Saving Our American Legacy

May 23, 2017

Dear Secretary Zinke,

I am a sixth-generation Utahn and proud American, grateful for the national monuments and parks in Utah and throughout our great country. Protecting national monuments preserves our identity as Americans. Our national monuments and public lands and waters tell the patriotic story of our historical, cultural, and natural heritage. I am concerned and disappointed by the executive order that attempts to undermine our national monuments, especially since the effort was pushed by Utah’s congressional delegation, notably Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, who receive support from energy industry and anti-public lands groups. Attempting to roll back protections for national monuments doesn’t reflect Utah or American values of protecting and revering iconic landscapes. Decreasing national monument protection would be ultimately unpatriotic and an affront to America’s great heritage. Please do not allow political dealers to eliminate or shrink our national monuments.

Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah protect priceless treasures visited by scores of Utahns seeking refuge from urban congestion every year. Despite what local politicians argue, the towns near national monuments benefit from monument protections. The communities surrounding Grand Staircase have seen employment increase by 38% and per capita income increase by 30% since that monument’s designation, thanks to visitors from Utah, America, and the world. The 49 businesses of the local Boulder-Escalante Chamber of Commerce unanimously support the monument and depend on its protected beauty, which is far more valuable to local economies than a coal mine or an oil field that send short-term gains to out-of-state and out-of-country investors, leaving industrialized wreckage behind. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a geological, paleontological, and scenic treasure unrivaled in the world. The slot canyons, arches, and stunning features of the landscape as well as the peace and wonder they inspire – and the research and learning the paleontological resources have provided – are indeed worthy of and require the landscape-level protection of national monument status.

TimPeterson_BearsEars

Bears Ears – photo credit Tim Peterson

Bears Ears National Monument is another monument gem. It is a textbook example of the priceless historic, cultural, and natural wonders that are protected as national monuments, and it is also the first time the Antiquities Act was used at the request of Native Americans to protect antiquities and landscapes that are sacred to over a dozen Native peoples. Bears Ears National Monument offers the opportunity to acknowledge the sovereignty of Native American Tribes who have suffered cultural and political destruction throughout the founding and developing of the United States. Keeping Bears Ears National Monument and the tribal co-management as directed in the monument proclamation is America’s chance to offer a small recompense for centuries of abuse. Protecting over 100,000 archaeological and cultural sites, Bears Ears National Monument honors the voices of the Navajo, Ute, Hopi, and Zuni leaders who joined together to seek protection of their shared ancestral lands and traditions. Though it is 600,000 acres smaller than the Tribes proposed, Bears Ears National Monument should remain protected as it was designated, permanently.

Secretary Zinke, I know you are aware that the Tribes attempted to work with Reps. Chaffetz and Bishop in their ultimately failed Public Lands Initiative legislation and only sought Antiquities Act protection for Bears Ears after their concerns were ignored and dismissed by Utah’s politicians. The Tribes’ work is an act of healing, and the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument are based on the extensive cultural mapping and traditional knowledge of the Native American Tribes to best protect the thousands of archaeological, cultural, and sacred sites for all people. As the Four Corners area suffers increasing drought amid a changing climate, protecting the wildlife habitat, serenity, and scenic wonders that make up this incredible landscape becomes ever more important. What’s more, the majority of Utahns agree that this area deserves protection, and the boundaries are essentially identical to those included in the legislation introduced by Rep. Bishop, with some similar protections. Only when this legislation ultimately failed was the monument designated, and, there is widespread agreement, even among Utah politicians, that this area deserves protection. Not only is Bears Ears National Monument incredibly worthy of its designation, it is a vital part of the outdoor recreation economy in the state of Utah, protecting some of the best climbing locations in the entire state and country.

Despite what Utah’s congressional delegation asserts, public input and discussions of protections for Bears Ears National Monument have already been robust. In addition to the Department of the Interior receiving public comments and tens of thousands of emails, postcards, and letters throughout 2016, last July, Secretary Jewell held a public meeting in Bluff, UT, that was attended by over 1,400 members of the public, and the majority were in support of this designation. According to recent polling, 80% of western voters support keeping existing national monument protections in place.

