Trump takes his slice to America’s lands

Bears Ears
Bears Ears

I hope you took my advice back in October when I recommended 10 places you should visit before they died. If you wanted to see Bears Ears and Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monuments without oil rigs, you should have left for Utah last night.

A man who thinks wilderness is the long grass beside a golf fairway on Monday signed orders to slice these two areas into five separate areas and reduce their size by 85 and 46 percent respectively.

Lawsuits have already been filed to challenge this largest ever reversal on protecting national lands, and it is in the courts that the best – or the worst – outcome will be determined from today’s assault on the Antiquities Act of 1906, which brought our country’s national monuments into existence.

If the slicer gets his way, then you better make plans to get to the other national monuments that were on the original gift list for the oil, gas and mining industries.

Head to Arizona and stay awhile in the Grand Canyon-Parshant National Monument. Words on its website are calling you: “solitude, isolate, expansive landscape, natural and cultural history, undeveloped landscape, journey into the wild.”

Then head south to the Ironwood Forest National Monument. Named for a tree that can live 800 years, the Monument includes the Los Robles Archeological District, the Mission of Santa Ana del Chiquiburitac and the Cocoraque Butte Archeological District, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also in Arizona: the Sonoran Desert National Monument, offering a forest of the saguaro cacti. Every one of these signature succulents deserves protection.

Then head north into Colorado where the Canyons of the Ancients awaits. Ten thousand years of human habitation here, and a stop to see exhibits and films about the Ancestral Puebloan culture seems a must.

In Nevada, there’s the Basin and Range National Monument, where we might catch a glimpse of the wild horse herd, which ought to be given plenty of room to roam.

On to California, perhaps on the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of storied Route 66, which is in the Mojave Trails National Monument along with Native American trading routes and World War II training camps.

Six of the monuments on the original slice list were in California, so plan on a long visit there. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is fighting to make sure two of these monuments remain intact since the 2,650-mile path from Canada to Mexico passes through them. Better grab your pack and make the 30-mile trek on the trail through the desert, forest and mountains of the Sand to Snow National Monument.

You’ll need more time for the 87 miles of the PCT through the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and you’ll probably see more people because it serves as an escape valve for nearby Los Angeles County – reason enough to protect as much as possible to give these city folks room for healthful outdoor activities.

Urban and agriculture growth has taken over most of the grassland that once covered California’s Central Valley. The Carrizo Plain National Monument protects what’s left and should remain untouched to continue doing so.

Same with the Giant Sequoia National Monument, which guards the only conifer forest where the world’s largest tree grows naturally.

Yuki, Nomlaki, Patwin, Pomo, Huchnom, Wappo, Lake Miwok and Wintum. Those are the peoples who thrived for 11,000 years in what is now California. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument website says the 330,780 acres under protection are “dense with cultural sites.” If Secretary of the Interior Zinke and his boss get to continue their giveway this monument would inevitably leave some of these sites vulnerable.

Stinkee Zinke (that had to be his schoolyard name) said he saw no need to destroy the following national monuments, but there is one good thing you can say about the former Navy SEAL: He follows orders. Gut the national lands other have preserved, orders the slicer-in-chief, and Stinkee guts them. If the Big Cheeto gets his way on Bears Ears and Escalante, nothing is safe.

So add this to your itinerary: Plan a paddle in Washington state in the Hanford Reach National Monument – 33 miles on the last undammed stretch of the Columbia River. It’s home to migratory birds, spring wildflowers, butterflies and elk. The Monument is across the river from the off-limits Hanford Site, which produced the plutonium for the atomic bombs dropped in WWII. Let’s hope this quote on the Monument website holds true: “Born of fire and ice and flood over millions of years, preserved through the war and conflict of half a century, now protected forever.”

Heading east to Idaho for hikes in the Craters of the Moon National Monument, anywhere from a half hour to multiple days through a moonscape on Earth.

Dark Butte
Dark Butte, Upper Missouri Rivers Breaks National Monument

Last stop is in Montana at the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, which, the website says, has “remained largely unchanged in the nearly 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through it on their epic journey.” Future generations of paddlers and wanderers should have the chance to see the White Cliffs and surrounding lands these early Americans wrote about.

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. The lands will be opened to private extraction industries such as timber or oil and gas interests, which is most obvious in the “review” for five marine National Monuments — Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea and Rose Atoll. Trump’s order entitled this section “Implementing An America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” and gives the rubber stamp to the Department of Commerce (in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior).

Those marine areas are faraway places, but Civil Beat in Honolulu has a remarkable series of stories told in words, photos and videos that can take you to one of them. Check it out at http://www.civilbeat.org/projects/the-last-wild-place/

And get traveling.

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.