You might think a trade show location change over a policy disagreement isn’t a big deal.

You’d be wrong.

After two decades in Salt Lake City, the behemoth Outdoor Retailers show just announced it will move because of "the latest disagreement with state leaders about their stance on public lands."

A Wake-up Call

The OR show is held twice a year in Salt Lake, attracts thousands of people, and contributes a tidy $45 million to the local economy. They are packing up because organizers of the show felt the heat from members like Patagonia, Black Diamond and many others about the state of Utah’s opposition to public land protection for places like the iconic Escalante and Bear’s Ears national monuments.

You can call this many things. I’ll call it a crisp slap in the face. A wake-up call from dollars and sense business people. I’ll also call it a warning shot about growing political power, a changing American West, and a reaction to the challenging political times we’re in.

And it’s a warning shot Idaho should pay attention to.

Why Does This Matter to Idaho?

I’ll be speaking to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on March 15. I’ll talk  about the importance of the outdoors and public lands to Idaho’s brand and economic future. As the Outdoor Retailer show demonstrates, there is a sleeping giant out there. I think it’s waking up-just as thousands of others are as well-concerned about the direction of our country and the power of wallets and community.

On March 28, the Andrus Center for Public Policy will host a Boise State conference on Why Public Lands Matter.  This well-timed gathering will cover many issues, and I’ll write  more about it soon, but for now, consider this panel at the Andrus conference: Conservation and Recreation.

I’ll be facilitating the discussion, and panelists will include Peter Metcalf. Peter is the founder of Black Diamond, a major outdoor equipment business, and he has long been a leader in public land advocacy in the outdoor business community. He was closely involved in the OR show discussions. Another panelist is Luis Benitez. Luis runs Colorado’s Office of the Outdoor Recreation Industry. Guess where the OR show may end up? Ashley Korenblat, owner of Western Spirit (a major bike outfitter in Moab, Utah) and a leader of Public Land Solutions, will round out the panel.

We’re lucky to have this group coming to Boise. We’ll also be well advised to have leaders of our state and our capital city pay attention to the growing power of the outdoor recreation industry.

What You Can  Do

What can you do? Attend the Andrus Center’s Why Public Lands Matter Conference on March 28. Attend my Chamber of Commerce talk on March 15. And attend the Public Lands Rally at the Statehouse on March 4.

Outdoor recreation annually contributes $6.3 billion in consumer spending in Idaho, with $2.2 billion of that as direct retail and services. There are 37,000 jobs here tied to outdoor recreation. All this is growing. So is the power.