Utah government’s ‘sour’ relationship with outdoor recreation industry improving

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – For the past several years the Utah state government and outdoor recreation groups have been at odds over public lands, specifically efforts to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.

In 2017 the Outdoor Industry Association pulled its biannual trade show, the Outdoor Retailer Market, out of Utah because over those policy disputes but now both sides say that the relationship is improving.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert spoke Wednesday at a news conference announcing the National Governors Association’s Outdoor Recreation Learning Network.

“We have a lot of outdoor recreation,” Gov. Herbert said. “38 million acres of public land.”

Outdoor recreation is big business in the state of Utah. According to the REI Co-Op, it accounts for $12.3 billion in consumer spending, $3.9 billion in wages and 110,000 jobs.

ABC4 News asked the Governor how he responds to the perception that Utah is anti-public lands?

“Well you know there’s always a misperception out there and I guess people have points of view but not only have we not diminished any of our public lands of the 38 million acres we’ve got, we’ve added to them,” he said. “There’s some politics afoot out there which is sometimes hard to avoid but when you look at what Utah is doing for our public lands, how we’re growing without outdoor recreation, local businesses are thriving, more coming on and being added to the outdoor recreation list, Utah businesses are not only doing good now but the future is very bright.”

David Weinstein of the Outdoor Industry Association also spoke at Wednesday’s news conference.

“Outdoor Recreation is nonpartisan and we want to keep it that way,” Weinstein said. “So we’re doing our best to keep politics out of the conversation and do our best to continue working with the Governor and his staff in order to repair any relationship that might have gone sour.”

Utah was the first state in the nation to open an Office of Outdoor Recreation back in 2013. Since then, Washington (2015), Colorado (2015), Wyoming (2016), Oregon (2017), North Carolina (2017), Maine (2018), Nevada (2019), New Mexico (2019), Wisconsin (2019), Michigan (2019) and Virginia (2019) have followed suit. 


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Glen Mills

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For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...