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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

Whole Foods and the Flat-Earthers

Are you a scientist? During last week’s commencement address, President Barack Obama derided Republicans who demure “I’m not a scientist” as they deny climate change. “I’m not a scientist either,” the President confessed, “but we’ve got some good ones at NASA,” and apparently their overwhelming agreement that climate change is occurring, anthropogenic, and alarming is convincing enough for him. It’s not for climate deniers, of course, and POTUS is hardly alone in his contempt for those who dismiss the scientific evidence of climate change. And the climate deniers are often the same folks who question evolution and think school curriculum ought to include creationism, which seems an awful lot like saying we should teach kids the world is flat. Who wouldn’t disdain such backwards, destructive thinking? And yet.

Thanks to science, medicine, and the socialist horror that is Obamacare, or, as I like to call it, the Affordable Care Act, my co-publisher and husband, Mark Bailey, got a shiny new hip yesterday. Because of Big Pharma and those cut- and pill-happy doctors, Mark got a groovy metal joint with only minimal anesthesia, and walked down a hall on it a mere six hours after surgery. He had the same procedure on his other hip five years ago, but this time he gets to benefit from some pharmaceutical breakthroughs and improved best practices. After decades as the go-to post-operative blood-thinner, coumadin is stepping aside for a new generation of drugs that require no monitoring or diet restrictions. Decades and dollars of research means Mark will take the super-cool Xarelto every day for three weeks, eating all the spinach salads he’d like, and since he won’t need to have any home health visits to check his blood, we’ll probably head to Torrey sometime next week for some desert convalescing. New evidence has shown that some of the strict movement restrictions he had to observe five years ago don’t improve outcomes, so we won’t need to freak out if he bends his leg beyond 90 degrees when he gets out of a chair or a car. These improvements in care don’t happen by themselves; they happen because of SCIENCE: developing and testing a research question by gathering data and analyzing it to produce evidence. Brilliant.

So who, besides those heads-in-the-sand climate deniers, could possibly eschew the life- and limb-saving evidence brought to you by SCIENCE? Only right wing nuts are closed-minded enough to reject SCIENCE. And yet…My local Whole Foods has an entire “pharmacy” section full of pseudo-medicine: pills, powders, and potions that are devoid of evidence of safety or efficacy. If you need, say, pain or allergy relief, you can forget about finding real over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or loratadine (Claritin), drugs that though easily available have been scientifically proven to work. Of course, you’ll also find just what you don’t need even if you’re not suffering from an illness or medical condition. With enticing labeling and Big Organic marketing power, Whole Foods has convinced millions of otherwise reasonable and educated people that “organic” means healthier and “gluten free” means good for them despite the utter lack of evidence or whether or not they are among the up to two percent of the population with celiac disease or the up to six percent  who have an actual allergy or sensitivity to the ubiquitous, harmless, and deliciousness-making protein. And feeling relief at finding a store full of GMO-free foods, really means relieving oneself of understanding what GMO means (altering a genome using genetic engineering techniques rather than cross-breeding plants or animals, which is the genome altering we have been doing for 10,000 years), what the benefits are (say, alleviating blindness and death due to vitamin A deficiency in the developing world), and what the health risks are (none).

Of course, shopping at Whole Foods seems a harmless albeit expensive privilege, as demonstrated in this short, astute clip: No victim here but the happy willing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UFc1pr2yUU  And yet…The clamor for Whole Foods chic, for what is considered “natural,” helps fuel baseless, expensive taxpayer-funded research into useless treatments, which often result in people foregoing or postponing real medicine in favor of woo. Though his early death was unquestionably tragic, Steve Jobs actually won the pancreatic cancer lottery when he was diagnosed with a rare form with a high cure rate. But he rejected prompt medical treatment in favor of veganism and supplements until his cancer was advanced and deadly. In far too many states, measles and pertussis (whooping cough) are making horrible comebacks as people avoid a perceived though unfounded threat, thanks in part to arguments that really reduce to this:

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Whole Foods, beloved of upper-income lefties across the country, promotes science denying, flat-earth thinking that betrays the privilege of its customers and only faintly separates them from the science deniers they condemn. Unless the moon landing really was a hoax, the word’s not benefiting from either flat-earth camp.

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