OR Swan Song in Salt Lake

Videographer outside the Salt Palace

Last month, we headed to the Outdoor Retailer, held for the last time at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

Why was this the final episode of a decades-long run, drawing tens of thousands to Utah and generating millions of dollars for the city?

Utah politicians have been pretty outspoken in their pro-industry, anti-environment efforts, in particular their interest in turning control of public lands over to state hands and rescinding the designation of national monuments. In turn, the outdoor industry, led by companies like Patagonia, Black Diamond, and Polartec, has essentially said, ‘if we come to Utah, we’re complicit in their efforts.’

Read more about that here.

Nonetheless, we welcomed the chance to visit with vendors and especially remind them that horse owners and riders are part of the outdoor recreation world, too. Read a High Country News op-ed on this here. 

Highlights:

Inspiring words from former Sec. of Interior Sally Jewell

At the Outdoor Industry breakfast, held at the Salt Lake Marriott across from the Salt Palace, we heard from heavy hitters: former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (in her first public appearance since leaving office), Montana Governor Steve Bullock (a possible 2020 US presidential candidate), as well as outdoor rock stars, Alex Honnold (who earlier this year became the first to free solo Yosemite’s El Cap) and Cedar Wright (fellow climber and adventure filmmaker).

The ballroom was decked out like a political convention, with 50 tall placards placed all around the space. They announced the outdoor recreation impact for each state. In total, the industry reels in $887 billion and 7.6 million in jobs annually. Check out this interactive map here.

It’s clear the industry’s come a long way from even a few years ago, when former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt implored this same Salt Lake Palace gathering to get its proverbial act together. 

For me, personally, it was a nice opportunity to mix with the cool and powerful, sure. But it was also a reminder that the horse community needs to do a better job at being here as a stakeholder. As they say, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Find out what products we liked.

Read more about Duckworth, the Montana wool company.

Hobnobbing with celebrity kayaker, Nick Troutman

Hasta La Vista, Utah

The Outdoor Retailer, the multi-million dollar exposition force which lived in Salt Lake City for 21 years, has pulled up stakes and is headed to neighboring Colorado. Beginning in January, 2018, the OR will be hosted by Denver.

Read this open letter to Utah from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Read Washington Post article on the OR departure from Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Utah’s unfriendly policies and rhetoric towards public land and wilderness stewardship, the twice-a-year event, which draws tens of thousands of outdoor recreationalists and retailers, will take its $45 million annual local contribution to the Mile High State.

It’s too bad Utah representatives, Emerald Expositions (which owns the OR) along with its show partner, the Outdoor Industry Association could not come to terms with the disharmony.

Can’t say as I blame the OR. I drive through Moab often enough. I’ve lived near the public lands of the Oquirrh mountains. I’ve come to the conclusion that many Utahns are either ignorant about environmental stewardship or hell-bent on manhandling and molesting beautiful public lands. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, among Utahns and Utah spaces. But overall, it’s ugly stuff.

It’s a shame the predominantly Mormon population doesn’t embrace a more sustainable approach.

I found this on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints newsroom pages:

“Approaches to the environment must be prudent, realistic, balanced and consistent with the needs of the earth and of current and future generations, rather than pursuing the immediate vindication of personal desires or avowed rights. The earth and all life upon it are much more than items to be consumed or conserved. God intends His creations to be aesthetically pleasing to enliven the mind and spirit, and some portions are to be preserved. Making the earth ugly offends Him.”

If only.

Troubling Health Signs in Utah

Cultural and business climates often run parallel to the degree of local reportage and response. The same news event will

A view of Salt Lake area, with the inversion.

get different coverage in Boise than it will in Boston.  The concern over potentially harmful environmental impact, for example, may be less officially worrisome in Utah than elsewhere. So, the following should come as no surprise – just like the increased stillborn rates in Duchesne, Daggett, and Uintah counties – health concerns affecting seniors are troubling yet (in this reporter’s opinion) under-reported:

In specific parts of Utah, there have been observations of an unusually high number of patients with two rare neurological pathologies: glioblastomas and the logopenic variant of primary progression aphasia. The former is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. The latter is similar to Alzeimer’s but attacks the brain’s language c​enter, not the memory.

Glioblastoma as seen in an MRI

According to what I’ve been told, Salt Lake county doctors are seeing an unusually high number of both. Most remarkably, one doctor saw four glioblastoma cases in one week. Of the logopenic variant, he previously diagnosed just two cases in 20 years (elsewhere in the country).

In addition, he recently received a letter from a state board, requiring that Parkinson’s Disease cases be reported as there were concerns of an unusual increase in diagnoses. It is this doctor’s suspicion that this uptick is, in fact, still under-represents the problem. The demographic shift of the aging boomer population has been taken into account.

