Conservation Alliance says Outdoor Retailer is the best place to organize

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The Conservation Alliance says it will continue to attend Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City this summer.

Amid calls to boycott Utah and, subsequently, this summer's Outdoor Retailer trade show, the Conservation Alliance announced Friday afternoon that it planned to stay put.

Outdoor Retailer is the best place to organize an effective business response to the imminent threats to our public lands, the organization wrote in a press release.

“This has been kind of a frantic situation, but the good news is, our industry is united around a commitment to public lands, and united against the threats that we see on the horizon," John Sterling, the organization's executive director, said in an interview with SNEWS Friday afternoon. "It’s on all of us to figure out how to channel that commitment in the right way. Sometimes that can be messy, but I’m confident that given the passion our industry has for public lands, we’re going to figure it out and come out of this strong.”

Sterling said some of the organization's members have decided that it sends a stronger message to boycott the show, while others have committed to attending. The Conservation Alliance is not advising members one way or the other, he added.

"This is an industry full of strong opinions and different perspectives, so it doesn’t surprise me that different companies will take different positions on this," he said.

Outdoor Retailer serves as a gathering place for outdoor companies and advocacy organizations to strategize on issues such as protecting public lands, and it also serves as a significant source of revenue for outdoor non-profits. The Conservation Alliance was founded there in 1989, and has been a vital part of its operation ever since, Sterling said.

In early March, Conservation Alliance members will meet in Washington, D.C. for three days of training and lobbying members of Congress. While news about opposition to public lands has dominated the headlines, Sterling said many Congressmen and women have also proposed positive legislation recently, and he and his members will be meeting with those legislators to ask how they can help promote public lands issues on the local level.

The Conservation Alliance's press release has been republished below in its entirety.

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument was designated by former President Barack Obama in his final days in office. Utah legislators fought federal protection of the land, which has spurred boycotts from outdoor industry brands who say they do not want to give more money to Utah's economy. // Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Statement from The Conservation Alliance Regarding Public Lands and the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show

Since 1989, The Conservation Alliance has participated in the Outdoor Retailer trade shows, held for the past 20 years in Salt Lake City. The shows have provided an important opportunity for us to meet with our members, share news about our conservation efforts, and work to integrate a conservation ethic into the fabric of the outdoor industry.

Though Utah is home to some of our most spectacular public lands, the state’s elected officials have demonstrated a shocking disregard for these wild places, and the powerful economic benefits they provide. Utah’s Congressional delegation, Governor, and legislature are pushing for dramatic changes to our public lands system that would diminish these places that are so important to our member companies, their employees, and their customers. The disconnect between our industry’s shared commitment to protecting public lands, and Utah’s disdain for those lands is untenable. Some of our members are directly responding to this discord by ending their participation in Outdoor Retailer show until it moves to a different state, or Utah’s elected officials change their position on public lands. Others will continue to exhibit at the show. The Conservation Alliance will continue to participate in the show because it is the best place for us to organize an effective business response to the imminent threats to our public lands.

We applaud Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) for taking steps to explore other locations for the show, and recognize that Utah’s position on public lands is the most important factor in motivating them to do so. The Conservation Alliance has worked closely with OIA on public lands issues – including the effort to designate the Bears Ears National Monument – and are proud of the conservation work we have done together.

In coalition with OIA and Outdoor Alliance, we bring together business, conservation, and outdoor recreation interests to deliver a strong and unified voice for our public lands. This collaboration reflects our belief in the principle of strength in numbers; that our industry is strongest when it works together toward common goals. We collaborate because each organization brings different strengths to the coalition. Because OIA and Outdoor Alliance have full-time staff in Washington, D.C., The Conservation Alliance can focus our resources on making grants to conservation projects, and engaging our member companies to support those projects with grassroots advocacy. Our respective roles complement each other, and we will need each other as we face unprecedented threats to our public lands over the next several years.

The Conservation Alliance has a 27-year history of advocating for our public lands. Protecting wild places, and preserving the integrity of our nation’s public lands system is central to our mission. We have invested millions in protecting specific places managed by the federal government, and our grants have helped protect more than 50 million acres of land, mostly in the public domain. We are inspired that our industry and member companies are passionate about public lands, and we are committed to working within our mission to ensure that they remain intact. We look forward to collaborating with our members at the July trade show to send a strong, unified message about preserving our public lands system, and the special places that lie therein.

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