Outdoor Retailers Renew Threat to Boycott Utah

Outdoor Retailers Renew Threat to Boycott Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Outdoor retailers say Gov. Mike Leavitt has failed to deliver on his promised protections for the state's wild lands and they again are talking about moving their twice-yearly trade show away from Utah.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) said Sunday in a letter to the governor that it was "immensely disappointed" with his lack of results.

"Whatever his goals were, whatever his objectives were, at this point they are just words," OIA President Frank Hugelmeyer said.

The retailers' renewed threat to pull their trade show out of Utah came on the eve of possible action in the U.S. Senate on Leavitt's stalled nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some Democrats have called Leavitt's wilderness policies evidence that he is not suited to head the EPA.

Leavitt spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said he has been working behind the scenes to make good on promises he made to the retailers in August.

In the next week or so, Leavitt is expected to unveil two initiatives. One is a plan for a task force to identify Utah's recreational "sweet spots" and develop strategies to protect them.

The second is registering the states objections to the Bureau of Land Management's plans for 15 oil and gas wells in wilderness-quality areas near the White River.

"The one thing we have not done is grandstand in the media about it," Gochnour told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We just had not quite gotten there yet."

Hugelmeyer and OIA board member Peter Metcalf said they had heard vaguely about the governor's plans, but they are concerned that the BLM is poised next month to auction more oil and gas leases in Utah.

"The problem is, the wheels of the bureaucracy have turned forward without so much as a boo' from the governor," said Metcalf, president of the Salt Lake City-based Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.

Gochnour said the governor's office is not aware of anything that has jeopardized any wilderness lands.

The retailers first threatened to leave Salt Lake City last spring after Leavitt announced a settlement with the Interior Department that effectively eliminated wilderness protection for about 6 million acres in Utah.

Outdoor retailers say they don't want to do business with a state that fails to appreciate the value of its scenic areas.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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