When President Trump announced he would shrink two national monuments in Utah designated by past Democratic administrations, Native American tribes and environmental groups responded by mounting lawsuits and protests against what they view as a culturally and environmentally detrimental, and illegal, action.
More unexpectedly, another group — outdoor clothing retailers — joined the fray, too. Leading that corporate protest was Patagonia, which sued the Trump administration, too, over its decision to reduce in size the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments.
“This government is evil and I’m not going to sit back and let evil win,” Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, said on CNN last week.
Now a prominent Utah lawmaker, who urged the Trump administration to roll back what he saw as federal overreach in his state and has since defended the decision, is asking Chouinard to come to Congress.
On Friday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) sent a letter to the Patagonia founder inviting him to testify in front of his committee.
“There is much public interest in this matter,” Bishop wrote to Chouinard. “It is apparent through multiple media accounts and appearances that you have strong feelings on the topic as well.”
Bishop continued: “As part of this continuing process, I wish to invite you to testify before the committee about your views on federal land management.”
The letter, in which Bishop writes he wants “all perspectives to be presented fairly and respectfully,” is an amicable turn in what had become an acrimonious public feud between Republicans and Patagonia.
“Mr. Chouinard and Patagonia have clearly chosen to engage in the public policy debate,” Bishop spokeswoman Katie Schoettler wrote by email. “Mr. Chouinard should have the opportunity to articulate and defend Patagonia’s position publicly as well as the chance to hear directly from those who have a different perspective. We are hopeful he will accept the invitation.”
Patagonia, which is based in California’s Ventura County where wildfires have burned for days, learned about the invitation through press reports, company spokeswoman Corley Kenna said. “Patagonia’s offices are closed due to the Thomas fires,” Kenna added, “and we will be responding to the committee as soon as possible.”
Shortly after Trump traveled to Salt Lake City for his national monuments proclamation, Patagonia put a banner on its website declaring “The President Stole Your Land.” Ryan Zinke, who prior to becoming Trump’s interior secretary had made a name for himself as a Republican congressman opposed to transferring federal lands to states or private companies, seemed to take the charge personally. Last week, Zinke told reporters the claim that the administration is relinquishing control of federal lands is “nefarious, false and a lie.”
On Twitter, Bishop’s committee directed its disapproval squarely at Patagonia, calling the company a “corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”
— Natural Resources (@NatResources) December 8, 2017
Land removed from the national monument protections — about 85 percent of the designation of Bears Ears and 46 percent of that for Grand Staircase-Escalante — indeed remain in public hands. But those opposed to the decision are concerned archaeological sites of ancient Native Americans as well as dinosaur fossils would be vulnerable without that protection, especially if uranium or coal mining were allowed nearby.
Litigants who filed suit against the government, which include at least five tribes and 10 environmental organizations, argue the president only has the power to make, not unmake, national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act. In addition to the two Utah monuments, Zinke has recommended that Trump reduce in size two more: Nevada’s Gold Butte and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou.