Outdoor industry not amused by latest GOP efforts to privatize public lands

Summit County hiking Colorado
Selling off public lands is a bad idea, according to the outdoor recreation industry.

Various land-transfer proposals seen as threat to recreation-dependent economies

Staff Report

FRISCO — Transferring federally managed public lands to state or local ownership would be a bad deal for outdoor recreation, and could lead to a loss of public access, business leaders warned during the outdoor industry’s recent trade show in Salt Lake City.

Outdoor industry leaders held a panel discussing during the trade shindig, focusing on what some perceive as a direct threat to the industry. The panel brought together political experts with conservationists, the sportsmen community, outdoor enthusiasts and business leaders from across the outdoor industry, all joining in opposition to state takeover of federal lands. Panelists and attendees also explored what the outdoor community can do to fight back.

Members in the roundtable included: Steve Barker, OIA; John Sterling, The Conservation Alliance; Adam Cramer, Outdoor Alliance; Whit Fosburgh, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; Jennifer Rokala, Center for Western Priorities; Lori Weigel, GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies; Peter Metcalf, Black Diamond.

America’s public lands are home to countless hiking and biking trails, river routes, fish and wildlife habitats and thousands of rock climbing areas. If these land transfer measures are passed, it could have devastating consequences for the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy and the local communities that rely on access to these recreation resources.

The various bills could potentially transfer millions of acres of public land to state governments, whose legislatures would be able to more easily create pathways to privatization and development or even auction off large swaths to the highest bidder.

“Westerners tend to view our public lands as belonging to the nation – not to any one state – and therefore a majority opposes having state government assume control and the cost of managing these lands,” said Lori Weigel, Partner with Public Opinion Strategies.

The outdoor industry and recreation community was encouraged throughout the event to get involved. A petition has been created and can be found at www.protectourpublicland.org.  The purpose of the petition is not only to help protect these threatened public lands but also to give notice to the elected leaders who are sponsoring the current land measures that they are alienating a large and important constituency.

“Our industry’s continued vibrancy, American’s healthy passion for active outdoor recreation is predicated first and foremost on our public lands remaining public, well stewarded, and thoughtfully protected,” said Peter Metcalf, co-founder of Black Diamond. “In Utah a rash and ill thought-out attempt to expropriate America’s public land would be devastating for our industry, for the state’s economy, for tourism, and for our quality of life which is built upon active recreation on pristine public lands.”

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