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Colorado Businesses Side with Patagonia on National Monuments

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The Trump administration's order to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly 2 million acres would be the largest rollback of protections for public lands in the nation's history. (Getty Images)
The Trump administration's order to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by nearly 2 million acres would be the largest rollback of protections for public lands in the nation's history. (Getty Images)
December 14, 2017

DURANGO, Colo. — Patagonia is taking heat for its efforts to block the Trump administration's recent executive order to dramatically reduce protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee tweeted this week that the company's efforts were designed to "sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers.”

Some Colorado business leaders are siding with the outdoor retailer. Dave Thibodeau, founder of Ska Brewing in Durango, said protecting publicly owned lands is critical to Colorado's economy.

"Kudos to Patagonia for kind of taking the lead on this,” Thibodeau said. "I mean, there's so many businesses in Utah and Colorado that are based on outdoor recreation. Without the tourism here, our business wouldn't exist."

Patagonia joined other businesses and conservation groups in filing suit to block President Donald Trump's move to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 2 million acres, the largest rollback of protections for public lands and wildlife in U.S. history. The administration called the monument designations an over-reach of executive authority, and Trump said his order would put control of the land back into the hands of Utahns.

Joel Benson is the mayor of Buena Vista, but speaking as a small business owner, he said federal protections for national parks and monuments ensure that future generations can access lands many consider to be national treasures.

"Saying that this is the property of the people of Utah as opposed to the entire country, I think that's a little over-reaching,” Benson said, "because they're national lands set aside for the country, for the citizens."

According to a recent Washington Post report, a uranium company lobbied intensively for reducing Bears Ears in order to access large uranium deposits, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert admitted those deposits now fall outside the new boundaries.

Thibodeau said the prospect of removing protections should be deeply troubling to anyone who has ever experienced what he called spectacular landscapes.

"When you're talking about sacred tribal lands, I mean, once you do something like mine or drill in a place like Bears Ears or Grand Staircase, there's no going back,” he said. "It can't be fixed. It can't be brought back to what it was."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO