For a long time I’ve kept politics out of my blog but the more I hear (in fits and spurts when I come out of the mountains and get internet) the more I feel obligated to say something.
On a note related closely to this blog, the current administration (and political allies) is completely opposed to even the most cursory and centrist conservation policies. Not to mention any sort of support for wildness or self determining ecosystems.
Pillars of the American conservation movement such as The Antiquities act, The Endangered Species Act, The Clean Air and Water Act are under attack. Further, the EPA, the National Park Service and other government organizations are being hampered.
First the Antiquities Act. This is the law that allows U.S. presidents to declare National Monuments and Congress to make National Parks. This bill has been widely used by both Republicans and Democrats to protect historic, cultural and natural heritage sites. recently the Republican Party has been calling for federal lands to be turned over to states. I’ve been to plenty of state parks in the west, in Colorado, Utah, South Dakota. Some of the parks were quite nice but frankly, the management job the federal government has done on National Parks is usually better. Federal protections are also harder to reverse and likely to be less fickle than state conservation efforts. Trump has also called for more fossil fuel extraction from public lands. Not only that but Trump previously issued an executive order to the Department of the Interior to review previous National Monument designations and suggest changes. What the executive order means is that many Monuments could be shrunk or removed entirely, reversing conservation efforts.
Many may be wondering how this connects to the horrible ambivalence Trump has recently been showing towards white supremacy. It’s important to look at some of the most recent National Monuments declared by Obama.
Bear’s Ears National Monument is probably the most famous national monument in the most recent batch. Bear’s Ears is in a part of Utah that is absolutely gorgeous, it’s near Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. It’s a perfect example of Utah’s rugged, ragged, harsh and beautiful canyon country. What you may not understand is the importance of Bear’s Ears to Native Americans. Bear’s Ears is to be the first National Monument co-managed by Native Americans and the federal government and has strong support from 30 tribes organized into an inter-tribal coalition. There are over 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites. Unfortunately, Bear’s Ears is also very likely to be attacked by Trump since Utah politicians oppose it, despite the fact that they couldn’t come up with a viable conservation plan on their own.
Obama also made national monuments such as Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument to commemorate the woman who helped so many slaves to freedom. There is also the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which highlights the struggles of Martin Luther King and other civil rights advocates in Birmingham Alabama. The Freedom Rider’s National Monument is so we won’t forget the death of civil rights workers in the fight for equality.
The list of monuments goes on. All told, Obama declared 34 national monuments, 2 more than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It becomes clear that with Obama, these monuments weren’t entirely about preserving nature but also preserving history, culture and a more diverse America. To me the sense of freedom, the expansive beauty our parks, monuments, national forests and other public lands engender is greater than any political agenda. I hope you as readers will reflect on the land we all share, the history that we must remember even if it’s easier to forget. I hope we can all fight for the truth and the land together.
I’ll be honest, I’m living on the road and I haven’t been able to say as much as I wanted here, or researched as thoroughly as I would’ve liked. New things happen between the times I get online, usually for an hour or two. I’ve spent more time talking with strangers at mountain trailheads than online in the last few weeks. Being away from the insanity and then having it hit me all at once makes the problems in our nation more obvious not less but it also gives me time to breathe. Fight for good things, speak out for the truth but live for the shear beauty of living.