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Open letter from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard calls out Utah governor

With Outdoor Retailer in full swing this week, some inside politics are brewing within the outdoor industry.

Early in the New Year, several members of congress, governors, and attorney generals announced their desire to sell off public lands, rollback many of President Obama's signature conservation achievements, and rescind the Antiquities Act, which was created in 1906 to protect historic federal land.

Utah’s attorney general recently said it would fight to overturn the Bears Ears National Monument, which preserves more than 1.3 million acres in southeastern Utah. It’s no surprise, then, to hear from one of the most vocal businesses in the game when it comes to sustainability and conservation: Patagonia.

Founder Yvon Chouinard has released an open letter to Utah, and more specifically, Governor Gary Herbert, asking him to show support to the outdoor industry, which contributes $40 million twice a year to the Utah economy during Outdoor Retailer, according to Patagonia.

Chouinard states that "Patagonia's choice to return for future OR shows will depend on the Governor's actions" when it comes to efforts to transfer public lands to the state and file suit to halt the Bears Ears National Monument.

Patagonia’s Vice President of Environmental Activism Lisa Pike Sheehy currently sits on the Outdoor Industry Association’s board of directors, which works hand in hand with Outdoor Retailer.

“I’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation,” Chouinard writes.

Read it below.

The outdoor industry loves Utah; does Utah love the outdoor industry?

Every year, millions of people visit public lands in Utah to climb, hike, ski, hunt and a heck of a lot more. I've skied, climbed and fished the wild streams of wild Utah for years. The American people own these lands – and Utah reaps the rewards. Every year, outdoor recreation in Utah drives $12 million in consumer spending and supports 122,000 jobs across the state.  Sure, we use these lands for energy and grazing and other things too. But access to the outdoors is the reason why so many of my friends consider Utah the ultimate place to live.

It's also why the outdoor industry loves Utah. Every January and August, Patagonia and hundreds of other companies spend gobs of money to show our latest products at the Outdoor Retailer show. The whole thing is a cash cow for Salt Lake City. You'd think politicians in Utah would bend over backwards to make us feel welcome. But instead Gov. Gary Herbert and his buddies have spent years denigrating our public lands, the backbone of our business, and trying to sell them off to the highest bidder. He's created a hostile environment that puts our industry at risk.

The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies.  And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don't seem to get that the outdoor industry – and their own state economy – depend on access to public lands for recreation.  

I say enough is enough. If Gov. Herbert doesn't need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Gov. Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah's economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business – and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands. 

We love Utah, but Patagonia's choice to return for future shows will depend on the Governor's actions. I'm sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation.

-Yvon Chouinard