After Bears Ears dispute, Peter Metcalf calls for Outdoor Retailer to threaten a move
Black Diamond founder accuses lawmakers of assault against public lands
Peter Metcalf, the founder of Black Diamond and an influential figure in Utah’s outdoor industry, is calling for the Outdoor Retailer trade show to leave Salt Lake City if lawmakers continue what he called an “all-out assault” against the state’s protected public lands.
In an op-ed first published in the Salt Lake Tribune, then given by Metcalf to The Park Record, he wrote that “Utah’s political leadership has birthed an anti-public lands political agenda that is the driving force of an existential threat to the vibrancy of Utah and America’s outdoor industry as well as Utah’s high quality of life.”
Metcalf has often been an outspoken critic of Utah lawmakers’ public lands and environmental policies. But he said in an interview with The Park Record that the actions of Gov. Gary Herbert and other Utah lawmakers during the dispute surrounding the Bears Ears area — which the Obama administration recently designated as a national monument — present an unprecedented threat to the state’s public lands and its outdoor industry.
Herbert and Utah’s congressional delegation vehemently opposed the Bears Ears designation, promising to seek ways to reverse the move, which many in the outdoor industry have hailed as major victory in the fight to protect public lands.
In response, Metcalf said, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) should move its popular Outdoor Retailer trade show out of the state if lawmakers refuse to reverse course in their policies and actions. The trade show, currently held twice a year and under contract to stay in Salt Lake until 2018, brings in more than 45,000 visitors and $40 million to the state in direct spending annually, according to the OIA.
In 2015, trade show officials said they were considering other locations for the show before ultimately reupping their contract with Salt Lake.
“I am advocating to the industry that we demand that the political leadership of the state of Utah change and drop their attack on the public lands, or else we should call upon our trade organization to pull the show out of Utah,” said Metcalf, a Summit County resident who played a critical role in bringing the show to Salt Lake more than 20 years ago. “The people who would be responsible for losing the show are those who have enacted the policies that are forcing us to leave.”
Outdoor industry officials have previously earned concessions from Utah lawmakers by using the trade show as a bargaining chip because of the importance of the outdoor industry to the state’s economy. Metcalf is hopeful a coordinated effort would succeed again. He called on anyone with an interest in protecting public lands or keeping the Outdoor Retailer in Utah — including businesses in Summit County for which the show is a vital resource — to flood the offices of lawmakers with phone calls and emails demanding they alter their positions.
“My dream is the collective voice of the outdoor industry, with the full and clear support of Utah’s hospitality industry, join in an overwhelming cacophony that Utah’s elected leadership can’t ignore,” he said.
Metcalf’s plea for the outdoor industry to unite Tuesday came as the 2017 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market was getting underway. The OIA and Outdoor Retailer declined to address Metcalf’s comments specifically or the actions of Utah lawmakers regarding Bears Ears. They did say in a joint statement, however, that they would make clear to Herbert and the state’s congressional delegation that protecting public lands is critical, and that any threat against public lands is a threat to the outdoor industry.
“This is a real issue being debated in the halls of Congress, at the state and national level,” the statement reads. “2017 has already brought legislation that makes it that much easier for our lands to be sold off to the detriment of many, for the benefit of a few.
“OIA and our industry partners are committed to defending our system of public lands and we are confident our industry’s strong and bipartisan business voice will be heard in Washington, D.C.”
Herbert’s office, meanwhile, rejected outright Metcalf’s claims that he is an enemy of public lands. Paul Edwards, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement that Herbert supports public lands but disagrees with the process that resulted in the Bears Ears designation.
“With regard to the Bears Ears Monument designation specifically, the governor has long held that these lands need better protection than what the (Bureau of Land Management) has heretofore chosen to provide,” Edwards said in the statement. “This sweeping unilateral designation by an outgoing administration rejects the input of elected state and federal representatives, and was the wrong way to achieve the best outcome for those lands.”
Edwards also reiterated Herbert’s support for the outdoor industry and the role it plays in the state.
“… Gov. Herbert created the country’s first Office of Outdoor Recreation, demonstrating the importance he places on protecting and promoting the exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities in Utah. We have enjoyed a strong and productive relationship with the Outdoor Retailer trade show for decades. We look forward to working continually in tandem with this important sector of the economy to ensure that Utah’s extraordinary landscapes and scenic beauty are enjoyed for generations to come.”
At least one prominent leader of an outdoor company is echoing Metcalf’s call, however. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia — which recently opened a store front on Park City’s Main Street — said in an open letter to Herbert that he should support the Bears Ears monument and halt efforts to transfer public lands to the state.
“We love Utah, but Patagonia’s choice to return for future (Outdoor Retailer) shows will depend on the Governor’s actions,” he wrote. “I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation.”
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