The Outdoor Industry Marches for Public Lands

Outdoor Retailer attendees make their case for leaving Utah at the state capitol

Photos courtesy of Jill Robinson

An estimated 3,000 attendees from the recreation industry’s largest trade show, Outdoor Retailer (OR), joined a This Land is Our Land March for Public Lands in Salt Lake City yesterday to celebrate the backbone of the outdoor industry: our federal public lands. The march, which took place as the show came to an end, kicked off at the Salt Palace Convention Center on its way to the Utah State Capitol.

This week marks Outdoor Retailer’s final touchdown in Salt Lake City—its home of more than two decades. In February 2017, OR announced it was leaving after disappointing conversations with Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, about the state’s position on public lands. Industry leaders came to the conclusion that the Utah government would not abandon its crusade against national monuments, national forests, and the overall conservation of other public lands that are so crucial to outdoor recreation.

On July 7, the trade show announced that it would relocate to Denver for the next five years, beginning January 2018. The twice-annual, ever-growing shows have brought about 40,000 visitors and $45 million to Salt Lake City each year, but the new trio of shows in Denver are projected to attract upwards of 85,000 people annually, as well as a $110 million economic impact.

“Once it became clear that this was Outdoor Retailer’s last year in Salt Lake City,” said Gareth Martins, director of marketing for the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), “we wanted to keep the focus on the benefit of public lands, while at the same time thanking the Salt Lake City community and Utah for their hospitality for more than 20 years.”

Armed with signs supporting Bears Ears National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and all public lands, as well as catchy chants (“Tiny hands off our lands!”), peaceful marchers followed a route along West Temple Street, past the Salt Lake Temple, and to the march’s final destination. At the Capitol, industry leaders and experts held a 45-minute rally to highlight issues that spark further public lands discussion and action.

“You’ve only got one Earth,” said Shaun Chapoose, Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee member and founding member of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “What I hope you learn is that you need to speak up and stand for what you believe.”

Speakers included Amy Roberts (executive director of OIA), Adam Cramer (executive director of Outdoor Alliance), John Sterling (executive director of The Conservation Alliance), Conrad Anker (professional climber and captain of The North Face global athlete team), Jerry Stritzke (CEO and president of REI), Blake Spalding (owner of the acclaimed Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah), and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

Concurrent public lands marches took place across the United States on Thursday, in Ely, Minnesota; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Bend, Oregon; Medford, Oregon; and Mammoth Lakes, California.

“It’s not lost on me that Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City for 22 years, and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument is now 21 years old,” said Blake Spalding, bringing bittersweet tears to the eyes of some longtime OR attendees. “So, I think Outdoor Retailer made the right decision to leave, while it stings, because our governor needs strong medicine to understand what he has done to our state by not standing up for public lands.”

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