Opinion: Outdoors Industry Should Bring Fight To Utah

Last week, Patagonia and several other brands announced that they will withdraw from the Outdoor Retailer convention in political protest. This letter provides an alternative perspective.

Native American artifacts at Bears Ears National Monument; photo by Dept. of Interior

For background, several brands last week announced they will not attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City in response to a move made by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert signed a resolution urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. (See our article on Bears Ear.)

Jen Taylor

Others, however, say brands should instead bring the fight to Utah. This open letter, the opinion of Mountain Khakis Brand Manager and Director of Creative Development Jen Taylor, tells that side.

Note, this is Taylor’s opinion, and not necessarily that of Mountain Khakis brand or its other employees. It is addressed to Yvon Chouinard & Peter Metcalf, respectively the founders of Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment.

An open letter to Yvon Chouinard & Peter Metcalf:

Gentlemen, thank you for lending your voices to raise awareness toward devastating environmental issues and public lands conservation. Your stature within and beyond the ceiling of Outdoor Retailer represent the thousands of us who have built a rewarding life paying the outdoorist’s lifestyle tax and finding our purpose in a landscape of corporations who recognize the growing relevance of our Industry’s products and services.

Thank you also for composing several op-ed articles through the years – most especially in January of this year – regarding Outdoor Retailer’s current and future ‘state’ in Utah.

“I say enough is enough. If Governor Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home.” –Yvon Chouinard

“It’s time for Outdoor Retailer to leave the state in disgust.” – Peter Metcalf 

With all due respect, I disagree with you both.

Is the Outdoor Industry not composed of anarchists, rebels and non-conformists? Our dirtbag heritage continues to be celebrated by scabbed-over industry founders such as yourselves, and altruistic newcomers alike. This fiery, dogmatic spirit is the foundation of our industry – your industry – that is now recognized by federal balance sheets.

In Protest, Patagonia Withdraws From 'Outdoor Retailer' Trade Show

The boycott rails against Utah Governor Gary Herbert's decision to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. Read more…

I say, shouldn’t our stance be – instead of threatening to leave the state of Utah – we should be threatening to stay in the state of Utah?

When the park rangers of Yosemite threatened to kick you out of Camp 4 so many years ago (I can only assume this happened several times), how did you react? Did you revolt and stay, or pack up and go? I’m guessing you rebelled, went off radar and continued bagging first ascents. Never succumbing to authority. Power to the people, stick it to the man.

When I read your threats of Outdoor Retailer abandoning its basecamp in Utah if Gov. Herbert, his politicos and policies don’t start protecting public lands, it feels to me like we’d be rolling over. Bending over. Instead of threatening to pull out, shouldn’t we be threatening to STAY? Shouldn’t we take a stance and kick up so much dust that they threaten to KICK US OUT? That is a real story of having effect. That, to me, has the ring of revolutionary promise.

We should be such a burr in their saddle that the state of Utah makes every effort to ban the Outdoor Retailer trade show from their grounds.

The outdoor industry is needed in Utah. There is no more important state for our brands, manufacturers, buyers, designers, reps, policy makers, media and investors to descend upon every six months; to insert our collective voice squarely in Utah’s ear. Deep, like a Q-tip jamming into the eardrum. Their citizens need us. Their policy makers need us. Most importantly, their voiceless lands need us.

If we were to pull up our proverbial tent stakes and relocate to a state with policies more aligned with ours, wouldn’t that be the easy way out? Wouldn’t we be giving up, turning our back on the people, state and lands that need us most?

I say we hammer our titanium stakes into the ground with the swift strike of a rebel.

I say we step outside the walls of the Salt Palace Convention Center and rally with/for/against the community of Salt Lake City. Support the supporters, educate the critics, march on the lawns of the Capital and knock on the doors of the offices.

Let’s consider it a shame if we continue to merely slide into Utah with our smoke and mirrors booths and sales pitches, our comfy hotel rooms, our entertaining overstuffed meals and our weeklong fist-pump critique of their archaic and devastating policies.

Let us rally for the weeks of Outdoor Retailer! Let us annoy the hell out of the policymakers and become real change makers in the face of an oppressive, threatening government who threatens to sell off and vaporize our beloved access to our beloved public lands.

Respectfully,

Jen Taylor

Mountain Khakis | Brand Manager, Director of Creative Development

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