Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tim Rowland On Bears Ears, Vigilance and Overuse

bears ears national monument mapWe live in an age when a considerable duplication of services could be eliminated by merging the Congressional Record with the National Sex Offender Registry. So squalid behavior in Washington is no longer a surprise, with the hands of the politicians groping their way into all sorts of unwanted places, from middle-class wallets to the web to western public lands.

Now that I have lived through half of one, a century doesn’t seem like that long of a timeframe, so forgive me when I say it’s “only” been a hundred years or so that the last great conservative occupied the White House. Also, forgive me for being tone-deaf to political nuance, but to my mind if you want to call yourself a conservative, you actually have to want to conserve something.

Today’s self-styled conservatives are the opposite. They reward themselves for accomplishments they have yet to accomplish. They live lavishly today at the expense of tomorrow. They stampede through our natural resources as if they have the world’s last great chance to use them all up.

They consume everything the way a Family Restaurant consumes bacon fat. So in a century we’ve gone from a Republican president dedicated to conserving our natural resources to one that would destroy them all if he thought there were another drop or two of oil within their confines to extract.

With this administration, one hesitates to assign this penchant to any preconceived, carefully crafted philosophy. The behavior is more analogous to a little boy who pulls wings off a fly, cruelly relishing both the pain and the horrified reaction of his classmates. What other explanation could there be for incentivising the destruction of elephants — a position he quickly abandoned, probably at the insistence of a more grown-up family member.

Some of these western lands that are being stripped of protection I have seen, some I have not. There are areas that are wondrous and areas that are desolate, where an oil derrick would hardly offend sensibilities, if it were noticed at all. Same with the Arctic, which is about to be opened up under the pending tax plan (when, for that favorite oligarch on your list, one present just isn’t enough).

But, for a real conservative, the question remains, Why? Energy is cheap and plentiful at the moment, so why cash-in unspoiled lands that have survived since time immemorial for something we don’t even need? Instead, we’re like the zombie commercial where the survivors standing around a fridge full of Bud Light worry that “we’re almost out.”

Sitting within the relative protection of the Blue Line, two points become apparent. One, vigilance is always necessary. Just a heartbeat ago, it seemed the threat to our national land treasures had passed. New gas-extraction technologies, which admittedly have their own problems, was at least providing the bridge to a new era of renewables. But just when we thought all the fossil fuel battled had been fought and won, here’s the nation getting all excited about coal again, which makes as much sense a newsroom getting excited about typewriters.

Last December, President Obama extended protections to Bears Ears National Monument, writing that “Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.” That protection, designed to last for generations, instead lasted 340 days.

Needless to say, it doesn’t pay to get comfortable. If there is money to be made, be it from rail cars, development or natural resources, there will always be a threat. Just because it’s dormant, doesn’t mean it can’t return. Groups that safeguard the park deserve our appreciation and support.

The second point involves this thing called overuse. Mark Twain said, “The problem isn’t that there are too many idiots, it’s that lightning isn’t distributed right.” The problem is not overuse, the problem might be over-centralized use. That’s why it’s important to encourage use throughout the park and not to discourage use overall.

Because you never know where our next president is going to come from. It is easy, I suppose, to sit in a Washington office or a New York City board room and agree to make mincemeat out of lands upon which you have never once laid eyes.

But after having seen and experienced natural wonders, it’s different. Look down your nose if you want, but do not underestimate the power of the selfie. These connections between young people and the land, haphazard as they might initially be, have staying power. Nature, once it has grasped your soul, does not let go.

In an increasingly electronic world, our treasured lands need all the friends, all the constituents, they can get. It is worth considering that if Bears Ears had had the problem of overuse, it might not be facing a much bigger problem today.

Map of Bears Ears National Monument, with an overlay added to indicate the boundaries reduced in December 2017  (courtesy Bureau of Land Management).

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Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.


