Wednesday, March 15, 2017


On Tuesday, February 14, Patagonia, a domineering outdoor brand, announced that it would not continue to attend the biannual Outdoor Retailer trade show, historically held in Salt Lake City, if it didn’t relocate from the state of Utah. The reason? Utah’s stance on federal public land conservation.

Utah—66.5 percent of which is comprised of federally owned public land—is a frontrunner in the movement to transfer federal land to the states. Many sportsmen and women are concerned that following through with this intent will result in the states’ massive selling-off of these once-public lands to private owners for development or personal ownership, eliminating the ability to use them for recreation.

    In late January, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz introduced legislation in Congress that would revoke legal authority from Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service authorities, followed by another bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public land in 10 states across the west. Shortly thereafter, yet another Utah Congressman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, sparked national research into the possibility of the 
    Trump administration rescinding protection of the 1.35 million-acre Bear Ears National Monument designated by Obama as a lame duck. Gov. Herbert then submitted a resolution urging the newly-installed administration to do just that.

    Following Patagonia’s ballsy maneuver, on Thursday, February 16, the Outdoor Industry Association issued an ultimatum to Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert: Cease efforts to scrap Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act, rescind Bear Ears National Monument, and transfer federal public lands to the states, or they would sever their ties with Utah and take their heavyweight trade show elsewhere.

    Just hours following the conference call, the Outdoor Retailer show announced that they would be leaving Salt Lake City following the summer of 2018.

    Outdoor Retailer’s Summer Market is the most comprehensive and lucrative trade show of its kind, annually attracting thousands of vendors marketing gear and apparel for outdoor and adventure sports including hiking, backpacking, cycling, climbing, water/paddle sports, fishing, mountain biking, running, adventure travel, and more. All of these sports depend upon public lands for their enjoyment, making Utah’s public lands political atmosphere particularly offensive to the show.

    The show annually funnels $50 million into Utah’s economy, making it a true heavyweight attraction for the state. Patagonia’s igniting move was intended to raise awareness of the show’s political and economic contradiction.

    “Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah and we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation,” Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, wrote following the official announcement.

    The high-profile company was right in their expectation, and the outdoor sporting public has widely praised them for their stewarding leadership regarding this important issue, proving quite plainly that on issues involving intangible virtues, money trumps talk and affects change most effectively.

    Though the show will convene in Salt Lake in the summer of 2018, Outdoor Retailer is actively in search of a new home, and is taking bids from other states that have a strong tradition of outdoor pursuits and public land celebration. Utah is being ignored, which has created internal conflict within the state’s government, severely crippled by the loss of so much annual revenue.

    Hopefully, this loss will inspire Utah’s representative leadership to rethink the value of outdoor recreation and the public lands that permit them. Given Utah’s leadership on the public lands transfer issue, their conversion may be a pivotal moment in this land war that will prove to be nothing less than vital for the future of outdoor sports in America as we currently and freely enjoy them.

*Originally published in The Rural Virginian

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