“I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities. Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me?” -Everett Ruess
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to explore Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument or Bears Ears National Monument, you know how special these places are. In the US, public lands are one of our country’s greatest assets. And while it is important to make wilderness accessible to all, there is also a case to be made for keeping some areas remote.
Driving down Hole in the Rock Road is in itself an incredible experience. There are very few places in the contiguous United States where you can put 60 miles between you and the nearest building, street light, faucet, or pavement. If you were to venture down into the canyons, you very likely would not see another person for days. Then if you were to wade across the Escalante River and climb up onto the mesa on the opposite side, you would know what it feels like to wonder if you are the first human to ever have stood in that particular spot.
In Bears Ears National Monument, COBS adult students backpack through the canyons of Cedar Mesa every fall and spring. Visiting the kivas and petroglyphs in Road Canyon reminds us that we are not the first to sleep out under the stars in these canyons. We are responsible for ensuring we’re not the last.
Both monuments contain an abundance of priceless treasures: sacred and historical sites, a wealth of fossils, incredible biodiversity, and unmatched recreation opportunities. These physical artifacts, landscapes, extreme wilderness, and intangible experiences are not renewable resources.
Other resources located in the monuments include coal, gas, and uranium deposits but consumption of those resources is declining while natural gas and renewables are rising. The effects of national monuments on local economies are complicated, but nonpartisan research by Headwaters Economics suggests a positive effect. Polling indicates the majority of Utahans are in support of keeping the monuments, and the comment period from Zinke’s monument review yielded over 2 million comments, 98% of which were in favor of keeping the monuments as they were. There is no compelling rationale for removing the protection from these lands, and decreasing these two monuments sets a precedent for all other national monuments.
If you’re interested in protecting monument status for these public lands (and other monuments at risk), here are some steps you can take:
- Sign Outdoor Alliance’s petition, which will send your comments to your representatives, or contact your representatives and senators directly.
- Contact Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior: 1-202-601-3839/1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240 D.C. https://www.doi.gov/feedback
- Join the conversation on Outside Magazine’s Public Lands Forum on Facebook.
- There are several lawsuits in response to the proclamation rescinding monument status from GSENM and BENM, you can contribute to the organizations involved. Hopefully, these cases and the efforts will be consolidated, stay tuned.
National Geographic: What Trump’s Shrinking of National Monuments Actually Means
Gear Junkie: Yvon Chouinard’s Response to Representative Bishop
Rural America In These Times: Why Cutting Up Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a Bad Idea
Modern Hiker: Lawsuits Filed to Protect National Monuments from Trump
Modern Hiker: Fact Checking the Secretary of Interior’s Fact Check
Outdoor Alliance: The Incredible Shrinking Monuments