With Public Lands at Risk, Patagonia and Google Act

Virtual-reality film series 'total immersion' into Bears Ears National Monument experience
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2017 8:01 PM CST
Patagonia, Google Try to Save Public Lands With VR Site
This May 23, 2016, file photo, shows the northernmost boundary of the proposed Bears Ears region, along the Colorado River, in southeastern Utah.   (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

Republican leaders are trying to turn back the clock on Barack Obama's designation of two national monuments in Utah and Maine. But if outdoors-oriented company Patagonia and Google have anything to do with it, they're going to get the word out that public lands are worthy of being saved from environmental devastation, thanks to a new virtual-reality film series, per Mashable. "This Is Bears Ears National Monument" is that interactive online effort, a collaboration between the two entities that continues Patagonia's long-standing mission to conserve and preserve public lands like the Beehive State's national monument. The multimedia website, which features 10 short VR films, offers info about the history of the region's Native American tribes, a chance to scan local rock carvings, and a focus on outdoor athletes like mountain climber Kitty Calhoun and bikepacker Andrew Burr.

Patagonia's stance wasn't a recent reaction to Trump administration rumblings: The company has been battling since 2013 to keep Bears Ears protected, per a press release. In January, founder Yvon Chouinard wrote an open letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, blasting him "and his buddies" for ruining public lands by serving them up to the fossil fuel industry. Patagonia tapped into Google's 360-degree technology to create its film series, which it calls a "total immersion" into the Bears Ears experience. Users can view the site on their smartphones, tablets, or Google Cardboard VR headset. Patagonia has also created its first-ever TV spots for PBS in support of this project: one with a cultural bent, the other with a sports angle. (The fight for Bears Ears has been a fierce one.)

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