Patagonia swings back at Trump over monuments

Twitter photo.

Outdoor clothing giant Patagonia and other retailers have jumped into a legal and political battle over President Donald Trump's plan to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments, a fight that would scare off most companies but galvanizes customers of outdoor brands that value environmental activism.

Patagonia filed a lawsuit this week over Trump's announcement cutting Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with a rock climbing advocacy group and other organizations, is among a flurry of lawsuits that have been filed over Trump's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears and also cut the land protected in Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in half.

California-based Patagonia's legal move followed a spat on Tuesday with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who accused the company of lying when it replaced its usual home page with a black screen and stark message: "The President Stole Your Land."

Twitter photo.

Hilary Dessouky, Patagonia's general counsel, said the company spent years supporting groups creating other national monuments and directly lobbied for protections at Bears Ears.

"It was just never a question about whether we were going to continue the fight to protect it once it came down to that," she said.

In the lead-up to President Barack Obama's Dec. 2016 declaration creating Bears Ears, Patagonia used its social media channels, website and catalogs to call for a monument in the area, produced two films about the region and organized phone and letter-writing campaigns. Patagonia officials lobbied U.S. officials to encourage the designation and participated in public meetings the administration held to seek comments on the idea.

Upper Gulch section of the Escalante Canyons within Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is shown. AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, File photo.

Trump's monument downsizing monument has also been protested online and in social media by outdoor retailers, including the North Face, Keen, Black Diamond and REI. The companies have urged support for the monuments and are raising and giving money toward preservation efforts.

Most mass retailers generally try to appeal to a broad audience and stay apolitical for fear of offending potential customers, but Patagonia's history and the nature of its business will likely endear is recent activism to customers, said Allen Adamson, founder and CEO of BrandSimple Consulting, a brand consulting firm.

"By not only speaking out socially against this but actively taking this cause on, it's going to deepen and strengthen their relationship with the majority of their users," he said. "They will see some backlash, but I think it's a calculated bet that the upside will outweigh the downside in this case."

The North Face, Black Diamond and REI said they have no plans to file lawsuits. Keen did not immediately respond to an emailed message Friday seeking comment.

Copyright The Gayly – December 9, 2017 @ 10:35 a.m. CST.