This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In April the Utah Office of Tourism launched the $2.1 million "Life Elevated" campaign to promote Utah's outdoor attractions.
The campaign touts the state's great recreational opportunities and appears to recognize the very reason people travel from all around the world to visit Utah.
Yet last month, Gov. Gary Herbert and other state officials stood in front of a beautiful backdrop of Utah's iconic and wild landscapes and expressed what a terrible affront it was that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed a new designation to protect those very places.
Utah's leadership seems completely oblivious that their words and deeds, including a federal lawsuit to stop Salazar's directive to the Bureau of Land Management, were in direct conflict to the images right behind them. The Outdoor Industry Association board of directors who represent more than 1,200 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry, many based in Utah found both the irony and announcement deeply disturbing.
OIA supported the Salazar directive because it would correct a serious policy imbalance.
In our opinion, the wild lands directive would ensure that the needs of outdoor recreation would get consideration equal to the prevalent uses sought by extractive industries when BLM officials determine the most appropriate uses of public lands.
Since Herbert took office, the outdoor industry has been showered with platitudes about the importance of our industry and how outdoor recreation is a priority economic sector for the state. And the praise is well-deserved.
In Utah alone, outdoor recreation supports 65,000 jobs, produces nearly $4 billion annually in retail sales and services and generates nearly $300 million in annual state tax revenues. In addition, Outdoor Retailer, the world's largest outdoor products tradeshow, brings $40 million to the state each year.
So how have Herbert and other state leaders shown their strong support for the outdoor recreation business community since taking office?
Well, the first step was to launch a federal lawsuit that tried to wrestle the national parks and national monuments away from the federal government. Then the governor chose to close off two generations of open stream access to sportsmen and paddlers.
Finally, he led an uprising to kill off a designation that would have ensured public land policies placed outdoor industry interests on equal footing to extractive industries.
The governor has made it clear that extractive industries are a critical economic industry in Utah.
However, tourists do not fly to Utah from all over the world to visit the American equivalent of the Saudi Arabia oil fields. They come to Utah to ski, hike, camp, paddle, hunt and fish in pristine and inviting waters and landscapes. And while they play, they fill hotels, lodges, restaurants and souvenir shops.
They also purchase gear designed, developed and distributed by American outdoor companies.
Without question, great vistas and unspoiled wilderness areas are the reason to visit Utah. Elected officials who promote public policies that deny access and overturn conservation efforts undermine the very core of Utah's economic well-being.
Outdoor recreation is the ultimate quality-of-life industry and a growing sector of the American economy.
It deserves much more from state leaders than rhetoric. The industry has worked in good faith to create a strong relationship with Utah officials and, in many ways, we have made progress.
However, repeated actions by the state have OIA questioning whether the Herbert administration respects, understands and values the industry's contribution.
Actions speak much louder than words and as OIA considers its commitments in the state, being repeatedly relegated to second-class economic citizen will advise the future.
Frank Hugelmeyer is president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association, title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer, the largest outdoor trade show, which is held in Salt Lake City twice a year.