Patagonia Founder And Prolific Democratic Donor Declines House Committee Invitation Over National Monument Revisions
Patagonia founder and prolific Democratic donor Yvon Chouinard declined an invitation by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to testify before members of Congress on federal land management policies in the wake of the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument earlier in December.
In a blog post on Patagonia’s website, Chouinard, the company’s founder, called the invitation to testify before the committee “disingenuous.”
“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. A spokeswoman clarified to E&E News the post was intended as a refusal of Bishop’s invitation.
In 2014, Chouinard donated $500,000 to California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action.
Utahns, tribal members, and elected officials that live near the reduced Bears Ears applauded and welcomed the Trump administration’s decision, with the Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute calling it a victory for local voices and “the people of Southern Utah who know and love their public lands the most.”
Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, was responding to Bishop’s outreach after an online war of words between the company and Bishop’s House Natural Resources Committee erupted when the company declared “The President Stole Your Land” on its home page in large white letters on a black background.
“In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history,” Patagonia wrote.
The @NatResources official Twitter account responded: “Patagonia is Lying To You. A corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the company’s message was “nefarious, false and a lie.”
Patagonia’s message remains in its home page carousel. The company joined a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to reduce Bears Ears National Monument.
“The administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations,” Patagonia’s legal counsel said in planning the lawsuit. “We worked to establish Bears Ears National Monument and will now fight to protect it.”
Bishop’s invitation acknowledged that there was “much public interest in this matter.”
It is apparent through multiple media accounts and appearances that you have strong feelings on this topic as well,” Bishop wrote. “The Committee also believes it is important to understand and allow for all perspectives to be presented fairly and respectfully. Open discussion and debate in Congress is the best venue for the public policy debate on land management policy to occur.”
The committee has held a series of hearings on federal land management issues throughout 2017.
“We’re just telling Patagonia: stop selling a false narrative,” Parish Braden, a spokesman for the committee, told The Washington Post.
This isn’t Patagonia’s first regulatory showdown. The company, along with anti-fossil fuel activist groups Clean Water Action and Food & Water Watch, issued a grant to back Frack Free Colorado’s successful 2013 efforts to pass local moratoria and a ban in four Colorado municipalities.
Patagonia’s support of local and statewide fracking ban efforts in Colorado in 2013 and 2014, also pushed back against state lawmakers who were concerned with an anti-fracking essay included in the company’s 2013 summer catalog, alongside outdoor clothing manufactured with petroleum-based materials like acrylic, nylon, and polyester.
“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 letter the company released in 2013. “That starts with a statewide ban in Colorado in 2014.”
“The eyes of the country are watching how Colorado manages this challenge, and I believe we will rise to the occasion and set best practices that can be replicated nationwide,” said Sheahan at the time.
Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled in 2016 against those efforts to regulate oil and gas at the municipal level, calling them “invalid and unenforceable.”
The company led an outdoor retailer exodus in early 2017 that prompted the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah to leave the state.
“We are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation,” Rose Marcario, President and CEO of Patagonia, wrote in a statement.
The summer and winter trade shows moved from Salt Lake City to Denver in July 2017.
Chouinard has donated prolifically to environmental causes and Democratic candidates for many years. According to Open Secrets, in 2014 Chouinard gave $500,000 to Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, and his wife donated $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters.
In the current 2018 cycle, a Western Wire review of Open Secrets’ records show Chouinard has given generously to Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate, including two Western Senators. Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.). He’s also donated to incumbents Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Chouinard is backing aspiring Democratic candidates like Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), running for U.S. Senate in Nevada against Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and Levi Tilleman, running against Republic Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.
In 2016, Chouinard’s political bets had mixed results. While Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) cruised to reelection, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s attempt to regain his Wisconsin seat failed, as did Katie McGinty’s bid to upset Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Ted Strickland’s challenge of Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio.