Support National Monuments!
Anyone who follows conservation news at all has heard by now about the review of National Monuments currently being conducted by the Trump administration. I will of course be sharing my opinion with the BLM. I’ll be commenting on a number of monuments with which I’m personally familiar, starting with Utah’s Bears Ears, which has by far the tightest deadline to submit comments. Please do the same by May 26th!
Any comment helps, but detailed and substantive comments help the most. In particular, I don’t imagine the administration cares much about experiences in the wild and anecdotes of natural beauty; instead, they have explicitly solicited comments on (among other things) whether the monuments are larger than they need to be and whether they contain features of sufficient historic or scientific interest [more]. Good comments should address those questions explicitly. There is an excellent collection of talking points assembled here on Facebook, and another fine collection is in progress here. If you need catching up on the issue generally, Modern Hiker has an excellent run-down with lots of good links.
Please feel free to lift whatever may be useful fro my comments below! And please check back or follow me on Facebook as I post additional comments on other monuments.
Dear Secretary Zinke,
I am writing to express my strong support for maintaining the status and boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument as currently designated. I have camped, hiked and backpacked in the region many times, both as a child and an adult, and I am quite familiar with the landscape and what it contains. The abundance of high quality archaeological sites in Bears Ears clearly marks it as a region of world-class significance, and the fact that visitors can explore these sites in a remote and undeveloped setting of spectacular geology and great beauty sets it apart as unique in the U.S. Preservation of archaeological and geological resources of such quantity and quality is clearly an appropriate use of the Antiquities Act.
Regarding the size of the monument, I will reiterate that the opportunity to explore such archaeologic resources on a landscape-wide scale in a backcountry setting is unique in the U.S., and the monument’s substantial size is key to preserving that opportunity. It is common when wandering cross-country in the region to find artifacts and ruins not marked on any map. Protecting Bears Ears’ resources is not a question of protecting just a few well known sites, but rather preserving the countless less known sites in between. It is also worth noting that the monument’s acreage as designated is significantly smaller than what preservation advocates had proposed, and is comparable to the acreage proposed in Utah Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative. Several areas with high mineral potential were left out of the presidential proclamation.
I believe concerns about the continuation of traditional uses of the area by local residents and Native Americans were well addressed in the process of designating the monument. It is my wish to see all responsible use of the area continue so long as such is is compatible with preserving the area’s historic and scenic resources. In any case, these are fundamentally questions of how the monument should be managed, not of whether it should exist at all, and therefore have little relevance to the question of whether Bears Ears National Monument’s boundaries should stand as designated.
Those of us who closely followed the years leading up to monument designation know that there was no shortage of debate and opportunities for the public to weight in. Protection of this area has been an issue in the public eye for decades. There is of course disagreement, but it is very clear from polling, public statements and public comment that many Utahns, local residents and local tribal members enthusiastically support the monument, together with many thousands of other Americans.
Finally, let me conclude by saying I would ideally wish that the Bears Ears landscape could simply be left alone. But benign neglect is not realistic in our day and age. When I was young, one could hike for days or return for several visits chasing rumors of good ruin. Now one can find detailed directions in ten minutes on the internet. With such an increase in information and visitation, it is long past time that land managers take a more active role in protecting this landscape. The Bears Ears region seriously needs major increases in visitor education, resource monitoring and above all law enforcement. Please allow the monument designation to stand as originally proclaimed.
*From the executive order:
In making the requisite determinations, the Secretary is directed to consider:
(i) The requirements and original objectives of the Act, including the Act’s requirement that reservations of land not exceed “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected”;
(ii) whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”;
(iii) the effects of a designation on the available uses of designated Federal lands, including consideration of the multiple-use policy of section 102(a)(7) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (43 U.S.C. 1701(a)(7)), as well as the effects on the available uses of Federal lands beyond the monument boundaries;
(iv) the effects of a designation on the use and enjoyment of non-Federal lands within or beyond monument boundaries;
(v) concerns of State, tribal, and local governments affected by a designation, including the economic development and fiscal condition of affected States, tribes, and localities;
(vi) the availability of Federal resources to properly manage designated areas; and
(vii) such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate. 82 FR 20429-20430 (May 1, 2017).