Think of all the times you’ve ever been on a hike, enjoyed time at the beach, went camping, or have done something outdoors on public land. Think about the beauty of the nature surrounding you – the fresh air, the firm ground under your feet, the feeling of calm and happiness that fills every part of you as you look at the wilderness in the area.
Now imagine if all of this beauty around you was suddenly taken over by big corporations. You now can’t enjoy any of the activities you used to on these public lands and you watch as the new owners of this land mistreat the nature and history of that area.
Unfortunately, this situation is very real in many areas where public lands are being targeted. In a recent report to President Trump, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suggested that reductions be made to ten national monuments such as Gold Butte in Nevada, Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and the Pacific Remote Islands. With the downsizing of these places would also come the introduction of drilling, commercial fishing, and other industrial activities.
Receiving special attention is Bear Ears National Monument in Utah because it faces the threat of being reduced by 90 percent, a large portion for a 3.5 million acre piece of land. If these proposals are put into action, many archaeological sites and sacred tribal lands will be at risk. Tribes and others who enjoy and/or work on Bears Ears have fought for years to protect this land and promise to fight this proposal.
As someone who is both a supporter of protecting public lands and indigenous peoples’ rights, I feel it is up to us to combat political action that brings harm to these areas. I don’t think we realize how important these lands are to our society and to the people who have ancestral roots in those grounds. Public lands are some of the only places where we can go to get away from technology and find tranquility and purpose in the natural world. These are the lands where anyone can freely enjoy outdoor activities with their friends and family members, creating memories that can’t be forgotten. Lands where you can meet and bond with people over the hobbies you all pursue at these locations.
For those who have history in these lands, the importance of protecting them is even greater. It connects them to their dead family members similar to the way we view graveyards or other special places our ancestors spent time. To take this away from indigenous peoples because of opportunities to make money off the grounds of their ancestral roots is unfair and just repeats the history of white supremacy over these peoples, something we should have learned from already.
There are multiple actions you can take to help fight for public lands. Donate to organizations such as The Trust for Public Land and The Wilderness Society. Sign Outdoor Alliance’s petition to save public lands and become an advocate with other groups doing similar work. Support companies such as Patagonia, REI, Cliff, and many more that advocate for protecting public lands. Educate yourself on the current legislators and legislation that’s threatening these areas and the general issues involving public lands and share this information with the people around you. Write, call, or talk to lawmakers who are currently making important decisions regarding public lands in your area or even in other states. Every voice matters in this fight and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to be able to say you helped protect the very land you hike, bike, climb, or do other activities on.
(Sources: NPR, NY Times, Outdoor Alliance, Utah.com)
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