Bishop Renews Invitation To Patagonia’s Founder On Federal Land Management Policies
When Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, an outspoken critic of national monument revision and proponent of anti-fossil fuel policies, refused an open offer to share his views with members of Congress last month, Utah’s Rob Bishop, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was “disappointed.”
“I am disappointed you chose to decline the invitation,” Bishop wrote, noting that the offer to testify, regardless of positions on policy or viewpoints, is rarely rebuffed. “In my 15 years of congressional service I have found most people jump at the opportunity to share their views before Congress – at least those who are confident their position can survive public scrutiny.”
Bishop, a Republican, fired back at the Patagonia founder’s decision to turn down the invitation to testify before the House committee on federal land management policies less than a month after the Trump administration reduced the size of Bears Ears National Monument, a move Chouinard vehemently opposed.
“Admittedly, your company press releases, letters, and op-eds outline your positions on various public land issues,” Bishop continued. “They reveal an approach to corporate activism derived from within a limited ideological bubble. They appear to reflect a worldview of someone who rarely, if ever, encounters people with different viewpoints.”
Chouinard and his company have backed state and local fracking ban efforts in Colorado as early as 2013, and Chouinard donated $500,000 to California billionaire activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action in 2014.
Chouinard declined the committee’s invitation via a blog post on Patagonia’s website in late December.
“I find it disingenuous that after unethically using taxpayers’ resources to call us liars, you would ask me to testify in front of a committee for a matter already decided by the administration and applauded by the Utah delegation just a week ago. A macabre celebration of the largest reduction in public lands in American history,” Chouinard wrote.
“We have little hope that you are working in good faith with this invitation. Our positions are clear and public, and we encourage you to read them,” Chouinard concluded.
Bishop criticized what he described at Patagonia’s “effort to mislead the public” on the Utah national monument reductions, a move backed by local residents and tribes living in the state.
“You characterize them [monument reductions] in your letter as ‘the largest reduction of public lands in American history.’ That is simply false,” Bishop wrote. “To the contrary, President Trump’s actions resulted in no reduction of public lands; every square inch in question remains in the federal estate.”
Bishop noted that the lands will remain under the purview of relevant federal land management agencies.
“High-profile corporate citizens who make factually inaccurate and misleading statements and then hide from further scrutiny do a disservice to their customers and the American public,” Bishop said.
It was Patagonia’s reaction to the Bears Ears National Monument announcement in early December that sparked the current controversy. Patagonia’s website went “dark” with an declaration that “The President Stole Your Land” on its home page, calling Trump’s decision an “illegal move.”
Natural Resources’ Twitter account responded: “Patagonia Is Lying To You,” calling it a “corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”
“It is an indisputable fact that American taxpayer dollars are being used to fund the maintenance, preservation, and upkeep of public lands, and this creates a market for your products,” Bishop wrote. “What I do object to is people who want to make money on public lands while simultaneously supporting policies that limit the general public’s, and my constituents’, access to public lands.”
“Despite your apparent refusal to engage with those who see the world differently than you, I remain committed to hearing all voices and perspectives,” Bishop concluded, adding that “living in a bubble isn’t healthy.”
Bishop left the invitation open should Chouinard and Patagonia change their minds.
Chouinard’s company led an outdoor manufacturers’ revolt in 2017 to move a large retail show from Utah to Denver, based on public lands conservation concerns, according to Patagonia’s leadership.
Chouinard has donated prolifically to Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate, including two Western Senators, Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.). Chouinard also backed Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
But it’s Patagonia’s efforts to sway voters on hydraulic fracturing that has drawn more scrutiny.
“We will continue to support grassroots movements that are pushing local, state and federal governments to ban or strictly regulate fracking in communities across the country,” said Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan in a 2013 letter. “That starts with a statewide ban in Colorado in 2014.”
Sheahan hoped the efforts to ban fracking would “be replicated nationwide.”
Instead, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that efforts to regulate oil and gas at the municipal level—Patagonia’s goal—were “invalid and unenforceable.”