Monumental Decisions at the 2018 Outdoor Retailer in Denver

Last month, the Gossamer Gear crew descended upon the 2018 Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show. After several years of being held in Salt Lake City, this winter show was the first to kickoff a new era in Denver, Colorado. Navigating the new terrain and large crowds may have been difficult for some who were used to the old layout. However, we all happened to roll up to the event with the same great Vagabond pack. Whenever we got separated from one another, mumbled chants of "one of us, one of us," while scanning the crowd, would inevitably reveal a fellow Vagabond toward whom we could gravitate.

Gossamer Gear crew rocks the vagabond packs at Outdoor Retailer

But, playing hide-and-seek with Vagabond packs, surprising as it may be, wasn't the reason the show pulled out of Salt Lake City after 20 years of holding the event there. Outdoor Retailer made the decision to move the show to Denver in protest of Utah's deleterious approach to public lands management. Utah Governor Gary Herbert had encouraged the Trump Administration to rescind federal protections for Bears Ears National Monument. In a February 2017 statement on the issue, representatives from Patagonia summed up the hypocrisy of this move: "Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits – $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs – that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state."

Patagonia pulled out of the show. Soon, several other outdoor companies followed suit until there was critical mass to make the move out of Utah official. Utah's elected representatives did not change their stance. And, since this all began, the Trump Administration has, in fact, announced plans to reduce Bears Ears National Monument, among others.

These attacks on our public lands require all of us to do something to fight back. At Gossamer Gear, we've been trying to use our platform more and more to advocate for the protection of these places. We've shared educational articles about public land designations and first-hand accounts of our Brand Ambassadors' travels through these threatened areas.

When we got to Denver, we were excited to see that several of the educational events at Outdoor Retailer this year focused on public lands advocacy. It was great to see the Outdoor Industry using this moment and this gathering to continue to build upon the dialogue that brought us all to Denver in the first place.

One event was titled, "Monumental Decisions," and involved a panel discussion moderated by Jessica Wahl of the Outdoor Industry Association. The presenters included:

  • Sevag Kazanci – Co-Founder of Parks Project;
  • Ray Rasker, Ph.D. – Executive Director of Headwaters Economics;
  • Marc Berejka – Director of Government and Community Affairs at REI;
  • Corley Kenna – Director of Global Communications and Public Relations at Patagonia;
  • Ryan Callaghan – Director of Conservation and Public Relations at First Lite; and
  • Erin Gaines – Manager of KEEN Effect at KEEN
Panelists at Outdoor Retailer conversation on public lands

It was an interesting discussion, including both big and small businesses, as well as a researcher. It was inspiring to see the standing-room-only crowd that showed up for the talk, too. Audience members asked a string of very thoughtful questions of the panelists.

Key Takeaways from Outdoor Retailer's "Monumental Decisions"

I learned more at the "Monumental Decisions" panel discussion than I can possibly fit into this blog post, but below are a few highlights that I think are important for all of us to carry with us as we continue to advocate for public lands:

  • The panelists urged the crowd to not stop talking about the issues at hand. It can be easy to feel burnt out when you hear the same message over and over. However, each time you talk about an issue, you can reach one new person. It's important we don't give up.
  • The inclusion of Native American voices in public land discussions is essential. Native Americans need to be given leadership in these movements. The original protection of Bears Ears was an example of how outdoor enthusiasts, environmental advocates, and Native Americans joined together to elevate a common goal.
  • We need to create unity in our messaging. People recreate in different ways. For some, this is backpacking far into the wilderness. For others, this is finding solitude while hunting. And for others still, this is cruising the country in a big ole RV. We need to let go of beliefs that one person's outdoor activity is more righteous than another person's, and instead come together with the same goal–to protect these lands we love.
  • We need to crystallize the protection of public lands as a human right, as an essential piece of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Moving Beyond Outdoor Retailer

I was happy to see public lands at the forefront of so many discussions this year at Outdoor Retailer. My hope is that this dialogue continues. My hope is that we keep raising our voices. My hope is that we can grab the hearts of so many other potential advocates that have connections to our country's wildest places.

