Thompson Divide effort will get a boost from ex-Patagonia CEO
Ryan Summerlin February 4, 2014
The CEO of outdoor clothing giant Patagonia said he will step down Friday to spend more time with his family in Carbondale, pursue outdoor adventures and increase efforts to prevent gas drilling in Thompson Divide.
Casey Sheahan has been commuting from Carbondale to Ventura, Calif., for eight of the nine years while at the helm of Patagonia. The company has experienced significant growth under his team’s leadership. Sales are up $400 million and profits have tripled, he said.
Sheahan, 58, said he’s leaving the company on great terms. Rose Marcario, who was part of his team as COO and CFO, will become president and CEO. Sheahan said it’s simply time for him to move on to other pursuits.
“I think if you’re honest, CEOs have an expiration date,” he said.
“There are already 10,000 wells on the west side of Garfield County. Do we need any more on the east side? I don’t think so.”
And he leaves at a young enough age to continue pursuing outdoor adventures — from riding mountain bikes in the desert around Moab, Utah, to fishing for Atlantic salmon and hiking around Jackson Hole, Wyo., where his family has a ranch. He labeled himself “a rabid fisherman.” The Roaring Fork Valley will be the base for it all. Sheahan and his wife, Tara, have two grown sons who enjoy the Colorado outdoors we well.
“Carbondale has everything,” Sheahan said. “The climate is fantastic.” The opportunity for outdoor activities is amazing and the natural environment is special, he said.
Sheahan said he wants to keep it that way. He has spoken against gas drilling in Thompson Divide during public meetings in Carbondale. His family participated in a blood test to get baseline data to compare in the future to see if air pollution from gas drilling in western Garfield County is affecting the health of residents.
“I will now have the time to dedicate myself to it,” Sheahan said of the Thompson Divide activism.
The area is too special to allow even exploratory drilling, as Houston-based S.G. Interests has proposed, he said. The stakes are too great, according to Sheahan. Gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing would pose a risk to water supplies used for everything from growing organic foods in the region to providing drinking water to cattle and maintaining healthy ecosystems in the drainages, he said. For that reason, he sees protection as a non-partisan issue that should unite everyone from ranchers to mountain bikers and from hunting outfitters to workers at tourist-dependent businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I just think this is one of the last great places that has to be protected,” he said.
Sheahan said he will continue to press the point that he has made at earlier public meetings. “There are already 10,000 wells on the west side of Garfield County. Do we need any more on the east side? I don’t think so,” he said.
Thompson Divide is a 221,500-acre expanse of federal lands west of Highway 13 in the Crystal Valley. The divide stretches from near Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs to McClure Pass.
The Bureau of Land Management has issued 61 leases covering 105,000 acres. It includes 88,100 acres in Pitkin County.
Two companies, SG Interests and Ursa Piceance LLC, are working on applications to drill exploratory wells. They have applied to extend the period in which they can hold their leases, which typically is 10 years.
Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition is heading efforts to prevent additional land from being leased and to buy out the existing leases. Wilderness Workshop is also aggressively pressuring the BLM and Forest Service to prevent drilling in Thompson Divide.
Sheahan said he will offer assistance to both organizations by introducing them to his contacts. Patagonia is known for supporting sustainable causes and has established itself as an environmental leader over the past four decades. Sheahan also will offer his direct aid to the Thompson Divide cause.
“I’m happy to roll up my sleeves and get involved,” he said.