This past week, the outdoor industry united on a long overdue front and gave Utah Gov. Gary Herbert one last chance to demonstrate some sensibility on the matter of the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer Show.
It was to no avail. The show will complete its contractual obligations in Salt Lake City through 2018 in and in the meantime is beginning its search for a new city to host the event.
The crux of the disagreement is that Herbert as well as other Utah legislators insist upon an ill-informed and maligned approach to public lands in the state, and it came to a head when the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument became a target shortly after the new presidential administration took office.
Setting aside for a moment the shameless pandering to extractive industries and an easily emotionally charged and enraged constituency, the pinnacle of hypocrisy lies with those who disparage the outdoor industry for making this move the way that they have.
The outdoor industry competes squarely with, if not outright outproduces, almost any other in this state in terms of economic gain and stability and is a force to be reckoned with. Surely a group of people solely governed in all things by the bottom line understands this move from that vantage.
In essence, what is being said here is that if Utah does not value the land and the input of those who use it in totality for the multitude of purposes it is best known for, the industry that brings the revenue will simply take its business elsewhere.
What Utah is wagering is that the loss of the show will not affect the tourism and recreation industry too dramatically in the state, and that may prove to be a foolish gamble, or it may not. But it is a gamble.
This year’s Summer Outdoor Retailer Show may be a litmus of sorts that gives indications of what the future of the industry here holds. Because although the show itself has an obligation to fulfill, the participants therein do not. Patagonia, one of the dominant presences at the show, has announced it will not be attending, and several other major brands are following suit.
That is to say the show may be a fraction of the size and produce a fraction of the revenue than previous years, and this will be felt in the bottom line of businesses that have come to count on that revenue. It will be felt locally and perhaps farther.
But there will be more to this.