Patagonia, others threaten to boycott major outdoor show over public land protections

David Zalubowski/AP
A countdown clock is projected on the side of the McNichols Civic Center building as guests arrive at a welcome party to mark the opening of the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in downtown Denver. A group of outdoor industry leaders and conservation organizations projected the countdown clock in protest of President Donald Trump’s removal of vast portions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah.

By Thomas Peipert/Associated Press

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.

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, Florida.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, along with Colorado's U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, said Monday the state is a natural home for the show because it is a leader in outdoor recreation and is home to many of the industry's biggest brands.

"We take pride in caring for our public lands and supporting our tribes while taking bold climate action and remaining business friendly," the three said in a joint statement. "Today's announcement from the outdoor recreation industry and its top leaders underscores that the Outdoor Retailer Show belongs in Colorado."

Associated Press writer Sam Metz in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.