The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment points out that the political climate for connecting pollutants with illness is particularly unfriendly in Utah.
Nonetheless, at the University of Utah, they’ve recently noted that the state rate of Parkinson’s Syndrome is double the national average. The local rate of patients with glioblastomas is some five times the national average.

Some think even these high rates are under-reported because of the dearth of qualified neurologists in Utah and the political and social climate. Last year, the university established the first in the nation Parkinson’s Registry. Doctors are now being asked to report all PD cases.

Parkinson symptoms

Is Utah’s outside troubling your insides?

A few astute doctors are reporting a worrisome increase in brain-related cancers and diseases in and around Salt Lake County. IMG_4176The state rate of Parkinson’s Disease is double the national average. Some think the PD numbers are even under-reported because of the dearth of qualified neurologists in Utah. Last year, the University of Utah established the first in the nation Parkinson’s Registry with doctors now being asked to report all cases.

Doctors have also observed a relatively high number of two rare neurological pathologies: glioblastomas and the logopenic variant of primary progression aphasia. The former is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. The latter is similar to Alzeimer’s but it attacks the brain’s language center, not the memory.

Got the heebie-jeebies yet?

Admittedly, sample sizes are small. But the Utah Physicians for a Healthy

A typical smoggy day in Salt Lake Valley

A typical smoggy day in Salt Lake Valley

Environment has a chock-full library of links to articles and papers making the case for the cruddy-environment-cruddy-health connection. Remember Woburn, Massachusetts? (where the rate of leukemia was linked to water contamination. The award-winning movie, A Civil Action, was based on those events.) How about Fallon, Nevada?

Our house sits above the dreaded Inversion (the nearly permanent layer of smog that sits on the valley). But some days, I’ve had a constant headache. It consistently coincides with the air quality. I feel for folks living in the thick of it.

So, why aren’t more folks jumping up and down, asking lawmakers, civic, industrial, and business partners to address these concerns?

Could it have something to do with Utah being one of the most industry- and business-friendly states in the country? (Forbes  ranked it the most business-friendly state in the nation last year. The Beehive State rarely drops out of the magazine’s top 3.)

Could it have something to do with the composition of the legislature (about 80 percent Republican)?

I talked with Dr. Brian Moench, board president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. The group has lobbied successfully for cleaner air and last year won a significant court battle against a Salt Lake refinery. He pointed out the obvious:

Children at the Natural History Museum of Utah

Children at the Natural History Museum of Utah

advocates for clean air (and water and earth) swim against the tide in this state. Check out the UPHE library of research connecting environmental factors with illness.

I’m wondering which will trigger change: a greater uptick in disease or a downturn in the success of pollutant-contributing industries?

There’s a popular interactive exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah. It allows players to input populations and environmental factors to see just how very challenged Salt Lake County will be in a decade or two. The kids get it.

Why aren’t adults playing?

 

 

 

A Feline Catch and Release

Say what you will about trapping. It’s not always humane and not always pursued by hunters of integrity and compassion. (Us “non-consumptive” parties – hikers, bikers, and horseback riders – can be less than virtuous, too, tossing litter and otherwise trashing the wilderness.)

But the efforts of one trapper and one conservation officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, were most impressive and effective when a big, healthy mountain lion was nabbed in a trap intended for bobcat.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.42.17 AMIt happened late last year in the Pine Valley Mountain Range, in Washington County, said the officer, Mark Ekins. The trapper (who wishes to remain unnamed) checked his trap after setting it the day before. Ekins estimated the cat had been in the trap 10 hours. With his cell phone propped on a nearby log, the two tended to the big cat and released it within six minutes. No tranquilizer darting. No equipment save a few catch poles. Check out the video here.

The release was just another day on the job, demurred Ekins. “It’s all relative to what you’re used to. I’d rather release a mountain lion than jump out of a plane.” In the 10 years on the job, he’s never gotten hurt and has released scores of predators. Once, a bobcat took a swipe and knocked off his glove.

Initially, the 10-year veteran officer (whose father worked as a Utah game warden for decades) brought the video home to show the wife and kids. They weren’t overly impressed. “It was not a big deal to them,” said Ekins of his family’s reaction.

IMG_5591 copyBut after he posted it on his personal Facebook page, he got a call from KLS, the Salt Lake City television news station. Reporter Faith Heaton Jolley covered the story here.

Suffice to say, viral happens. The video and accompanying story have been reported in England and beyond. It’s been viewed over 100 thousand times.

Reaction has been mixed, remarked Ekins, with some commenters calling trapping “’cruel and barbaric’ while others understand that trapping is an important part of conservation.”

On that December day, Ekins monitored the cat’s recovery and followed its tracks. He said it was in “great shape and great health.” After resting for several minutes, it moved off and seemed fine, he said.

 

Utah brain doc connects the dots

What our ancestors knew eons ago is confirmed by modern research:

mens sana in corpore sano

More specifically, we know what’s good for your heart – getting outside, exercising, and eating a Mediterranean diet – is good for your brain, too.

