, increased access for oil and gas drilling on public lands and so on. Earlier this year, the Utah's governor's office enthusiastically joined the fray, with Gov. Gary Herbert's office leading a charge against designation of the Bears Ears National Monument and is now spearheading an effort to have its designation reversed.
In open letters to the outdoor community, Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard and Black Diamond's Peter Metcalf have said enough is enough, demands Herbert and the rest of Utah's leadership to put an end to all efforts to gut, dismantle and transfer public lands. Should those demands not be met, Metcalf and Chouinard say the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), which run OR, must immediately take the shows elsewhere.
Metcalf, who long ago led the effort to move the OR shows to Utah, wrote in particularly scathing language.
Our trade show, Utah's outdoor recreation industry and the relocating of many high-tech businesses to the state are predicated in great part on the thoughtful public policy that includes unparalleled access to well-protected, stewarded and wild public lands. Tragically, Utah's governor, congressional delegation and state Legislature leadership fail to understand this critical relationship between our healthy public lands and the vitality of Utah's growing economy.
Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's D.C. delegation are leading a national all-out assault on the sanctity of Utah and the country's public lands. Together, Utah's political leadership has birthed an anti-public lands political agenda that is the driving force of an existential threat to the vibrancy of Utah and America's outdoor industry, as well as Utah's high quality of life ...
Political officials rationalize their actions with false truths, fictional ideologically based narratives and fear-mongering. They neglect the critical role public lands play in boosting Utah's economy, making the state a great place to live, work and play. They even fail to understand that four of Utah's five iconic national parks, which are the economic engines of their regions, were created through use of the Antiquities Act — as was Bears Ears National Monument.
This agenda is antithetical to our industry, let alone the majority of our citizens regardless of party affiliation. By our industry's twice-annual trade show remaining in Utah, we are actually complicit collaborators in our own demise. It's time for the industry to again find its voice, speak truth and power to power while making it clear to the governor and the state's political leadership that this trade show will depart with the expiration of the current contract in 2018 unless the leadership ceases its assault on America's best idea.
Chouinard's sentiments on behalf of Patagonia were no more generous.
The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies. And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don’t seem to get that the outdoor industry – and their own state economy – depend on access to public lands for recreation.
I say enough is enough. If Gov. Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Gov. Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah’s economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business – and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands.
We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions. I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation.
OIA's response to the brand-led backlash suggesting that the outdoor industry should leverage its economic influence to pressure Utah's legislature was encouraging, but stopped short of committing to a move, stating that "A small, but loud group of legislators is trying to sell off the public lands that bring so much return to our $646-billion-dollar industry, communities and economies across the country. This is a real issue being debated in the halls of Congress, at the state and national level. 2017 has already brought legislation that makes it that much easier for our lands to be sold off to the detriment of many, for the benefit of a few ... Utah has some of the most beautiful landscapes and waterways in the world ... We must be clear that protection of America’s public lands, including those in Utah, are critical and any threat to their protection is a threat to the outdoor industry. The Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Retailer will continue to listen to members and show attendee feedback on both the appropriate venue for the show as one factor along with considering the need to have the show in a location that meets the business requirements of the industry."
Elected officials and special interest that seek to divest American's of their public lands are strengthening their attacks. Their efforts represent a clear and present danger to our longstanding outdoor heritage and traditions. As Black Diamond's Metcalf notes, "The Utah delegation has wasted no time in the first days of 2017 to enact their destructive agenda, and now the outdoor industry, too, must respond boldly and unified."
Todd Tanner replied on Permalink
If Utah politicians continue to attack public lands, the OIA, along with every major outdoor brand, should boycott the state.
Steve replied on Permalink
Amen, brother. I've been to Utah twice during the past two years for fishing. If they're going to continue down this path, I'll think I'll skip it in the future. Clearly, they don't need my tourist dollars.
JOANE PAPPAS WHITE replied on Permalink
Don't let the door hit you in your elitist ass as you are leaving our beautiful, awesome state. Do us a big favor and don't ever come back.
Joane Pappas White
Attorney at Law
Spencer Durrant replied on Permalink
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the one with the elitist ass would seem to be the lawyer with a cushy job, high salary, and benefits.
It's sure as HELL not the fly fishing writer, getting paid next to nothing for their contributions to outdoors writing.
Joane, I'll come pay you a visit next time I'm in Price. I'd love to have this conversation with you in a setting where you don't have a keyboard behind which you can hide.
Eric replied on Permalink
I was born in Utah and grew up in Ogden. Still have family on the Wasatch Front. In my 40s now. When I go back now to visit, I see massive, massive urban sprawl. Unchecked growth and smog. I'm with Patagonia and Black Diamond on this issue.
Walter Sobchak replied on Permalink
For two companies who peddle mainly petroleum based products and ship countless orders across the world using immeasurably more petroleum, they sure are sitting high on those horses.
JOANE PAPPAS WHITE replied on Permalink
How dare these egomaniacs of trivial toys threaten Utahns over our most beautiful state in the union which WE were preserving for 100+ years before their companies existed. Perhaps we should boycott those companies in all of our awesome recreation venues. Personally, I think Patagonia is overpriced trash. Governor Herbert, tell them not to let our door hit them in the butt on their way out!
Spencer Durrant replied on Permalink
With all due respect (I'm a native Utahn and love, beyond words, this state's recreation), Utah wasn't the only entity preserving these land. If it weren't for the Feds, these lands would've been exploited long ago. Can you imagine what would've happened had Kennecott gone unchecked? Or development opened up on the south slopes of the Uinta Mountains?
