Briefly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump ordered Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, to present a report on the state of National Monuments and public lands in general.
Zinke, a Montana native, recently leaked a portion of his plans to alter and damage numerous National Monuments. Zinke’s proposal would allow for both mining and logging to run amuck in these public lands.
This is all part of a broader detrimental ideology to shrink government control across the country and to reverse any policies of the Obama era.
Throughout the past century, our country’s public lands have been vastly a topic of bipartisan support. Under the administrations of former presidents Theodore Roosevelt, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, public lands have been something we can all enjoy — a way to unite a country often divided.
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It doesn’t take a grizzled alpinist or a camping connoisseur to appreciate the beauty of our public lands. To each and every last one of us, being outside and spending time in the wild means something remarkably different. Even for the most city-oriented soul, stepping foot in nature brings some sense of euphoria.
Growing up, there was one annual event that always seemed to spark a degree of wonder and excitement in my life – camping. Each fall, my family spent a weekend in one of Wisconsin’s state parks. As the leaves turned and the weather cooled, I learned to love the outdoors.
As I’ve gotten older, my passion for these lands has only intensified. While going through a particularly rough patch of my life a few years back I found refuge in daily hikes. Spending a few hours in nature was cathartic. These places cleansed me. While this is obviously a very personal and microcosmic anecdote, it does have a broader, more important aspect.
For the indigenous people of this country, many of the places Zinke is threatening have intense, cultural relevance. For example, Bear Ears National Monument in Utah is held sacred by numerous tribes, such as the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Zuni Tribe, Hopi Tribe and many others.
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A coalition of these tribes formed in support of Bear Ears land, trying to protect the thousands of years of prehistory and history of these lands. By proposing to open Bear Ears and other national monuments up for privatization, the Trump administration is threatening the invaluable cultural significance these lands inherently have.
Since lands such as these are available for the masses, they bestow us all with shared responsibility. We are all accountable for their wellbeing. We must protect these places, for they are bigger than a political agenda. They bring people together in celebration of the wild.
Disrespecting public lands benefits none and harms everyone.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and history.