On Monday, Dec. 4, President Donald Trump, speaking in Utah, announced that the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears national monument would be shrunk by over 80 percent, potentially making it available for mining, exploration and private use. In response, Ventura-based outdoor retailer Patagonia, along with a coalition of environmental, Native American and outdoor organizations, filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the president’s authority to make such a move.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante, designated a national monument by President Bill Clinton, was shrunk by roughly 45 percent as well.
After Trump announced his decision, Patagonia released a message via Facebook, Twitter and its webpage. “The President stole your land,” read the message. “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.” The company asked visitors to support advocacy groups fighting the president’s order.
The lawsuit, and Patagonia’s advocacy, did not sit well with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who traded harsh words with the outdoor clothing manufacturer, claiming that the retailer was “lying.” On Friday, Dec. 8, Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources went further, launching an attack on the retailer across social media.
“Patagonia is lying to you,” read an image posted to the Committee’s official Twitter account. The Committee is chaired by Republican Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah. “A corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco,” adding “.@Patagonia doesn’t want #MonumentsForAll, they just want your money #BearsEars.” (The period before the @ symbol allows a tweet to appear on the front page of the feed rather than under tweets and replies.)
The message appearing on the official federal government Twitter feed of the committee, @NatResources, sparked calls for an ethics investigation by Twitter users. Patagonia spokesperson Corley Kenna says that the company isn’t able to answer specific questions at this time regarding the lawsuit or the Tweet, however.
“It was obviously inappropriate but we are staying focused on protecting our national monuments,” said Kenna.
Bears Ears National Monument was declared so by President Barack Obama in December 2016. Patagonia advocated for a monument in the Utah region, producing two films on the subject and launching a letter-writing campaign. Patagonia says that Bears Ears contains “the highest density of cultural resources in the country,” notably of Native American origin.
Earlier in 2017, Carrizo Plain, which includes parts of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties, was considered for shrinkage or closure, along with 27 other national monuments, and remains on the secretary’s review list.
Since 1906, presidents have used the Antiquities Act, a measure signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, to declare national monuments; and until now, such designations had never been rescinded by a president.
“The Antiquities Act is not a weapon for presidents to arbitrarily restrict the uses of hundreds of thousands of acres of land to prevent uses like timber harvesting and cattle grazing — ways of life for many American families and the lifeblood of many local economies,” wrote Zinke in an editorial published by CNN on Sunday, Dec. 10. “It is also not a tool for presidents to use to restrict access for outdoor recreation on land that belongs to all of us.”
Following the decision, The Washington Post reported that the United States’ sole uranium processing mill sits on the border of Bears Ears, and that the Canadian firm Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. lobbied the Trump administration to rescind the national monument designation.
Patagonia claims that Trump’s proclamation exceeds his authority as president.
“The Administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history,” said Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded, and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.”