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Op-ed: Time for Outdoor Retailers to leave Utah and its anti-recreation politics

First Published      Last Updated Jan 10 2017 01:17 pm

Over the past several months Utah's political leadership has unleashed an all-out assault against Utah's protected public lands and Utah's newest monument. It's time for Outdoor Retailer to leave the state in disgust.

Over 20 years ago, I successfully led the effort to relocate the Outdoor Retailer Trade show to Utah. The state has some of the country's most beautiful, varied, wild and iconic public lands that personified our industry's values. Utah's public lands also formed the underpinnings of the state's great competitive advantage — an unmatched quality of life unique to much of America that has attracted some of the best and brightest companies and their employees to the state.



This is precisely why I relocated the business I founded, Black Diamond (BD), to Utah in 1991. Thanks in part to both Outdoor Retailer (OR) trade shows and BD's arrival in Utah, the outdoor, ski, sportsmen and recreation industries have had meteoric growth here and have become one of Utah's, and the country's, largest economic sectors. Today, the outdoor industry generates nearly $650 billion nationally in gross national product (GNP) activity and, in Utah alone, nearly $12 billion with over 120,000 jobs. In addition, the twice-annual OR show brings nearly $50 million in direct spending to Utah, which boosts the prosperity of many small businesses in the state.

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.

Specifically, Utah's top elected officials' stated strategy is to take down our newest national monument, Bears Ears, gut the Antiquities Act, starve funding from federal land management agencies and transfer our country's public lands to state ownership, where the state will sell and prioritize extractive use over all others. Doubtful? Just look at the recent selling and purchase of a 391-acre parcel to the Lyman Family Farm that now has gated and padlocked access to a popular county access road to Comb Ridge.

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.

We are calling on Herbert, Utah's congressional delegation and other state leaders to drop their efforts to take down Bear Ears National Monument, to gut the Antiquities Act, to transfer our public lands to the states and to gut funding for these monuments, parks and public lands. If they don't, the Outdoor Retailer shows must leave Utah.

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 while we are here in Salt Lake.

Peter Metcalf is founder, former CEO and current brand advocate of Black Diamond Equipment, as well as an outdoor industry and Utah business leader.

 

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