Outdoor Retailer will not be in Utah after summer 2018

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After a call with Governor Gary Herbert, Outdoor Retailer announced that it would not include Utah in its request for proposals for new venues for the show.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert

Utah Governor Gary Herbert. // Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In spite of a growing campaign to persuade Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to work with the outdoor industry on public lands rather than against it, he offered the same old lines to the Outdoor Industry Association Thursday in a much-anticipated phone call, OIA said.

As a result, Outdoor Retailer announced Thursday evening that it has decided Outdoor Retailer will not be located in Salt Lake City after its contract ends with the Salt Palace in summer 2018. Utah will not be included in the request for proposals process, nor will it be considered for relocating Interbike, another trade show owned by Emerald Expositions.

“Though we may wish it different, this is far from a snap of the fingers thing to make happen," said Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer, in a press release about the decision. "Convention centers and hotels are not sitting idle. In every instance at every potential venue, there are hurdles that have to be cleared and that simply cannot be done overnight."

OIA said Thursday afternoon that it tried to reach a common understanding with Herbert of the value Americans place on public lands, but Herbert showed no signs of coming around on issues important to the industry.

A spokesman for Herbert said in a press conference after the phone call that everyone agrees Bears Ears National Monument should be a protected place, and the disagreements between OIA and the state of Utah are over jurisdiction and process. But OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts said it's bigger than that.

"There is a fundamental disagreement over, really, keeping lands public," she said. "It’s a bigger disagreement over America’s public lands system and that heritage."

If moving the show doesn't persuade Utah to stop protesting federal ownership and management of public lands, it's up to the voters within the state to make changes at the ballot box in upcoming elections, Roberts said.

In a press conference with Salt Lake City media, Paul Edwards, deputy chief of staff for Herbert, said that they felt they were presented with an ultimatum.

"You saw some of those demands in the press earlier this week, that there be a full rescinding of the resolution passed by the legislature and the Governor, with regard to the concerns we have about the Bears Ears designation," he said. "I wish I could tell you what the ultimate response is. We had sort of a curt finish to the conversation, after it was clear that they [OIA] were not eager to accept the governor’s invitation for further dialogue."

Edwards said Herbert offered to establish a small coalition of people to further examine the issue, but that OIA was not interested in any end result other than Herbert backing away from challenges to the monument designation.

Utah agrees that Bears Ears should be protected, Edwards said, but the state has reservations about the Antiquities Act, which is what allowed President Barack Obama to designate the monument in December. Residents nearby don't have any say in whether or how the land is designated when the Antiquities Act is used, Edwards said, which has frustrated people within the state. And he said the state of Utah wants to be sure that Native Americans, like those living in the Bears Ears area, are able to co-manage the land.

Outdoor industry companies have lost confidence in Utah's political leadership, Roberts said, as demonstrated by the companies that announced last week that they would boycott the show. They are united, though, in their position if not their approach: keeping public lands public is not negotiable. Representatives from Patagonia, The North Face, and REI were on the call with Herbert, even though Patagonia led the charge to boycott the show.

The outdoor recreation economy in Utah alone amounts to more than $12 billion in direct spending each year, according to OIA, which supports $856 million in state and local tax revenue, and $3.6 billion in salaries and wages.

“We believe these numbers and our values will be of great interest to other states in West,” Roberts said in the press release, adding that both President Donald Trump and interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke have both stated support for keeping public lands public. “It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.”

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