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Arc'teryx, Ibex and Polartec join Patagonia's movement to pressure Utah over Bears Ears

Posted on: February 10, 2017


A climber nears the top of Rim Shot (5.11-, 400'), Bridger Jack Butte, Indian Creek, Utah. The area is included in the new Bears Ears National Monument, which Utah lawmakers are asking President Donald Trump to rescind. [Photo] Derek FranzA climber nears the top of Rim Shot (5.11-, 400') on Bridger Jack Butte, Indian Creek, Utah. The area is included in the new Bears Ears National Monument, which Utah lawmakers are asking President Donald Trump to rescind. [Photo] Derek Franz

[At the time this story was posted, more companies were joining the movement.—Ed.]

Leaders of the outdoor industry are upping the ante to apply pressure on Utah lawmakers to change course on their February 3 resolution that asks President Donald Trump to rescind the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, which was designated by outgoing President Barack Obama on December 28.

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Since Patagonia announced February 7 that it would not be attending the upcoming summer Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, Arc'teryx, Ibex and Polartec have joined the movement. Arc'teryx and Polartec are boycotting the OR trade show, while Ibex is taking a different tactic.

Arc'teryx announced its decision late February 9 and pledged monetary contributions to the Conservation Alliance and a visit to Washington, DC, as well.

On February 10, Ibex Outdoor Clothing released the following statement: "Ibex will travel to Salt Lake City with a smaller team and a significantly reduced trade show budget, and take every measure to cut spending while at the show. Ibex also has made the hard decision as a company not to recreate in Utah during the show. The company has a history of getting outside, having fun and building relationships with key partners, but instead will focus its recreation dollars and energy in defending this initiative. Ibex will donate the $10,000 in anticipated savings to The Conservation Alliance Public Lands Defense Fund. In addition, Ibex will close its trade show booth early, at 1:30 p.m. on the second day of every show held in Utah, and use this time to collectively protest the threats to public lands." The press release quotes Keith Anderson, vice president of marketing for the company: "We are confident that we will be joined and supported by many of the like-minded brands, retailers, nonprofits and supporting businesses that make up our incredible industry."

In its statement Arc'teryx pledged: "Funds that would have been spent to attend Outdoor Retailer in 2017 will be reallocated to the Conservation Alliance's new Public Lands Defense Fund. On March 6 [Company President] Jon Hoerauf will head to Washington, DC, with the Conservation Alliance and 21 other outdoor industry leaders to meet with key Congressional offices and representatives of the new Administration. The goal of this trip is to encourage all elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, to take action to protect important lands and waterways—including Bears Ears National Monument. Arc'teryx will also be increasing its funding commitment to the Conservation Alliance by $150,000 over the next three years to support the protection of Bears Ears and other public lands at risk."

Hoerauf wrote: "The Outdoor Industry has an obligation to protect the wild places that are important to our consumers. Arc'teryx is a member of the outdoor industry's Conservation Alliance. Since 2014, we've been part of the efforts to protect Bears Ears, supporting local grassroots organizations working on a legislated solution. More recently Arc'teryx has helped to fund Friends of Cedar Mesa and Utah Dine Bikeyah, as they work on a national monument designation. I was proud to join my peers in the outdoor industry in sending a letter to President Obama asking him to protect this landscape in Southern Utah, which is cherished by our community of climbers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. Protecting public lands for future generations is a critical part of our brand values and we will use our influence in a way that is consistent with those values."

In the Ibex press release, CEO Ted Manning said, "Outdoor Retailer cannot stay in Utah. And until it moves out of the state, we as a company are taking decisive action to stand up for our public lands and conservation. There is no longer space for a business like Ibex to sit on the sidelines. Our goal has been, and will always be, to bring to bear all that this brand can muster in defense and amplification of our values."

Arc'teryx and Ibex confirmed that they were considering their actions before Patagonia made its announcement.

"Yes, we had been contemplating the move," Hoerauf said, "but this is a shift for Arc'teryx to go from silent to vocal supporter. We wanted to make sure we were ready to shift our mindset as an organization. Saying that you lead an organization based on a core set of values and actually taking action based on those values are two different things."