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34 Responses

  1. ADKresident says:

    Just Google a map of federal lands and you will see how much is NOT privately owned. The Western states and Western residents opposed the Obama land grab. Living in the East I can only “trust” the news to find out what is going on. I say “trust” the news because well, the major news outlets are just propaganda machines, to say it mildly they make up the “news” to fit an agenda. When caught they quietly mention on page 43 they made a “mistake”.

    Everyone complains about “Big Oil” but it doesn’t stop anyone from driving all over including into the Adirondacks or to the next protest.

    There are about 10,000 46-Rs. For the sake of simplicity lets say they took 50 trips each to accomplish this. Yes there was ride sharing and multiple peaks but there are many people that do them all the time. So lets say 50,000 trips with an average of 300 miles per trip at 30 mpg is 500,000 gallons of gas.

    It’s actually closer to 2,000,000 but that is for a different day.

    The author of this article lives in Hagerstown MD, about 1000 miles round trip into the Adirondacks. Hmmmm, I doubt if he rode his bicycle back and forth 100 times.

    A few other facts to chew on:

    In 1972 there were 200,000,000 people in the USA

    In 2017 there are 330,000,000

    80,000,000 are being added to the world every year.
    That is more then the population of ME, VT, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, PA combined.

    NK Rocket Man can fix all that, a nuclear winter will take care of half of the worlds population.

    • Boreas says:

      ADKResident,

      Bear’s Ears isn’t being lusted over for oil. Uranium is the big prize there. Can’t have too much nuclear material! That way we can take care of the remaining half of the world’s population when Trump pushes HIS button.

    • Beth Rowland says:

      Ah, ADKresident, you are incorrect: the author of the article lives in Jay, NY. He writes for the Hagerstown paper as the bio notes. Further, he has been coming to the Park since he was a toddler as his family owned a camp on Fourth Lake. Even before moving here, he (we) traveled 3-4 times a year; closer to 600 miles than 1000, for those sticklers for accuracy (smiling).

      • ADKresident says:

        I went on what his bio said before I made my comment and he changed it.
        I did a google map from Hagerstown MD to Jay NY and it comes up at 503 miles one way, Old Forge comes up at 418 each way.

    • RPC says:

      hello ADK resident. Is it true, as you imply, that the land designated in Bear’s Ears NM was “grabbed” from private landowners? And is that the reason western residents opposed the “Obama land grab” ?? Just trying to get the facts straight here.

  2. James Bullard says:

    An amusing take on the shirking of these national monuments. The observation that “There are areas that are wondrous and areas that are desolate, where an oil derrick would hardly offend sensibilities, if it were noticed at all.” misses much of the point of the original designation. Although it may be true that relatively few people go there and see these areas, they are sacred to the Native American tribes who spent years lobbying for their protection. How would you feel if someone were to desecrate your parent’s graves for example?

    Nor does everyone who spends time in nature experience it at a soul level. Even FDR had to be converted from his trophy hunting ways by long talks with John Muir before nature ‘grasped his soul’ in a way to conserve it as it is.

    By all means, we should preserve these lands, not after they have been subjected to overuse, but now. This was nothing less than an abuse by the president that must be resisted.

  3. Paul says:

    The second largest number of acres designated as national monument land by any US president was George Bush – 218.8 million acres. Obama was number one with 553.5. Jimmy Carter 56 million at number three, with all the others barley moving the needle. I have heard stories that this is the first “modern” president to decrease a NM. That isn’t true unless we don’t consider Woodrow Wilson of President Kennedy to not be part of the modern era. Wilson cut the Olympic Penisnusla NM in Washington state in half.

    Don’t think doing this is a good idea but the facts about these things are not being reported correctly.

    • James Bullard says:

      The problem is that, while this has been done before the Antiquities Act does not say whether a president can undo what prior presidents have designated. It only authorizes designation. There is the argument that only Congress can undo such designation. The Supreme Court has never weighed in on it. Apparently, the prior de-designations were not challenged.

      • John Warren John Warren says:

        There is no such word as “de-designate.” The very nature of the word designate does not allow for something to be “de-designated” only designated as something else.

