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Land protection plans spark disagreement in Utah

Land protection plans spark disagreement in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The Outdoor Industry Association, representing more than 1,200 outdoor businesses nationally, including more than 50 in Utah, today held a call with Utah Governor Gary Herbert in an effort to achieve a common understanding of the value Americans place on public lands and their right to access those lands for recreation, the group announced.

OIA was joined on the call by the leadership of Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Outdoor Retailer.

“Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same,” said Amy Roberts from Outdoor Industry Association. “It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats – that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.

“Over the last 20 years, Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City, generating more than $45 million in annual economic impact,” said Roberts. “Further, the outdoor recreation economy in Utah adds more than $12 billion in direct spending, supports 122,000 jobs in the state, pays $3.6 billion in salaries and wages, and contributes more than $856 million in state and local tax revenue every year. We believe these numbers and our values will be of great interest to other states in the West.”

Roberts continued, “It’s disappointing Governor Herbert and the Utah congressional delegation are in a different place from Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Both President Trump and Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke have stated their support for keeping public lands public and accessible by all Americans.

“Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show,” said Roberts.

“It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the ruly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation,” she added.

For several years, Outdoor Industry Association has worked in good faith with Governor Herbert and Utah’s congressional delegation in an attempt to rectify differences in ownership, management and the economic importance of America’s public lands.

Despite Utah’s robust outdoor recreation opportunities, elected officials, in Utah from Governor Herbert and the state legislature to its congressional delegation, most notably Representative Bishop, the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, have all actively embraced the idea of transferring America’s public lands to the state, she explained.

A move, that in many states, has already resulted in the outright sale or restricted access to the very public lands that have provided hunting, angling, hiking, skiing, and camping to generations of people seeking to skirt the urban hustle for the outdoors – a uniquely American experience, the release noted.

It’s a move that has been widely rejected by voters of all stripes. Public lands have defined America and serve as the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy, Roberts claimed.

“For the hundreds of outdoor merchandisers, retailers, guides, outfitters and other recreation service providers, the transfer or sale of America’s public lands is the loss of the very infrastructure that supports our industry,” she added.

About the meeting with Governor Herbert

In addition to the issues outlined below, there is a long history of anti-public land sentiment and action stemming from Utah’s state and congressional officials that has led to this discussion, the association explained. That includes votes in Congress to support transferring federal lands to states, pursuit of a lawsuit to try to force the transfer of federal lands to Utah, and most recently a resolution passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Herbert asking President Trump to overturn the Bears Ears National Monument by executive order.

In the call with Governor Herbert, the Outdoor Industry Association requested that his administration reverse its position on four items that have been the source of conflict for OIA members.

First, OIA requested that he revoke any support for the sale or transfer of America’s public lands to the states and cease legal action to that effect. This was in response to legislative efforts that had passed in the state house and had been championed by Rep. Chaffetz in Washington, D.C., that would have cleared the way or made it easier for states to acquire public lands.

Second, cease on any effort to nullify the Antiquities Act, an authority that grants Congress the ability to designate public lands, such would be the case if President Trump were to exercise through executive order the removal of existing public lands.

Third, OIA provided an opportunity for Governor Herbert to make good on this commitment by halting any support to rescind the designation of the Bears Ears area as a National Monument, a proposal that enjoyed wide bipartisan support from Utah voters and the outdoor industry, the release claimed.

Lastly, the outdoor industry requested that the governor embrace and actively support the outdoor recreation economy’s role in the state by supporting the public lands that provide the backbone of the industry’s sales. OIA shared its belief that Utah has the opportunity to change course and grow the outdoor recreation economy for the benefit of the Utah tax base and the locally based businesses that call Utah home, the release noted.

“These requests of the governor were delivered in good faith on behalf of OIA and its membership and represent the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans on all sides of the political aisle,” said Roberts.

SOURCE: Outdoor Industry Association press release

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is a freelance writer and podcaster who has been writing about the RV industry since 2000. He is the former editor of RV Daily Report.


  1. Good for The Outdoor Industry Association. These lands need to be protected for their beauty and uniqueness and for future generations, not divvied up among rich businessmen for their profit.

  2. Mark (www.CampgroundViews.com)

    Our response as sent to OIA:

    We support local efforts to take back stewardship of their local lands. That being said we recognize that this transition will be a long process fraught with risk from industry and interests seeking to use the lands for mining and resources with no care given to the public access and enjoyment of these spaces.

    We are huge supporters of public lands but we are intimately aware of the blatant mis-management of these public places. This problem is acute in the federal lands including BLM, Forest Service and National Parks, Monuments and Areas. Utah is the center of this problem with a large swath of the state managed and owned by the Federal Government.

    As a small business we simply assumed your move (OIA Summer Market) from Utah was an effort to spread the awareness of the industry to other areas of the country. If, instead, this move is about making a political statement… then count us out. Using the largest retailing show in the country as a pawn in a political game of chicken is short sighted and reckless.

    There are really good arguments for the removal of “federal” from “public lands” and we believe the efforts can be smartly played. In our industry, campgrounds/ RV parks, the best public campgrounds in the country are not federally managed properties. Instead they are locally managed public parks. State, county, city, and municipalities run some of the best publicly available campgrounds in the country.

    Their local focus and generally self funded status forces the decision makers to design and operate campgrounds that people want to visit and enjoy. Compare this to Glacier National Park, for example, where entire campgrounds sit nearly empty throughout the season because the park can not properly communicate a reason to travel to them!

    We are here to fight for public lands but do not confuse the way public lands are managed now with the way they should be managed in the future. We believe that the time of massive federal ownership of public spaces is over and that better use and management of these spaces should be moved to local control over public spaces.

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