Polartec posted its press release February 10 about why the company will not attend the trade show in Salt Lake City: "'Outdoor recreation is vital to our existence, and public lands conservation is essential,' [said] Gary Smith, Polartec CEO. 'That's why we're proud to join with those willing to invest in doing the right thing, in standing up for the unique and finite resource that is our public lands. It's never been more important to demonstrate that collaboration and conservation, not domination and extraction, will determine the quality of our future.' Polartec still plans to exhibit at other trade shows and, in addition to environmental policies that promote public lands conservation, hopes to see trade show partnerships that foster modern commerce."

The Outdoor Retailer and Utah

The OR trade show has been in Salt Lake City since 1996 and is estimated to attract more than 25,000 people and $45 million a year. The OR website indicates there are currently more than 1,700 registrations by small, medium and large businesses for the summer 2017 event.

Leaders of the outdoor industry began questioning the logic of keeping the show in Salt Lake City in early January when the Republican-controlled Congress set to work undoing a swath of measures intended to protect places like Bears Ears from the encroachment of industry and maintain public access. Utah legislators have been pushing for the state to have more control over its public lands for the last 20 years.

"Enough is enough," wrote Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard in a statement on January 11. "If Governor [Gary] Herbert doesn't need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Governor Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah's economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business...."

A Patagonia spokesperson told Alpinist that the company still has no further plans to take further action or pull more of its business from Utah at this time, which includes an outlet store in Salt Lake City.

"In addition to being a place where you can purchase Patagonia products, our stores serve as centers of environmental activism and we look forward to continuing that tradition of convening people around environmental issues that cross all political boundaries and impact all people," said the spokesperson, who declined to be identified for this article. "Patagonia has been actively engaged in protecting public lands in Utah and across the country, including Bears Ears National Monument, for many years and we have no plans to slow down now."

What about Small Businesses?

Graham Williams owns a small company called CiloGear in Portland, Oregon, that specializes in making light, durable packs and has a loyal following of alpinists and skiers around the world. He depends on the Outdoor Retailer trade show to keep his company up to date and viable.

"As an introvert I personally would prefer not to go," he said, "but it's the only place I can go that serves my business needs—finding new textiles, designers and athletes—it's a culmination and exchange of the best ideas. The OR show in Europe is not as broadly relevant.... It's a real conundrum for companies like mine.... Our public lands are under threat and we must defend them—my livelihood and my employees' livelihoods depend on people having access to public lands. We must defend public lands but I'm not convinced that going or not going to a trade show is the best way. I really don't know."

Dan Abrams, co-founder of Flylow Gear, based in Colorado, is not currently registered for the upcoming OR show (Flylow specializes in winter apparel), but his company has attended in the past.

"For us," he explained, "the show is a great way to meet retailers as well as media. If we did not go to the show our reps would just have to visit more stores or the regional rep groups would have an additional show that is all work and no media blitz. This all being said, what is most important is that the Utah government heeds the requests of Patagonia [and now Arc'teryx, et al]. We support their efforts 100 percent, however we need to have a trade show, too. So, if we are not at OR we will have to find another option."

"We encourage businesses of all sizes to be involved in this conversation," said the Patagonia spokesperson, "[to] talk to their elected officials and tell them why Outdoor Retailer and the outdoor industry are important to their business and why, as business owners and individuals they support Bears Ears National Monument and public lands remaining public. Gov. Herbert should show that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands."

"What's the most effective way to have leverage with the state?" Williams said. "Is it to get up and leave individually? I don't know, I really don't, yet I think the industry must stand united.... Utah allows unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns. If Patagonia keeps their Salt Lake City store open, how about making donations equal to that store's annual revenue to any and all state level politicians running on a conservation platform. Wouldn't that make more of a statement? The whole industry is in this together with our customers. Nobody can stand alone and really win long term. I think this is the fight of a lifetime for the future of public recreation access and public lands, whether it's for hikers and climbers or 4X4 users or hunters or bird watchers."

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