In a call with Utah Governor Gary Herbert, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) sought common ground on the question of public lands in America.
The OIA represents over 1200 outdoor businesses nationwide, including 50 in Utah. Leadership from Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Outdoor Retailer joined in on the call.
The call comes a week after Patagonia announced it would no longer appear at the Outdoor Retailer show, which is held twice a year in Salt Lake City. The company has said they will not appear at Outdoor Retailer either until Utah leadership changes its public lands stance or until the trade show finds a new home out-of-state.
Patagonia specifically cited Governor Herbert and Utah Republicans (at both the state and federal level) pursuit of “hostile” public lands policies. In particular, Patagonia focused on leadership’s desire to alter or even reverse the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and ongoing efforts to transfer public lands to the states.
Indeed, earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make it easier to transfer federal lands to states. The proposal would “no longer count federal dollar losses from use of the land for everything from mining to tourism as increases to the federal deficit,” according to the Casper Star Tribune. The vote came a month after the U.S. Senate passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, which mandates that recreation be factored into the U.S.’s GDP.
According to the OIA press release, the OIA and other businesses received little to no assurance that Utah leadership was open to changing its public lands stance:
Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same. It is clear that the Governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats – that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.
“Over the last 20 years, Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City, generating more than $45 million in annual economic impact,” said Amy Roberts from Outdoor Industry Association. “Further, the outdoor recreation economy in Utah adds more than $12 billion in direct spending, supports 122,000 jobs in the state, paying $3.6 billion in salaries and wages, and contributes more than $856 million in state and local tax revenue every year. We believe these numbers and our values will be of great interest to other states in West.”
Roberts continued, “It’s disappointing Governor Herbert and the Utah Congressional delegation are in a different place than Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country. Both President Trump and Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke have stated their support for keeping public lands public and accessible by all Americans.
“Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show.”
Roberts concluded stating, “It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.
Despite Utah’s robust outdoor recreation opportunities, elected officials in Utah from Governor Herbert and the state legislature, to its congressional delegation, most notably Representative Bishop, the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, have all actively embraced the idea of transferring America’s public lands to the state. A move, that in many states, has already resulted in the outright sale or restricted access to the very public lands that have provided hunting, angling, hiking, skiing, and camping to generations of people seeking to skirt the urban hustle for the outdoors – a uniquely American experience.
It’s a move that has been widely rejected by voters of all stripes. Public lands have defined America and serve as the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy. For the hundreds of outdoor merchandisers, retailers, guides, outfitters, and other recreation service providers, the transfer or sale of America’s public lands is the loss of the very infrastructure that supports our industry.
In the call, OIA asked that Utah leadership commit to and consider the following requests:
1. Revoke support for public lands transfer.
2. Back off on trying to “nullify” the Antiquities Act.
3. Recognize the legitimacy of Bears Ears National Monument.
4. Support and recognize the outdoor recreation industry in Utah.
The OIA said they delivered these requests “in good faith,” adding that they have tried to work in good faith with leadership in Utah for years.
Outdoor recreation and tourism are important to Utah’s identity and economic livelihood. Indeed, last week, we reported on a recent report from the Utah Office of Tourism outlined the immense tax benefit the state receives from tourists, many of whom come for Utah’s outdoor splendors.
Governor Herbert praised the report, saying that “tourism significantly bolsters the economy and strengthens our tax base.”