I am excited to see that President Obama recently designated the San Gabriel Mountains, just outside Los Angeles, as a national monument. The president recognized it was a place, beloved by locals, that deserved to be protected for posterity — a place where generations of L.A. kids could still get fresh air not too far from the bustle of city life.
I just returned from traveling to Washington, D.C., with several other Utahns to talk to the administration about protecting another backyard — mine. President Obama should fulfill the promise of one of our nation’s most beloved places and designate Greater Canyonlands a national monument.
I’ve worked with kids at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center on programs to get them outside, and it’s inspiring to see how they’re positively affected when they learn about the incredible beauty that surrounds us. But it isn’t surprising. I believe as I was growing up here in Moab, spending time outdoors is actually what kept me out of trouble. Now I’ve got to return the favor, and keep the landscapes I love from heading down the wrong path.
Unfortunately, Greater Canyonlands is running into trouble. Recently I was volunteering near Dead Horse Point on Big Flat, and could not believe the sudden appearance of pipelines, drill pads and huge trucks rumbling down the roads. They hadn’t been there just months before. It’s happening constantly, and this place will not look the same in 20 years unless we act.
We have a fine line here in Moab — our surroundings include not just the land, water and animals, but also people, and our economy, all working together to form a unique, interconnected ecosystem. If the land suffers, the economy suffers. If the economy suffers, we all suffer. In order to thrive, we have to protect our surroundings, our tourism industry and our rivers. Designating Greater Canyonlands National Monument would help.
My trip to D.C. taught me that this effort is interconnected, too, and will take a lot of us to get it done. Everyone in Moab who cares about our backyard should take a look at how it’s eroding, and act to stop it. Write to President Obama to ask him to protect Greater Canyonlands, tell your friends to do the same, ask your elected officials to support it, make your voice heard. As the San Gabriels designation shows, it makes a difference.