"WE" is a team. Not just a state. Not just one group of people. It's ALL of us - every last American - working TOGETHER to ensure that special interests politicians, such as Governor Herbert (a corrupt, lawless governor who banned sportsmen and women from 1300 miles of river - remember that back in 2010?) don't have their way with our lands.
These lands belong to me. They belong to you, Joane. They belong to Chad, the author of this piece. And if we, as Utahns, let the land that belongs to every American slip away, the fault is on us, and we will be the ones answering for that.
Personally, I don't want to explain why, 10 years from now, the fisheries that existed in this state are polluted, the world-class elk herds all but vanished, and oil rigs and strip mines dotting our national parks. Do you?
JOANE PAPPAS WHITE replied on Permalink
You appear to be a nice well-meaning young person whose entire resume' consists of a few years of marketing and writing about sports and fishing. Your involvement in many areas consists of interviewing the people over events that I was actively involved in, creating like building and raising large amounts of money for, like RMEF -- which became a total disillusionment.
When you have been in the trenches and on the ground with the FS, BLM and USFWS, not to mention the parasitic non-profits that climbed into bed with those agencies, as I have for 37 years of practicing law in matters involving those "Feds" you think are so great and 20 years of ranching while their Agenda has been pushed ahead over the objections of even Congress, THEN you will have the real story of what is happening to our public lands and why it is happening. Until then, you are just drinking their Kool-aid.
Spencer Durrant replied on Permalink
I'm a veteran writer with over half a decade of professional writing. I started at the bottom, covering 2A boys basketball in Utah, climbing the ladder to NBA coverage and even the Olympics. Your disparaging comments about my professional ability are unwarranted, and frankly if you have to resort to personal attacks to make your point, it only underscores further that you have no leg on which to stand in this argument.
So your "involvement" comes from practicing law? Joane, I've walked miles and miles in the Uinta Mountains alongside the UDWR and the UFS stocking cutthroat trout in streams that, if the state of Utah were to have the control they wanted, would be private and likely barren of fish due to resource development. When you've spent time helping wildlife agencies gather genetic information on rare species of cutthroat trout, or electroshocked rivers, or been there for the release of deer into new habitat, or reaped the benefits of the Bookcliffs restoration work, then we can talk about who's truly been in the trenches.
The REAL story of what's happening to our public lands is that the state wants them for resource development and property tax. The Feds wants them to provide Americans with a truly unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience: a giant playground in the West for every citizen. Are the Feds perfect stewards? No. But are they a better option than the state?
Yes. Emphatically, yes.
Chris replied on Permalink
How dare Utah's sycophantic governor fall in line lock-step with Rob Bishop's full-frontal assault on land that belongs to every single American by right of birth. How dare these bought-and-paid-for politicians place the priorities of their corporate masters over the will of the American people. If money is what these clowns understand, then Patagonia and Black Diamond have every right to make demands of Utah's on-the-take politicians who reap the electoral rewards that come with campaign cash. Don't like interests speaking with their wallets? Then implore your crooked lawmakers to change the laws they use to keep their cushy DC gigs every single year.
Doug replied on Permalink
Walter and Joane, I would suggest that you educate yourself about Patagonia and Black Diamond's decades of environmental leadership, including generous support for environmental causes, organic cotton to minimize solution, founding 1% for the Planet...I could go on. If Utah doesn't protect what it has, it won't be beautiful for future generations. It's time Republicans remembered the history of environmental leadership. We'd love to have OR in California!
Bryan Anglerson replied on Permalink
It's not just public lands that Utah is attacking: 1) the Utah legislature passed an unconstitutional bill excluding anglers from all public fishing rivers flowing over private land, and 2) Utah's legislators try every year to change daylight saving time so that there are fewer daylight hours available in the evening for outdoor recreation after work.
OR, please leave this backward myopic state. I'm embarrased to be a Utahn.
Robert Schulze replied on Permalink
I fully support Black Diamond and Patagonia in there stance to protect public lands. Will support both brands fully with purchases and funding for legislative efforts.
Larry replied on Permalink
We are talking about beautiful, wild lands that everyone in the united states own, not just Utah residents. They need to be preserved for for immediate and future generations. That will not be done with special interest local politics, more interested in immediate gains than long term goals that benefit everyone. I'm from Utah and love the wild lands here and elsewhere across this great nation and will vote to protect them for continued protection, public use and not special interest abuse. The pioneer attitude of taming and dominating the wilderness is long past it's prime and Utah politicians need to instead adopt the attitude of being the best stewards possible of wild public lands within our state boundaries.
An example: Governer Herbert of Utah signed a document that essentially took away over 2000 miles of trout streams from public use, just to appease his real estate buddies. It was against the Utah Constitution and threw the state into many years of expensive lawsuits from people and organizations on both sides of the fence, so to speak. Keep in mind that he took away those constitutionally protected "public trust" waterways from everyone in the nation, not just Utah anglers.
Anonymous replied on Permalink
We have the same problem in Wyoming. The movement to transfer federal lands to the state has virtually zero support from voters, regardless of party. And yet these unpopular bills advance through the state legislature. Until these actions cause politicians their jobs these attacks will continue.
frank cada replied on Permalink
The beauty of Utah's public lands will provide income to the state long after the extracting industries have left. This income will be depend largely upon protecting the wild public lands. My wife and I have made many trips from the equally beautiful state of Colorado to Utah for hiking in the public lands. Our ages curtail these activities but not our financial support. I recently made a stock donation to the Southwest Utah Wilderness Association, SUWA. Please join me.