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Op-ed: Retailers should drop the bombast and get to know Utahns

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2017 08:21 pm

Utah is and will always be a public lands state. Despite what the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and the Outdoor Retailer show would have us believe, Utah isn't in the business of selling off your family's favorite camping spot to the highest bidder, dotting wilderness areas with oil and gas wells or allowing ATVs to tear up Utah's Red Rock country. Our state's public land management policies bear no resemblance to the OIA's bombastic claims of an all-out land grab, demonstrating just how out of touch the association truly is with Utahns and our public lands.

Take Patagonia, for example. In an interview with KSL's Doug Wright last week, Patagonia's environmental activism manager, Ron Hunter, said, "We want to be in a state that supports and loves public lands." His unsubstantiated assertion should offend all Utahns. More importantly, this claim that Utahns don't appreciate our public lands comes from a company that nationwide has 29 of its 30 retail stores located in "mostly urban" counties – with those counties representing only 1.1 percent of federal land. Patagonia's detachment from our public lands highlights its lack of interaction with those most impacted by public land management policy.




If Patagonia and other retailers were located in our state's rural areas, like San Juan County, they would rub shoulders daily with some amazing people and come to understand what our public lands mean to rural Utahns.

They would get to know get to know Logan Shumway and hear about his hunting trips to the Abajo Mountains.

They would spend time with Zeb Dalton, a third-generation rancher whose family's livelihood depends on access to the region's public lands.

They would listen to Navajo medicine woman Grandma Betty Jones and her stories of collecting traditional herbs and medicines along the Bears Ears buttes.

A five-minute conversation with these folks reveals that their request to the state Legislature, governor and president to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument has never been about exploiting the land and making a quick buck. They, like most Utahns, understand that conservation and local control aren't mutually exclusive. We understand that public land management does not have to be defined by winners and losers, and that most of our public lands can and ought to be put to multiple uses. Just because our public land uses aren't identical to what the OIA and the Outdoor Retailer show has in mind doesn't mean we care any less about conserving and protecting Utah's spectacular landscapes.

Instead of threatening our state with an economic loss, we hope the OIA and the Outdoor Retailer show will take the time to get to know us. There is far more that unites us than divides us, as public lands are an integral part of our Western heritage and Utah values. It would be a shame for them to forfeit an opportunity to engage with us in a robust and elevated dialogue. The voice of the outdoor industry is not only welcome – it's a vital part of helping our state come to sensible and viable land management solutions. Utah's millions of acres of public land can meet the needs of Logan, Zeb, Grandma Jones, outdoor recreationists and all Utahns. It all comes down to consideration, collaboration, compromise and sharing our public lands.

Matthew Anderson is a policy analyst for the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.

 

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