Several outdoor gear companies have announced they will skip Outdoor Retailer shows in Salt Lake City to protest Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s moves to eliminate or drastically decrease the size of the Bears Ears monument.
Days before leaving office, former President Barack Obama designated the vast Bears Ears landscape in Utah a national monument, granting it permanent protection. But some, including Utah’s legislators and other elected officials, say Mr. Obama overstepped his authority in doing so, exercising executive power without considering how the designation would affect Utah’s business interests and economy.
Mr. Herbert, a Republican, responded to the designation earlier this month by signing a non-binding resolution that asks President Trump to repeal the designation.
"These lands deserve our protection, but a unilateral monument designation is not the way to do it,” Herbert wrote in a Facebook post.
Patagonia met that resolution with the announcement of a boycott in attempt to pressure Utah officials.
“[Herbert is] making it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits—$12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs—that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state,” Patagonia President and chief executive Rose Marcario said in a statement.
Peak Design, Arc'teryx, Kokopelli Packraft, Power Practical, Polartec Fabrics, Metolius Climbing, and Bedrock Sandals have all decided to follow Patagonia’s lead.
"I think the accusation that we are, in fact, trying to take away access to public lands … does not stand up under scrutiny," Herbert said this week.
Some large retailers, such as North Face, have noted that boycotting the shows will serve to hurt smaller businesses the most. But for some of those companies, standing up for the monument is worth the economic risk.
"It's a bummer, to be honest," Utah-based Power Practical’s chief executive Matt Ford told The Salt Lake Tribune. "Having a show here is really convenient for a small company. It'd be a lose-lose for us if it goes someplace else."
But, he added, "this company started in the Utah backcountry. That's what started our first products, and the team is passionate about this issue."
Still, it may be difficult for Herbert and other Utah Republicans to find the necessary support for their efforts.
The Antiquities Act, which allowed Obama to designate the monument, requires a vote by Congress. University of Colorado law professor Mark Squillace, an expert on the Antiquities Act, previously told NPR that getting votes from Congress to rescind the monument won’t be easy.
"It turns out that the designation of national monuments is very popular with the public," he says.