Salt Lake City dodged an avalanche, so to speak, last month when the Outdoor Retailers agreed to gather in town two more years while the city, county and state work out solutions to provide more downtown hotel rooms and exhibition space.
The group, which stages the state's two biggest trade shows each year, also had challenged Gov. Gary Herbert, to develop a sustainable public-land policy that valued the recreation industry and pristine outback as much as he supports the extraction and oil industries. Salt Lake magazine wrote about the governor's difficult choice.
The outdoor industry appeared satisfied with the governor's overture, Utah's Outdoor Recreation Vision, which frankly is little more than words molded into what business people like to call a "vision statement."
Herbert's lukewarm and double-edged vision statements along the lines of, "we need to pursue development and the recreational economy, and ensure that our efforts to promote one economic sector do not unduly constrain another," don't calm most environmentalists.
Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond and a fierce critic of the state's land policies, says that for now, he and his colleagues are taking Hebert at this word.
"We consider it a hand reaching out that we should grab and embrace," says Metcalf, pictured right.
The tradeshow's director Kenji Haroutunian said industry representatives met with the governor to impress on him that economically they are more than "a group that uses left-over land and left-over money for left-over activities."
Says Haroutunian, "He is starting to move his position on it."
But Metcalf says his industry needs to press the governor to follow up with real action. "There are some wonderful things he could do to initiate and lead that would embody the vision he put forth. The next step [for the Herbert] is to work with your team and figure out the strategic objectives and initiatives to realize those vision."
A op-ed article in The Salt Lake Tribune by Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, might dampen Metcalf's optimism. Udell found it telling that the governor blamed Utah drivers for the Wasatch Front's air pollution—the worst in the nation—while ignoring the industrial polluters.
"Herbert refuses to point a finger at our most powerful and polluting industries, such as mining and refining. Kennecott produces about 30 percent of the pollution in our air shed — and makes billions doing so, most of which is sent back to England. But he happily points fingers at the rest of us who are just trying to get by!"