SALT LAKE CITY — After due deliberation and consideration, and some anguish, I have decided to announce that I will no longer be buying gear from Black Diamond and Patagonia.
I regret this decision, given a long relationship with these companies that I’m assuming was as enjoyable for them as it was for me.
I’m neither the world’s most avid nor least avid outdoors guy. I never climbed Everest, but I have summited Lone Peak. I never ran Lava Falls, but I’ve made it through Cataract Canyon. Twice. I drive a Subaru.
Over the years I’ve bought my share from Black Diamond and Patagonia. The first pair of Scarpa boots I purchased, back during my telemark-skiing phase, was from Black Diamond. During my surfing phase, when I lived in California and tried to catch waves at C-Street, I used to walk across the freeway to the original Patagonia Store in Ventura and watch the shapers make longboards. I’d have bought one if they hadn’t been so expensive.
There’s plenty of Patagonia apparel in my closet, including the parka I wore just yesterday. For Christmas a couple of years ago, I was given a copy of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing.” In 2010 I watched the documentary “180 Degrees South” about the journey Chouinard took to the Patagonia Andes in 1968, a trip that not only gave him the name for his company but shaped him as an environmentalist.
I’m aware that Black Diamond also traces its roots back to Chouinard and that in its new configuration the company moved to Utah in 1991 to be closer to the mountains.
In my view, these are cool companies with cool origin stories that make cool gear. That’s not my issue.
My issue is that Black Diamond and Patagonia are leading the charge to remove the annual Outdoor Retailer conventions from Utah because Utah politicians are fighting against having the Bears Ears National Monument here.
In December, just before leaving office, President Barack Obama designated a huge portion of Utah land – some 1.35 million acres – as Bears Ears National Monument. In response, Gov. Gary Herbert and other state leaders want to see if the new president, Donald Trump, can somehow reverse Obama’s edict.
The reaction by the state is reminiscent of 20 years ago, when President Bill Clinton created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – at 1.9 million acres even larger than Bears Ears – just before he left office. In response, a coalition of Utah counties challenged the action in federal court – and lost. The judge ruled that the president was well within his constitutional rights to do what he did. (Full disclosure: I followed that case with added interest because my brother Dee was the judge).
Since challenging the monument in court didn’t work, this time officials are looking to the executive branch, hoping that a new chief executive can undo something ordered by the old chief executive. (The fact that it’s never happened before doesn’t make the odds look all that favorable).
It’s not hard to see why the state doesn’t want to lose control over land within its boundaries, especially when such huge chunks are being taken out of play that could be useful to help with future energy needs. (How big are we talking? At a combined 3.25 million acres, Grant Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears make up about six percent of the entire state; the two monuments cover more territory than all of Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Ogden counties – the entire Wasatch Front. Added together, Utah’s “Big 5” National Parks – Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon – are only a fourth the size of the two national monuments).
It’s also not hard to see why the outdoors industry people want to see the land preserved in its native condition. Not only is that good for future generations, it’s good for their bottom line.
So what we have here are differing points of view about what to do with the land, something that’s been going on at least since the Mayflower.
But it’s unsettling when disagreement leads to disrespect. If everyone bolted when they didn’t agree with the politicians, there wouldn’t be anybody left.
There’s just something irritating about companies boycotting the state’s largest convention and urging its relocation (the winter and summer Outdoor Retailer shows bring in some $40 million annually), particularly when they’re already winning.
Since the Outdoor Retailer gathering first came to Utah in 1996, 3.25 million acres have been set aside, much of it prime terrain for their gear. Things haven’t gotten worse on the environmental front. They’ve gotten much, much better.
So that’s it. No more Patagonia and Black Diamond for me. One economic sanction deserves another. It’s one thing, being a bad loser; it’s another, being a bad winner.