Outdoors industry groups ratchet up Trump criticism

Outdoors industry groups ratchet up Trump criticism
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE’s decision this week to shrink two national monuments escalated a fight between the outdoors industry and his administration.

Retailers such as Patagonia and REI slammed Trump’s decision, equating it to theft, while lining up to challenge its legality.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeBig-game hunters infuriated by Trump elephant trophy debacle Interior moves ahead with opening wildlife refuge next to contaminated nuclear site House panel approves bill to boost park funding MORE, who has made conservation and outdoorsmanship a cornerstone of his political persona, has taken the brunt of the criticism from the retailers. They say he’s abandoned them.

Zinke responded by blasting Patagonia as a “special interest” that is using the monument issue to help their bottom line.

“You mean Patagonia that’s made in China?” Zinke told reporters. “I understand fundraising for these special interest groups, but I think it’s shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to put money in their coffers.”

Trump announced Monday that he would slash the borders of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in Utah, saying past administrations had “severely abused the purpose, spirit and intent of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act,” which allows presidents to unilaterally protect federally owned land.

The decision was the breaking point for public lands supporters.

Companies and interest groups have brandished their economic chops this year, touting public lands as an economic engine for recreation.

The Outdoors Industry Association released a report in April saying it accounts for nearly $900 billion in economic industry annually. But groups and companies, even those that supported Zinke’s nomination to lead Interior, began raising red flags about the administration’s efforts to expand fossil fuel production and development on federally managed land.

For the outdoors industry, an Interior-led review of 27 large monument designations made since 1996 represented an existential threat.

They helped organize commenting and letter writing campaigns against the review, and companies, led by Patagonia, responded provocatively to Trump’s Monday announcement cutting the acreage of the two Utah monuments.

The company put a splash page on its website proclaiming, “The President Stole Your Land,” urging customers to support public land advocacy groups and tweet their disapproval to Trump. Patagonia pledged Monday to file a lawsuit over the decision, joining Native American tribes and environmental groups.

Patagonia officially filed a lawsuit on Wednesday.

“Because our customers care about protecting public lands, we really wanted to draw attention to what was happening,” company spokeswoman Corley Kenna said.

“We felt it is illegal and it affects all of us who love the outdoors. Our goal was to draw attention to what he was doing, and I think we can say we were successful in doing that,” Kenna said.

Other companies joined in the criticism, including REI, which called Trump’s decision “a direct blow to tens of millions of Americans from all backgrounds, who cherish and enjoy life outdoors.” The Outdoors Industry Association called the decision “detrimental” to outfitters.

Outdoors Industry Association Executive Director Amy Roberts said members sent 5,000 letters to Congress after the decision to shrink the monuments.

“The industry is very united in our response and you’ve seen some of the individual actions companies have taken,” she said.

“People that depend on those monuments now are entering a period of economic uncertainty. … They’ve laid awake at night wondering if their business will still be around,” she said.

Daniel Korschun, a Drexel University professor who studies corporate activism, said the customer base of the outdoors companies allows them room to take on Trump.

“For a company like Patagonia, they have a tremendous consensus among their consumer base and their employees that the environment is a critical issue,” he said.

“Because of that consensus, they are not only able to make these statements, but they’re expected to make statements that are very strong on these issues,” Korschun said.

Zinke has taken the brunt of the criticism.

Roberts noted his support for conservation programs and opposition to land divestment during his time in the House and argued, “we have not heard that type of support since he became the Interior secretary, and I think there is a lot of bewilderment about who he is and what he stands for.”

Zinke has forcefully pushed back on critics of the monuments order.

“To suggest that [Trump] stole the land — what 1 square inch was stolen?” he said Tuesday.

“The federal estate remains intact. … Protections exist on every square inch of federal land, but what is different is that we’re going to actively manage the properties to ensure we don’t have catastrophic forest fires, to make sure our wildlife remains healthy,” Zinke said.

Trump’s decision has won support from conservatives and groups that have pushed for less federal control over the land. Zinke has also insisted monument management changes will allow for more public land access for sportsmen and others.

“Our nation’s remarkable resource management successes over the last century have only been possible because of traditional uses, such as hunting and recreational shooting,” said Chris Cox, the president of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.

“President Trump and Secretary Zinke have ushered in a new era for hunters and sportsmen, ensuring that they remain an important partner in preserving and utilizing America’s public lands,” he said.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift  noted that the industry is “not monolithic” in its approach to public lands.

“There’s certainly a separation between the many honest people in the outdoor industry and those who spend millions of dollars to lie to the American people in a shameful effort to boost the sales of their foreign-made products,” she said in an email.