Chouinard, Metcalf Push Back Against Utah State Gov
So, I’m in Salt Lake City right now for one and only one reason. It’s called the Outdoor Retailer, and it is an enormous show that occurs twice a year, right here in SLC, for the entire outdoor industry to showcase their new product lines, make deals with buyers, plan their marketing strategies, and basically for any one trying to hustle their wares, skills, or assets in the industry to ply their trade. It’s huge.
So is the outdoor industry’s contribution to Utah’s GDP. The two shows are certainly not nominal in their financial boost to Utah’s economy, but let’s be realistic, the state’s natural assets draw an absolutely enormous economic boon from skiers, kayakers, climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, fisherman, fly fisherman, rafters, backpackers, hikers, birdwatchers, and on and on, the list keeps going… According to Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, that contribution is $12billion annually enormous. Not to mention supporting 122,000 jobs (three times the amount created by the fossil fuel industry) throughout the state.
And yet, in spite of all that, Utah politicians such as Senator Rob Bishop, Governor Gary Herbert, Attorney General Sean Reyes and a slew of others have been working their butts off to do the exact opposite of rolling out the red carpet. In fact, while almost the entire Outdoor Industry (not to mention an inter-tribal coalition of 30 different Native American tribes) is busy celebrating the recent establishment of Bears Ears National Monument, Herbert and Reyes have asserted that they will do everything in their power to see that monument overturned (and to sell off as much public lands in Utah as possible).
None of this is new, or news, exactly (read the Land Heist articles I wrote this summer to learn more). Utah state representatives have been leading the charge of the Land Heist Movement which has been sweeping the nation over the past few years, as snake oil selling officials peddle lies to their constituents about that overstepping federal government owning too much land, and how shouldn’t that land be ours instead? This rallying cry is powerful, and tragic. By riling up already high anti-government sentiments and promoting fictions of state-ownership somehow ending up benefitting the common Utahn (or Idahoan, or Montanan, or New Mexican, or Coloradan, etc etc), they create precisely the kind of public support necessary to give them the power to backdeal with privately held oil, timber, and mining companies, making plans to sell off our collective public lands to the highest bidder at the soonest possible moment. Nobody wins. Not outdoors enthusiasts, not hunters, not fishermen, not ORV users, not America, and certainly not their consituents.
So people are fed up: among them, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, and Black Diamond’s CEO and Founder, Peter Metcalf. In recent op-eds, both Chouinard and Metcalf have spoken in no uncertain terms of the outdoor industry being happy to take their money elsewhere in the future. Metcalf’s opening paragraph doesn’t mince words: “Over the past several months Utah’s political leadership has unleashed an all-out assault against Utah’s protected public lands and Utah’s newest monument. It’s time for Outdoor Retailer to leave the state in disgust.” Chouinard’s article is just as damning: “I say enough is enough. If Governor Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Governor Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument.”
The message is pretty clear. And for once, I have to say, I’m really goddamned proud of our industry. I often think and talk about how much more we can do, how little we seem to put our money where our conservation-branded mouths are. But this is fucking on point. The outdoor industry was just recognized as part of the US GDP. What that means is we have clout, and it comes in the form of money, and political power. It is fitting, and appropriate, that two of our industry’s most notable pundits are wielding that newly-recognized power, sending a clear message to any snake oil peddling land heist promoters with political power anywhere. The message is, “get on board, or get your money elsewhere.”
Unfortunately, although awesome, this largely amounts to little more than an empty threat if the call for reform ends at those op eds… and I, for one, have my fears about that. For one, Black Diamond is a Utah fixture. Metcalf doesn’t say peep about that in his letter, or mention any intention of making changes to that in the future. For two, I’ll return to what I said earlier: while the OR show brings money to the state for sure, the REAL money comes from YOU. Skiers, climbers, hikers, whatever. Outdoors enthusiasts. Anyone who ever makes a trip to the desert, to the ski resorts, to the rivers, to the national parks, to ANYWHERE in Utah to do ANYTHING outside. YOU are the ones who need to be sending this message.
If I know politicians the way I think I do – specifically lying thieving self-serving ones – I don’t imagine them giving a rat’s ass what Yvon or Peter say or do, or where the OR show ends up happening, as long as the money keeps on flowing. If I’m Rob Bishop, or Gary Herbert, or Sean Reyes, I’m thinking “Outdoors enthusiasts are largely just glaze-eyed potheads with no political acumen or interest. They don’t know who Chouinard or Metcalf are, don’t know who I am, don’t have a clue what public lands even are, don’t vote, and – most of all – won’t change their behaviors. They’ll keep on coming, keep bringing their money, and in the meantime, I can get myself a brand new whatever the hell I want with a fat check from the Koch brothers, or Exxon, or whoever the hell I sell these lands to.” That’s what I would be thinking, if I were those guys.
But I’m not those guys. I think Chouinard and Metcalf are just the tip of the iceberg. I think this is more than just a symbolic gesture. In fact, I think it’s the beginning of a movement. There’s change in the wind. I’m finding more and more climbers and outdoor enthusiasts to be well-informed, politically motivated, philanthropic, and willing to fight than ever before. Chouinard and Metcalf are shrude and calculating intelligent businessmen. I don’t believe they would make such strong statements if they didn’t believe there was a groundswell of support beneath them, if they didn’t think this would reflect positively on their companies’ branding and public image. In other words, they know they are preaching to the choir, and they know the choir is big, powerful, and motivated.
I happen to agree with that optimistic outlook. I think your average skier, snowboarder, climber, mountain biker, kayaker, etc is more than just a glaze-eyed pothead. I think we could come together as a community and boycott the whole fucking state of Utah if it comes to it. I believe that is possible, and perhaps imminent. And maybe it’s precisely what needs to happen.
So let’s stand behind Peter and Yvon, Black Diamond and Patagonia, and any other industry leader brave enough to take a stand. After all, they were brave enough to stand behind us. Let’s boycott Utah until Governor Herbert and Attorney General Reyes halt their plans to repeal Bears Ears National Monument. Let’s stand together. Let’s prove that these politicians are wrong. The time is now.