Sunday, August 06, 2017

Power play: How outdoor retailers are positioned as a political, economic and social force for change


 As the heavyweight Outdoor Retailer trade shows decamp for Colorado, the outdoor industry is wielding a newfound power. Favoring public lands is an easy motivator. Everyone under the outdoor-recreation tent — a widely diverse lot including sportsmen, paddlers, campers, bikers, skiers, hikers, conservationists, retailers, gear makers and motorized users — can get behind a fight to defend access to well-protected and amply funded national forests, monuments and parks. The challenge is capturing the growing political, economic and social clout, and maintaining that momentum as the industry emerges as a force for change beyond access and land protection. As Colorado establishes itself as the outdoor business epicenter, local industry leaders are pushing for the state to become a cradle of political advocacy. “The outdoor industry overall is waking up to their political voice and platform. This is about so much more than just climate, or public lands. a review of national monuments that could result in downsizing swaths of federally protected open spaces, the outdoor industry is not about to ease up on the fight for public lands — the lifeblood of outdoor recreation, inspiring a lifestyle that prods Americans to buy more gear that is essentially researched and developed on those wildlands.  President Donald Trump’s approach toward public lands is “an existential threat,” said Peter Metcalf, the founder of Utah’s Black Diamond Equipment who led the politically charged exodus of Outdoor Retailer from his home state. “The reality of that threat has united all factions and all tribes,” said Metcalf, pointing to millions of public comments supporting public lands spurred by outdoor companies such as Patagonia and the 6.3 million-member REI co-op. “That’s where we go from here. We are continuing to build the various coalitions and communicate to our elected officials — Republicans and Democrats alike — that Americans really care about well-stewarded, well-protected, properly zoned and properly funded public lands.” As the federal government backs away from leadership on climate and protecting open spaces for future generations, companies are filling the void. Patagonia is the natural leader, a company that has long been the vigilant guardian of environmental ethics in retail, with campaigns stirring support for climate-change legislation, tearing down dams and wild salmon in addition to its sustainable sourcing and labor strategies. But more companies are following Patagonia’s monkey-wrenching path. “Where a lack of leadership exists, there are a number of people in the private sector who are willing to step forward,” said Penn Newhard, whose Backbone Media in Carbondale represents dozens of outdoor brands that are forging the new progressive outdoor economy ethos. “These leaders are not only convinced of the generational threat of climate, but the long-term sustainable economic value in recreation and public lands.” It’s a far deeper testimonial to state-level coalitions coalescing around one of the few remaining bipartisan economies in the country,” said Luis Benitez, the boss of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office who helped land Outdoor Retailer. But with the Trump administration and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plowing ahead with


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