Utah Governor Gary Herbert received a Valentine of a sort on Tuesday. Executives representing more than 30 outdoor recreation companies have signed a letter calling on Utah Governor Gary Herbert to defend public lands in the state, or they will urge the Outdoor Retailer Show to leave Utah.
The letter is in response, in part, to two resolutions that passed the state legislature during the current session. One of the resolutions, HCR 11, asks President Trump to rescind the recently declared Bears Ears National Monument. And the other, HCR 12, asks congress to review and shrink the size of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, declared by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
“We have the second lowest unemployment rate,” said Peter Metcalf, founder of Utah based Black Diamond Equipment. “We have the second highest economic growth of any state in the country. And it is not coming from extractive industries, not oil and gas, not uranium mining or coal mining, or ranching. It is coming from modern high-tech companies, knowledge workers, the creative class etc. And they are coming here to Utah for a variety of reasons.”
One of the main reasons CEO’s are locating to Utah, Metcalf said, is because of the quality of life. He said most people define quality of life as having access to well stewarded, protected, and appropriately funded public land.
In a recent letter to the Salt Lake Tribune editor, Governor Herbert said that Utah is committed to protecting public lands, but that federal policies ignore local input. As a result, he said, the state is better positioned to manage Utah’s public lands. In response, Metcalf said the outdoor industry has consistently come down on the side of federal public land management, and that it will continue to do so.
“Because this state has not been good stewards of the public lands,” Metcalf said. “They have not been for funding them. They have not been for managing many of them in a sustainable manner. It has been an unrelenting set of attacks on the public lands in a myriad of ways, some of them very explicit, some of them more stealthy.”
The letter includes support from major outdoor recreation companies like Patagonia, REI, The North Face, and Sierra Designs. Among the list were 10 retailers identified as being based in or having major operations in the state of Utah.
Asked for a statement, the governor's office said it would respond following a meeting with leaders of the outdoor industry association scheduled for this Thursday.