Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard Challenges Utah’s Politicians

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, wrote an open letter to Utah governor, Gary Herbert, asking the state’s leadership to stop working to sell off public lands; rollback many of President Obama’s conservation initiatives; and rescind the Antiquities Act. The gist of Yvon’s message? The state of Utah needs to end its hostility to environmental protection, or else Patagonia will take action — and will advise the rest of the outdoor sports industry to follow suit.

Do you agree with Chouinard?

See Yvon’s Open Letter below.

Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard Pressures Utah's governor about public lands
Bryce Canyon (photo by Cy Whitling)

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 billion 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

6 comments on “Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard Challenges Utah’s Politicians”

  1. In Norway we have something called ‘the common right of way’, which in short entails that we can go anywhere and do anything on anybody’s land, provided that we do not destroy crops (and some self-evident things that is illegal anyhow like pollute water-sources etc) and do not go closer people’s houses than a hundred meters, nor camp any closer than that. It is fantastic! This law would make it possible for the state to sell of land – and still people would be able to use it. If we allow people to buy land and shut others out this planet of ours will in the long run not be a nice place to be…. So, good luck with the initiativ, and check out Norway’s ‘common right of way’. With that in place you would be able to open up existing privately held land to the people as well.

  2. I support this letter. Way to go, Yvonne! And thanks Blister for sharing. Utah’s so-called leadership has been feeding from both sides of the trough for too long. Let’s hope the outdoor industry has the collective backbone to flex its economic strength to help keep public lands in public hands. Signed, Co-owner public lands USA.

  3. Many in Utah positions of leadership have a recognized problem with reality. It’s good to see someone speaking up like Yvon and others such as Black Diamond and their parent Co. We receive far more per capita in Federal tax money than we pay into the system. Yet that doesn’t stop political attacks against big brother (the Federal Gov’t) anytime something happens that tilts towards conservation. There is a strong tendency to merely Take the Other Stand without giving any rational thought to the issues.

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