Outdoor Retailer semiannual trade shows will stay in Utah, at least for now — a decision made after a three-hour closed-door meeting Wednesday between Gov. Mike Leavitt and outdoor proponents.
The two sides plan to hold continuing meetings and an "announcement or vision" is expected at the group's trade show in August, said Frank Hugelmeyer, Outdoor Industry Association president.
"Today was a good first step," Hugelmeyer said, later adding, "We're going to want to see some progress between this meeting and that trade show."
The governor is committed to the recreational industry and wilderness in Utah, and there will be a process to work out concerns, said Peter Metcalf, president and CEO of Black Diamond Equipment.
"We do in fact have mutual economic interest in making Utah an outdoor recreation capital of the world," Leavitt said, adding he and the outdoor retailers understand each other better after having the meeting. The Outdoor Retailer shows, exclusively endorsed by OIA, pump $24 million into Utah's economy.
The meeting was held following outcry from some outdoor retailers over Leavitt's April 11 deal with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to remove wilderness protection from nearly 6 million acres on Bureau of Land Management lands in the state. In return, Utah agreed to drop a 1996 lawsuit against Interior.
Hugelmeyer said he is pleased with the amount of time Leavitt gave the issue, which is receiving more attention than expected. However, he is not happy the limelight came because of Leavitt's deal with Norton.
"Clearly we would have preferred a different way," he said.
No decisions were made about a specific amount of proposed wilderness.
"We weren't going to settle that issue today," said Riley Cutler, Wasatch Touring Co. "What we want is probably greater than what the governor wants."
Cutler also said they came away from the meeting feeling Leavitt wants wilderness in Utah.
The debate over wilderness protection has been polarized, Metcalf said.
"We have to look at this as an opportunity to move forward and get rid of the stalemate."