Patagonia: Passionately pursuing land conservation or just trying to sell jackets?

Sen. Rob Bishop says Patagonia is lying and calls the PR campaign against the president galling.
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President Trump’s proclamation to cut two national monuments in southeastern Utah was the match that lit a public lands fire and Patagonia’s reaction has been nothing but gasoline.

With the swipe of the president’s pen, the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National monuments was slashed by 85 percent (that’s over one million acres). Patagonia was livid, and from lawsuits to bold tweets, it has not been holding back.

The tweet from Patagonia that started the social media feud, the now famous black box saying, “Your President Stole Your Land”, was favorited 86,000 times and retweeted 63,000 times.

“The fact that Patagonia and so many other outdoor industry brands like The North Face and Osprey are standing up so strongly for our irreplaceable lands is powerful, good for business, and just the right thing to do,” says Anna Peterson, president of Conservation Communications.

Founder of Denver’s Feral Mountain Co. Jimmy Funkhouser says stop focusing on the economic arguments for protecting wild lands.

But not everyone is on the Patagonia bandwagon. Politicians are speaking out and customers (existing, potential, or former) are telling Patagonia that they don’t agree with its actions.

Congressman Rob Bishop, the representative for Utah’s First District, told the Washington Examiner that the entire PR campaign against what the president is trying to do in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase is “so galling.” Bishop just got a dismissive public denial from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard when he invited him to share his point of view in front of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Because they are trying to say you can either have preservation or you can have development, you can’t have both. That once again is a lie. I am not saying Patagonia is lying, but they are,” Bishop said.

Owner of Three Saints Outdoors John Drollinger, which is an independent sales representative for Marmot, DPS, and ExOfficio, says Yvon and Patagonia have no voice in the American land debate. “If Yvon loved this land, maybe he’d manufacture in this land,” Drollinger said.

He believes that if Patagonia was manufacturing in the U.S. or buying up land here, it would have a more influential voice with this administration. “I think if Patagonia said, ‘hey, give us back Bears Ears, and we’ll open up a plant in Reno, maybe it’d get somewhere.”

What customers are saying

While there has been an overwhelming amount of support for Patagonia’s swift actions on fighting for this land, many people also feel the company should stick to selling outdoor gear. Among thousands of responses on Twitter, a large number chimed in saying Patagonia should stay out of politics, that its stance was wrong, or accusing the company of using this as a ploy to gain more profits.

Marshall Dvorscak is a Utah resident and owns Moab Gear Trader, just about two hours driving distance from Bears Ears and three from Grand Staircase-Escalante. He says not all of his customers agree with Patagonia, and in fact, many are boycotting the company because of its such vocal stance.

“Some customers have the narrative that Patagonia is just trying to sell more jackets,” Dvorscak says. That sentiment was echoed by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resource’s twitter page after a tweet went out saying that Patagonia just wants to “sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”

Jeff Mobley, manager at Colorado Love Outdoors, which is a short drive from Bears Ears, says the store has seen more traffic since the land was made a national monument. Despite the monument being a huge draw to the store, Mobley says a portion of the customer base is against Patagonia’s actions and opinions on this issue.

“Our community is split and feel so strongly on both sides,” he explains. Some locals believe that leaving the land as a monument robs them of utilizing it in ways that could help their economy.

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