The trouble with monuments

 

Last week, Western conservative congressmen found a great excuse to get all worked up, apoplectic, and downright angry in the gleeful way that Western conservatives seem to have a premium on. President Obama, they said, was ready to make a massive land grab that would turn huge swaths of Western states into federal fiefdoms, off-limits to gas drilling, off-road-vehicles, grazing, coal mining and all kinds of other God-given rights. 

monuments
kkloor
kkloor
Feb 27, 2010 07:11 AM
Jonathan,

What a terrific post. It triggered my own thoughts on this politically wrought issue, though like you, I prefer to focus on the deep personal meaning some landscapes have for us.

http://www.collide-a-scape.com/[…]/
Potential national monuments
Tom Yulsman
Tom Yulsman
Feb 27, 2010 11:04 AM
Terrific piece Jonathan! It evoked such fond memories of my own journeys in southern Utah. But I think you may be wrong to assume that national monument status is responsible for bringing most of those folks to your beloved corner of canyon country. Most of them would probably be there anyway — because there are a whole lot more people around today, and a whole lot more of them who want to go to places like that.

Will the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa be overrun if they are designated a monument? Parts already are. But only parts. And even in places that already see a hundred or more hikers a day, it's possible to leave them behind and simply vanish. Places like Negro Bill Canyon right outside of Moab. I could tell you how to find a hidden, not-often-visited sparkling grotto there, adorned with hanging gardens and fed by an ice-cold pour-off. I could tell you exactly which side canyon to head up to reach this peaceful spot, so you could take a cool nap on a hot afternoon on the sandy bank next to the pool. You'd be lulled to sleep by the trickling water and shimmering light on the grotto walls. But actually, I think I won't.

Aw heck, here's a silly Flip camera video instead! The grotto is about half way through: http://www.youtube.com/user/tomyulsman#p/a/u/1/t-uF-SQ-pa4
Slight typo
Julia
Julia
Feb 28, 2010 12:12 PM
Excellent article, but I'd like to submit a small correction, if I may. "National Bridges National Monument" is actually Natural Bridges National Monument. Thanks.
The trouble with monuments
Cola Vaughan
Cola Vaughan
Feb 28, 2010 04:27 PM
Premiss: Theory: Conclusion

You say: "Gone, thanks to the national monument designation, is the solitude."

Don't you think that may be a bit simplistic? I guess when I wasn't looking the entire US became a National Monument. Really. I guess you don't miss Mr. Peabody's coal train hauling off 50 mile mountain.

The more I think about the intellectual arrogance or more likely self interested cynicism providing the fuel for this opinion the more disappointed I become. Sail on.
Monuments
Susanne Twight-Alexander
Susanne Twight-Alexander
Mar 01, 2010 11:47 AM
For many years public lands have been local folks backyard. I grew up in rural areas and I think all of us have special places of solitude in our hearts from years ago that are now known and used by others. I'll admit to thinking "oh no, it will never be the same." And it won't. But things change. Populations grow and people continue to discover meaningful experiences in the outdoors. I'm happy to see families introducing their children to the streams, meadows and forests, particularly when it's non-motorized access. I seek solitude a little further from the beaten path now an keep the memories of those early years. As long as I can hike I will. And when I can't, I won't be lobbying for roads but will just enjoy the memories.
Comment on Jonathan Thompson blog 2/26/10
Mark Varien
Mark Varien
Mar 01, 2010 05:09 PM
Jonathan,

Thanks for this insightful piece, and of the touching memory of your dad and Jim.
USA Govt owns over 40% of all land now in the usa
Mark Wright
Mark Wright
Mar 01, 2010 05:21 PM
Right at 1,400,000 square miles of govt owned land in the usa.

Maybe the key, Jonathan is NOT for the Govt to keep aquiring more land ( That is NOT truely their job, lest we forget ), but moreso to help folks like You to identify and UTILIZE some areas that folks just are not aware of.

I find it interesting that on the supposed Interior Departments "internal" purchase list are areas which the govt already owns approx 90% to 95% of the land in said area:

Otero Mesa, the Owyhee, Great Basin, the Sonaran etc.

What the usa govt NEEDS to do is get Rid of some land ( put 1,000,000 square miles into the private sectors ) and better manage the land kept.

A land lottery comes to mind for MOST of the fed lands in the Western States.
Heck structure that correctly, and it will pay down a bunch of fed debt.

Also, that land once in Private hands tends to create alot of additional economic action in the West.
Mo bettr plz
morganism
morganism
Mar 06, 2010 05:34 PM
Actually, the land that even gets alloted in grazing rights ends up costing the Fed more in erosion control and flood damage repair than anything else. Down here is AZ, all the folks that have grazing allotments are COSTING the taxpayers money, not bringing in addl revenue. And they won't let those allotments go to the highest bidder.

You have been listening to the big ranchers talk their talk, while the citizens have to walk the walk. Thru the cowpies, eroded streams, fouled water, and stripping of every piece of shade in a county.

Check the FS allotments, they used to print a cost/benefit analysis for each counties grazing districts. ALL of ours were in the negative. ALL by 100 to 300k. Cheaper to just give the ranchers a welfare check, than to have them destroy the public commons, the water table, and the local native grasses. And have to cover 500k on every major drainage in a watershed.