        Before the current intellectually challenged leadership took over, that was pretty straightforward, which is why it wasn’t put in the original legislation. Who could have foreseen that conservatives were going to go off the intellectual deep end and just ignore using language correctly?

        • Paul says:

          Maybe “delist” is the working word here.

          President Wilson – the progressive democrat that removed large portions of the olympic peninsula in Washington State from the listing of NMs probably used that word when he did it. It was later made a national park something that could be done here and that could not be easily undone.

    • Boreas says:

      Doesn’t really make sense to compare acreage over the last century. One could only guess how many more acres TR would have protected if he had all 50 states to work with – especially Alaska, which only became a territory after his presidency.

      • Paul says:

        Why not? It looks like all the places that president Obama designated as NMs were part of the US when TR was president. Except 160 acres in Hawaii.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_Monuments_designated_by_Barack_Obama

        • Boreas says:

          History, my friend. Comparing numbers out-of-context is silly. Were politicians and their benefactors drooling over Roosevelt’s lands the way they are today? Were mining companies lopping the tops off mountains to get coal? Or pumping the ground full of toxic chemicals to break up the shale? And oil drilling? Back then, in the west, it was mostly railroad, and gold/silver mining greed to worry about, and they didn’t need or want huge tracts of what was considered “wasteland”. Cattle were still mostly free-ranging.

          TR cherry-picked the best areas he could set aside and still get away with it – and that was a lot of effort politically. Much of the other federal and territorial lands were not “endangered”. Today all land is under much more attack from all types of resource acquisition and development. So EACH administration and government needs to look at which lands are the most important to protect given the national ethic and dangers of their day. That can change from decade to decade. We need another TR today – and not just for National Monuments!

          • Paul says:

            Yet wilderness lands (federal and sate here in NYS) today are growing – and larger in number then ever. Your agenda just doesn’t fit the facts. Like I said here this shouldn’t happen but when you do things like in a “monarchy” as we see with president Obama and Trump this is what we get. This isn’t the citizenry making a decision these are one guy. Obama, Bush, whatever. Not us.

            • James Bullard says:

              It may not be all the people making the decisions but those to whom these lands are important were the driving force behind the designations as National Monuments. Obama, for example, did not simply decide one morning over his coffee to make Bears Ears a National Monument. Native Americans and others interested in preserving these lands as culturally important petitioned for the NM status and several years of study preceded the designation.

              Trump’s one-month “review” OTOH has a strong appearance of repaying political backers from corporate America with minimal to no input from the general public and the Native tribes who fought for the NM status have said that those doing the “review” did not talk to them at all.

            • Boreas says:

              Paul,

              My agenda does fit the facts. You are now getting my point. WHY are designated, protected wilderness lands generally increasing?? Because ALL federal, state, and private landholdings and water rights are more valuable than they were a century ago. It wasn’t that long ago the “feds” were giving land away if you promised to homestead it, or mine it, or just plain settle on it – just as long as we pushed out those pesky Native Americans that were in our way. It shows how little we valued the land and its original residents back then. Manifest Destiny and all that.

              But now, ALL lands are valuable for many reasons, not just natural resources to be exploited. Water quality, habitat for wildlife, and something that is often forgotten – putting something away for the FUTURE of the nation and planet. Sure there are oil/gas/coal/mineral stores under a lot of protected federal, state, and private land, but do we have to drill & mine all of it within our lifetime? That is simply short-term greed. IMO, unless there is a vital need for the resources now, keep them in reserve for when they are truly needed – as in a national disaster or emergency a century or two from now. If we conserve now, we are likely to be the only nation with these resources – especially clean water – 200 years from now. It is called saving for a rainy day. Obviously, it never has been sexy politically. Go figure.

      • ADKresident says:

        Google a map of the federally owned areas of Alaska. Explain why the Feds need more.

        • Boreas says:

          Do you know who “the Feds” are? You and I! Ever get turned away from federal lands? I haven’t – unless it was a military base.

