Archive for February, 2017

Outdoor retailers vs the GOP

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

Outdoor Retailers is the largest show of its kind, and has been held in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for two decades. It was however, facing boycotts by industry leaders such as Patagonia, North Face and REI should the show continue in Utah.


Photo by Outdoor Retailers

At issue are proposals by the Utah congressional delegation to cede large portions of federal land to the states, and Utah governor Gary Herbert’s vocal attempts to rescind the newly designated Big Ears National Monument.

The Outdoor Industry Association (the major organizer of the show) complains:

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. 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.,policy


Gov. Herbert’s spokesman, Paul Edwards, said not letting Salt lake City even put in a bid for future shows is “offensive on many levels.”

“It suggests that the political agenda instead of merit and reason has taken over the decision making at the outdoor industry association,” Edwards said in a widely released e-mail.

In the first few days of this congress, House  republicans pushed through a rule change (on party line vote) that would disqualify federal land sales from consideration when calculating the federal budget or debt.  This would allow measures selling or ceding national forest or BLM land to states or other parties to bypass the more challenging voting requirements involved in budgetary bills.

Proposals of this nature have been floating around for years, gaining measurable juice since 2013. The Utah congressional delegation has indeed been leading the charge.

Utah Rep Rob Bishop claims in his op-ed:

For decades, unsettled land-use designations, such as wilderness study areas, have fueled distrust and acrimony. The uncertainty about the future of these lands created conflict amongst those favoring differing types of uses. The diverse uses of public lands have an important role in making Utah healthy, viable, and inviting. The future of the state depends on a responsible balance of both conservation and development.

He concludes:


Rep Bishop along the Arizona border, via his website.

There appears to be a growing consensus amongst county and state leaders, conservation groups, industry, non-governmental organizations, and the public, that Utah is ready to move away from the standard gridlock of the past and toward a sensible resolution. This begins with a reassessment of land management and ownership patterns in Utah.


If you were wondering, assigning and managing the various uses of public lands is the job of the Department of Interior. At least, for now.

Donald Trump has spoken against public land transfers – but he is also a vocal friend of the energy and mining industry – which is hotly promoting this sort of thing. So who knows.

Wyoming Governor Matt mead (not a liberal snowflake) is not a fan. He told the Caspar Star Tribune last December,

“Then you get into the policy,” the Republican said. “And I reflect back to 2012. We spent as a state $45 million fighting fires… If the federal lands that had fires on them would have been state lands, we would have spent another $45 million – in one summer. That’s a significant amount.”

As it stands, it is not hard to imagine big stoopid land cessions slithering through congress to his desk. I personally hope the president yields to his developer instincts to never give real-estate away. But I have been wrong about Trump – a lot.

Meanwhile, the Outdoor Retailers show has two more contracted appearances in Salt Lake City (the next one being in July 2017), and proposals to redistribute public lands are getting marked up in Bishop’s committee. We will watch the latter developments in this space.

Colorado is already lobbying to take over the giant outdoor show: