Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s Open Letter to Utah

Yvon keeps things simple when fishing for trout with a tenkara rod in Fall River, Idaho.
Yvon keeps things simple when fishing for trout with a tenkara rod in Fall River, Idaho.

Update (February 7, 2017): Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a resolution urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument. As a result, Patagonia will withdraw from Outdoor Retailer in Utah.

“We are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.” — Rose Marcario, President and CEO, Patagonia Inc.

In the meantime, Outdoor Retailer, in collaboration with Outdoor Industry Association and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, is soliciting proposals from venues for 2019 and beyond. OR will still take place in Salt Lake City through the summer 2018 show.

“We’ve been listening to the concerns from the industry and agree that it’s time to explore our options.” —Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer.

Other companies that traditionally show at Outdoor Retailer have begun to respond, both in solidarity with and opposition to Patagonia’s bold move. Interested to hear what your take on the matter is below!


This week is Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. It’s the industry’s biannual trade show, where those of us who do this type of thing professionally can meet up with partners, learn about new products entering the market, and partake in some (ok, a lot of) happy hour shenanigans with those friends we only get to see a few times a year.

The show also produces more than $40 million for Utah’s economy twice per year, which could become an issue, according to Patagonia founder and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard.

It’s no secret our public lands and previously enacted conservation efforts are being threatened by a handful of Congresspeople, Governors, and Attorney Generals. That’s why Chouinard is urging Utah’s Governor Herbert to provide the leadership needed to protect the state’s natural places and public lands. And, if he doesn’t? Patagonia is taking its business elsewhere.

Always a thought-and-action leader in the outdoor industry, Patagonia may inspire other outdoor brands to use their voices to put real demand on lawmakers. Here is Chouinard’s open letter to Governor Herbert.

Yvon Chouinard at the Tin Shed, Ventura, CA 2010

“The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels 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 million 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.

Yvon keeps things simple when fishing for trout with a tenkara rod in Fall River, Idaho.

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’m sure other states will happily compete for the show by promoting public lands conservation.”

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 is climber, environmentalist, and the founder of Patagonia. 

38 Comments

  • I am a 4th generation, Utah native. Thank you for this letter. So many of us who live, and stay, in Utah for her wilderness are rendered voiceless as our loud protests are ignored, discounted or not even acknowledged. PLEASE don’t leave, PLEASE continue to advocate and put pressure on our legislators who are blinded by the fossil fuel industry that they are in bed with.

  • Finally, a CEO acting in not only his own, but his Nation’s interest by taking a stand on behalf of millions of citizens who treasure our federal lands against those who advocate the sell-off, commercialization, and permanent destruction of our American Heritage.

    Way to go, Yvon!

  • Given the toxigen participants must often breathe while in Utah during this consistent time, I’d say you might at least choose another state for the WInter OR show until there is some solid, commited and dramatic work done to save the children, seniors and eventually all of us from extreme harm.

  • You are absolutely right I’m with you 100% if our government leaders insist on selling off our land we need to take a stand

  • The article says tourists spend $12 million per year in Utah. That figure is clearly a mistake as the number is considerably larger than $12 million. The most recent figure I could find was $7.98 BILLION in 2014.

    • I had the same thought. $12 million is definitely far too low. I’d fix this stat in the article if possible. Money talks, especially to Yvon’s intended audience, and this figure should be amended.

    • I believe it is 12 billion in Utah, not million. Always missing a miner monday detail lol. And somewhere around 646 billion nationwide

  • People don’t understand why they are selling land, and I bet 99/100 times it’s because they only read articles like this, which just paint the picture from one viewpoint. Let me briefly explain why it’s not a good idea to make all of this land protected. You can’t do anything with protected land but put hiking trails on it. This sounds like a good idea if it’s zions or arches national parks, but that’s not what they are trying to sell. They are literally selling land that is flat sagebrush that nobody uses. If you’ve driven through Utah you’ve seen the literal nothingness I’m talking about. Why not let sell that waste of space to some rancher so he can graze his cattle on it? Or open up some of the land around the small towns in the middle of nowhere Utah that are surrounded by protected land so it can grow? I say let Patagonia and black diamond and whoever else leave. Utah will stay a haven for outdoor adventure with or without these businessmen selling their overpriced goods trying to influence politics. If they don’t want to be part of utah someone else will fill their place, and who knows, maybe they’ll be Utah based.

    • So, let me get this straight. You feel that wilderness has no other purpose than to serve humans, and it’s fine for humans continue to be a cancer across the entire planet’s natural areas until we live on a blackened husk? Just want to be sure of your position.

  • I have hiked, camped, photographed, and spent countless dollars around the Bears Ears (now National Monument). There is nothing so precious and worthy of long-term protection as wilderness of the quality and beauty and solitude of Bears Ears. To sell out to short-term exploitation seems irresponsible to the future of Utah wildlands. Already, Nine-mile Canyon has been sacrificed for natural resource extraction at the expense of its archaeological treasures, making one less reason to visit Utah. Will Bears Ears be next?

  • Hey there to a great company. I have roots in Utah that go back to before it’s statehood. It’s a travesty what Utah “leadership” is doing to my Utah home. Tragic.

