Utah land swap finalized at first outdoors summit

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 8, 2014 at 5:08 pm •  Published: May 8, 2014
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Last year, Herbert created a state office dedicated solely to outdoor recreation, the first of its kind in the country, and appointed an industry executive, Brad Petersen, to head it up.

The outdoor industry responded, with organizers of the world's largest outdoor-gear trade announcing they'd signed a contract to continue holding their biannual expo in the state through August 2016.

The Outdoor Retailer expo has taken place in Utah since 1996 and pours $40 million into the local economy annually. Organizers considered moving, citing a shortage of exhibition space and hotel rooms.

Utah leaders addressed that earlier this year by approving a $75 million tax incentive for the builder of an 800- to 1,000-room hotel near the convention center in downtown Salt Lake City.

Despite the show of support, Utah leaders have held fast to their desire to have more control over federal lands.

The Boulder, Colorado-based Outdoor Industry Association, which sponsors the gear expo, has opposed legislation signed by Herbert in 2012 that demands the federal government transfer control of much of Utah's public lands to the state by 2015.

Speakers on Thursday touched on the friction over public lands but kept their discussion mostly positive, emphasizing opportunities to work together.

Outdoor Industry Association President and CEO Frank Hugelmeyer said there needs to be coordination between government and stakeholders in the outdoors industry, he said.

"That's why I really congratulate Utah on creating a strategy because you are now going to be able to start to solve this within your state."

Petersen and others highlighted an effort led by U.S. Rep Rob Bishop, R-Utah, to work with more than 100 different stakeholders to find a master compromise over land disputes.

Bishop's office said this week that they hope to form legislation to present to Congress by the end of summer.

Petersen said outdoor recreation is great way to make public lands profitable for the state, particularly in rural areas with shrinking economies.

"Recreation is a great, viable resource for them to actually go out there and continue to diversify those economies," he said.

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Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice



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