Attendees flooded into a standing-room-only ballroom for the OIA Industry Breakfast featuring a speaker lineup filled with star power.
“It’s good to be among friends,” said Sally Jewell, former Secretary of the Interior, prompting a roar of applause as she approached the podium. Jewell began her speech by summing up the history of assaults on U.S. public lands. She read quotes from opponents of national parks and monuments that dated back to as early as 1872, when there were protests against the creation of Yellowstone. The 150-year-old complaints sounded eerily similar to current detractors of Bears Ears National Monument. From Yellowstone to Canyonlands to Glacier Bay, Jewell pointed out that each monument was established despite fears of economic demise.
“Today each one of those places is woven into the very fabric of our nation,” she said. “They shape our identity.” Jewell went on to document the economic growth each monument and park has brought to neighboring communities, concluding that today’s threatened monuments should be defended for the sake of economics as well as environmental ethics.
Jewell began her to call to action with a note of hope, assuring the audience that she believes it is illegal for a U.S. president to unilaterally change the borders of a national monument. According to the 2.7 million comments submitted for the Trump-ordered review of public lands, she said revoking protected status is out of step with nine out of 10 Americans’ values.
Jewell’s recommendations for the path forward were threefold. First, she encouraged show attendees to participate in today’s march for public lands. She also asked companies to examine their values and find the strength to stand up for what they believe in.
“The debate is happening regardless," Jewell said."If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Jewell acknowledged that it can be nerve-racking to risk alienating customers by taking a political stand, but she emphasized now is the time for the $887 billion outdoor industry to throw its weight around in Washington. Companies have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the tangible nature of public policy by illustrating impacts to their bottom line and making policy personal, Jewell said.
Her third recommendation for the audience: Get involved in local media, whether by writing an op-ed in a local paper or pitching stories to reporters.
Following Jewell’s talk and comments from incoming OIA chair and Smartwool President Travis Campbell, The North Face climbers Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright took the stage to close out the breakfast with stories and photos from their adventures on public lands.
“It’s easy to talk about policy and gateway communities, but these images show the strikingly beautiful landscapes that people travel from all over the world to see,” Honnold noted.
And at the end of the day, he said it is that beauty we all draw from when it comes to wading into politics—the places that make our country something worth fighting for.