DENVER – The nation's largest outdoor recreation trade show is leaving Colorado and moving back to Utah after five years, despite boycott threats from major recreation companies and an environmental conservation group over the move.
The Outdoor Retailer show, which has been in Denver since 2018, will move back to Salt Lake City after this year’s June event, said Jeff Davis and Marissa Nicholson, with Emerald X, the company that manages the show.
“Salt Lake City and County is our hometown, and we’re going back with a commitment to effecting meaningful change. It would be wrong for us to leave the way we did and simply go back as if nothing happened. In reality, leaving after 2017 has not brought the change we had hoped for, so we will push back, not pull back. We firmly believe that staying engaged and collectively contributing to the ongoing discussion, no matter how difficult, is far more constructive.”
The Conservation Alliance, the conservation group threatening to boycott, is accusing lawmakers in Utah of chipping away at protections for national monuments and public lands, the Associated Press reports. Other big-name companies like Patagonia, REI, and The North Face said they too, would boycott the show over the move.
The biannual show was moved to Denver after Utah lawmakers asked President Donald Trump in February 2017 to repeal the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument.
The show decided to leave after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution calling on federal officials to rescind the monument that President Barack Obama designated on 1.3 million acres of land in southeastern Utah considered sacred to Native American tribes, according to the Associated Press.
"It’s clear those in charge of the Outdoor Retailer trade show did not learn their lesson. Politicians in Utah have continued to wage war on public lands conservation and their harmful efforts show no signs of slowing down," said Center for Western Priorities executive director Jennifer Rokala. "Not only is Utah’s governor preparing to launch a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to strip protections from Bears Ears National Monument, today Utah Senator Mike Lee asked Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about the possibility of gutting the law which gives presidents the authority to designate national monuments."
She continued, “Outdoor recreation is booming in the West, fueling local economies and driving calls to protect more public lands. Leaders in the outdoor industry should recognize their growing power and not reward the bad behavior of extreme anti-conservation politicians.”
On Wednesday afternoon, REI released the following statement following the news the show was moving back to Utah:
“We are very disappointed by Emerald’s decision to move the Outdoor Retailer trade show out of Colorado and back to Utah in January 2023 despite the strong objections of the co-op and other industry leaders.
Utah’s elected officials have repeatedly refused to protect—and are actively working to undermine—duly designated national monuments and natural treasures, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. As we made clear in February, REI will not participate in any OR trade show in the state so long as Utah’s leaders persist in attacking our public lands and the laws that protect them. We remain committed to our employees, members, vendors and communities in the state.
The co-op is unwavering in our commitment to public lands—the mountains, deserts, prairies, waters and forests that tens of millions of Americans from all backgrounds cherish and enjoy annually. We recognize and maintain solidarity with the Native American communities who have stewarded these lands for generations and continue to lead the campaign for their protection.
We hope Emerald will reconsider the host site of Outdoor Retailer in the future.”
Colorado contributed a total of $1.7 million to help relocate the show from Salt Lake City, with the understanding that organizers would hold three outdoor retail conventions in Denver each year for five years.
In a joint statement, Colorado senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper said news of the show leaving Colorado was "disappointing."
“Emerald X is ignoring the outdoor recreation industry’s strong desire to keep the Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver. While this news is disappointing, we stand ready to work with leaders in outdoor recreation on new opportunities to showcase the community’s strength. Colorado's long standing record of supporting outdoor recreation and protecting our public lands make us a leader in this space.”
Governor Jared Polis said Wednesday that despite the move of the Outdoor Retailer show, Colorado remains the epicenter for outdoor recreation and the outdoor industry.
"Today’s announcement presents a great opportunity to demonstrate Colorado’s leadership in outdoor recreation. I’m proud that Colorado remains united with most major brands in valuing our public lands, and we remain focused on opportunities ahead that will come from even stronger partnerships between the outdoor industry and the state of Colorado, fostering homegrown innovation and high levels of success," Polis said.