The Incredible Shrinking Monuments

Coyote Natural Bridge

Last year around this time,  I wrote a piece about my feelings that the wild spaces will become islands in a sea of development.

And here it is a year later.

There are moves to privatize our public lands further.  Long cons being done to open up our parks for further development. Fracking will be allowed within a sacred and historic area. And the most recent bombshell: The severe slashing in size of the Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. And more monuments are slated to receive a similar treatment. 

People far more eloquent than I have discussed the potential loss of our cultural heritage, the chimera of job creation in an increasingly automated industry, pure exploitation for industry cronies under the fig leaf of states’ rights, and even the legality of this pronouncement. 

Suffice to say; I think that history will judge the Trump administration as the most corrupt and Plutocratic one since the Grant administration.

The country will right itself again. As it always does.

But at what cost in the meantime?

Once wildlands are lost, they are gone.

Improved roads don’t go away. Other infrastructure improvements don’t disappear. Dug up artifacts may be preserved in museum storage but the context they are found in are lost.   Hole In The Rock Road may become as tame as Trail Ridge Road. But at least we can buy a t-shirt? 

When I returned to the Pawnee Grasslands a couple of years back,  I found myself in a melancholy mood. A wild space was gone.

What a reader of mine wrote about the Pawnee Grasslands may apply to the lands that may no longer be National Monuments:

I’m hoping that the companies that are probably going to be granted the rights to fracking the area will try to be as kind to this area as possible, but I don’t know if that’s possible. So bring your friends back to enjoy what you have seen as soon as you can. I hope that at some point in time people won’t look back at our images and think “where was that? It’s just a field of oil wells.”

Pawnee National Grasslands

I suspect many years of legal battles are brewing. And a compromise will be reached.

But some wild lands will be lost.

And there will be even fewer islands of wildness in a growing sea of development, infrastructure growth, and connectivity.

Perhaps I am wrong. And nothing will be lost. There is always hope.

In the meantime, do as the reader above implored. Go out and enjoy these wild spaces.

While we still can.


9 Replies to “The Incredible Shrinking Monuments”

  1. I am donating (minuscule amounts, unfortunately, since that’s all I have) to the organizations that are filing suit. I’m especially concerned that the tribes will need help with their legal expenses. In the meantime, Earth Justice has filed suit against the evisceration of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante on behalf of a number of conservation organizations, so I’m starting there.

    Letters to the editor and to congresspersons/senators are always appropriate. If, as in my case, your senators and congressperson are already supportive, it doesn’t hurt to encourage them!

    I’m waiting for the next axe to fall on Cascade/Siskiyou and its unique environment.

  2. Perhaps the single most effective thing we can do is organize and work to NOT let Trump get another four years. Possibly people on all points of the political spectrum can play a part: get Republicans and Democrats *both* to choose better candidates; support those in both parties who put country and traditional American values and principles over party, and don’t let the means (especially despicable) justify the political end. I’ve long voted Republican and conservative (dating back to Richard Nixon! ugh), but I’m open to supporting Democrats or whatever it takes to move our country back to something that resembles the ideals that I believe our nation (even if we resort to national *myth*) stands for.

  3. I don’t know if it will make you feel any better but my generation, the Baby Boomers, looked around in the 60’s and 70’s and saw nothing but pollution of our forests, streams, rivers, etc. It was really bad. I didn’t think it could be reversed.

    Anyway, there was a great push to increase awareness of the environment. A popular TV commercial then was of an Indian with a tear on his cheek paddling through a trash-filled stream. You can see it on YouTube.

    But, things got better. For instance, I think it was Lake Erie was considered a dead lake. A few years later it was revived through conservation efforts. We also got recycling started. Unfortunately, these last couple of generations seem to have forgotten (or were never taught) because I see them throwing trash on the streets all the time.

    On the other side of the conservation efforts, there were strict conservationists who thought fire suppression was the best way to preserve our forests only to find out decades later that it was actually a good thing for forests and part of their reproduction cycles. We were learning.

    I remember thinking back then that if they continued making land use laws stricter that we may end up with a country with the most pristine land in the world but with people starving for want of jobs. This can be seen in some cities and states where it takes a decade of environmental studies and millions of dollars to get a permit to construct housing. So, our housing costs skyrocket hurting the poor.

    The nice thing about America is that we are a country of laws. Everything will be played out in the courts. I suspect that a balance will be achieved. It’s too early for a gloomy take on these recent developments.

    1. Ah, but the trend is to make places less wild and remote over all. Even before Trump. See something I just published. 🙂 As I said, a balance will be struck, but at what cost in the mean time?

      1. I’m no legal expert but it my understanding that there would be no cost in the mean time (no shrinking of or development within the current monument boundaries) because no action can be taken by the administration until the lawsuits are settled.

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