But that takes away their "dignity" some folks say. Wouldn't be an issue if they didn't stand there and scream about "small businesses" and "tree huggers", liberals, etc,etc.
They have been sucking up reduced taxes, free water supply upgrades, roadwork and repair, and other benefits the entire time. Then they sell out their private inholdings for development projects for millions, or sell inholdings to consolidate a wilderness boundry, but keep the water rights, grazing rights, and road access, and we have to pay for all the upkeep anyway. Oh-and they still get to lock the gates on the roads we pay upkeep on.

You forget that all the land originally owned by the Forest Service was the wasteland that the foresters and ranchers DIDN'T want.
These were the marginal areas, and the areas checkerboarded by the railway right of ways, that are now the last of the forested watersheds left in the west. (not counting the tree farms in the NW)

Never seen a piece of land improved by private ownership in Utah, just preserved from the degradation of grazing that all the rest of the land is punished with. Any local privitization appears to take more public money for water project development, then reverts to grazing anyway, and letting the water development go to alfalfa farming(!!!), and any neighboring land getting overgrazed to moonscape. Over and over again.
 
Or like the gateways to the NP's, another fleecejoint businesses that charges you for the ketchup packets for your food. (thinking of YOU Ruby's).

We call Utah the "Sullen State" for a reason, we have never met any locals (outside the WFront),that wanted anything more than our money, and without giving any value in return. I remember a couple motel folks grumbling how all the travelers would rather be camping.
I had to point out that charging the hikers 75 bucks a night for a dirty room, with used soaps, bad curtains, mismatched linens, and missing lightbulbs wasn't much of a motivation.
They never charged the hunters that much, even tho that was peak season in SE Utah.


I quit going to the outdoor convention in SLC, because they raised the rates triple for us, promised that they would quit driving into roadless study areas, and actully put some of the money we were injecting (and raising for them) INTO studies.

NONE of THAT ever happened either. We are going to end up pulling OR soon, because of the hypocrisy spouted there.
Would rather give the money to Boulder, at least the hunters and ranchers there care about the backcountry.
Mo bettr plz
morganism
morganism
Mar 06, 2010 05:35 PM
Actually, the land that even gets alloted in grazing rights ends up costing the Fed more in erosion control and flood damage repair than anything else. Down here is AZ, all the folks that have grazing allotments are COSTING the taxpayers money, not bringing in addl revenue. And they won't let those allotments go to the highest bidder.

You have been listening to the big ranchers talk their talk, while the citizens have to walk the walk. Thru the cowpies, eroded streams, fouled water, and stripping of every piece of shade in a county.

Check the FS allotments, they used to print a cost/benefit analysis for each counties grazing districts. ALL of ours were in the negative. ALL by 100 to 300k. Cheaper to just give the ranchers a welfare check, than to have them destroy the public commons, the water table, and the local native grasses. And have to cover 500k on every major drainage in a watershed.

But that takes away their "dignity" some folks say. Wouldn't be an issue if they didn't stand there and scream about "small businesses" and "tree huggers", liberals, etc,etc.
They have been sucking up reduced taxes, free water supply upgrades, roadwork and repair, and other benefits the entire time. Then they sell out their private inholdings for development projects for millions, or sell inholdings to consolidate a wilderness boundry, but keep the water rights, grazing rights, and road access, and we have to pay for all the upkeep anyway. Oh-and they still get to lock the gates on the roads we pay upkeep on.

You forget that all the land originally owned by the Forest Service was the wasteland that the foresters and ranchers DIDN'T want.
These were the marginal areas, and the areas checkerboarded by the railway right of ways, that are now the last of the forested watersheds left in the west. (not counting the tree farms in the NW)

Never seen a piece of land improved by private ownership in Utah, just preserved from the degradation of grazing that all the rest of the land is punished with. Any local privitization appears to take more public money for water project development, then reverts to grazing anyway, and letting the water development go to alfalfa farming(!!!), and any neighboring land getting overgrazed to moonscape. Over and over again.
 
Or like the gateways to the NP's, another fleecejoint businesses that charges you for the ketchup packets for your food. (thinking of YOU Ruby's).

We call Utah the "Sullen State" for a reason, we have never met any locals (outside the WFront),that wanted anything more than our money, and without giving any value in return. I remember a couple motel folks grumbling how all the travelers would rather be camping.
I had to point out that charging the hikers 75 bucks a night for a dirty room, with used soaps, bad curtains, mismatched linens, and missing lightbulbs wasn't much of a motivation.
They never charged the hunters that much, even tho that was peak season in SE Utah.


I quit going to the outdoor convention in SLC, because they raised the rates triple for us, promised that they would quit driving into roadless study areas, and actully put some of the money we were injecting (and raising for them) INTO studies.

NONE of THAT ever happened either. We are going to end up pulling OR soon, because of the hypocrisy spouted there.
Would rather give the money to Boulder, at least the hunters and ranchers there care about the backcountry.
Robert Weinick
Robert Weinick
Nov 12, 2012 06:48 AM
My house sits viewing the major trailhead on the Escalante River. I have been here for 33 years. I have seen the conflict here first hand. I have experienced the changes since the monument. You do not know what you are talking about.

Robert Weinick