10 places to visit before they die

Bear Ears
The remains of an ancient culture are scattered over Bears Ears National Monument.

Anyone who thought national monuments had a chance of staying intact under the Trump administration can put that notion to rest.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s report to Trump finally came out of hiding thanks to the Washington Post. Submitted in late August but kept secret until leaked in mid-September, the memorandum recommends shrinkage or management changes to seven national monuments on land and three at sea. The management changes would reduce restrictions on grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.

There is only one good outcome from Zinke’s continuing effort to turn the Interior Department into a real-estate agent for special interests: A bucket list in reverse.

Lovers of the wilds, pack your bags and visit the national monuments on Trump’s list before they die.

Get to Bears Ears National Monument quickly and rush to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station for one of the 20 daily permits issued to visit Moon House. It may be your last chance to get a photograph of the 1,000-year-old multi-story Native American ruin without an oil rig in the background.

In his interim report on Bears Ears, Zinke called for shrinking the monument’s area and separating out those “that have significant objects to be protected.” Given that there are archeological sites and fascinating rock formations in all nooks, crannies and canyons of Bears Ears, Zinke’s flawed idea would appear on a map as strands of spaghetti, missing “significant objects” that need the protection of the full area now designated as national monument.

You’ll be close to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, also in Utah and another Zinke-wrap target. Designated in 1996, it’s the largest national monument in the United States. That could change soon, so hurry to check out rock art and granaries from the ancient Anasazi and Fremont cultures as well as fossils from the end of the dinosaur era.

There are two Trump targets in New Mexico: Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, and Rio Grande del Norte, about 12 miles northwest of Taos. La Cueva in the Organ Mountains has provided shelter dating back to 5000 B.C., but it is going to need some protection of its own to stay intact. Conservation groups and concerned citizens, get busy.

Then head west to Nevada for the Gold Butte National Monument, designated late in President Obama’s term, which was sure to make it a prime target of the man who has promised to erase all things Obama whether it makes any sense or not. Right now there’s lots of rock art and the ghost town that gives the place its name.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has joined the fight to keep the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument whole. That’s because the 2,650-mile path from Canada to Mexico passes through it.

Hikers on the 38 miles through the monument in Oregon and California should brush up on geology: To the south are the Siskiyou Mountains, 425 million years old if a day; to the north, the younger, volcanic Cascade Range. This variety in geologic features is the basis for a wide range of habitat in the monument, including lots of trees Zinke would like to see cut down.

The Katahdin Wood and Waters in Maine is another place where Zinke would like “active timber management.” The area didn’t meet the 100,000 minimum acreage called for in Trump’s executive order seeking the monument review. But the governor of Maine, an early supporter of Trump, wanted its designation rescinded. There’s no Zinke shrinkage recommended, but commercial logging could be in the offing.

And commercial fishing would be allowed in two marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean (Pacific Remote Islands and the Rose Atoll) as well as Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic.

The emphasis in the Trump order and Zinke’s comments has been on local control, allowing state and local officials more say on land owned by all Americans. Even opponents of the monuments concede that transferring more control of Americans’ legacy makes it more likely that the lands could be opened to private extraction industries such as timber or oil and gas interests. Which means that the Trump and Zinke charade is mainly a way of transferring national monuments to the control of multinational corporations under the false pretense of “more local control.”

Get your bags packed and start traveling.

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