Patagonia vows to sue Trump over national monuments

Last Updated Dec 5, 2017 6:37 PM EST

Patagonia, a maker of outdoor apparel and other gear known for its advocacy on environmental issues, is denouncing President Trump for his decision to shrink two national monuments in Utah.

"The President Stole Your Land," the company said in stark white lettering on a black background as part of an internet campaign aimed at fighting two White House proclamations to scale down the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments by hundreds of thousands of acres.

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia's outspoken founder, also vowed to sue Mr. Trump in an interview with CNN yesterday. 

"The administration's unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history," Hilary Dessouky, Patagonia's general counsel, said in an e-mailed statement. "We worked to establish Bears Ears National Monument and will now fight to protect it. On Wednesday, we will be filing a lawsuit challenging the President's revocation of Bears Ears National Monument."

Chouinard and Patagonia have long been active on environmental, labor and other issues. Under the company's so-called one-percent program, Patagonia has gave away more than $75 million to at least 3,400 environmental organizations, according to a profile in the New Yorker last year.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario echoed Chouinard's comments in a  statement on the company's website. And earlier this year, the company took out its first-ever television ad to protest the Trump administration's potential moves after he ordered a review of national monuments, according to online publication Retail Dive.

"The administration's unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history," Marcario said in the statement. "We've fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we'll continue that fight in the courts."

Trump National Monuments

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol on Mon., Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City.

AP

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke disputed the claim, calling it "nefarious, false and a lie" in a conference call Tuesday, and saying that the land targeted by Mr. Trump remains protected because it is still under federal control.

But the stand "seems highly consistent with Patagonia's values and those of its employees and customers," said Jerry Davis, a professor at the University of Michigan who has studied on activism and brands, in an email. "I do not see a lot of risk for a company like Patagonia -- a Certified B Corporation with a strong history of standing up for its values -- in speaking out against Trump's move."

Patagonia isn't alone in publicly protesting the move. Outdoor gear retailers REI and The North Face also released less strident statements protesting the announcement and directing customers on how to protest the move.

Earlier this year, the industry's largest outdoor gear show abandoned Salt Lake City in protest over the Trump administration's proposal to shrink the monuments. Executives from the top companies in the industry met earlier this year with the Outdoor Industries Association to discuss pulling out of Utah in protest, according to Outdoor Magazine, which also posted a recording of the conference call.

Comb Wash / Bears Ears National Monument

Comb Wash cuts from north to south through Cedar Mesa in Bears Ears National Monument near Blanding, Utah, on Oct. 27, 2017.

Reuters

Mr. Trump in April ordered a review of national monuments designated in the past two decades, directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to recommend how to eliminate, shrink or revamp them to fit the administration's views. Utah's governor and congressional delegation have argued the monuments are bigger than needed and today repeated those assertions in a statement released by the White House.

"It's interesting, these companies that make their products on foreign shores and special interest groups….," Zinke fired back in an interview on Tuesday with Fox News when asked about Patagonia's website and lawsuits immediately filed from environmental organizations and Native American tribes.  

Zinke repeated the claim in Tuesday's call, saying, "I think it's shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to gain money in their coffers." He added, "I don't yield to pressure, only higher principle. And sound public policy is not based on threats of lawsuits, it's doing what's right."

The suit from tribes, including the Hopi and Navajo Nation, argues the administration doesn't have the right to shrink the monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act. A second suit by 10 groups, including the Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Trust, claims Mr. Trump can't legally revoke the sites' monument status.

The move to shrink monuments by the Trump administration is unlikely to succeed in court, a group of law professors led by the University of California, Los Angeles's Nicholas Bryner in a piece published on the academic website The Conversation and in a June edition of the Virginia Law Review.

"Secretary Zinke's review was an arbitrary and opaque process. During a rushed four-month period," Zinke visited eight of the 27 monuments under review, the professors argue, releasing "only a two-page summary" of the review to the public, the professors said.