    Only one comment to the above letter, I am sure the economy benefits far more than 12 Million a year. Thanks for your work towards improving conditions in Utah.

  • Just a quick edit – “the industry’s biannual trade show” should read ‘semi-annual’. Biannual means once every two years. Thanks for the article.

    • Hey there! Just double checked myself and biannual also means “twice yearly.” It’s a synonym for “semiannual.” 🙂

      • DD is correct, although it is easy to confuse biannual with biennial (= every other year). Using the more common and universally understood semiannual would help avoid confusion.

    • This article is fear mongering in excess. Not one sentence is provided for a solution. Entirely fear base counter punching the obvious points presented here originally. Reasoning here is if we truly wamt to have no fossil fuel development assisted by elected officials in Utah ~ We should by extension be willing to wear NO clothes. Imbicillic / assinine/ warped / absurd logic in its most egregious and offensive platform.

    • I think you need to read the article you cite. Yes,”Clothing Industry” has problems but Patagonia goes way out of their way to use non-toxic, renewable products and to even offer an avenue to recycle their clothes.

  • Well said, Yvon!!

    I’ve suggested this elsewhere…

    If Utah elected officials decide to push on with transferring OUR public lands, at the detriment of the many, for the benefit of the few… BOYCOTT Utah retailers… It won’t take long, for the retailers to give their elected officials a dose of real-onomics.

    This doesn’t mean that all we should do is boycott. It means that we should boycott, in addition to burying elected officials with emails, phone calls, petitions, etc.

    Just don’t sit on your hands and wait… It will be too late…

  • Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! With all the monuments, and road closures how are handicapped people supposed to be able to enter and enjoy them?

    • Nice straw man Dean. Or do you really not understand that if these lands are privatized, NOBODY is going to be able to “enter and enjoy” them?

  • Mighty proud of Yvon for making this statement. We need to be outspoken like we have never been before. These next few years are going to be very trying as it is and we must be united and strong or we will lose much.

  • I take my business elsewhere if I can, it sickens me everytime I think of Ken Ivory or Rob Bishop. I remember well the governer putting his puting his proud veto on the steam access Bill so many sportsmen worked so hard for. I suggest all people try to take their business elsewhere.
    Maybe someday someone will get the message?

  • Thank You, Yvon for this sentiment and letter. Utah is one of the most amazing places in the World, and I sincerely hope that my grandchildren will be able to experience this beauty as I have.

  • Here is an open response. As a 4th generation San Juan County native I would like to declare that I love this land and people of San Juan County. This is my home and the place that I choose to live. The people of this area are not wealthy but what wealth there is has come from the land. Nobody wants this land to remain pristine more than the locals. Protections and management are already in place. Access to all is already allowed. This monument designation will only hurt those who live here. It will not affect Mr. Chouinard in the least. Patagonia can do what they choose but I think that they should choose to stay out of Utah and keep their bribe money.

  • Colorado will welcome your company with open arms, offers the same fantastic outdoor opportunities, skilled employee base and a very environmentally friendly state government.

  • Well, all you that are praising this Patagonia founder need to do more research, you might change your mind. Remember the wolf in sheep clothing. Plus he is making a killing in sales for over price made out of country products and frankly shit you don’t need to in joy, survive or partake in outdoor activities. The clothing is over thought and over priced. So, all you %er’s out there do you research. Plus, using his position, is like blackmail, do what I want or I m taking my ball and going to another playground, until I get what I want. Now, is there a need to protect our lands and environment, yes, but blackmail is not the path to take

  • BRAVO YVON! as a lifelong patagoniac & quarter century resident of utah, we’re sick of the anti environmental jihad by lee, chaffetz, hatch & fronted by herbert. they didn’t “get it” when black diamond’s peter metcalf wrote a similar op ed piece a couple of years ago. you can’t raise a consciousness when there ain’t one there to start with. move the OR show out of the state permanently. period.

  • Hooray! If Utah doesn’t like the people who want public lands protected, find another venue! I suggest Rapid City, SD. Our Governor Dugaurd is not a Herbert, as much anyway. I fear many of our elected leaders will sell out to oil and coal in the coming years…. thank you Patagonia for your leadership on so so many levels over so many decades.

  • Two things control every facet of your life whether you like it or not, economics and politics. No escape. Yvon is using both to further his personal views. Every where he does business there are similar issues, using the same tactics would put him out of business, not likely. I suspect there are other things going on than just this one disagreement with the government of Utah. Regardless of where you come down on this issue facts are the important consideration. When enter restrictions are put in place, whose ox is gored? Public means just that, public. Not just elite, self identified, protectors of the environment.

  • I very much appreciate this article. I’m a native Utahan, and it saddens me to see what is happening with our state. So many conservatives have lost the meaning of the word “conserve”. I wholeheartedly support the conservation of these lands, and I support the OR show’s move. I too consider moving from this state in the winter months when the inversion sets in. Governor Herbert wants to take control of federal regulations, and have the state manage these issues, however when the state does manage these issues, they fall short (air quality, land conservation, public health, mental health to name a few). These politicians are short-sighted and archaic in their responsibilities. I urge everyone to vote them out, and I also encourage forward thinkers to run for office.

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