Major outdoor retailers boycott Utah over threats to sell off public lands

“It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line.”

The “Moonhouse” in McLoyd Canyon, near Blanding, Utah. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File
The “Moonhouse” in McLoyd Canyon, near Blanding, Utah. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

After countless attempts by Utah politicians to sell off or abolish national parks, forests, and national monuments, the world’s largest outdoor gear show has decided to take its business out of the state.

“Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show,” Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in a statement. “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 truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.”

After 20 years of hosting the bi-annual outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City, organizers of the show finalized their decision to move the $45 million event after a “disappointing” call Thursday with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

A spokesman for Herbert said OIA’s move perpetuated a “false narrative” about Utah, despite the fact that the governor has been pouring $4.5 million of Utah taxpayer dollars into a lawsuit to seize national public lands in the state each year; an effort that is opposed by Utah residents, and has very little chance of success.

Earlier this month, Herbert signed a resolution asking President Donald Trump to rescind the recently-designated Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. He was joined by Utah Reps. Rob Bishop (R) and Jason Chaffetz (R), who also urged the White House to undo the designation (legal experts, meanwhile, question whether the president even has such authority). That was the final straw for Patagonia and other outdoor retailers.


By signing the resolution Herbert made “it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits — $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs — that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state,” Patagonia president and CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah.”

Last week, Chaffetz, who chairs the committee on Oversight and Government reform, the chief investigative arm of the House of Representatives, met with Trump to talk about rolling back Bears Ears National Monument. Chaffetz has been widely criticized for using his half hour with the president to promote the disposal of national public lands, rather than addressing the myriad conflicts and controversies plaguing the new administration.

Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and leader of the congressional anti-parks caucus, is one of the most vocal members of congress in support of the movement to seize and sell public lands. Bishop has also introduced numerous bills to undermine the Antiquities Act, the law that gives the president authority to create national monuments like Bears Ears, and has notably told supporters of the law they should “die.”

Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who has a history of opposing national monuments, is expected to visit Utah and make a recommendation to the president on Bears Ears national monument after he is confirmed. Overturning the national monuments of a previous president is unprecedented and legal experts have said the president doesn’t have the authority to do.

A date for Zinke’s Senate confirmation has not been set.

Jenny Rowland is the research and advocacy manager for the public lands team at the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress Action Fund.