DENVER • Outdoor Retailer’s winter extravaganza returned to the Mile High City for a second January since the move from Utah, where tradespeople felt betrayed by the state government’s support of shrinking national monuments.
Once again almost 900 exhibitors filled halls and ballrooms this week, and once again industry representatives used offshoot meeting spaces at the recreation industry’s premier trade show to rally for the protection of public lands.
They celebrated Sen. Michael Bennet’s announcement that greeted the showcase ahead of his scheduled appearance at the convention center Friday to stump for the proposed CORE Act, which would preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado.
Meanwhile, the ski industry announced a multistate collaboration: The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership pledged to lobby for legislation and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the nation’s power grid. Ski areas and their associations from coast to coast recognized global warming as a threat to their slopes and the broader outdoor recreation economy worth a reported $887 billion to America.
And climate change was again highlighted by the Colorado College-sponsored State of the Rockies Project, with findings from its annual poll released Thursday. Conducted by two agencies, one Republican and the other Democratic, pollsters found 62 percent of Westerners view the phenomenon as a “very serious” or “extremely serious” problem.
Four hundred voters were interviewed in Colorado and seven other states. And the results pleased Gov. Jared Polis, who signed his first executive order in office in January with the intent to get more electric vehicles on roads. He has a zero emissions goal for the Centennial State.
“There’s a clear mandate from Colorado voters to protect our public lands and to take action to prevent the harmful impacts of climate change,” Polis said in a conference call announcing the poll.
While researchers found a party divide persisted on climate change, the 45 percent of registered Republicans who saw it as a serious problem was up from 37 percent three years ago.
“Why are we seeing these numbers?” asked Republican pollster Lori Weigel during a panel discussion. “Well, it could be in terms of what they’re seeing in their everyday lives.”
Two-thirds of respondents said they perceived water levels as now unpredictable and wildfires as a bigger problem today compared with 10 years ago — and 36 percent blamed climate change. Thirty percent cited drought, while the next majority pointed to more people living in fire-prone areas.
In introducing the findings, project director and Colorado College political science professor Corina McKendry said, “Rejection of the current administration’s priorities is particularly intense here.”
Less than a third of polled Westerners sided with President Donald Trump’s energy-first agenda, while 65 percent voiced their preferred emphasis on conservation.
And to fund conservation, to care for their local parks and open spaces, the majority of people asked said they would support taxing themselves — a sentiment that prevailed across party lines. But this could be misconstrued, said David Leinweber, the owner of Colorado Springs’ Angler’s Covey and leader of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance.
On an actual ballot, don’t voters prioritize differently? he asked pollsters. It was true, they said, not all voters had conservation on the top of their minds. “But given the opportunity, yes, they will allocate dollars to that,” Weigel said.
Maybe, Leinweber thought later. And he also thought about how Outdoor Retailer has changed in his nearly three decades of attending.
“This being a keynote or primary thing didn’t happen nine years ago,” he said.
He recognized the political issues as vital to his business and everyone else’s. “Our infrastructure is public lands, and we need to be engaged and involved with that,” he said.