Herbert defends public lands stance in face of Outdoor Retailers threat to leave

Gary Herbert“Let’s talk” – and reason together.

With those words, Gov. Gary Herbert asked the CEO and board members of the Outdoor Retailers Association to meet with him so “misunderstandings” can be worked over.

In his weekly media availability, Herbert took much of the time 1) defending how well Utah has worked for and funded, public land conservation efforts in recent years and 2) reassuring the largest summer convention held in Utah that they are appreciated and listened to.

The four-day convention – which brings thousands of outdoor retailers to the Salt Palace Convention Center – adds around $20 million to the city, county and state economy.

And Herbert clearly doesn’t want to lose it.

But at the same time, various leaders in the growing industry have publicly criticized Herbert and other GOP leaders’ request that President Donald Trump rescind the newly-created Bears Ears National Monument on southeastern Utah.

The OR – as it is known – has a contract running through the summer of 2018. But the group is already talking to other states about bringing their big show there.

The state and local governments spend more than $3 million a year hosting the large convention – which fills up hotel rooms and jams local restaurants.

Herbert specifically singled out Colorado, saying Utah has spent more money than that state maintaining public lands and has more to offer the OR than our old economic rival, Denver.

He said threats that the OR should leave Utah “is a political ploy” used before in Utah and elsewhere. “We should take politics out of this issue,” said the governor – even though there is little real hope of that.

Herbert’s aides passed out a two-page sheet listing all the great things Utah has done to conserve public lands, water, and the general environment – including creating the first outdoor recreation oversight panel.

“We (in Utah) are not trying to despoil the lands,” said Herbert, who seemed a bit frustrated with the situation.

Not only does Utah strive to preserve and give access to public lands for state residents, “but for all Americans.”

“Let us sit down and talk face to face” with OR leaders. “What are your concerns? We can alleviate some fears – and I understand you have some legitimate concerns and we have answers.”

When such a meeting may take place is unclear.

But as long as the Utah Legislature is in session, and certain members keep talking about how “extreme environmentalists” are trying to lock up Utah lands and ruin rural economies – well, perhaps the sooner, the better for Herbert.