The Outdoor Enthusiast’s Quick Guide to Park Designations

The Outdoor Enthusiast’s Quick Guide to Park Designations

Five months ago, the Trump administration began a review of 27 national monuments to determine potential changes to their designations. As of September 17, reports indicate that Interior Secretary Zinke recommended changes to at least ten –including shrinking Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Gold Butte, and Cascades-Siskiyou. The exact details of those changes have yet to be disclosed.

Most people have a concept of what a national park is. If places like Yosemite or Yellowstone were suddenly up for review, it would be easy for the public to grasp the implications of that, to feel the urgency behind what a change in protections could do to those iconic granite peaks or majestic geyser basins.

But, "national park" is just one of several designations the National Park Service (NPS) uses to set aside land. The locations that fall under this designation are special, but the lands outside of them hold important magic, too. To be good stewards for our public lands, we need to be able to understand the other designations: Why are they important? How are they designated? Where are they located?

Below is a quick reference list on NPS land designations to help guide your advocacy efforts. Backpackers' voices are critical to the future of these places we love.

National Park: Must be created by an act of Congress. Generally areas with extraordinary natural beauty, geology, and ecosystems. Activities such as mining or hunting are prohibited. Example: Glacier National Park (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

Photo of Glacier National Park

National Monument: Designated by the President through a public proclamation, as authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906. Typically includes landmarks or other objects of historic or scientific interest. Example: Oregon Caves National Monument (below; photo: Jamie Furlan)

Photo of cave formations

National Preserve: Designated by Congress. These lands typically have similar characteristics to national parks, but resource extraction, such as mining or hunting, is allowed. Which types are allowed depends on the enabling legislation for the preserve. Example: Mojave National Preserve (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

Photo of Mojave Desert

National Historic Site / National Historical Park: A national historic site is a single historical feature, such as the Liberty Bell. Designations began with the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Congress authorizes most, but secretaries of the Interior established several. A national historical park is a historic area encompassing more than a single item. Example: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

Photo of bike path along C&O Canal

National Memorial: Commemorates a historic moment. Site where it's located doesn't have to be historically connected. Designated by Congress. Example: Mount Rushmore National Memorial (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

Photo of Mount Rushmore

National Battlefield / National Cemetery: National battlefield is a general title covering national battlefield parks, national battlefield sites, and national military parks. American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996 clarifies they must be "sites where historic battles were fought on American soil during the armed conflicts that shaped the growth and development of the United States." Park service also manages 14 national cemeteries associated with historic sites and national battlefields. Example: Gettysburg National Military Park (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

Photo of Gettsyburg Battlefield

National Recreation Area: Typically located on a large reservoir with a focus on water sports or in an urban area to preserve scarce open spaces. The President's Recreation Advisory Committee established criteria for designation in 1963 and required an act of Congress. Example: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (below; photo: Kristen Grace)

Coastal photo at Golden Gate Rec Area

National Seashore / National Lake / National River: Congress designates national seashores and national lakes as preserved coastal areas with natural or recreational significance. Level of development varies by location, and hunting is allowed at many. National rivers have several sub-categories, such as scenic rivers, wild rivers, and recreational rivers. Congress authorized the first in 1964. Remainder established with passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which aimed to curb development that would harm the wild and scenic nature of these waterways. Example: Merced River (below; photo: Kris Laurie)

Photo of the Merced River in Yosemite

National Parkway: Intended for scenic driving along roadways paralleling parklands. Often connect cultural sites. Example: Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (below; photo: Korrin Bishop)

View of Shenandoah National Park

National Trail: Scenic or historic long distance trails authorized under the National Trails System Act of 1968. Example: Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (below; photo: Kris Laurie)

Photo of trail marker on Continental Divide

Affiliated Areas / Other Designations: "Affiliated areas" utilize technical or financial aid from the NPS, but are outside of the NPS system. "Other designations" represent NPS units with unique titles, all eleven of which reside in the Washington, D.C. metro region, such as Rock Creek Park (below; photo: Korrin Bishop).

Photo of Rock Creek Park

A detailed list of all 400+ NPS-designated and affiliated sites can be found here.