Outdoor Retailers Rethink Utah Trade Show; State Leader Stands Firm On Lands Issues

Feb 7, 2017

The latest turf battle between the state of Utah and the outdoor retailer industry erupted this week, after efforts to undo the state’s newest national monument prompted outdoor companies to announce they’re considering a new home for their twice-yearly trade shows.

“We love the Outdoor Retailers show,” says Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes. “We think Utah is an incredible place for outdoor recreation, and we think it’s a perfect fit.”

The Draper Republican describes himself as a fan of the outdoor industry and the public lands it relies on, but he also sponsored the non-binding resolution to reverse the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument. Gov. Gary Herbert signed it Friday night, and that triggered the outdoor industry’s latest threat to quit Utah.

Now the gear company Patagonia says its boycotting Outdoor Retailer shows until Utah embraces Bears Ears. And industry leaders are entertaining offers from other cities to host their multimillion-dollar trade shows. Hughes says Utah won’t be threatened by any company.

“Guy that makes coats doesn’t want to come to Utah any more – I don’t think I’m going to let that color the decisions that I’m going to make that impact a community in San Juan County.”

What Hughes brushes off as an ultimatum, the outdoor industry sees as a principled defense of invaluable natural and cultural resources.

“The public lands belong to all Americans,” says Ron Hunter, activism manager for Patagonia. “And we believe we have every right to take a stand on Utah’s positions concerning these lands.”

Hunter says Patagonia worked for more than two years to enhance protections at Bears Ears. And, when U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was unable to advance those protections through his Public Lands Initiative, the company threw its support behind a monument created by former President Barack Obama.

The outdoor industry estimates $12 billion dollars in contributions to Utah’s annual economy and thousands of jobs. The state seems to recognize that: It subsidizes the Outdoor Retailer trade show annually with $2 million. The request this year is $2.4 million, says Hughes.

Below is a video by Patagonia that celebrates the creation of Bears Ears.