        • James Bullard says:

          “Why do the feds need more?”
          1) The “feds” don’t own the land. The American public owns it. The “feds” are our employees and are supposed to be working in our interest, not just the interest of mining, drilling and timber corporations.
          2) The land belonged to the people before designation as an NM. It belonged to us still as an NM but was protected from exploitation for private profit. It still belongs to us after delisting but it is now open to leases for exploitation of the resources.

          Despite the talk about “federal land grabs” this was never about ownership which hasn’t changed at all. That was pure unadulterated spin, and hogwash in order to stir the passions of those who distrust our government. It was and remains an issue of preservation vs exploitation. IMO We should distrust those politicians who are eager to trade our heritage for campaign contributions from corporations more and trust those who preserve our lands simply because it is the right thing to do for future generations.

          • ADKresident says:

            If the federal government owns the land it means you cannot buy it.
            Someone commented about the “feds” and they are really us.
            Same with corporations, I bet most of the people reading this article have a 401K or similar investment. I doubt if they want their money to diminish in value.
            People talk about corporations like their are some alien life force.

            • Boreas says:

              ADKResident,

              But there isn’t an equivalence between citizens and corporations (Citizens United??). Most of us do not have politicians begging for our money – just our vote. Politicians no longer have to reach out to private citizens for our pocket money – they simply find corporations or deep pockets to support their campaigns. Corporations still cannot vote, but THEY provide us with the candidates we vote on. That is why we are often left with poor choices at the ballot box – they aren’t OUR candidates, they are the candidates supported my wealth and corporate entities.

            • James Bullard says:

              Corporations are not humans. They are a legal construct to shield investors from individual liability for the debts (or misdeeds) of the corporation. They are separate “persons” in that sense only. The sole concern and objective of a “corporate person” is to maximize profits. So yes, relative to real persons, who have concerns about the environment, world peace, etc. a corporation is an “alien being” since a corporation can and often does, profit handsomely from the destruction of the environment, needless war, and even poverty. The people working within a corporation make such things a concern but it is not ‘baked in’ the essence of a corporation. FWIW Thomas Jefferson saw corporations as being the potential undoing of our country. I think he was prophetic.

  4. James Marco says:

    In a time of political hands all over everything, it is time to stop them from grabbing the citizens of this country by the p**y. Cutting the size of Bears Ears and other parks in the area is a crime. A crime against the every citizen in the USA. Removing this legacy has endangered the the resources we need as a world, let alone a country. We will need them, eventually, not now. We should stand firm against this type of political “grab the gold and go” attitude.

  5. ADKresident says:

    Just Google a map of federal lands and you will see how much is NOT privately owned. The Western states and Western residents opposed the Obama land grab. Living in the East I can only “trust” the news to find out what is going on. I say “trust” the news because well, the major news outlets are just propaganda machines, to say it mildly they make up the “news” to fit an agenda. When caught they quietly mention on page 43 they made a “mistake”.

    Everyone complains about “Big Oil” but it doesn’t stop anyone from driving all over including into the Adirondacks or to the next protest.

    There are about 10,000 46-Rs. For the sake of simplicity lets say they took 50 trips each to accomplish this. Yes there was ride sharing and multiple peaks but there are many people that do them all the time. So lets say 50,000 trips with an average of 300 miles per trip at 30 mpg is 500,000 gallons of gas.

    It’s actually closer to 2,000,000 but that is for a different day.

    The author of this article lives in Hagerstown MD, about 1000 miles round trip into the Adirondacks. Hmmmm, I doubt if he rode his bicycle back and forth 100 times.

    A few other facts to chew on:

    In 1972 there were 200,000,000 people in the USA

    In 2017 there are 330,000,000

    80,000,000 are being added to the world every year.
    That is more then the population of ME, VT, NH, MA, RI, CT, NY, PA combined.

    NK Rocket Man can fix all that, a nuclear winter will take care of half of the worlds population.

  6. RPC says:

    Tim, I enjoy your commentary immensely. keep it up.

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