The Outdoor Industry weighs in on Utah land dispute

UPDATED: Utah Governor Herbert refuses to budge on his position on public land, Bears Ears National Monument and the Antiquities Act after a phone call Thursday, February 16, with Outdoor Industry Association and industry leaders. 

The ongoing battle around Utah's public lands has escalated significantly over the past couple of weeks, with big brands like Patagonia and PolarTec making a statement by pulling out of future Outdoor Retailer shows, and other companies like REI and The North Face standing firm in their support of the show.

OIA and Outdoor Retailer haven't been standing idyly by waiting for the outcome. Earlier this week the organizations announced they will band together even more cohesively, as OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts and four top industry executives prepare to meet with Utah Governor Herbert today and ask him to support the outdoor industry and stop efforts to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument.

“It’s now that we need to weigh in with the political leadership in Utah,” says OIA’s Roberts. “It’s the old-fashioned, ‘make the phone call to their offices’ approach, especially Congressmen Rob Bishop. Also, take the opportunity to weigh in with the Governor’s office.

“For our members it’s about coming to the [Global] Capital Summit in April,” she continued. “Making sure that we give people an opportunity to continue this discussion, which is really a national discussion— it’s not just about Utah. There’s an opportunity to amplify your voice at a federal level.”

In a statement earlier this week the organization stated that if they are unable to reach agreement with Utah, OIA will continue to work with Outdoor Retailer to move the show as soon as possible.

Outdoor Retailer announced last week that they are in the process of vetting new cities for a future show venue. This week, the team also created a new site, unity.outdoorretailer.com, and encouraged the industry to rally its creative ideas and voices toward a solution, instead of pulling out of the show in protest.

“This is not a one-and-done issue. While Bears Ears National Monument status is a lightning rod, it is just the most currently visible example of what will be a long, hard series of fights the outdoor community needs to not only raise our voices about, but, even more importantly, about which we need to be heard," said OR Show Director Marisa Nicholson in an email to the industry.

With that in mind, we reached out to various leaders within the outdoor industry to hear their voices in response to the following question: "What do you think is the best way for the outdoor industry to affect change in Utah in light of the public lands dispute?"

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Miir Founder and CEO Bryan Papé

“I believe the world is changed by action not one’s opinion (specifically Paulo Coelho's words, ‘The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion’). I believe the best way to affect change in Utah is to not attend the show AND to provide additional support/grants to the OIA and visit DC during their summit in April, which MiiR is doing. By not going it withdraws funds from the city which should encourage Governor Herbert to rethink his position. While potentially painful for the local economy and even our own business, we believe in acting on our values and this is an expression of that.”

The North Face Group President Scott Baxter

“We believe we can be most effective in this cause by staying at the OR show at this time. To honor the foundation upon which our brand was built is to support and rally for our shared beliefs together.

As with many issues, there is no simple answer. Leaving the OR show, as others have stated they will do, is a clear message that we hope impacts the decision making of those sitting in the Utah State Capitol. However, it unfortunately also means devastating many of the smaller businesses that attend OR, many of which depend upon their time at the show.

Leaving OR would mean throwing hurdles in the way of important work that NGOs and non-profits are doing for the very causes we're today fighting for – saving our public lands from commercial development and devastating energy infrastructure.

Leaving OR would also mean removing ourselves from the coalitions and partnerships that focus real time and money on pushing new standards in sustainability, materials development, manufacturing, and other initiatives that make us all better businesses and corporate citizens. We want progress and it takes a unified industry to get there.

Most importantly, no one company can create the change that we need right now. It will take every brand, every partner, every soul to fight. We must be louder and stronger than our opposition and that means everyone coming together. We can't do that if we leave the OIA to fight on their own – with fewer resources.

We agree that OR should leave Utah, but we're going to help the OIA and Outdoor Retailer search for a new, better location. In the meantime, we're going to let Utah know how we feel. We are working on this right now and when we arrive in July, we will not leave without making our values and concerns heard – that public lands need to remain public. We can only be effective if we show up, gear up, and lead up.”

 

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Zeal Optics Director of Brand Activation & Digital Strategy Mike Lewis

“[Governor] Herbert's stance is a part of a much larger conversation going on in our country at the moment, and I applaud Patagonia, BD, Arc'teryx and the other companies that have taken a stance on this issue in a state that boasts some of the most amazing public lands in our country, as well as one of the seemingly least caring administrations, that is basing its decisions and policies on short-sighted economic drivers.

