- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2017

Outdoor industry leader Patagonia has gone to war with the GOP over national monuments heading into the holiday shopping season, marking the latest instance of a high-profile company battling with the Republican Party and specifically President Trump.

Powerful Republicans in Congress sent out emails Friday taking direct aim at Patagonia and pushing back hard against its claims that public land had been stolen from American citizens, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last week went so far as to brand the company a “special interest” group because of its opposition to the administration.

Patagonia, which has previously delved into politics by coming out strongly against fracking, was one of the loudest critics of Mr. Trump’s move to shrink both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments last Monday. The action reduced Bears Ears from 1.35 million acres to about 220,000, while Grand Staircase was cut from 1.9 million acres to about 1 million.

Since the announcement, Patagonia’s website has featured the declaration, “The President Stole Your Land,” along with a link to how customers can “fight back” against the administration.

Other outdoor giants, such as REI and The North Face, have also come out publicly against the monument reduction, though none have been as brutal in their assault on the administration as Patagonia.

The company also joined lawsuits challenging the president’s move, teaming with environmental and Tribal groups in what’s expected to be a lengthy legal battle that ultimately could wind up before the Supreme Court.

“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. We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts,” said Rose Marcario, Patagonia’s president and CEO.

Republicans wasted little time in firing back. Late Friday, the House Natural Resources Committee — led by Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and a strong supporter of Mr. Trump’s monument policy — sent out an email with the subject line “Patagonia: Don’t Buy It.” The email blast also said “Patagonia is lying to you” about what the administration is doing with national monuments.

“The assertion that ‘The President stole your land’ is designed to mislead and terrify the uninformed. Their deception speaks volumes about their contempt for rural Americans in Utah,” the committee said. “Of course, Patagonia, a self-interested corporation like any other, knows the truth, but they don’t care. Lies and distortions are better for their bottom line.”

Earlier in the week, Mr. Zinke also blasted the company.

“I understand fundraising for these special interest groups,” the secretary said. “I think it’s shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to gain money in their coffers.”

Critics say the companies — Patagonia in particular — risk pushing conservative customers out the door as the Christmas shopping season approaches.

“Given that we’re in middle of the Christmas shopping season, these companies are alienating half the country during the most critical time of year for the retail industry,” said Robert Kuykendall, spokesperson for the conservative watchdog group 2nd Vote, which tracks corporate activism.

“Companies like Patagonia, REI, and North Face bear a great deal of responsibility for the current political climate, especially when these CEOs use their positions as a platform to promote an agenda or score political points,” he continued. “These corporate leaders fail to understand their customers are becoming better informed consumers due to technology and are able to make the connections from their shopping dollars to political advocacy. If conservatives vote according to their values on election day, they’re not going to allow their shopping dollars to support agendas that undermine those values.”

There’s yet to be any formal call for a boycott of Patagonia.

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