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.