Since 1996, Outdoor Retailer shows have pumped millions of dollars directly into Salt Lake’s economy.

State Rep. Brian King, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, says Ivory’s campaign is more about ideology than expanding the state economy. 

King and most Democrats agree with their Republican colleagues that more federal land should come under state control, but they see the solution in working cooperatively with the federal government to transfer land on a case-by-case basis. “I’m concerned this approach that all federal lands ought to be turned over to the state is cutting with an ax when we should use a scalpel,” King says. “If you want to go mano-a-mano in court with the federal government, I think we all know who’s going to lose.”

Worse, King notes, the land raiders spout extremist rhetoric that puts off tourists and relocating businesses. “There’s a ton of money that comes into the state in a way that preserves the land, creates jobs and makes Utah look good in the eyes of the rest of the world. What you say and the way you say it has consequences. They can’t later distance themselves from the crazy talk.”

Time for Straight Talk

In usual government-speak, Matheson says Herbert is “excited” about the opportunity the outdoor industry’s threat has brought him. “We can sit down with them and work together and make sure we are all better informed about one another’s viewpoints,” Matheson says. “The governor is not a top-down guy.”

Metcalf fears Matheson’s efforts will just be more of the lip service that Herbert is known for among environmentalists. “I see him increasingly as an architect of policies that are truly negative,” Metcalf says. “It isn’t a matter of not getting it or not being evenhanded. [Herbert’s policies] are beginning to be the negative towards our industry.”

But King sees the clash as a test for Herbert as a leader and an opportunity for Utah to begin moving in a more moderate direction. “When choices have to be made, the governor quite often chooses pragmatically,” he says. “That’s about as good as we can hope for.”

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