Utah will easily survive exit of outdoor retailers

LaVarr WebbGoodbye. So long. Don’t let the door smack you on the butt on your way out.

I just hope you take your retail outlets and products with you. You wouldn’t want to sell your stuff in such a backward, public lands-hating state. 

Utah will do just fine without the outdoor retailers’ big trade show. Our economy is the strongest in the nation. Other conventions will come. The only folks hurt will be those running the mostly small businesses –restaurants, hotels, cabbies, etc. – that cater to the convention industry. That’s unfortunate. 

But the governor won’t be hurt. The Legislature won’t be hurt. The congressional delegation won’t be hurt. 

In fact, they’ll be liberated. No longer will they have to tiptoe around, worrying about offending these tender souls who can’t win politically or in the court of public opinion, so they resort to boycotts and economic intimidation – that ultimately will not work.

Public policy should never be made in response to boycotts and threats, especially when it won’t have any real impact.

Utah will still have a strong outdoor economy. Tourists will still come. We’ll have a stronger energy economy. We will protect Bears Ears. We are protecting and will continue to protect Utah’s iconic land and landscapes. We will continue to collaborate with the federal government, which certainly has a role in public land management.

The outdoor retailers say they are leaving Utah because we don’t care about our public lands. Here is a list of items put together by the Governor’s Office outlining Utah’s commitment to public lands:

  • Utah has the largest active watershed and wildlife habitat restoration program in the United States.The Utah Legislature has partnered with local hunters and the federal government to invest approximately $14 million annually for conservation, and we have restored more than 1.3 million acres since 2005. As of 2016, nearly 500 agencies, organizations, and individuals had contributed to these projects through funding or in-kind assistance.
  • There are currently 253 additional conservation projects underway, which include the rehabilitation and restoration of more than 265,000 acres. Six current and three proposed projects (over 9,000 acres in total) are within the new Bears Ears National Monument area. Another 139 projects and 185,000 acres have been proposed for treatment.
  • Many of our 43 State Parks could be national parks in other states. Based on their management alone, it is abundantly clear that Utahns greatly value these beautiful areas. Per acre, our state parks get more visitors that our national parks, but they do not run the maintenance deficits that occur with our national parks; they are financially much more stable.
  • Utah State Parks runs grant programs such as Rivers Trails Projects and the Land Water Conservation Fund. They also have a review committee that includes a diverse group of land managers and outdoor industry professionals. These projects enhance trails in and around our federal lands. Gov. Herbert’s latest budget proposal includes $1 million for the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant.
  • 67% of Utah land is federally-owned, and that doesn’t include our 43 state parks. All of these areas are supported by exceptional employees and gateway communities, who dedicate countless hours to enhancing outdoor recreation. More than 35 million acres are open to the public.
  • When the federal government shut down in 2013, no other governor in the country stepped up like Gov. Herbert did to reopen the national parks. His actions demonstrated his support, not only for the rural economies that rely on parks but for the visitors coming from around the world. To date, Utah taxpayers have not been reimbursed by the federal government for the full cost incurred to reopen our national parks.
  • Gov. Herbert was the first governor in the nation to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation. A state full of outdoor enthusiasts, Utah continues to lead the way in community, city, county and national involvement when it comes to recreation planning—whether on private, state or federal lands.
  • We recently expanded our annual Outdoor Recreation Summit, which now hosts three regional summits across the state in Ogden, Moab and Cedar City, to address the outdoor industry, regional concerns, and create a welcoming atmosphere for everyone from manufactures to land managers to build relationships. The result is better working relationships and improved close-to-home outdoor recreation.
  • With a $21 million budget, the Utah Office of Tourism plays an integral role in supporting and branding Utah’s federal lands. These efforts have promoted outdoor recreation like no other state in the nation, resulting in double-digit growth for both state and national parks year over year for the last three years.
  • The State of Utah has provided more than $3 million in post-performance tax incentives to outdoor recreation businesses located or with business operations in Utah.
  • Utah created the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board, the first of its kind in the nation, and filled it with state and federal land managers, local advocacy groups of all types, retailers, and manufactures.
  • The state works monthly with all national park superintendents to help create plans that provide the best possible visitor experience. We also partner with advocacy groups that do everything from helping underprivileged youth get outside to partnering with federal land managers to build sustainable trails.
  • Utah State Parks has private business ventures and partnerships with over 230 contractors to provide goods and services that enhance the outdoor experience at our 43 state parks.
  • Cities all over Utah are attracting businesses through successful economic development incentive programs such as Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU) and Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which have benefited notable outdoor recreation companies such as Black Diamond.