Last fall, Spencer Cox, Utah’s governor, released a video practically begging Outdoor Retailer, by far the biggest industry trade show, to return to Salt Lake City. You may remember, OR left SLC a few years ago in response to Utah’s support for the shrinking of national monuments in the state. Now that the Biden administration has returned those national monuments to their size before the Trump administration rolled them back in 2017, many wondered if OR would return to SLC.

Currently, OR is held in Denver, but Emerald Expositions, the company that owns OR, is deciding where to host the event once the Denver contract runs out in 2022.

SLC is on that list.

A much bigger list, however, is the outdoor brands that have warned they will not attend OR in Utah because the state is preparing to sue the federal government to once again roll back federal protection of public lands.

Represented by the Conservation Alliance, at least two dozen brands have indicated that if OR returns to Salt Lake, they won’t be part of it. Big brands. The heavy hitters are REI, Patagonia, and the North Face, but the list is a who’s who in the outdoor industry. Brands such as NEMO, Keen, Oboz, Smartwool, Therm-A-Rest, and many others have signed on to express they’ll boycott a Utah-based OR as long as the state’s lawsuit against the feds is in play.

From Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert:

“For decades, Patagonia has worked in solidarity with Indigenous communities, local activists, outdoor athletes, and businesses in Utah. We love the state and its spectacular cultural and natural landscapes. We were thrilled when President Biden restored the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante…and we will oppose any effort to undermine their protection. 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.”

If you’re not in the outdoor industry, it may seem of little importance where its biggest trade show occurs. But it’s a look at which companies are serious about protection for public lands and recognize the importance to their business model that there are plenty of places for people to recreate outdoors.

Photo: Patrick Hendry

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