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for people who care about the West

Glacier fires; nonsensical monument boundaries; alpine sublime

HCN.org news in brief.


The eight Climate Science Centers set up by the Obama administration are surviving the Trump administration budget cuts aimed at other Obama-era climate change initiatives. The key to their resilience seems to be that they don’t focus on the kinds of climate science that the Trump administration dislikes — research into the human role in climate change and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, the centers study how public-land managers and tribal nations adapt and react to climate change. That translates to understanding how to manage for problems such as longer wildfire seasons, more frequent droughts and rising sea levels. “Climate change is not something in the distant future,” says Scott Rupp, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor who helps direct the Alaska Climate Science Center. “It’s something occurring right now.”  -Elizabeth Shogren 

“There’s plenty of uncomfortable truths about the realities of mining in (Belle Turnbull’s) work. … She’s deeply aware of all the financial chicanery ... the violence that mining does in people’s lives and to the landscape. … She brings it all, and she fuses it very, very, very powerfully.”

—David Rothman, head of Western State Colorado University’s creative writing program, and co-editor of Belle Turnbull: On the Life and Work of an American Master, speaking with Brian Calvert, HCN editor-in-chief, and John Hausdoerffer, head of the university’s environmental studies program, on our West Obsessed podcast.

The Bears Ears as seen from a ruin on Cedar Mesa. While the monument’s namesake buttes fall within the reduced monument boundaries, Cedar Mesa, with its many archaeological sites, does not.
Josh Ewing/Courtesy of five tribes defending Bears Ears

The first thing noticeable about the map showing President Donald Trump’s new boundaries for Bears Ears National Monument is the vast amount of land taken out. But take a closer look, and the strangeness of the boundaries stands out. Even the most anti-monument Utahns will find them peculiar. Cedar Mesa — the true heart of the monument — is left out completely. Meanwhile, places that locals have fought to retain motorized access to for years were included in the new monument. And while some have said that the lands left out of the monument have no “developable minerals,” the history of extraction in the West is one of commodity prices and innovation, turning yesterday’s dry wells into today’s bonanzas.

It’s clear that Trump’s motive with this, as in so much of his policy, is to erase as much as possible of former President Barack Obama’s legacy. But when it comes to legacies, someone might want to remind Trump that a president is remembered not for what he destroys, but for what he creates. -Jonathan Thompson

Source: Department of Interior

In early December, President Donald Trump announced major reductions to two of Utah’s national monuments. In front of an audience of monument opponents at the Utah State Capitol, Trump signed executive orders scaling back Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 50 percent and Bears Ears by 85 percent. Thousands protested the reductions. No president has modified the boundaries of a monument in the last 50 years, and local tribes as well as conservation and science organizations have already filed several lawsuits fighting the changes. -Rebecca Worby

You say

Wayne Johnston: “Contrary to locals’ assertions, the monuments are not Utah’s property; they belong to ALL Americans.”

Jim Egnew: “Bears Ears in particular exemplified proper use of the Antiquities Act. I worked there (Forest Service) for several years. There are cultural resources — potsherds, water management structures, pueblos, granaries, kivas, rock art — literally everywhere. It’s a remarkable landscape.”

Laura Ferguson: “That’s disgusting. Colorado Plateau (tribal) nations have been working for decades to protect this area and it contains some of the most intact, significant, spectacular archaeological and cultural history in the US. This is an attack on Indigenous people and the environment.”


“Tonight I stood out in Glacier National Park’s first big storm of the summer, enjoying the wildness of it. In addition to rain, the storm dropped 150 lightning strikes across the park. One of them ignited the Sprague Fire.”

-See a journal and time-lapse photos and videos of the fire from park ranger Daniel Lombardi.

Daniel Lombardi