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OIA meets with Leavitt, then takes debate to Colo.

On June 4, the Outdoor Industry Association, represented by President Frank Hugelmeyer, as well as Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond, and other industry representatives, met with Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt for three hours, to discuss ways that Leavitt can work with the industry to preserve wilderness and outdoor recreation areas.


On June 4, the Outdoor Industry Association, represented by President Frank Hugelmeyer, as well as Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond, and other industry representatives, met with Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt for three hours, to discuss ways that Leavitt can work with the industry to preserve wilderness and outdoor recreation areas.

Following the historic morning meeting, which has garnered press coverage nationwide, Hugelmeyer and Metcalf held a press conference where Hugelmeyer read the following statement summarizing OIA’s position and the results of the meeting:

Hugelmeyer told SNEWS that while the talks with Gov. Leavitt were promising, he has to show real action in the next few months or the debate about moving the show will really heat up.

“At this stage, we have given him (Gov. Leavitt) some time between now and Outdoor Retailer in August to show that he is serious,” Hugelmeyer said. “If we do not see significant movement toward addressing our concerns by the trade show, there will be a very loud, public debate regarding where we should be spending our money.”

Of course finding a state with views that are different than Leavitt’s may not be as easy as imagined. Thanks to Gov. Leavitt’s backdoor deal with Secretary Gale Norton, other states are eyeing the RS-2477 roads federal designation with glee.

The latest to line up is Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who has stepped in with a letter to Secretary Norton to argue that RS-2477 allows the state to claim historic road right-of-ways through parks, wildlife refuges and areas that are now protected in Colorado as if they were wilderness. Gaining road designation for historic routes through these areas would eliminate them from ever being considered for permanent wilderness designation.

“We (the OIA) are very concerned with the trend right now and the apparent fact that outdoor recreation appears to be very much a second-class citizen when public-lands policy decisions are being made,” Hugelmeyer told SNEWS.

OIA has begun to lobby Gov. Owens regarding his stance on the road’s issue, but has yet to take an official position regarding Colorado. What is clear, however, is that OIA is not just focusing on Leavitt, though Utah is where the association is currently being the most aggressive in its political posturing.

“The damage that Leavitt did with his deal has set a national precedent that now forces us into a 50-front war, rather than a single-front war,” Hugelmeyer said.

Hugelmeyer told SNEWS that by August, the OIA wants to be able to come back to the members of this industry with a clear statement of “here is what we delivered.”

And, now the OIA board has some very important decisions to make, the most important being does the association take this issue to a national level.

SNEWS View: While Colorado’s record regarding wilderness and support of outdoor recreation is certainly better than that of Utah’s in recent years, Gov. Owens’ recent move to press state claims to old rights-of-way across public lands makes us wonder if we should remove Colorado from the list of states we would consider taking the industry trade show to should it become desirable to leave Utah. Clearly, Gov. Leavitt is saying all the right things and there is real potential for compromise and that is a good thing. Salt Lake City has been a good hostess for the trade show to be sure, and it continues to improve in terms of service and convention performance. What is most disconcerting is that it appears as if it is the Bush administration’s intention to begin using “friendly” governors to exact a more open public land use policy that eliminates protections that would limit roads and with them the associated logging, drilling and mining uses. Now has never been a more important time to become an OIA member. It is clear that economic clout holds far more negotiating weight than environmental rhetoric and legal dancing.