After Patagonia withdrew from Outdoor Retailer last week to protest Utah Governer Herbert’s move to rescind Bears Ears National Monument, I had a lot of questions. Today, I talked with Patagonia’s Director of Global Communications and Public Relations, Corley Kenna, and she not only answered my questions, but illuminated what could happen moving forward. “We are not afraid to take a stance on things we believe in,” Kenna told me right off the bat.
And the rest of the conversation went like this:
LH: Public lands are insanely important, but how do you get people who don’t feel that way to see the value? In your opinion, how do you actually change people’s minds and create change in a community?
CK: I think it’s about reminding people of not only the beauty, but what these lands provide. These kinds of values go back to the start of our country. I think this is something that Americans hold as a fundamental right. People appreciate these lands for exactly what they are and I don’t think people’s minds need to be changed on that. But I’m really glad to see nationwide conversation because that will help lead to better protection. But the best way to encourage this protection is for people to go out and visit our national parks and monuments.
LH: Would you say pulling out of OR was well received by the outdoor community?
CK: I think it has been overwhelmingly positive and we are so excited by the response. There have been some conversations as of late about if the industry is divided right now but we are actually very united. The strength of the industry is coming through and we are being heard, not only in Utah but in Washington. The media coverage about this issue hasn’t been limited to southeast Utah — it’s being picked up by national media. Creating a national conversation about public lands is important. This is not a partisan issue.
LH: What do you have to say to people who think you are being hypocritical and just doing this as a marketing scheme?
CK: I don’t even understand the hypocrite point because this is something we have been consistent on for many, many years. Our advocacy for public lands goes back to 1998. In terms of marketing scheme, that couldn’t be further from truth. This is a moral issue for us and our industry depends on these public lands.
LH: What would you say to those who make the argument that they are upset about the federal government having too much control over the state?
CK: Democrats and Republicans agree on this — the best way to protect public lands is to keep them protected by the federal government. Especially in places like Utah where many representatives want the land be transferred to the state for the express purpose to sell it off, many times to the oil industry. And that’s exactly what we are trying to stop.
LH: What about those who are going to OR with a purpose to “go and fight.”
CK: I really believe that the industry is united on this issue. The differences in timing are inconsequential to the larger argument and the notion that we are divided is a distraction that the opposition is trying to push. What’s important here is that we protect public lands and public lands remain in public hands.
LH: What would you like to see happen next? What’s the ideal happy ending?
CK: The outdoor industry has issued an ultimatum for the governor and there is a call today with him and industry members. Let’s see what comes of it. The entire industry recognizes it’s time to move out of Utah unless the governor changes his position.
LH: Now what? How does Patagonia plan to continue to push the industry in a new direction and create change?
CK: The next few hours will be really telling. We will hopefully see what actions Utah’s elective officials take. We are soon to have a new Secretary of Interior and he has been supportive of public lands and we will see what he has to say about Bears Ears.
We are ready to act, and act as an industry. And the industry as a whole is expected to come together to protect these public places.