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Patagonia to Sue the Trump Administration for Shrinking 2 National Monuments in Utah [Updated]

The president announced on Monday that he plans to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by roughly 80 and 45 percent, respectively.
Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Patagonia has been fighting to protect public lands for nearly 30 years. Though the company's earliest origins are rooted in environmental activism, its efforts began in earnest in 1986, when founder Yvon Chouinard committed Patagonia to donating either one percent of sales or 10 percent of profits, whichever is greater, to such causes each year. The planet, and our treatment of it, is of utmost priority for the Ventura, Calif.-based outdoor retailer — which is why, now, it's taking the White House to court.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced its plans to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by roughly 80 and 45 percent, respectively, making this the largest elimination of protected land in American history. Shortly thereafter (at around 4 p.m. EST, according to GQ), the Patagonia homepage went dark and instead displayed the message "The President Stole Your Land," which has since circulated widely across social media.

Patagonia calls this move "illegal," hence the lawsuit, and it all goes back to the Antiquities Act of 1906. The 111-year-old ruling was born out of concerns about protecting cultural sites in the West — particularly significant Native American ruins and artifacts — and allows presidents to reserve certain public natural areas as park and conservation land. It was with the Antiquities Act that President Barack Obama named Bears Ears a national monument in Dec. 2016, as President Clinton did for Grand Staircase-Escalante in Sept. 1996. 

So, can the Trump administration also use the Antiquities Act to either reduce or lessen, rather than grant, monument status? "There is nothing in the Antiquities Act that authorizes a president to modify a national monument once it's been designated," Ethel Branch, attorney general for the Navajo Nation (which is also suing the White House) told NPR. But, here's where it can get murky: NPR also pointed out that the Antiquities Act "expressly states" that presidents should protect sites while using the smallest amount of land possible; at 1.3 million acres before President Trump's ruling, Bears Ears was particularly at risk due to its size — but Bears Ears also contains "the highest density of cultural resources," per Patagonia, in the country, which is precisely why it's so large.

Patagonia initially threatened to sue the White House as early as April, when President Trump issued an executive order for the Department of the Interior to review national monuments designated under President Clinton's, President George W. Bush's and President Obama's terms. Now, it's taking legal action, and other groups, from the Navajo Nation to environmental law nonprofit Earthjustice, are following suit. 

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"We are also proud to stand alongside over 350 businesses, conservation groups and Native American tribes that have come together on this issue to protect public lands," reads a message on Patagonia"s website. "Climbers, hikers, hunters and anglers all agree that public lands are a critical part of our national heritage and these lands belong not just to us, but to future generations."

We've reached out to Patagonia for comment and will update this post as we learn more.

UPDATE, Dec. 7, 2017, 8:59 a.m.: Patagonia has issued the following statement from President CEO Rose Marcario regarding President Trump's Executive Order:

Americans have overwhelmingly spoken out against the Trump Administration's unprecedented attempt to shut down our national monuments. 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.

Meanwhile, Patagonia, together with a coalition of Native American, conservation and historic preservation organizations, officially filed its complaint against President Trump and four members of his administration in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, according to court documents obtained by Fashionista.

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