It’s official: Outdoor Retailer show is leaving Utah, and Denver is hoping to snag it

SnowSports Industries America has reportedly invited Outdoor Retailer to do a joint winter show, clearing one hurdle to coming to Denver.

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A pond in Rocky Mountain National Park at dawn. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  rocky mountain national park; science; ecology; rmnp; hiking; wilderness; woods; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado

A pond in Rocky Mountain National Park at dawn. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Outdoor Retailer show, which had been making noise about leaving, is definitely leaving Utah over that state’s lack of support for public lands.

This could be Colorado and Denver’s gain.

The trade show brings — or brought — an estimated 40,000 visitors and $45 million to Utah each year, but the show’s owner and the outdoor industry retailers who are closely associated it were increasingly unhappy about the state’s position on public lands. Utah has been one of the most aggressive states in pushing for privatization of public lands and for the federal government to give control of many public lands to the states.

In a sign of the powerful industry forces that oppose these efforts, along with a broad coalition of hunters, anglers and conservationists, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, abandoned a bill that would have sold off 3.4 million acres of public land, including 93,000 acres in Colorado.

Chaffetz backed off, but Utah’s governor did not. According to the Tribune, the industry had a list of policy positions in support of public lands with which it wanted the state to agree in order to keep the trade show in Utah. But the governor did not agree.

After an unproductive meeting between Gov. Gary Herbert and outdoor recreation business representatives, industry leaders say they hope to find a new location for the Outdoor Retailer shows “as soon as possible.”

“Unfortunately, what we heard from Governor Herbert was more of the same,” according to a written statement by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), which has close ties to the massive, twice-yearly shows in Salt Lake City.

“It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses. We are therefore continuing our search for a new home as soon as possible.”

Could that new home be in Colorado?

The Denver Post reported earlier this month that Denver is preparing bids for Outdoor Retailer’s summer and winter shows. There had been some question about whether the winter show could be accommodated within the non-compete clause associated with the SnowSports Industries America’s Snow Show.

But the Tribune reported Thursday that SnowSports Industries America said it had invited Outdoor Retailer to do a joint show, which was the solution the city had proposed.

Conservation Colorado took out half-page ads in the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News touting Colorado’s virtues, including its support of public lands.

“We have stronger beer. We have taller peaks. We have higher recreation,” the ad reads, according to the Tribune. “But most of all, we love our public lands. … We have honored and fought for our public lands by defeating land seizure bills and embracing new national monuments. … Colorado knows protecting public lands is just good business.”

In the fight over public lands, economic activity in the form of oil and gas drilling is often pitted against conservation interests. Conservationists have increasingly highlighted the economic value of outdoor recreation in all its forms, from hunting and fishing to hiking and mountain-biking, to present keeping public lands public as a win-win for rural communities and the environment.

“Colorado has a long and proud history of protecting our public lands, and Coloradans know just how important these remarkable places are to our economy and Western way of life,” Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said in a statement. “If the outdoor industry is looking for show locations that reflect its values of stewardship and a passion for outdoor recreation, it should look no further than the Centennial State.”