The Mercury News
This article was published in The Mercury News February 15, 2022.
An environmental conservation group and two dozen outdoor recreation companies, including Patagonia, REI and The North Face, announced Monday they would boycott the Outdoor Retailer trade show if it’s moved from Denver back to Salt Lake City, accusing Utah’s leaders of trying to chip away at protections for national monuments and public lands.
The Conservation Alliance, comprised of more than 270 companies, said in a news release that Emerald X, the publicly traded company that owns Outdoor Retailer, is considering moving the show despite widespread industry objections.
“Our position on the location of the Outdoor Retailer trade show remains clear and unchanged: The show belongs in a state whose top officials value and seek to protect public lands,” Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert said.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s office and Emerald X did not respond to emails seeking comment Monday.
But Cox asked the show last year to return to Salt Lake City, saying the location offered economic benefits for both Utah and outdoor retailers.
“We’ve missed you for the past several years, and we’ve made some improvements while you’ve been away,” he said in a video released in October in which he referenced airport renovations and an increase in hotel room capacity.
The outdoors industry took a stand after Utah lawmakers asked President Donald Trump in February 2017 to repeal the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument. Thirty outdoor companies objected, and the Outdoor Retailer show announced it would move from its longtime home in Salt Lake City to Denver.
The following December, Trump reduced the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. Patagonia sued and declared on its website, “The President Stole Your Land.”
Those protections have since been restored by President Joe Biden, but The Conservation Alliance says Utah’s leaders are still trying to undermine the monuments.
The biannual Outdoor Retailer show, which generates tens of millions of dollars in local economic impact, has dwindled in size in large part because of the pandemic, and Denver’s five-year contract with Emerald X expires after this summer’s show. The Snow Show is scheduled for Jan. 26-28 and the Summer Show for June 9-11 in Denver.
Emerald X sent a survey last year to the show’s attendees asking about a possible move to several cities, including Salt Lake City, Anaheim, California, Houston, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla.
Three of Colorado’s top officials also took the opportunity Monday to declare that the Centennial State is the rightful home to the trade show.
“Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry is crucial to our economy and our way of life. Many of the industry’s major brands call Colorado home, and rightfully so — we take pride in caring for our public lands and supporting our tribes while taking bold climate action and remaining business friendly,” said a joint statement from Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. “Today’s announcement from the outdoor recreation industry and its top leaders underscores that the Outdoor Retailer Show belongs in Colorado.”