Earlier today, REI Co-op CEO Jerry Stritzke sent the note below to outdoor industry leaders.
We are experiencing a once-in-a-generation, challenging retail environment, which has impacted several important and longstanding outdoor retailers, not to mention the ripple impact through all outdoor brands. We also have seen a massive shift in the thinking and discussions about trade shows, which I really think is a proxy for a conversation about how we function as an industry. Finally, we find ourselves in a fast-moving policy fight to protect our public lands.
I have found myself trying to connect the dots and determine how REI should participate in the conversation in order to strengthen the outdoor industry and advocate for the outdoors that we all love. I am sharing my thoughts because I think this is a conversation the industry needs to have while at the same time knowing that there is no one right answer. I do believe, however, that as an industry we share a passion for a life lived outside and in the end that unites us. #UnitedOutside
When I learned about the Utah legislature and Governor Herbert’s effort to rescind protection of the Bears Ears National Monument, I was mad as hell and disappointed. The issue had been framed in Utah during the Winter OR show by both Peter Metcalf and Yvon Chouinard — two of our most respected outdoor voices. That was followed by over 170 outdoor industry leaders signing a CEO letter declaring protecting public lands as our top priority. It would certainly appear that despite having a state fueled by an outdoor recreation economy and serving as the 20-year host of our OR show, which pumps close to $40 million into their state annually, they chose to attack our public lands without the courtesy of a conversation.
I applaud the action of Patagonia and my kindred spirit, Rose Marcario. I also believe that the quick action of OIA to put the OR show out for bid was the absolute right step.
Now it gets more complicated. The real battle to protect our public lands is actually in the hands of our federal government. We are cautiously optimistic, because the nominee for Secretary of Interior has stated for the record, in multiple venues, that he is an advocate for public lands and not in favor of transferring lands to private hands or states that would do the same. It has taken courage for him to take these positions. This has long been an issue that has bipartisan support. The hunting and fishing industry and many leaders on both sides of the aisle care deeply about our public lands. Bottom line, while we address the attacks on public lands in Utah we have to be at the table in D.C. We can only do this as a united industry.
OR and the Outdoor Industry
The Outdoor Retailer show plays a special role in the outdoor community. It is the one time and place that we come together across all elements of our industry. OIA plays host, and the show is attended by every outdoor brand ranging from those iconic outdoor brands that founded our industry to every emerging brand that loves the outdoors and has developed an innovative product that they hope will take off. Retailers from every walk of the outdoor industry can see in one place the future of the outdoor industry. And the key non-profits that advocate and protect our most sacred assets gather to share, plan and dream. At the show, we advance our values by looking at sustainability issues. We share stories, concerns and most importantly we are, for that week, a community.
Never Underestimate the Power of Community and its Importance to Our Industry
I believe it would be a mistake for us not to gather as an industry this July. Now more than ever, we need to act together to advocate and find a common voice to protect our most important asset — our public lands. To be clear, REI is strongly in the camp of moving OR if Utah persists in attacking our public lands – the sooner the better.
REI will be at Summer OR. We will also show up at every opportunity to advance the conversation in support of our public lands. We will stand up to politicians who would deprive our children and grandchildren of the legacy of public lands and all the majesty and wonder that they protect. We think it is more important than ever to come together as an outdoor community and make our voice heard.
I hope that even those companies that have had the courage to make a statement by indicating a willingness to walk away from Utah due to their attack on public lands might consider making a trip to OR this July. I would like to see our community get together and pay a visit to the Utah state government and let them know how we feel about their disregard for our public lands!