BLUFF, San Juan County — The leader of one southern Utah advocacy group is accusing Patagonia of being hypocritical about the preservation of ancient Native American ruins because of the contents of a short video the outdoor merchant released in 2015.
That group, Stewards of San Juan, opposes the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument that former President Barack Obama put into place in December, meaning the organization is in disagreement with Patagonia about how best to preserve the landscapes and archaeological artifacts in the area.
Patagonia has been outspoken in its efforts to get Utah officials to recant their efforts to rescind the national monument and have federal lands turned over to states, leading a drive to move the Outdoor Retailer shows out of state. The retailer group announced Thursday it will not hold its shows in Utah after its contract expires in 2018.
The video, titled "Defined by the Line," shows Josh Ewing, executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa, climbing difficult mountainous sites in San Juan County that are now designated as part of the national monument.
In one part of the nearly eight-minute video, which supported the designation of a Bears Ears National Monument, Ewing is shown picking up a pottery shard. The video cuts away to a different shot before it becomes clear what he did with the artifact.
Ewing confirmed to the Deseret News that he picked up a real pottery artifact in the video but said he immediately set it back down in its original place — something he noted is a widely accepted action.
"The rules are that you should not take or remove artifacts from public lands," Ewing said. "But certainly, to pick up a pottery shard and put it back down in its place is common practice. It's a very common practice by archaeologists and the public."
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Kimberly Finch said in an email that the agency "is not investigating any participants in Patagonia's video 'Defined by the Line.'"
"Picking up a pottery shard on public lands is not a crime, but taking one home is," Finch said, speaking in general terms.
Jami Bayles, president of Stewards of San Juan, nonetheless takes issue with the video.
Bayles initially believed it was at least possible Ewing broke the law by potentially taking the artifact and keeping it, she said. But she now believes his explanation to the Deseret News that he in fact put it back in its place. Still, she contends, the video is ambiguous as to what happened to the shard, which sends "a very mixed, confused message."
"There was no disclaimer," she said. "He doesn't even talk about it — like, 'Yeah, these (pottery artifacts are part of) what we're trying to protect.' He doesn't address any of that stuff."8 comments on this story
Bayles also said she is disappointed that the beginning of the video showed Ewing walking up to a pump jack in the area of Recapture Pocket. Recapture Pocket is outside of the national monument area and is about 15 miles from Comb Ridge and 30 miles from Valley of the Gods — the areas that the film permit, a copy of which she sent to the Deseret News, specified as authorized locations for the film.
"I know the exact pump they're walking toward," Bayles said. "It has nothing to do with the (Bears Ears) monument. You're projecting something that doesn't exist."
Patagonia spokeswoman Corley Kenna defended the film's imagery.
"Patagonia stands by the film, Josh Ewing and its depictions of Native American heritage. The image of the oil rigs was deliberate: This is an area that if unprotected will be exploited and drilled," she said.