I just started reading Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” again. It’s been 30 years since the first time I read it, which roughly coincided with the first time I saw Arches National Park. I can’t remember if the book inspired my visit or vice versa. Either way, 30 years later, I’m lucky to call Castle Valley home.
When Edward Abbey worked at Arches in the early 1960s, it was still categorized as a national monument.
Back in the 1920s, there was an argument over whether Arches should be protected as a national monument or left to the whims of capitalism. Luckily, President Hoover signed a proclamation creating Arches National Monument.
Fortunately, our current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell believes in preserving our public lands for future generations. When President Obama nominated Secretary Jewell, he said, “She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.”
On April 19, Secretary Jewell gave a speech called “The Next 100 Years of American Conservation.” Look it up and watch this video – it’s inspiring to know that we have “public servants” with the conviction of Sally Jewell. I didn’t know much about her before, but now she’s my new heroine.
She made lots of great points in her speech, but what struck me was her urgent call for making national parks and monuments important to all Americans. She feels that we need to do more to include Native Americans in the public lands conservation process.
Of course, I’m talking about the plea to preserve Bears Ears as a national monument. An unprecedented coalition of five Native American tribes are calling on President Obama to defend this sacred area against the callous lack of respect for nature and ancient culture that some public officials are promoting.
Imagine if Arches National Park never received the protection it deserved. Think how Arches would look today if no one had the courage to stand up for its preservation almost a century ago. And think of the incalculable loss of economic benefits to Moab and the surrounding area.
There is an enormous amount of resistance from a small number of powerful interests against creating a new monument, saying that Utahns don’t support the preservation of this area. Those of us who are thinking about long-term benefits to future generations need to let President Obama, Secretary Sally Jewell and Native Americans know we stand with them to support the creation of a new Bears Ears National Monument.