Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Farewell Gift from Obama

The Current Occupant, Barack Obama, has given America a farewell gift in the form of two more national monuments that protect vital habitat and provide opportunities for humans to escape their artificial constraints and ubiquitous gadgets.  Bears Ears National Monument, Utah and Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada bring his total designations to 26, more than any other President, and enraging fascist reactionaries of all types who see the designations as nothing more than "arrogant land grabs".  550 million acres of public land are now protected from new development.  Both monuments were long sought by various interests groups including businesses, but because of Washington's political quagmire remained undesignated. 

Bears Ears in Utah contains abundant rock art and is considered sacred land by Native Americans.  Tribes in the Great Basin region have petitioned the federal government to protect this land which they use for religious ceremonies, gathering handicraft materials, and collecting medicinal herbs and plants.  The spectacular landscape [photo courtesy Inter-Tribal Coalition] is a perpetual reminder of America's precious natural beauty and fragile wild habitat that is slowly disappearing under the bulldozer and concrete.  Its 1.35 million acres adjoins Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon Recreational Area, thus providing a refuge for  both large mammals and humans to roam.

Gold Butte, Nevada also contains remains of past native cultures.  [photo courtesy Friends of Nevada Wilderness] Impressive red sandstone canyons, cliffs and timbered mountains are home to the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise, about an hour drive from Las Vegas.  Monument designation does not lock the land away from all economic use, contrary to the right-wing's usual propaganda.  Existing uses that do not harm protected resources are allowed, nor are existing gas, oil and mining rights affected.

desert tortoise, credit C. Hensley
Navajo tribal president, Russel Begaye, praised the President for his designations, say he has a "consistent record" of working with tribal governments.  An inter-tribal coalition of Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Zuni natives led the effort to achieve the designations over opposition from conservative legislators who backed a parallel legislative effort.  However, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called that bill, the "worst piece of wilderness legislation that has been introduced since the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964."  The Alliance said it worked with Utah legislators for three years to find a compromise to the bill that would allow fossil fuel development, motorized recreation and give control of public lands to Utah state government.  Thank you, Mr. President for doing the right thing.