Parks & Politics: Trying (so very hard) to keep politics out of the discussion.
I love our National Parks and am a strong supporter of keeping the beauty and sanctity of our most treasured natural spaces. I travel to the Parks, I research the Parks and I blog about the Parks. I have wanted my discussions and observations to be encouraging and support our National Park Service and perhaps encourage others to enjoy and appreciate our Parks. Up to this point I have done that and will continue to do so, however in light of recent developments with the current federal administration I can no longer keep silent. I really don’t want my blog to be about politics, but if you discuss the National Park Service you can’t avoid talking about the federal government because after all, it is managed as a branch of the federal government. In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated their centennial: celebrating 100 years of the establishment and development of a world renowned system. A system that highlights the beauty of our Parks and assures the appreciation of such for generations to come. Yet now, so many of these lands are being threatened by persons that want to exploit the land for monetary gain. Sadly, it would be a gain that would not last and would forever destroy the beauty of the lands that were set aside for preservation.
It started as a shell game by a magician (Donald Trump) who graciously donated $78K of his own salary to the National Park Service. On the surface this may seem as a good will gesture, but it pales in comparison to the amount of money he proposes cutting from the Department of the Interior, which operates the National Park Service and other agencies. Money magazine reported that the President’s proposed budget would cut $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior. Of course it is not just money we are discussing, it’s also the irreparable harm that could befall our parks if some of the mind set of the current administration is allowed to proceed with “raping and pillaging” of our most breathtaking, sacred lands.
Let me give you just one consideration, just the tip of the iceberg, that I do consider “raping and pillaging” of one of our most beautiful National Parks: The Grand Canyon. The Trump administration is currently considering a review of the ban on uranium mining in the watershed of the Grand Canyon. The ban was originally put into place by President Barack Obama because of concerns of not only destroying the beauty of the canyon, but also the danger of polluting the Colorado River. I absolutely cringe at the idea of this and hope and pray that this will not come to fruition.
I was prompted to write this by news that surfaced just Monday from the Trump administration. Two federal national monuments in Utah were drastically reduced in size, making it reportedly the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history. Bear Ears National Monument was reduced by 85% and the Grand Staircase-Escalante was reduced to about half it’s size. The current administration presents these changes as a need to put more of the land use to local and state controls, out of operation of federal control. In theory that may sound like a good plan, but what types of land use could occur on unprotected lands? More mining, more logging, more gas extraction? Once land has been stripped of it’s beauty, it does not recuperate overnight. Is the Administration really taking into account what the local residents want?
President Trump may not even have the legal right to pursue revising the status of certain public lands that were established under the Antiquities Act. Trump’s legal authority to make these changes is already being challenged with the filing of several law suits against these actions. The Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments. Herein lies a problem with the verbiage that gets “tricky”. First of all the distinction between a National Park and a National Monument causes problems with the dos and don’t with land usage. For example, some of the lands that are considered monuments, already have certain mining within the territory, whereas you would not see that happening in a National Park. Second, Park preservation varies from President to President and what one may deem important, the other may choose to rescind. IF there is a legal way around it. I don’t know how much of the Antiquities Act has to be adhered to, I just know that the Trump administration is really pushing the envelope on this. He’s messing with it. I know that legislation can become outdated and frequently needs to be revised…but not this one. I will bet you that Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir are rolling in their graves thinking of what is even being considered in our most beautiful parts of the country.
I don’t profess to be an expert and I don’t know all the ins and outs of pending legislation, but I want to have a voice. I don’t want to be “afraid” to speak up. I want to voice my thoughts on one of my true passions: the beauty and sanctity of one of America’s greatest treasure: Our National Parks. May we all continue to protect and preserve them. Put your traveling shoes on. JES