24 Apr Defend Bear’s Ears and other Public Lands
Since 2008 Aerial Boundaries has held a permit in the Monticello BLM, now part of the new Bear’s Ears National Monument. An area of red rock canyons and towers, pine forests and, most importantly, thousands of Native American cultural sites, the new monument protects some of the most incredible wilderness areas that I have ever experienced. There are not many places left in the Lower 48 where you can travel for days without seeing another human being.
Since that time we have shared this area with groups from both Wharton Leadership Ventures and the United States Naval Academy during leadership development programs. These programs develop resilience and adaptability, among other key leadership traits, which are a direct result of dealing with uncertainty in a natural, complex environment like the canyons of Southeast Utah. No one in these programs walked away unaffected by the landscape or the experience of finding ancient cliff dwellings in such a harsh environment. Wandering through the canyons we saw owls prowling the canyon walls, heard the descending lilt of the canyon wren, saw the tracks of wandering bears and racoons.
Perhaps one of the most profound outcomes I observed from students was their reflection that being disconnected from the “outside world” proved to be extremely important. Students spoke about a sense of peace and time for reflection since they weren’t checking their devices. They also spoke of a greater sense of connection with their fellow students. For some of the Midshipmen of the USNA, being disconnected was the most important part of our three weeks together.
We need places like these for so many reasons. National monuments in general are good economic development for local people and small businesses like ours. They preserve the landscape, habitat and animals that lack their own voice faced with marginalization. They give a sense of history and importance of our collective humanity. They help to give us a sense both our importance on this planet as stewards, but also our insignificance in a vast world. We have an outsized impact, but ultimately the damage that we do to the planet affects ourselves. We are our own worst enemy.
During his last month in office President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the Bear’s Ears National Monument, among other national monuments he placed into protection. Now the Bear’s Ears is under attack by Utah Governor Herbert and the Utah Legislature. Together they have asked the Trump Administration to sign an executive order eliminating the Bear’s Ears National Monument and reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. What can you do? Call Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and tell him to defend the Bear’s Ears National Monument and to keep public lands in public hands.