Hasta la Vista, Utah

The Outdoor Retailer, the multi-million dollar exposition force which lived in Salt Lake City for 21 years, has pulled up stakes and is headed to neighboring Colorado. Beginning in January, 2018, the OR will be hosted by Denver.

Read this open letter to Utah from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Read Washington Post article on the OR departure from Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Utah’s unfriendly policies and rhetoric towards public land and wilderness stewardship, the twice-a-year event, which draws tens of thousands of outdoor recreationalists and retailers, will take its $45 million annual local contribution to the Mile High State.

It’s too bad Utah representatives, Emerald Expositions (which owns the OR) along with its show partner, the Outdoor Industry Association could not come to terms with the disharmony.

Can’t say as I blame the OR. I drive through Moab often enough. I’ve lived near the public lands of the Oquirrh mountains. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Utahns are either ignorant about environmental stewardship or hell-bent on manhandling and molesting beautiful public lands. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, among Utahns and Utah spaces. But overall, it’s ugly stuff.

It’s a shame the predominantly Mormon population doesn’t embrace a more sustainable approach.

I found this on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints newsroom pages:

“Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.”

If only.

Tempest Williams stirs it up

The Outdoor Retailer is all about the selly-selly-sell. Thousands of outdoor gear exhibitors tout their latest socks, stoves, image_previewskis, shoes, snowshoes, and shovels in the effort to wow thousands of buyers (or not). Increasingly, however, it’s also about organizing and affirming the outdoor industry’s growing political clout in order to tackle some serious and pressing issues of our generation: preservation of open space and public access to wilderness.

That’s why hundreds of OR exhibitors and attendees packed the 7am breakfast to hear Terry Tempest Williams give the Outdoor Industry Association’s keynote address.

Last year, former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, urged the OR audience to coalesce in the fight against the

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

development, extraction industries, and the Bundy element. This year, Tempest Williams sent out a similar message, but with more passion, fewer stats, and a different (but equally troublesome) Bundy.

Tempest Williams traveled extensively to research her upcoming book, “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks” (savvily timed with this year’s centennial celebration of the park system). The book promises to be “a meditation and manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America,” says one press release.

At the podium last week, the author of “Refuge” and “When Women Were Birds” presented a map (complete with hashtags, search terms, and theme music) and emotional call for outdoor activism. Some highlights from her 50-minute talk:

  • The outdoor industry needs to return to its roots. We all need to return to our roots, as human beings who care about place. In a word: wildness. In two words: protecting wildness. With three words: protecting public lands.
  • It is not enough to see these lands of portals of recreation and retail, commodities and commerce, but the open door to awe and wonder and acts of imagination that create hope for humanity, not just the isolation and
    Banner at the OR industry breakfast

    Banner at the OR industry breakfast

    promotion of the individual.

  • Remember not only what it means to be human but that we are one species among many.

Tempest Williams mentioned her recent visit to Paris, during the climate talks. She was particularly impressed by young demonstrators, who insisted they be heard, despite crackdowns by police after the city’s terrorist attacks. She marched with them.

“They said, ‘we’re in another state of emergency and in another state of terror and it’s called climate.’

…The young people were outraged. They marched. There were tens of thousands of them. They had huge red banners that said, ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘This is up to us.’”

Near the Eiffel Tower , she asked one of the demonstrators why he was there. He was a wildfire fighter from Fairbanks, Alaska, who witnessed six millions acres burn last summer. “I had to do something,” he told her.

“I returned home to Utah and I said, ‘what can I do?’…We can shut down these oil and gas leases on public lands. That’s what I’m going to do.”

She stepped down from the podium to a standing ovation.

Hashtag: keepitintheground

Music: Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Season.

SEO term: E.O. Wilson, half, earth (which discusses the author’s posit that half of the earth must be set aside as wilderness in order to have a sustainable, viable future for all living things. It also references the tentative title of Wilson’s upcoming book: Half Earth: The Struggle to Save the Rest of Life.)


Welcome UtahOutsider Readers!

For those of you wondering what will happen to UtahOutsider now that I’ve high-tailed it to Colorado: fear not.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.19.55 AM UtahOutsider lives on!

The site will remain live and active. The new ColoradoOutsider debuts today!

Suffice to say, I reserve the prerogative to maintain my outsider (non-native) status in both states. They’re still a long way from my native state of Maine and there’s still a lot to consider from an outsider’s perspective.

I will continue to get outside, report on others getting outside, and discuss new discoveries outside. I’ll make regular forays back into Utah and will also report from the Mile High state, mostly from the southwestern corner.

Thanks very much for your readership. You continue to be the best audience a gal could wish for.

Read What’s to Love and What’s Not to Love about Utah.

Check out this musical slideshow of the first month in southwestern Colorado.


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