The announcement this week that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments are potentially going to be reduced by two million acres by the current administration was immediately followed by several lawsuits.
So far a coalition of five native tribes filed suit to stop the more than 77% reduction of lands in the Bears Ears National Monument that were protected by President Obama on December 28, 2016. Two other lawsuits have been filed to block the reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres by 13 environmental organizations. I am certain more lawsuits will follow this egregious action taken by the Interior Secretary and President this week.
So, you might be wondering why I used the photo above of morning light on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area instead of a photo taken at Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments and why the image fades away on the right side.
I used it because Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments are not the only public lands that are at risk of reduction. Other National Parks, National Recreation Areas, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, National Seashores and National Lakeshores, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Trails that are managed and supposed to be protected by the U.S Department of Interior and Interior Secretary Zinke are also at risk.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was established on October 1, 1968 and encompasses 207,000 acres of public lands including the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and is within the states of Utah and Wyoming. Recreation includes hiking, camping, fishing, wildlife watching, rafting, nature photography and spectacular views plus the area has has world class fishing in the Green River and the reservoir. The nearby Ashley National Forest offers hunting, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, snowmobiling, ATV trails, great bird watching areas, wildlife viewing areas and more.
“If” protections can be reduced at national monuments, and I am not saying they legally can be, isn’t it just a skip and a step away from reducing them at national recreation areas? National forests? National conservation and wilderness areas?
It is not just the land that is protected with these designations, it is the right of public access to legally recreate on those lands, the wildlife, the birds, the waters, the fish, the plants, the forests, the deserts and so, so much more.
Like to fish? Hunt? Watch wildlife? Recreate on public lands? Then think real hard at what the reduction of existing national monuments mean and the precedent that might be set.
I spend a lot of time on public lands photographing birds, wildlife, plants, and scenery. I learn more about my subjects there, I grow as a person there, I connect with nature there, and I find refuge there. I know I am not alone, there are millions of us who appreciate, visit and love our public lands. These lands contain not only our history, both human and natural, but our future.
If national monuments are under fire our national parks, our national wildlife refuges and every other acre of our public lands are in the line of fire too.
Just think about it.
Please feel free to add links to organizations that are in support of keeping public lands in public hands in the comments.