Silent Battlegrounds

 

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Nature has always invigorated me. As a child, I had reoccurring dreams of protecting the forest in a past life. I thought I could feel the trees speaking to me. We didn’t do too much outdoor vacationing, but I escaped when I could. As an adult, I find nature as much as possible.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” -John Muir

No matter where I am in life, an adventure into the wild realigns me, or sometimes shines a light onto aspects of myself that had been caked in dust and darkness. Either way, I feel particles of dead skin slipping off me.

File_000 (16)The Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah enraptured me. I had been to the Grand Canyon which is majestic and glorious on it’s own, but this place…this canyon…it had a different kind of magic. The 1.9 Million acres of public lands are still incredibly wild and feels isolated. The area we camped in, near Calf Creek Falls, was on top of the massive canyon walls. Because it is public land, you can camp just about anywhere, all they ask is that you pack it in, pack it out (trash and poop included), have a sticker for your car so they know you’re there, and preferably find a pre-camped in spot (usually indicated by a small stone fire pit). We had a fun time picking out the perfect spot to pitch our tent, then hiked to the edge of the walls just as the sun was setting. The view was astounding; desertous terrain on top, lush green below. The air was pure and clean, and besides the presence of my friend, I felt utterly and marvelously alone.

I felt suddenly so connected to my species. So connected to the soil and the air and the trees. We live in a society that seems to want to deny our connection to the beauty of earth. Almost like the young child desperate to prove he is not like his father by going in the opposite direction no matter the cost. We destroy and level to put our own creations in place. We extract and cripple and mar the landscape as if we could make it more beautiful. As if we could do better. We live on a planet that has so many different climates and temperaments. And we have learned how to survive in almost every one of them. And that’s an amazing accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that we need to use the resources of the land in order to survive, but when is it too much?

There’s a big debate going on with the Grand Staircase. It’s been going on for years, but now the Trump administration is assessing the problem. Bill Clinton was apparently pretty shady about how he designated the land as a protected space. He had the right as president to do so, but he didn’t warn state officials. Instead, he signed the papers and made the announcement without consulting the locals. To add insult to injury, the press picture of the signing shows Clinton at a desk on top of what we are meant to assume is the Grand Staircase. It is, in fact, the Grand Canyon.

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(From a CBS news article)-Bill Clinton and Al Gore at the Grand Canyon signing a bill designating the Grand Staircase as a National Monument

Many locals were none too happy about the decision. 1.9 million acres is a whole lot of grazing and coal mining land which was taken from them. Tourism has increased the economy, sure, but it’s not as reliable and is usually more minimum wage jobs, not a ton you can sustain yourself on. Many people are arguing to cut down the size of the monument.

That’s really not a bad compromise, until you think about the administration that would do the cutting. For what purpose? It seems to be that the recent trend in Washington is to ignore the good of the people and keep the elite happy, so what is in it for them? Resources. The non-renewable kind hiding underneath the surface.

Non-renewable. Let’s think about that for a moment.

IMG_7270Once they are gone, and we’ve destroyed the land, not to mention the physical evidence of our ancestors, what then? Without trees, we can’t survive. Without clean water, we cannot survive. End of story. Preserving the land is not about wanting to save the Earth, not really, it’s an act of self preservation-humans cannot survive without the Earth providing for us.

But the debate is bigger than just the Grand Staircase. The current administration is analyzing 640 million acres of land protected under the antiquities act. And here I was considering 1.9 Million a big number. Basically what would happen if they deem the sites too big, they will give a huge chunk of that land back to the states, many of whom are already making plans to sell the land into private hands for resource extraction.

Interesting how the most beautiful land is the most resource rich underneath.

I think it was there. At sunset with an amazing human on an amazing piece of Earth where the idea really solidified. This was a huge part of my purpose with these pieces, with this blog. To share the experiences in public lands. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced this marvelous landscape and share my experience with you. I have my opinions about conserving the land, but I want you to make your own and share them with us. Go to the places and experience them for yourself and share what you discover. If we wait too long, the areas may be destroyed and there will be nothing but human made scars to discover.

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