The last few weeks have been tumultuous politically, a chaotic wave of realignment brought about to a great extent by the new administration in Washington. Swept up in these roiling waters is the outdoor industry itself: Last week, it was announced that the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer show was considering leaving its longtime home in Salt Lake City and moving to a state where elected officials were friendlier to public lands.
Shortly after that announcement, Patagonia said it would pull out of the show entirely, a move followed by Arc’teryx and Polartec. A few smaller brands joined in, and then The North Face and REI announced that there were staying to support the show itself.
“The Outdoor Retailer show plays a special role in the outdoor community,” said Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI, in a blog post. “It is the one time and place that we come together across all elements of our industry…I believe it would be a mistake for us not to gather as an industry this July. Now, more than ever, we need to act together to advocate and find a common voice to protect our most important asset — our public lands. To be clear, REI is strongly in the camp of moving OR if Utah persists in attacking our public lands — the sooner the better.”
The issue has sharply divided the industry between those who urge a unified voice and those charting their own path to make a statement. Given the rising populist anger, the public response has so far favored leaving now. But for many companies the decision isn’t simple, or easy.
Meanwhile, the state of Utah is showing no signs of backing down from its opposition to federal public lands. Last Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill that would lead to reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The state is also urging the new administration to rescind the creation of the 1.3-million-acres Bears Ears National Monument, newly created by President Barack Obama. Last Friday, Governor Gary Herbert, clearly alarmed by moves that could pull $45 million from the Utah economy, wrote an opinion in the Salt Lake Tribune urging cooperation. Herbert’s piece said he would seek to meet with industry leaders soon, but otherwise offered little more than a tepid defense of the state’s approach to public lands—and notably did not pull back from its demands to reduce protected lands.
So…what do you think? Should the industry band together and maintain strength in numbers? Has Utah proven it will never been friendly to public lands? What say you?
Photo of Utah’s Arches National Park by weesam2010
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