Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and a notable Democratic donor, turned down an invitation from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to testify before Congress on federal land management policies, particularly in the context of the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument in December.
Chouinard deemed the invitation “disingenuous” and expressed his stance in a blog post on Patagonia’s website.
“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.
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In 2014, Yvon Chouinard contributed $500,000 to Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action.
Following the Trump administration’s decision to reduce Bears Ears National Monument, individuals such as Utahns, tribal members, and elected officials living near the monument applauded and welcomed the decision.
The Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute characterized it as a victory for local voices and the people of Southern Utah who have a deep connection to and love for their public lands.
The invitation from Rep. Rob Bishop to testify before the House Natural Resources Committee came after an online dispute between Patagonia and the committee.
This dispute unfolded when Patagonia featured the statement “The President Stole Your Land” on its homepage in response to the reduction of Bears Ears National Monument.
“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 homepage still prominently displays the message “The President Stole Your Land,” and the company has actively 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.
Patagonia has been involved in regulatory disputes before. In 2013, the company, in collaboration with anti-fossil fuel activist groups Clean Water Action and Food & Water Watch, provided a grant to support Frack Free Colorado’s successful campaign for local moratoria and a ban in four Colorado municipalities.
During 2013 and 2014, Patagonia actively supported local and statewide efforts to ban fracking in Colorado.
This advocacy brought the company into conflict with state lawmakers, particularly regarding concerns raised over an anti-fracking essay featured in Patagonia’s 2013 summer catalog.
The essay, coupled with the production of outdoor clothing made from petroleum-based materials like acrylic, nylon, and polyester, led to pushback from lawmakers concerned about the apparent contradiction.
“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.
In 2016, Colorado’s Supreme Court issued a ruling against attempts to regulate oil and gas at the municipal level, deeming such efforts “invalid and unenforceable.”
Furthermore, in early 2017, Patagonia played a leading role in an exodus of outdoor retailers, prompting the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah to relocate from the state. This move was driven by concerns and disagreements over public land policies and environmental issues.
“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, initially based in Salt Lake City, moved to Denver in July 2017.
Yvon Chouinard has a history of generous donations to environmental causes and Democratic candidates. In 2014, he contributed $500,000 to Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, and his wife donated $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters.
For the current 2018 election cycle, a review of Open Secrets’ records by Western Wire indicates that Chouinard has made substantial contributions to Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate. Notable recipients include Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Chouinard is also supporting Democratic candidates like Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada against Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and Levi Tilleman, who is challenging Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.
In the 2016 elections, Chouinard’s political contributions had mixed results. While Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) secured re-election, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s attempt to regain his Wisconsin seat was unsuccessful. Similarly, Katie McGinty’s bid to unseat Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ted Strickland’s challenge of Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio were also unsuccessful.
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