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Metcalf op-ed letter ignites a political firestorm

Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Salt Lake City, Utah-based, Black Diamond never imagined the firestorm his op-ed piece, published in the May 4 Sunday edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, would ignite.


Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Salt Lake City, Utah-based, Black Diamond never imagined the firestorm his op-ed piece, published in the May 4 Sunday edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, would ignite. (Metcalf’s op-ed and an opinion piece directed at our industry appear as a Guest Editorial in the SNEWSitorial section of SNEWS).

Metcalf’s editorial took issue with an April 11 backdoor settlement between Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton that stripped wilderness protections on nearly 6 million acres in Utah. In settling the case, Norton agreed to remove interim protections now afforded to those potential wilderness areas identified after 1991 on Bureau of Land Management lands. Leavitt then agreed to drop a lawsuit Utah filed in 1996 against the Interior Department that alleged then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt overstepped his authority.

Clamors for TV, print and radio interviews followed Metcalf’s editorial in short order with a few in Utah apparently wondering if Metcalf was speaking for everyone in the industry or just himself. A May 7 article in the Deseret wondered, “Is Peter Metcalf, co-founder of Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., just a one-man force behind the protest?” The root of that pondering was linked to a comment made by Peter Devin, Outdoor Retailer trade show director, who, apparently caught unaware of Metcalf’s position and the swelling industry response, was quoted by the Deseret reporter as saying, “We’re not taking a political stand. The venue is wonderful. We support it 100 percent.”

Devin clarified his position and that of future Outdoor Retailer trade show locations by telling SNEWS that, “Salt Lake City has been a strong destination for the industry. However, we will be reflective of our customers’ needs as to determining the future timing and location of the Outdoor Retailer shows.”

If there were any believers that Metcalf was acting alone, those beliefs were quickly crushed under an avalanche of response from key industry players, including the Outdoor Industry Association.

Roody Rasmussen, president/CEO of Petzl America, first put his shoulder of support behind Metcalf’s efforts with an op-ed of his own that appeared in the Friday edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, and then he fired a more detailed version of that in a letter directly to Gov. Leavitt:

Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Outdoor Industry Association joined Rasmussen in a double-barreled salvo across Leavitt’s now smoldering desk with the following letter:

SNEWS spoke with Hugelmeyer who told us that the OIA, along with key members of the industry, are scheduled to sit down with Gov. Leavitt to make it clear a number of points must be addressed quickly by the governor IF Utah hopes to salvage its relationship with the industry and keep the trade show in Salt Lake City.

“Outdoor recreation has been a ‘second class citizen’ for policy-makers at the national and state levels when decisions are made about public lands. And this needs to change,” Hugelmeyer said.

“Recreation is one of Utah’s biggest economic drivers. As a result, policy makers must make outdoor recreation a priority when making public lands decisions,” he added. “Make no mistake the outdoor recreation industry is going to take a serious look at where we spend our money (for example, the Outdoor Retailer show). It makes sense for us to spend our money in a place that respects and understands outdoor recreation needs — and makes these needs a priority when making public lands decisions.”

Hugelmeyer also told us that, “The outdoor industry believes that an on-going dialogue with the governor is necessary to begin to resolve concerns over Utah’s wild lands. We believe that an on-going dialogue is also necessary with Secretary Norton about the need to consider outdoor recreation when making public land decisions.”

SNEWS View: Right on Peter Metcalf! A sharp salute of respect to Roody Rasmussen. And a huge round of applause to the Outdoor Industry Association. Membership does have its rewards. Our entire industry needs to stand up as one here and make the message very, very clear. Be sure to read Metcalf’s SNEWS Guest Editorial and call-to-arms, and email OIA with your comments and thoughts. Gov. Leavitt needs to understand, as does the national political machine, that if they support recreation they will likely garner our support. Overlook recreation and the importance of it to our industry, and the risk of getting slapped economically very hard becomes more likely. Let’s be clear here. No one is eager to move the show and they’re certainly not going to make a move by this summer, or even by next winter we’d imagine. Salt Lake City has been a good hostess — once she learned how to actually cope with more than two guests at a time that is. However, Denver is rapidly becoming a favorite choice among those who contact us wondering where the show might go after the 2005 contract with the SLC Convention Center expires. We’d certainly support a Denver move as well — when the Denver Convention Center expansion is complete. Though we don’t know what we’ll do when we can actually have two whole drinks in front of our plate at one time.