An attempt to attack one monument by rolling back protections would be an attack on them all. Sending a signal that protections for our shared history, culture, and natural treasures are not permanent would set a terrible precedent. This would discourage business investment and community growth around all national monuments and establish a dangerous standard, indicating that our history and natural wonders are negotiable.

National monuments have already been shown to be tremendous drivers of the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy, and businesses in gateway communities rely on the permanency of these protections when making decisions about investing in these communities. Navajo writer Andrew Curley points out that “Native communities in the Four Corners area are surrounded by national monuments and have used them effectively to promote infrastructure and tourism we might not otherwise afford.” Navajo/Cayuga writer Kimball Bighorse reminds us that “the dwellings, drawings, and pot sherds sprinkled throughout the area attract looters and exploiters and arguably make Bears Ears a poster child for the stated intent of the Antiquities Act.” Former Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair and Ute Mountain Ute Councilwoman Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk asks everyone “join us in encouraging the spirit of healing.” The treasures housed in America’s national monuments are sources of cultural and spiritual renewal, so important for the health of every citizen – and our country. Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, along with other monuments across the country, should remain protected for future generations to enjoy. They are a gift that belongs to all Americans, a legacy we leave for those who come after.

I am respectfully and firmly opposed to any effort to revoke or diminish America’s national monuments. I urge you to support our public lands and waters and recommend that our current national monuments retain their boundaries as established in their proclamations. I urge you to maintain protections for these all-American landscapes, and honor Americans’ overwhelmingly support for protecting these lands permanently.

Sincerely,

Kirsten J. Allen

Torrey, Utah 84775

Gaslighting our Sacred Public Lands

Utah’s junior senator joins the trumpian gaslight brigade, with misleading, false, and crazy-making claims about America’s public lands and how Utahns feel about the mountains and redrock country that make Utah a Western wonderland.

Thots and Shots

One of the ugly features of the new Trumpian Republican Party is the tendency to frequently and blatantly lie. Trump, according to fact checkers, averages 6.5 lies a day. To cover up, he twists reality in a way known in psychological circles as gaslighting. It is a practice used by narcissists, wife abusers and dictators alike. Trump says and does things and then denies it. But it is more devious than mere denial. As Frida Ghitis frames it at CNN, he lies then blames others for misunderstanding, disparages their concerns as oversensitivity, claims outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and otherwise twilights the truth. Now Utah’s Republican junior U.S. Senator Mike Lee is giving gaslighting a shot by attempting to make Utah’s much beloved public lands out to be a conspiracy for and of some mystery “elitists.”

Henry for picasa.jpg For “elitists” only

In a June 2018 speech to the reactionary right’s Sutherland…

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A cowpie welcome

Where you gonna camp? via A cowpie welcome

The Bears Ears and the “local” card

Napa and Point Reyes

The best part of publishing is the combination of people, places, ideas, and books that Mark Bailey and I get to experience with Torrey House Press. We hit the road to the north Bay Area last week and what amazement we found.

Thots and Shots

Kirsten and drove the A6 to Truckee and then on to Napa and Pt. Reyes leaving Saturday March 28 and back to Salt Lake the next Friday. Kirsten was meeting with our latest author, Sasha Paulsen for an editing session on Dancing on the Spider’s Web. Now back in SLC I notice that I did not take many photos and did not take any notes. Thinking about it I decided to combine this blog with my previous entries from THP Green Adventures and change the site title here to Notes and Shots. I will use it both as a travel and conservation journal in the  blog and a place to keep my best photos in the galleries.  That way I can feel more free to take notes and shots without thinking they need to be interesting and good enough for National Geographic.  Even though I will make the site…

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Rosette Nebula

Why go with woo when you can take in awe? When people engage with the beauty and wonder of the nature, openings emerge that can help us relate and to respond to its realities. Here’s a brilliant look at the night sky, the origins of us, from the dark skies of Torrey, Utah. Science is wowzy!

Mark Bailey Photography

Rosette Nebula, Torrey, 2/16/2015 Rosette Nebula, Torrey, 2/16/2015

This is my first deep sky object capture in a while and the first after modifying my camera to accept more red in the Ha wavelength. This cosmic rose is about 5,000 light years away near Orion in Monoceros. The red is nebula matter (hydrogen?) that is heated up by the hot stars in the center that formed from the same matter.

