Outdoor Retailer show folds up tent
SALT LAKE CITY» Outdoor recreation industry leaders aren’t going quietly as they stage their last trade show in Utah before moving it to Colorado.
As they said goodbye and thank you Wednesday to Salt Lake City for hosting the expo for two decades, some industry leaders also criticized Utah’s Republican leaders for their hardline opposition to a new national monument and for their efforts to seize control of federal lands.
Those issues led the industry to move the twiceyearly expo that generated an estimated $45 million in annual direct spending in the state by visitors to the expo.
“It’s about doing what is right,” said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer show director. “It’s about open spaces and getting outside; action over words.”
Several heavy-hitters in the industry spoke at the start of the show, saying the decision to relocate to Denver is part of their effort to flex the industry’s collective power and support preservation of public lands.
Amid threats by several major companies to boycott the expo if it stayed in Utah, show organizers announced earlier this year that they would leave Utah over Republican opposition to the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and the ongoing push to take more control of federal public lands.
Some visitors to the final expo in Utah bought hats and T-shirts bearing the phrase, “This land is your land.” Hundreds were expected to participate in a march Thursday to the Utah state capitol that is being organized by industry officials to show support for preserving public lands.
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who was CEO of REI before serving under President Barack Obama, said the decision to leave for Denver sends a powerful message to Utah leaders who believe they know best how to manage land in the state.
Jewell also blasted President Donald Trump’s review of the designation of two dozen national monuments, saying it’s out of step with what Americans want.
“President Trump is playing games with our public lands, treating the monuments like they are contestants on a game show,” Jewell said in her first major public speech since leaving the Interior post. “But the consequences, as you know, are real and devastating.”
Utah leaders dispute the contention that they don’t want to protect public land and say local leaders are best positioned to manage the areas.
Show organizers thanked Salt Lake City for helping the expo grow from about 5,000 people at the first show in 1996 to about 29,000 last summer, and for giving the burgeoning industry a place to share ideas and make their political voice heard.
But they stood firm behind the decision to leave for Colorado.
Industry members clamored for a move to a state “that better supports our collective values,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, which estimates that the outdoor recreation industry generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending in the U.S.