SALT LAKE CITY — The debate over environmental stewardship of public lands between state leaders and supporters of the Beehive State’s largest convention is drawing the attention of Utah’s neighbor to the east.
On Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post the state would welcome the biannual Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer Market show if organizers ever decided to seek a new host location.
The issue arose after Peter Metcalf, Black Diamond co-founder and the man credited with helping to lure the Outdoor Retailer shows to Utah in the mid-1990s, suggested that the lucrative trade gathering should leave the state because of top leaders' political opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument.
Last month, Metcalf chided local leaders during the winter market that generates $22 million in direct delegate spending in the Salt Lake area.
"The agenda that is being pursued by our governor, our Legislature and our delegation is an absolute attack on our public lands," said Metcalf, who has no official leadership position with the event or its sponsor, the Outdoor Industry Association.
Speaking on behalf of the governor’s office, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said the state and the Outdoor Industry Association have a good, long-standing relationship and the association and Outdoor Retailer Show are “important players in Utah's robust economy.”
“While we sometimes have disagreements over the size, scope and administration of public lands, Gov. Herbert has consistently said, ‘Utah has always been a public lands state and Utah will always be a public lands state,’” Cox said.
He described his time at the most recent winter market as “very productive and, through discussions with many participants, it became clear that we are not far apart in our ultimate goals of preserving the best parts of Utah for future generations.”
He said that in the next few weeks, Herbert would sit down with Outdoor Industry Association leaders to work on improving the state’s relationship with event organizers.
“While true that Peter Metcalf has yet again called for the (Outdoor Retailer) Show to leave Utah, most people involved with the show recognize that such a move could harm its long-running success and diminish the influence the outdoor recreation community has in shaping Utah’s lifestyle,” Cox said. “As the outdoor retail industry continues to grow and thrive in Utah, I am confident that we will work through these and other issues to find the appropriate balance between protecting the natural treasures of Utah for conservation and recreation while allowing our rural communities to benefit from the resources that surround them.”
Meanwhile, Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, said the topic of relocating to Denver comes up around the time the agency’s contract with the Outdoor Retailer show has two years left.
“While Peter Metcalf represents one voice within the industry, he does not represent the entirety of the industry,” he said. “Of course, the governor of Colorado is proud of his state’s current position on open lands. But our track record on these issues are long, and our commitments run deep: the Salt Palace Convention Center is among the most sustainable in the industry; our public transportation infrastructure makes Salt Lake a leader in sustainable public transportation; and Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City are leaders in sustainable communities.”
Additionally, Salt Lake City has a proven track record with the markets, he said.
“Salt Lake will continue to do what we always do, work with the county and Salt Lake’s hospitality community to showcase all that Salt Lake has done and will continue to do as home to the (Outdoor Retailer) markets,” Beck said.