Stephen Capra Executive Director Bold Visions Conservation
The President has signed an Executive Order to review all National Monuments created in America since January 1, 1996. That reality makes clear the President is targeting dozens of National Monuments for removal from the system. This proposal could eliminate millions of acres of protected lands and waters throughout America. Places like the Organ Mountain- Desert Peaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, Bear Ears or Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
They span the geographic map and are life preservers for wildlife and nature to cling too. They remain harbingers of hope. Since Teddy Roosevelts Presidency, they have been created and used as tools to ward off the insufferable greed and exploitation that comes at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, from those who continue to exploit our oceans or those that would mine away our federal lands, or engage in the theft of precious Antiquities. National Monuments have in many ways served as a bank, storing biodiversity and holding on to our cultural identities. But perhaps most important, they have become the last vestiges of boldness in conservation. The place where the protection of large areas, be it land or water, can be achieved despite the dysfunction of Congress or the lobbying power of corporate America.
They remain the Yellowstone of our curiosity and the iconic bridge of sanity to wildness. These Monuments are the life blood for wolves and bears; they are a place of shelter for tuna and walrus and remain a place of quiet and night skies, a reverence for all of mankind.
Places like the Grand Canyon, began their relationship to America as a National Monument and survived war, dams, uranium and ignorance to become one of the great National Parks in America. A place any sane person would fight to protect. Part of what makes Monuments so special, is often much of the country has never heard of them or noticed that blank spot on the map before. Like a magnet they seek our footsteps, they make us dream of sunsets, big mountains, desert oases or open ocean.
Yet, there is another world that lives within the confines of our borders. It is filled with takers, users and abusers. People, corporations, a President and a Congress that fear wildness and remain rooted in the idea that all that is wild should be the prisoner of their folly. Their childhood grievances and adult greed can manifest itself in the killing of beauty, in the destruction of species and the stealing from generations to come, the ability to explore, to see and share the heartbeat of wildness. In that killing, they feel empowered, drunk, in the bleeding of the earth and the species that bring it life.
These are the Monument Hunters, they are Republican lawmakers who support those that kill wolves, made sure grizzly and wolf cubs are killed in their dens. Those that want to sell off public lands and drill for oil in the heart of the Arctic Refuge. They remain a committed and suddenly powerful group, which now has our National Monuments in their sight. They represent a myriad of interests, but they share one common bond. They want an America which time has moved past. They have made clear, if they cannot return to such an America, then the one that has evolved; a place of protected lands and growing respect for all species is one they are determined to remove from our collective memory.
In doing so, they ignore the reality that these lands belong to all Americans. That since the early days of the preservation of the Grand Canyon, we have spoken in a loud voice and backed that voice with dollars spent; the idea, the true vision, that we can share and seek out more lands and waters we deem worthy of protection.
So Donald Trump, will move forward with a review of these Monuments, so that he can once again send us on a frenzy of distraction, and continue his goal of wearing down our will to fight, to fulfill his psychological hemorrhaging of the American consciousness.
From Climate Change to coal waste in rivers, the opening of more federal lands and now the potential loss of millions of acres of lands and waters we define as Monuments, we are without question hitting “rock bottom.” In the ashes of our misery, comes the muscle to fight back.
These lands, these Monuments, are precious and they are for many, enchanted. They remain a quixotic vision of what is best in America. They have heart and life, history and spirit. They require for their long-term survival, a nation that has a moral compass. Sadly, that compass is being lost. There is no morality in the push to desecrate these lands and waters, only empty rhetoric and greed.
We can do better, so much better and we will. But first we must fight. Fight like never before. For we are not just fighting for acres, we are fighting for all that is wild. And fight we will.