Utah governor to outdoor show: ‘We’re going to have to part ways’

The Outdoor Retailer show is leaving Salt Lake City for Denver.

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert refused to acquiesce to demands from heavy hitters of the outdoor industry to abandon his push to have the Bears Ears National Monument rescinded, according to a newly released audio recording of a conference call that proceeded the Outdoor Retailer show announced it was leaving Utah.

Representatives from REI, Patagonia, the North Face and the Outdoor Industry Association made clear throughout the hourlong call on Feb. 16 that they were serious about leaving Salt Lake City after two decades unless Herbert changed course almost immediately.

Herbert tried to sell the group on the other ways Utah is protecting and promoting public lands, but he refused to budge on Bears Ears. He said he would have to discuss it with congressional, state and local officials.

“Give me a little slack here on that issue to see what we can work out,” Herbert said.

Rose Marcario, Patagonia CEO, responded: “It would have been nice to have these conservations before a resolution was passed … History shows that if these lands aren’t protected, they’re usually sold to the highest bidder for some kind of energy development or mining.”

Herbert later proposed forming a working group to address the concerns, which the group quickly rebuffed.

“We’ve done that with Utah over a number of years and the time for a working group or some other method to delay is over,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “It is now time to show leadership on this issue.”

Herbert responded: “If you’re giving me an ultimatum here on the phone, then the answer is, I guess, we’re going to have to part ways.”

After a brief silence, the outdoor officials abruptly ended the call, saying, “Thank you for your time, governor.”

Several hours later, the Outdoor Retail show announced the expo would be leaving Utah after two decades. Utah also lost a chance to bid for the Interbike trade show, a large cycling exhibition which is considering leaving Las Vegas next year.

The Outdoor Retailer show will hold at least one more show in Salt Lake City this summer, but it is already looking for a new permanent home. Colorado, Oregon and Montana have publicly expressed interest.

The twice-yearly shows bring an estimated $45 million in direct spending to the area.

The details of the Feb. 16 conference call were first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, which obtained the audio through a public records request.

The meeting was set up after Herbert signed a resolution from state lawmakers calling on President Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, designated by former President Barack Obama on lands considered sacred to a tribal coalition.

The outdoor industry considered the resolution to be the culmination of years of actions that showed the state is more interested in seizing control of its public lands than preserving them.

“This is not a political issue or a ploy or anything like that. It’s a moral issue for us,” said Marcario, of Patagonia, which is leading a boycott of the summer show in Utah. “It’s about our passion for wild places and what’s good for our business and the protection of wilderness for generations to come.”

Gordon Seabury, the Outdoor Industry Association’s board chairman, told Herbert that Utah took for granted the show’s commitment to the state.

Herbert tried to point out the two sides have more in common that it appears, while explaining that he needed to be responsive to his constituents.

“We believe, like you believe, that public lands should remain in public hands,” Herbert said. “It’s always been about management. … Whether it’s called a monument or legislation of the Bears Ears, why would it make any difference?”


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