I tried to get this picture Sunday night but got blanked out by a strange, stuck cloud. A rare failure in the forecast by the amazing Mr. A. Danko at ClearDarkSky.com.  As part of the weird weather we are having (very weird, exactly as predicted by the global warming models), the jet stream is distorted and was blasting down with much turbulence in the upper atmosphere out of due north and created a standing lenticular cloud exactly in the way of where I…

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Bad Romance?

Cliven Bundy rides his horse waving the American flag. He’s a Fox News hero who refused to pay fees and fines for illegally grazing his cows on federal lands for 20 years and then participated in an armed standoff with law enforcement, a frightening and fraught encounter for which he’s never been charged.  He’s a cowboy hero, an icon of the rugged individualist, a living piece of the American Dream. Though he fell off his pedestal by blathering racism in the media’s glare, he still commands a lot of sympathy either consciously with right-wing rurals or, worse, unconsciously in the minds of everybody who wants to be, or at least preserve, the American cowboy.

And who doesn’t love the dashing vision of a cowboy, tall in the saddle on his handsome horse, splashes through a sunlit stream as he herds those little dogies along? Methinks, perhaps, the 80 percent of wildlife species that depend on riparian areas, a mere two percent of the land in the intermountain states. Cow-trampled, muddied streams with no overhanging grasses leave these once lush areas with a fraction of the biodiversity they evolved with. The livestock impacts of upland aspen and sagebrush steppes decimate the complexity of the delicate interplay between life and precious water in these drier, more prevalent ecosystems, leaving bare ground that blows away causing even more problems with snowmelt at high elevations. Meanwhile, public lands grazing has cost taxpayers over $1 billion in the last decade, and, as Christopher Ketcham reports in the New Republic this week, livestock are draining the arid West as the historic drought deepens.

Feral Horses

Wild horses! Popular, less destructive icons of the West!

There’s nothing wrong with a myth. It’s only harmful if it supersedes reason in decision-making. And there’s the rub. Though public lands ranchers raise only 3% of the nation’s beef and though they represent only a small fraction of the economies in their states, the livestock industry holds outsized power in the West.  In Utah, county commissioners influence elections of party convention delegates, the folks who determine who makes it to the ballot. Or not. Like, for instance, the popular incumbents Sen. Bob Bennett and Gov. Olene Walker, who both enjoyed big approval ratings even as the party faithful refused to nominate them to the ballot. Ranchers disgruntled by Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service regulators can call Sen. Orrin Hatch to complain–and he’ll respond! By telling the agencies to stifle the enforcing officers or dismiss them. States cut education budgets but lavishly fund departments of agriculture that serve less to protect the public’s food supply than to support agriculture interests, economic and cultural. One of my favorite campaigns in Utah is a series of posters and PSAs that say “If their way of life goes away, what will happen to ours?” (Where’s the save-the-publishers campaign??)

The myth of the rugged, handsome cowboy is not serving us well. Not economically or ecologically. But we need myth. We crave it. We could replace it with a new romance, a new myth that captures the spirit of freedom and space. How about we trade the cowboy for his horse? The BLM

Running free!

Running free!

estimates that there are fewer than 50,000 feral horses on public lands, a trifle compared to the millions of cows grazing at public expense. Of course, ranchers complain that the wild horses are taking the forage from livestock and damaging the landscape–and on that last point the environmental community agrees. On the other hand, tens of thousands of horse lovers advocate passionately for the horses to run free on our landscapes. In 2013, the Utah BLM office received nearly 20,000 letters in support of the nonnative equines. And they are lovely. People love them, and the damage they do is minimal compared to that of livestock on public lands. How about we scrap the cowboy and replace him with the horse?

Civil Rights to Wilderness: African-Americans Reconnect to America’s Wild Places

The Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act were both signed into law fifty years ago, but the two movements behind the landmark legislation didn’t join efforts in 1964, and real integration between wild places and minority groups remains elusive today. One organization is working to change that. Outdoor Afro reconnects the black community with natural spaces and outdoor recreation through organized events and social media connections. Founder Rue Mapp wants to disrupt the “false perception that black people do not have a relationship with nature.” She suggests that with the 50th anniversary of both acts, “we have a chance now to make their real connections come alive today, recognizing the delicate and essential links between people and the wild all around for the betterment of everyone.” However, the disconnect between black people and nature is rooted in part by very real fears. She points out that “in the collaborative efforts around the country to re-invent African American connections to the environment…it is often essential to address fears that linger about the wild. These fears are not only about potential contact with wildlife: there are still perceptions among black folks that one might be susceptible to violence in the cover of the wild.” Consider, for example, the plaintive refrain of Billie Holiday’s haunting Strange Fruit:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Adding insult to fear and horror, many people of color are coldly distrusted and even apprehended when they do visit national parks and other wild places, many of which are located in western states with overwhelming white majorities.

