I'll bet you are right about the effects of hiking poles.
Bt consider the case of an orienteerer who becomes hopelessly lost (not much of an orienteerer, II wager). The conspicuous tracks left by his shoes will allow SAR to track him with ease, eventually leading to his rescue. Balance the benefit of the rescue versus the cost of the rather hypothetical damage to the trail.
Doesn't the scarring and scratching of the trail make the path more evident to users? Sounds like a benefit to me.
Seriously, I hope that REI does use their stature to influence the production of good, environmentally beneficial products, although these shoes seem to have, at best, a very questionable negative environmental effect. REI's efforts might be better directed toward insuring that their products are produced in conditions in which workers are treated properly and fairly compensated. They may already do this...
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.