One man in our midst is doing his best to help folks embrace this concept and incorporate it into their lives. You don’t need drugs, surgery, or special equipment, he says – just a commitment to stick to a disciplined routine of healthy eating and activity.

Dr. Steve Peters is a man on a mission. He was recently chosen as one of 20 Live Well intermountain-healthcare-logo-06-300x131Champions among 35,000 employees within the Intermountain Healthcare System. Peters is a neuropsychologist who last year opened the Memory Clinic at the American Fork Specialty Clinic, in American Fork, Utah. As the clinic’s director, he sees patients with a wide range of dementia-related issues [Full disclosure: Peters is my significant other.]

Through his review of current research, he knows bad health correlates directly to brain concerns. We all know that the heavier and less fit you are, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke. Now we’re learning that our brains almost always 49539will be harmed, too.

Since landing at Intermountain a few years ago, Peters has given multiple seminars and presentations to employees and community members concerning brain health.

“It’s something he’s passionate about. He lives it,” said Kyle Wilson, American Fork Specialty Clinics practice director.

Steve Peters with friends

Steve Peters with friends

When Intermountain adopted the mission statement: “Helping people live the healthiest lives possible,” Peters took the hospital itself to task, challenging the cafeteria to serve healthier options.

“If there are unhealthy options within our culture, most people don’t question it,” said Wilson. “Steve’s not afraid to say, ‘this is not right.’”

Patients aren’t the only beneficiaries. Jimmy Hjorth, an athletic trainer who works with Peters at American Fork, said Peters’ influence has been inspiring.

“I’ve tried to make healthy changes in the past. It’s hard if you don’t have anyone rooting for you,” said Hjorth. “I was absolutely addicted to fast food, burger, fries, fried chicken sandwiches. Whenever he saw that I was making a healthier choice, he’d be super-excited. That makes you want to improve.”

Discussion on Evidence Based Horsemanship with Dr. Stephen Peters, left and Martin Black. Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland

Tempest Williams wows OR crowd

The Outdoor Retailer is all about the selly-selly-sell. Thousands of outdoor gear exhibitors tout their latest socks, stoves,

image_previewskis, shoes, snowshoes, and shovels in the effort to wow thousands of buyers (or not). Increasingly, however, it’s also about organizing and affirming the outdoor industry’s growing political clout in order to tackle some serious and pressing issues of our generation: preservation of open space and public access to wilderness.

That’s why hundreds of OR exhibitors and attendees packed the 7am breakfast to hear Terry Tempest Williams give the Outdoor Industry Association’s keynote address.

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Utah author Terry Tempest Williams at home in Castle Valley. (Courtesy photo by Debra Anderson).

Last year, former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt, urged the OR audience to coalesce in the fight against the development, extraction industries, and the Bundy element. This year, Tempest Williams sent out a similar message, but with more passion, fewer stats, and a different (but equally troublesome) Bundy.

Tempest Williams traveled extensively to research her upcoming book, “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks” (savvily timed with this year’s centennial celebration of the park system). The book promises to be “a meditation and manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America,” says one press release.

At the podium last week, the author of “Refuge” and “When Women Were Birds” presented a map (complete with hashtags, search terms, and theme music) and emotional call for outdoor activism. Some highlights from her 50-minute talk:

  • The outdoor industry needs to return to its roots. We all need to return to our roots, as human beings who care about place. In a word: wildness. In two words: protecting wildness. With three words: protecting public lands.
  • It is not enough to see these lands of portals of recreation and retail, commodities and commerce, but the open door to awe and wonder and acts of imagination that create hope for humanity, not just the isolation and promotion of the individual.
  • Remember not only what it means to be human but that we are one species among many.
Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Banner at the OR industry breakfast

Tempest Williams mentioned her recent visit to Paris, during the climate talks. She was particularly impressed by young demonstrators, who insisted they be heard, despite crackdowns by police after the city’s terrorist attacks. She marched with them.

“They said, ‘we’re in another state of emergency and in another state of terror and it’s called climate.’

…The young people were outraged. They marched. There were tens of thousands of them. They had huge red banners that said, ‘Keep it in the ground’ and ‘This is up to us.’”

Near the Eiffel Tower , she asked one of the demonstrators why he was there. He was a wildfire fighter from Fairbanks, Alaska, who witnessed six millions acres burn last summer. “I had to do something,” he told her.

“I returned home to Utah and I said, ‘what can I do?’…We can shut down these oil and gas leases on public lands. That’s what I’m going to do.”

She stepped down from the podium to a standing ovation.

Hashtag: keepitintheground

Music: Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Season.

SEO term: E.O. Wilson, half, earth (which discusses the author’s posit that half of the earth must be set aside as wilderness in order to have a sustainable, viable future for all living things. It also references the tentative title of Wilson’s upcoming book: Half Earth: The Struggle to Save the Rest of Life.)

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