How can such a frightening legacy of fear and distrust Outdoor Afrobe overcome? One national park ranger wants to reframe the African-American engagement with earth and dirt and wild as a continuation of the civil rights struggle. Shelton Johnson points out that access to America’s wild places is ultimately about freedom, not just preservation, and he believes securing that access is a critical piece of today’s efforts to secure all Americans’ civil rights. In his book Gloryland, Johnson argues that a relationship with the earth is both possible and essential. He suggests that “visiting the biome of Yellowstone might also mean a chance to reclaim what it means to be Yoruba, Mandingo–or African-American. Whatever you call yourself, it matters little, because it is all the same people, the same earth.”

While the reconnection of black people and wild places is far from done, Outdoor Afro’s Mapp believes that “with a vision of healing, Outdoor Afro and many other organizations [can help] people re-invent connections to natural places both near and far through a variety of peer led activities. One experience at a time, we can replace old fears and reservations about the wilderness with joy, curiosity, and wonder for all ages in our lands.” She argues that despite the divide between the original networks and movements that produced the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act, “we have a chance now to make their real connections come alive today, recognizing the delicate and essential links between people and the wild all around for the betterment of everyone.” The question she asks is “Where shall we go together in nature from here?”

How millennials can save wilderness (and the planet)

Election got you down? Climate deniers in command? Planet in peril? To the dismay of many progressives, the most populous generation in history hardly showed up at the polls, but there remains vast potential in their collective voice and heart. Here University of Montana graduate student Abbey Dufoe suggests that the generations ahead of her can help hers save wild places by mobilizing the millennials. I think she’s right.

Environmental Explorations

I don’t have to take a Buzzfeed quiz to know I am the stereotypical millennial.

Okay, okay, I did take a PEW Research Center quiz. Questions included whether I have a cell phone, landline or both (I only have a cell phone), whether I watch an hour of TV per day (Netflix, duh), and whether I read the newspaper regularly (I don’t). Electronics attached to limbs is the stereotypical definition of a millennial.

On a normal day, I watch TV on my iPad, text my friends on my iPhone and answer e-mails on my computer, sometimes all at once.

This is why some older wilderness protectors seem to have lost faith in us, the technologically-savvy, sassy-mouthed, social networking-obsessed generation. But what happens when you can harness that power to help save Earth’s most pristine places?

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Eat More Books: Jaren Watson Interviews Novelist Braden Hepner

One of the joys of being co-publisher and editor at Torrey House Press is working with the West’s brilliant writers and thinkers, considering and discussing the disparate cultures, economics, histories, and landscapes that cohere in this distinct home place. Tonight, one of these writers, Braden Hepner, launches his deeply beautiful and sometimes disturbing debut novel, PALE HARVEST at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. If you’re in the vicinity and pay attention to literature and the West, Braden will give you much to ponder as he discusses his book. Please join us, and in the meantime, listen in on–and by that I mean read–this conversation between THP’s Braden Hepner and his writing colleague Jaren Watson.

the salty beatnik

PALE HARVEST

9781937226398

Critically hailed as “stunning” (Publisher’s Weekly, starred review), and “a deeply moving and intellectually profound novel. A bravura debut” (Kirkus, starred review), Braden Hepner’s debut novel, Pale Harvest, is available now in bookstores and at Amazon.com, as well as other online book retailers.  Hepner will be reading from Pale Harvest this upcoming Thursday (28 August) at The King’s English Bookshop. See Hepner’s Events for more reading dates.

Long before I had the privilege to count author Braden Hepner a colleague, even before I knew him as a gifted writer, I knew him as an unusually bright English major as we shared a senior-level course in ethical criticism. I didn’t know his name then, but I remember being impressed by the sophistication and insight present in his comments in class. Later that year, he and I, along with JD Fish…

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