We urge Utah’s political leaders and the organizers of the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show to come together and find solutions so the show can remain in the Beehive State.
On America’s playgrounds, when children disagree, they take their ball and go home.
In the world of business and politics, there should be a more enlightened approach to resolving differing opinions. Constructive dialogue is what needs to take place between leaders from the Outdoor Retailer community and Utah lawmakers.
While many local conservatives view the Outdoor Retailer community — which is weighing whether to relocate its trade convention outside of Utah — as taking the proverbial ball and storming off, many of the state’s political leaders haven’t helped the situation.
While we too disagreed with President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to declare another monument in Utah, we also disagree with the at-times vituperative rhetorical posture toward the Bears Ears Monument. On the other side, the leaders of the Outdoor Retailer show have focused too much on the political rhetoric, overlooking the unrivaled actions Utah has taken as a state to preserve and protect its immense natural beauty.
Now, sensing an opening, Colorado is actively trying to lure the show away.
Wednesday’s copies of the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune contained an ad from a Colorado conservation group suggesting that the show move eastward and highlighting the state’s purported “love” for its public lands.
Of course in Colorado there’s a lot less to love. Utah has more than 12 acres of public land per capita compared to Colorado’s 4 acres. But, more importantly, the show should stay in Utah because for more than two decades the state and the outdoor retailers have shared a strong symbiotic relationship that’s well worth preserving on both sides.
First introduced in Salt Lake City in 1996 — the same year President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — the retailers have been staging two trade shows a year ever since. The events now attract some 30,000 people and generate an annual economic impact of $45 million for the Beehive State.
At the same time, according to Gov. Gary Herbert, the state and local municipalities contribute more than $1.4 million each year for the shows. What’s more, in 2013, Utah was the first state to create an office of outdoor recreation. Add to this tax incentives for outdoor retailers and a robust legislative commitment to protecting public lands, and it doesn’t take long to realize that the state has more than demonstrated its “love” for local public lands.
Utah has, for example, the largest active watershed and wildlife habitat restoration program in the nation, with 1.3 million acres restored over the past 11 years, according to numbers provided by Gov. Gary Herbert. The governor also notes that Utah has purchased roughly half a million acres of private land for conservation purposes and is working on protecting 265,000 acres of other land. Six current and three proposed preservation projects are within the boundaries of the Bears Ears Monument.
Yet, it’s hard to focus on substance and facts when there’s so much political noise. Bombastically denouncing federal overreach with regard to public lands — even with good cause — is hardly the best way to win friends and influence people, either within the outdoor retail community or the federal government.
If the Utah delegation and local leaders adopt a more measured approach, they might be able to reassure those in the recreation community that they do in fact care about protecting public lands. By the same token, if business leaders are sincere about trying to shape land policy with an eye toward protection and preservation, the right approach is not to threaten those who disagree but to engage them in constructive dialogue.
Friends can persuade better than enemies.
Taking the ball and storming home may be an effective negotiation technique to win in the short term, but in the long term it corrodes the nation’s social fabric. For a democratic republic to succeed, those with differing opinions must strive to work them out not by schoolyard tactics but through a civil process more reflective of what society expects from its commerce and political communities.
Only then can Utah politicians and outdoor retailers cease the schoolyard brawls and get back to preserving and appreciating Utah’s unparalleled backyard.