Politics in today's environment is driven overwhelmingly by economics, and as an industry, we need to use our collective economic weight to affect change. Only by banding together to protect the resources that make the outdoor and snow sports industries viable and amazing, can we have a true impact.

While it's been horrible to see Utah's approach to public lands, resource conservation and pollution, I hope this can become the galvanizing moment that brings our like-minded companies and individuals together to fight this threat and the much darker clouds looming on the national stage.”

Peak Design CEO Peter Dering

“I think Peak Design has clearly shown what we think is the most effective way to create change in Utah. The economic value of the Outdoor Industry is real—It brings roughly $42m a year, plus the impact of externalities, either positive or negative depending on which way things go.

That is our bargaining chip, and this is a negotiation. The opposition is not OR, nor OIA — it’s the Utah delegation. They want the right to use their lands how they see fit, inclusive of generating revenue for their state.

There is nothing morally wrong with this. It’s a reasonable position to take for lawmakers charged with funding a state. We understand their cause, and moreover we understand the sentiment of ‘Utah knowing what’s best for Utah.’ It’s a tricky issue. But given a thorough examination of both sides of the debate, we find ourselves strongly in favor of the monument, and generally in favor of the protection of public lands by the federal government.

As such, we should use that bargaining chip in a thoughtful and impactful way.

I’m sure this year’s Outdoor Retailer will produce lots of happy hour toasts to the cause. And largely, we’re all on the same team. But does this team actually think that gathering together in brightly colored coats and hoisting a beer is going to help this specific issue? I don’t think they do…I think they’re probably worried about their bottom line.

I love OR, and I want our company to be a part of it for years to come. But people need to realize that we actually have a horse in this race. Boycotts need to be all-in for them to work. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of bluster.

If every company planning on attending OR joined this boycott tomorrow, I think Utah’s tune would change tomorrow. If I were part of their delegation, I’d come back to the bargaining table, and seek a year-long contract with Emerald Expositions to keep the show in SLC, in exchange for dropping their request to overturn the monument.

That might not be how the delegation reacts. But it might be. And what’ve we really got to lose if we all act together?”

Editors Note: Peak Design has formed a coalition of like-minded businesses: https://www.standwithbearsears.com/

Patagonia

“We couldn’t be more proud to be part an industry full of bright, innovative companies with strong values. Our combined influence is growing every day and the past few weeks are no exception. Utah's economy depends on the outdoor industry and access to public lands. The outdoor industry should continue to remind the state's leaders that it generates three times as many jobs as the fossil fuel industry and drives $12 billion in consumer spending.”

REI President & CEO Jerry Stritzke

“I applaud the action of Patagonia and my kindred spirit, Rose Marcario. I also believe that the quick action of OIA to put the OR show out for bid was the absolute right step.

Now it gets more complicated. The real battle to protect our public lands is actually in the hands of our federal government. We are cautiously optimistic, because the nominee for Secretary of Interior has stated for the record, in multiple venues, that he is an advocate for public lands and not in favor of transferring lands to private hands or states that would do the same.

It has taken courage for him to take these positions. This has long been an issue that has bipartisan support. The hunting and fishing industry and many leaders on both sides of the aisle care deeply about our public lands. Bottom line, while we address the attacks on public lands in Utah we have to be at the table in D.C. We can only do this as a united industry.

REI will be at Summer OR. We will also show up at every opportunity to advance the conversation in support of our public lands. We will stand up to politicians who would deprive our children and grandchildren of the legacy of public lands and all the majesty and wonder that they protect. We think it is more important than ever to come together as an outdoor community and make our voice heard.”

Evo Founder Bryce Phillips

“I am very happy to see the brands make bold steps and believe that framing the conversation and actions taken both from a values and a business perspective has been a really solid approach. To state that A) "it's the right thing to do" and B) "it's the best for business" really drives home the message.

With regards to Utah specifically, to see the larger outdoor brands stand up in a show of solidarity should be an inspiration and will hopefully foreshadow ways in which we can use our collective leverage to have a positive impact into the future. Now let's hope that we see the right response from Utah.

There is no question that there are states (i.e. Colorado) that are waiting with open arms when it comes to embracing our industry and the values that relate to public lands and our natural environment.”