Outdoor Retailer convention faces growing pressure to leave Utah over politicians’ anti-public lands agenda

Why should businesses support a state that’s an “existential threat” to their industry?

Aerial tram at Snowbird, Utah | CC-SA 4.0

As more than 20,000 people descend on Salt Lake City for this week’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, convention organizers are under increasing pressure to move the convention out of Utah.

Peter Metcalf, the co-founder of Black Diamond Equipment, penned a blistering op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune calling on the trade show to “leave the state in disgust” over the “all-out assault” on Utah’s public lands that’s being waged by the state’s political leaders.

Black Diamond was one of the pioneers in building Utah’s outdoor recreation economy when it arrived in 1991, setting a foundation that’s grown into an industry that employs more than 120,000 people and generates $12 billion in economic activity in the state.

Park City, Utah | The Cosmopolitan | CC BY-SA 2.0

Now Metcalf has had enough of the anti-public lands agenda of Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Congressman Rob Bishop, and the rest of Utah’s congressional delegation. He calls their efforts “an existential threat” to the outdoor industry, and says that by keeping the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah, the industry is “complicit collaborators in our own demise.”

Metcalf’s call to action is getting attention across the West, with the Spokesman-Review pointing out that Rep. Bishop changed House rules in the 115th Congress to make it easier to pass land disposal bills, and that Utah politicians were united in opposing Utah’s new Bears Ears National Monument, which President Obama protected in late December.

The CEO of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, joined in today, writing “We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor’s actions.” New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich quickly made a play for the show in a cheeky tweet saying “New Mexico is open for business!”

Governor Herbert has denied Metcalf’s accusations, claiming he’s only concerned about the “process” used to make public lands decisions. That denial would ring truer if Herbert wasn’t still considering whether to move ahead with a $14 million lawsuit that, if successful, would force the American people to give up most of the public lands in Utah.

On the convention floor, Metcalf’s op-ed was met with cheers. ABC4 Utah reports attendees were supportive of the idea of moving Outdoor Retailer out of the state, even if it means the convention ends up in Las Vegas or Orlando.

The clock is now ticking for Governor Herbert — Outdoor Retailer’s contract with Salt Lake City expires in 2018, and the Outdoor Industry Association made it clear a renewal is not a sure thing. “OIA and our industry partners are committed to defending our system of public lands,” the group said in a statement that opened the door to leaving Utah because of its anti-public lands agenda.

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