There are many things that I absolutely love about living in Utah. Having the opportunity to run in the Wasatch is not lost on me at all. And to top it off, after living here for about a year now (that was fast), I have made some good friends that make Utah a fun place to be.
Despite loving my home, sometimes it can be hard to live in a state with such blatant disregard for environmental conservation. I feel like I am constantly protesting some legislature and I am always getting emails from the Sierra Club about new problems. It’s depressing. Even though this has little to do with running, I still think you should know what the Utah (and national) government has in store for this place. Keep in mind, this doesn’t just affect me. Much of the land in Utah is federal and protected by either the National Park Service or the Bureau of Land Management. This land is your land too.
The Fight for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments
National Monuments, much like National Parks, are managed by the Department of the Interior. Often National Parks start out as National Monuments, which generally have more minimal management and staff and less stringent rules about what can be done within the area. While a National Park may not allow grazing or hunting, often times National Monuments do. New National Monuments can be made through the Antiquities Act (started by Theodore Roosevelt) that allows a sitting president to declare federal land a new monument without the approval of congress. Many of our past presidents have done this, including Barack Obama, who declared the controversial Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah.
Utah has the Mighty Five National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches) but also seven National Monuments and two National Recreation Areas, all of which are managed by the Department of the Interior. The National Parks alone amount for an estimated $1.7 billion in the state of Utah. We are a state that specializes in outdoor recreation and ecotourism.
Despite the obvious economic benefit of Utah’s parks, the state and the federal government are fighting to reduce two of our largest National Monuments. On December 4, President Trump rescinded 85% of Bears Ears National Monument and over 50% of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in a proclamation that undid years of environmental progress. It is currently being fought in a legal battle between the Federal Government versus Patagonia (the retailer), REI, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo Nation, and Zuni Tribes). As of last week, leases for drilling became available for land within the previous boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.
This fight should be important to us all. The federal government and the state of Utah stole land from every American and have shown no respect or regards for the wants and needs of Native peoples. Even if you have no plans to ever visit these places, this land has been taken time and time again from Natives, despite the many archeological sites within the monuments of ancient pueblans and tribes. When left without management from the Department of the Interior, Bears Ears National Monument is subjected to grave robbing of native sites, and now is open for drilling.
Frank and I went to Bears Ears a few months back. What we found is hard to put into words. We went on hikes with towering cliffs, upon which were small shelters high up where I imagined no human could get to. Everywhere we went went we found the remnants of ancient cultures. It was a silent place, but it was as if we could still hear the people who once walked this land.
I’ve also been to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, which is covered with slots so tiny, we could barely fit. These places are unique and special and worth preserving. Each of these photos were taking within the bounds of these precious monuments and these scenes are not hard to find, you just need to go for a walk (or a run).
So, here I ask for help. Contact your local legislators about this and tell them that you do not support Trump’s overreach on our lands. Donate to the Native American Rights Fund. Donate to the Sierra Club. They are making a huge difference in this fight. This is not my fight or Utah’s fight. This is everyone’s fight.