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Public Lands

Yvon Chouinard, Peter Metcalf put pressure on Utah for fighting public lands

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Peter Metcalf and Yvon Chouinard call for a boycott over the state’s “all-out assault” on protected public lands.

Lt. Gov Spencer Cox
(From left) Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox; Black Diamond CEO John Walbrecht; Tom Adams, director of Utah’sOffice of Outdoor Recreation. // Photo by Louisa Albanese

For decades, Utah’s granite mountains have served as a backdrop to one of the outdoor industry’s biggest shows. But as the state fights public lands protection, it runs against the interest of hundreds of brands who put their dollars here. Now, some big names are threatening to discontinue exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer as a protest against Utah’s elected officials.

Patagonia CEO and President Rose Marcario said Wednesday that 2017 would be the last time the brand exhibits at OR in Salt Lake City if Utah Gov. Gary Herbert doesn’t stop fighting against the newly created Bears Ears National Monument and the Antiquities Act, which allowed President Obama to designate that land. Patagonia delivered a copy of a letter from founder Yvon Chouinard to Herbert’s office on Wednesday, threatening to tie Patagonia’s presence here to Utah’s stance on public lands.

“I think the show itself is a great place for us to talk about our initiatives like 1% for the Planet and to meet buyers and partners, but we wouldn’t attend the show if we felt the governor was not protecting the Bears Ears monument and the Antiquities Act,” Marcario said, adding that the industry has a vested interest in public lands for recreation. “I think coming out with these statements is really important to get the public discourse going. It’s really important that people understand the ramifications of the actions that could be taken here.”

On Tuesday, founder and former CEO of Black Diamond Peter Metcalf—who was recognized at the Outdoor Inspiration Awards Wednesday for his advocacy efforts—spoke out against Utah’s political leaders’ actions to “starve funding from federal land management” in an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune.

On Wednesday, Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox came to the show and responded directly to the threats. During a conference with Salt Lake City media at Kühl’s booth, Cox said the state has a good working relationship with the show and OIA, and that he’s not concerned about the possibility of Outdoor Retailer leaving the state. But losing OR would cost Utah a lot: The show reportedly brings $80 million annually to Utah’s economy.

He spoke with Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA, earlier in the day before holding meetings with Utah-based Kühl and Black Diamond, plus CamelBak, whose parent company, Vista Outdoor, is based here.

Roberts said there has been continual concern over the years about Utah’s protection of public lands, and the OIA will continue to listen to members when considering the appropriate venue for the show while keeping it located it in a place that meets industry requirements.

A joint statement from OIA and Outdoor Retailer read, “We’ve always had an open and honest relationship with the governor and the congressional delegation, but we must be clear that protection of America’s public lands, including those in Utah, are critical and any threat to their protection is a threat to the outdoor industry.”

“I don’t think one person speaks for the entire industry,” Cox said. “We love Mr. Metcalf. Every six months we get one of these [op-eds] from him like clockwork, and that’s OK. That’s important, to be able to discuss his point of view. But we have a great relationship with the outdoor retailers, and we will continue to have that relationship.”

He rejected Metcalf’s language, that Utah has launched an “all-out assault” on public lands.

“We have these incredible outdoors and we want to protect it,” he said. “We have different ideas about how we should protect it, but that doesn’t mean it’s an ‘all-out assault.’”

Kühl President Kevin Boyle, however, said that if Utah doesn’t stop fighting public lands protection, Kühl is serious about leaving the show.

In Utah alone, outdoor recreation drives $12 billion in annual spending and directly powers 122,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. But Utah’s elected officials are spending too much of that money on private interests that decimate the environment, Boyle said.

Talking with Cox Wednesday only seemed to reassure him that the best way to get Utah officials’ attention is with actions that affect the state’s wallet.

“They like to tell you what you want to hear, but it doesn’t matter what people think or what they say, it matters what they do,” he said. Current Black Diamond CEO John Walbrecht said his company has no plans to leave the state, whether at its headquarters or as participants in the show.

“Utah is our home,” Walbrecht said. “Peter brought it here and it’s staying here. We love Peter and we know he just wants what’s best.”

This story first appeared on p. 9 of the Day 3 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2017.