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Patagonia withdraws from Outdoor Retailer shows in Utah over threats to Bears Ears

Posted on: February 8, 2017


The Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, hosts the Outdoor Retailer. [Photo] hakkun, WikimediaThe Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, hosts the Outdoor Retailer. [Photo] hakkun, Wikimedia

The company leaders of Patagonia followed through on their threat to withdraw from the Outdoor Retailer trade show after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a "Resolution Urging the President to Rescind Bears Ears National Monument" on February 3.

The Outdoor Retailer show is a large, biannual event hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, every summer and winter. According to a February 6 article in the Denver Post, the OR show has been in SLC since 1996 and is estimated to bring in more than 25,000 people and $45 million a year. The same article reported that OR organizers are considering other cities to host the trade shows in 2018. The Post quoted a statement from Vice President and Outdoor Retailer Show Director Marisa Nicholson, in which she said, "We've been listening to the concerns from the industry and agree that it's time to explore our options. Salt Lake City has been an incredible home to the Outdoor Retailer and the outdoor community for the past 20 years, and we aren't opposed to staying, but we need to do what's best for the industry and for the business of outdoor retail."

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Patagonia is one of the large companies that have anchored Outdoor Retailer through the years, and the impact of its committed absence in the upcoming summer show is drawing immediate attention. Patagonia President and CEO Rose Marcario posted the following statement on February 7: "Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Friday urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, making it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits—$12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs— that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state. Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, 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."

A Patagonia spokesperson told Alpinist on February 8 that the company has no further plans to pull its business from Utah at this time.

Emerald Expositions, the company that owns OR along with many other trade shows, shared the following statement from Nicholson: "We are aware of Patagonia's decision to not attend Outdoor Retailer and respect that they have to make their own business decisions. Outdoor Retailer is committed to exploring options for a new venue for the show that aligns with the core values of our industry and meets the necessary criteria for a successful show."

Patagonia's move did not come without ample warning to Utah legislators who have worked to undermine federal control of public lands within the state, especially since President Bill Clinton designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument there in 1996. The outrage was rekindled on December 28 when outgoing President Barack Obama designated 1.35 million acres to be protected by Bears Ears National Monument. Utah legislators signed resolutions to oppose Bears Ears before and after its designation.

On January 10, Peter Metcalf, the founder and former president and CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, which is also headquartered in SLC, published a letter in the Salt Lake City Tribune headlined "Time for Outdoor Retailers to leave Utah and its anti-recreation politics." Part of the letter reads:

...Over the past several months Utah's political leadership has unleashed an all-out assault against Utah's protected public lands and Utah's newest monument. It's time for Outdoor Retailer to leave the state in disgust....

Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's D.C. delegation are leading a national all-out assault on the sanctity of Utah and the country's public lands. Together, 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.

Specifically, Utah's top elected officials' stated strategy is to take down our newest national monument, Bears Ears, gut the Antiquities Act, starve funding from federal land management agencies and transfer our country's public lands to state ownership, where the state will sell and prioritize extractive use over all others. Doubtful? Just look at the recent selling and purchase of a 391-acre parcel to the Lyman Family Farm that now has gated and padlocked access to a popular county access road to Comb Ridge.

Political officials rationalize their actions with false truths, fictional ideologically based narratives and fear-mongering. They neglect the critical role public lands play in boosting Utah's economy, making the state a great place to live, work and play. They even fail to understand that four of Utah's five iconic national parks, which are the economic engines of their regions, were created through use of the Antiquities Act—as was Bears Ears National Monument.

This agenda is antithetical to our industry, let alone the majority of our citizens regardless of party affiliation. By our industry's twice-annual trade show remaining in Utah, we are actually complicit collaborators in our own demise. It's time for the industry to again find its voice, speak truth and power to power while making it clear to the governor and the state's political leadership that this trade show will depart with the expiration of the current contract in 2018 unless the leadership ceases its assault on America's best idea....

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard echoed Metcalf's sentiments on January 11 in a statement that reads in part: "...I say enough is enough. If Governor 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—and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands...."

Alpinist posted a story on February 2 that outlines more details of why Bears Ears and Utah are becoming the first battlegrounds over federal land and state's rights.

Meanwhile, regarding the Utah legislature's resolution to rescind Bears Ears, Salt Lake City's Fox 13 News reported on February 3 that the resolution passed 23-6 and that "lawmakers have pushed to get the resolution to President [Donald] Trump as quickly as possible. The governor said he has heard the president could rescind the monument as soon as next week."

Also of note pertaining to preservation of natural lands in the US is a bill that was introduced February 3 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). HR 861 would "terminate the Environmental Protection Agency." A February 6 story by BusinessInsider.com reports that "Democrats aren't worried" and that "they don't expect the bill to go anywhere."

Alpinist will continue to track these events as they affect public lands where climbing takes place and the environment on which we all depend.

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.
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