At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, an estimated 3,000 people marched from the convention center in downtown Salt Lake City to the Utah State Capitol in support of public lands. The march emptied the floor on the second day of the summer Outdoor Retailer tradeshow and unified both the outdoor industry and American public on the importance of our nation’s public lands.
“The march today was not just about the outdoor industry,” said Claire Smallwood, co-founding director of SheJumps, an organization that promotes the participation of women in outdoor activities. Smallwood joined industry leaders, colleagues, and skiers on the mile-long march to the Capitol. “It’s about America and all those who live here and care about our country. We have the right to speak up about what we care about.”
After 21 years in Salt Lake City, Outdoor Retailer and their organizer, Outdoor Industry Association, announced this summer's show would be the final one taking place in Utah. They said their decision was based on the city's inability to accommodate the show's growing numbers, in addition to the political issues over public lands in the state. The bi-annual show will be moving to Denver.
The politics that spurred the tradeshow's move started in February, when Patagonia announced they would no longer attend Outdoor Retailer because of Utah Governor Gary Herbert's efforts to persuade President Trump to rescind protection of Bears Ears National Monument, which was established by President Obama in his final days in office. Herbert also signed a resolution seeking to reduce the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In April, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to review the status of 27 national monuments, providing him recommendations on their status, namely revoking or shrinking the designation of federally protected lands.
Thursday's march was a cooperative effort between Outdoor Retailer and Outdoor Industry Association, along with the Conservation Alliance, and Outdoor Alliance, who represent outdoor businesses and organizations in grassroots environmental pursuits. The march, called "This Land is Our Land," intends to "provide show attendees a platform to express their support for the outdoor industry's backbone and foundation: federal public lands," according to a statement released by tradeshow organizers.
"We aim to communicate that America's national treasures require investment and effective management today and for generations to come," said Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA. "And they must remain accessible for all Americans."
The march started outside of OR at the Salt Palace Convention Center, where hundreds of people marched half an hour to the Utah State Capitol. There, a 45-minute rally focused on the importance of public lands and action against their privatization. Speakers at the rally included Utah tribal leaders, outdoor industry leaders, athletes, and policy makers, all passionate about protecting our nation's outdoor landscape.
"It's a pivotal turning point in deciding the future of our industry," said Smallwood. "We're going to have to dig in our heels to fight for what needs to happen."
The march is not the first time the Outdoor Industry Association took a stand in defense of public lands. In February, the group composed an open letter to the Department of the Interior urging the government to keep public lands public. The letter was signed by more than 200 CEOs in the outdoor industry, including brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Outdoor Research, and REI.
"Salomon strives to inspire and enable people to get outdoors, and we are excited for our team members to take part in the ‘This Land is Our Land March,’" said Jenny Taylor, U.S. brand manager for Salomon, who closed their booth early so employees can participate in the march. "Public lands conservation is an incredibly important issue facing not only our industry, but the entire United States, and it is through collective action that we can protect wild spaces where we play, adventure, and do business."
In conjunction with the march, Outdoor Retailer and OIA, along with The Conservation Alliance, and Outdoor Alliance, are working together to find additional ways to feature public lands during the show.
"Outdoor Alliance works on behalf of millions of paddlers, mountain bikers, hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers who get outside on public lands each year," said Adam Cramer, executive director of Outdoor Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting public lands. "Public lands are the foundation of this large and passionate community, and we're excited to lend our voice to this effort to unify the industry around this important issue."
While the ongoing issue of public lands is far from over—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is still reviewing 25 National Monuments—the outdoor community hopes that between corporate action from organizations like OIA, industry support from outdoor brands, and the continued support of everyday outdoor recreation participants, America’s public lands will remain in public hands, allowing for future enjoyment of the great outdoors for generations to come.