Patagonia Files a Lawsuit to Protect Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah
By Anne Howard and Brandon Hinojos
The outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia, is leading a movement against the Trump Administration to preserve protected lands and monuments. The president has recently approved an initiative to greatly reduce both the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. The company’s founder and CEO, Yvon Chouinard, has filed suit against the administration and formed a coalition with anthropological organizations along with representatives of native tribes in the area to challenge Trump’s abrupt decision. The president’s doing away with the Antiquities Act would effectively shrink more than 2 million acres of public land by nearly 100% and divide the regions into several smaller sections for use by the state. On December 4th, Trump visited Utah and gave a speech on the matter saying that the land should not:
Be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land.
However, an email sent by Patagonia on December 1st said: “history shows that when states have control, 70 percent of the land is sold off to the highest bidder.” Despite company headquarters literally situated in the midst of the Ventura wildfires and many of its staff having had to flee the area in dire circumstances, Patagonia revamped their website’s homepage on December 4th with a message reading “The President Stole Your Land.” It further briefly explained what was going on in a smaller font with a call to action button for visitors to learn more. Chouinard has been extremely vocal on his passion for preserving sacred lands as well stating bluntly:
I’m going to sue him [President Trump]. It seems the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits. I think it’s a shame that only 4% of American lands are national parks. Costa Rica’s got 10%. Chile will now have way more parks than we have. We need more, not less. This government is evil and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win.
Although the accusation of government malevolence is up for debate, it did actively ignore nearly 3 million public comments expressing disapproval to strip the land’s protections. Patagonia believes it is part of their mission to preserve these lands for exploration and admiration and simply standing by without a fight is out of the question. The company’s President and CEO, Rose Marcario wrote in an email on December 4th saying:
“Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump Administration’s unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments…We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.”
Just yesterday, Utah Representative Robert Bishop wrote a letter to Chouinard inviting him to testify before the state’s Natural Resource Committee. Bishop as the chairman of the House felt that:
“Major public policy decisions involving millions of acres of public land should be discussed, debated and considered in the light of day. The Committee also believes it is important to understand and allow for all perspectives to be presented fairly and respectfully.”
Patagonia says they have yet to receive or examine the letter due to the ongoing fires in Southern California and the mandatory evacuation order.
Who’s in the Coalition?
The coalition is a diverse group of organizations including Utah Diné Bikéyah, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Archaeology Southwest, Conservation Lands Foundation, Access Fund, the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Below are some of their responses to Trump’s proclamations he signed Monday before last.
President Trump has literally dismembered our sacred Bears Ears National Monument that five Tribes have worked tirelessly for many years to protect to preserve our culture and way of life. I heard yesterday someone say, ‘it is as if he took a whole person, slashed it, and left us with a couple of limbs,’ that is how I feel, too. -Mary Benally of Utah Diné Bikéyah.
Bears Ears is a critical battle in the larger fight for America’s public lands. The current Administration is mounting a systematic attack on public lands through a larger, frenetic signing of executive orders, proclamations, and the repeal of environmental protections—all with no legal footing or well-reasoned basis. This free-wheeling approach is unprecedented and highly troubling. -Brady Robinson of the Access Fund.
Chouinard’s continued fight has caused a ripple effect influencing other companies to get on board as well. Retail and outdoor recreation provider, REI, briefly switched up their homepage reading:
Despite the loss of millions of acres of protected lands this week. REI will continue to advocate for the places we all love.
Founder of Black Diamond Equipment, Peter Metcalf, has expressed his outrage saying Trump’s tactics is a real:
Rape and pillage approach…a real tragedy, to tear up this place that is rich with dinosaur bones, cultural antiquities and is a sportsman’s paradise. That’s not the best use of the land.
Who’s Suing Who Anyway?
Patagonia is only filing suit for protection of Bears Ears while others in and outside of the coalition are filing separate complaints. In a clarification email sent the day of Trump’s announcements, Patagonia wrote:
There will be several lawsuits to protect Bears Ears National Monument:
- One of those lawsuits will be filed by the Inter-Tribal Coalition. We expect this to be the first suit filed.
- Patagonia along with Friends of Cedar Mesa, Utah Dine Bikeyah and Archaeology Southwest and others will file a day or two after the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s suit.
- And we are sure there will be other lawsuits (because the president’s action today is illegal).
What a noble cause for a company that most would not expect are so passionate about social issues. If things go according to Trump’s plan, miners, frackers, and other special interest groups will have their way with millions of acres of historically protected land. However, Patagonia along with countless other entities are willing to go the distance to ensure that doesn’t happen.
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