Patagonia.com features a forceful push back at President Donald Trump’s move yesterday, in which he signed a proclamation that seeks to dramatically reduce the boundaries and management of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If put into effect, the revised boundaries would reduce the size of the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante’s 1.9 million acres in half.
The Trump Administration argument is that the Antiquities Act, passed in 1906, was not intended to authorize federal government control of large land areas. “The Antiquities Act does not give the Federal Government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said. “Public lands will once again be for public use.”
Advocates say reducing the size of these monument areas will provide more opportunities for recreational activities, including hunting and fishing. Critics say it could open the door to logging and mining, and also risk desecrating lands that Native Americans consider sacred.
Patagonia left no doubt where it stood. The home page of Patagonia.com today displayed an all-black screen screen with white lettering declaring “The President Stole Your Land.” To access the outdoor gear retailer’s e-commerce site, a consumer has to click an X on the page and, even then, the same all-black screen is one of six hero shots that consumers can scroll through.
Clicking a Learn More button takes a shopper to a page where Patagonia notes that Bear Ears, which features the “highest density of cultural resources in the country” is now at risk. Grand Staircase-Escalante, it says, is an area bigger than Yosemite National Park that is “now at risk of industrialization.”
Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI, also made a forceful declaration, making a statement that declares: “Today we are witnessing an unprecedented attack on our public lands, despite more than 100 years of bipartisan work to protect this country’s parks, waters, mountains and forests.” However, unlike Patagonia, REI’s statement is only featured on its media relations page.
An REI spokeswoman says that the retailer plans to continue to “create statements and stand-up for topics we believe in.”
“REI is engaging directly with our elected officials from both parties, as we have for years, to create access to the outdoors and protect outdoor places,” she says. “We’re working across the outdoor industry to ensure that our collective passion for public lands and their full economic and societal value to our nation and to our local communities is clear. You can expect to hear us continue to speak up on behalf of the co-op in support of these lands.”
Retailers have to be careful when making political statements, says Sucharita Kodali, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “Patagonia is a values-driven private company with fiercely loyal customers,” she says. “In short, it can do whatever the heck it wants and it doesn’t have a lot to lose because it’s a small company where demand outstrips supply and it decides who it sells to and on what terms. REI smartly made a softer statement. I think its customers expect it to take a stand but it knows it shouldn’t ‘poke the bear’ too aggressively so to speak because no one wants to get into a fight with the Trump administration.”
Patagonia is No. 185 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000, and REI is No. 74.