Your Life Nature Guided Tours, Speaking and Photography

Nature Connection Mentoring, Retreats, and Organizational Consulting

Category: Blog (page 1 of 6)

Persistence, Pluck and Place

Over the past month, I’ve been able to walk downtown to run errands and conduct business often, sometimes twice in one day. On nearly every journey, I’ve also seen a lone great blue heron plying the shores and ice-ringed islands of the Clark Fork River in search of sustenance. The heron has appeared in slightly different places each time as ice and other wintry conditions continue to change in its environment. One afternoon, I watched it silently stalk the river’s edge and powerfully strike at something I could not see. The heron was unsuccessful in that moment, but I like to think that its persistence paid off at some point later that evening.

One morning, I watched the heron groom itself, then shake its entire body vigorously, before retreating into a standing position, hugging itself to stay warm it seems, with one leg planted firmly on the ground.

Great blue herons are improbable creatures: they appear somewhat prehistoric the way they navigate their environment. It’s amazing how well and easily they can fly, given their body shape and size. In spring and summer when they nest and raise their young in rookeries, their clamoring and calling evoke sounds I imagine their distant relatives, dinosaurs, also made when our planet was wetter and warmer for a while.

Yet human beings are also improbable creatures. Adaptability and flexibility are skills we have used over eons not only to survive but also to thrive in just about every type of ecosystem on earth.

We have succeeded when we’ve made long-term, far-sighted investments in getting to know, connect with, and ultimately protect and care for a place. When we’ve collaborated and shared our collective knowledge and wisdom with others. When we’ve gained a greater understanding that we truly are all in this together. All of us.

A close friend recently commented that there are lots of spaces where people can meet and hang out today, but places are where connection and community are built. Places foster stewardship and interdependence.

Places are where you can plant your feet, dig deep, and grow roots that feed your soul, your psyche, your health and your spirit. Montana’s unofficial nickname, “The Last Best Place,” resonates with me even more powerfully and hopefully today than when I first became a resident nearly 25 years ago.

Here’s hoping that in this still relatively new year, no matter where our feet are, we’ll choose to connect and invest more powerfully with place, and all with whom we share it.

Hobie’s Nature Bucket List, Part II

To follow up after last month’s blog posting on the same topic, here are three more bucket list worthy travel destinations within the United States.

Although they’re all in the Western U.S., they’re very different from each other in many respects; what they share in common is that previous generations made it a priority to preserve these treasured places. 

I’d love to hear what some of your bucket list destinations are, too, so thanks for letting me know!

Here are three more of my favorite places, all of which happen to be national park units.

California’s Death Valley National Park is amazing in scale, contrast, and biodiversity, despite its forbidding name.

The place really grows on you, slowly revealing its secrets over repeated visits, especially when you move across the landscape at a deliberate pace. Side canyons, draws, sand dunes, and alkali flats predominate at lower elevations, as do shallow warm springs and streams supporting desert pupfish.

Human history is abundant here, too. Some gold miners perished, and some barely survived, vying for a shortcut across this vast desert to northern California’s goldfields in the late 1840s. For eons, Native Americans have lived here, and still do so today, making their living in a landscape with little water.

Death Valley is the largest national park in the Lower 48 states, and the actual valley is about 140 miles long. Elevation ranges from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin to over 11,000 feet at Telescope Peak, which Erik and I would like to climb some day

The best time to visit Death Valley is from October to to early May, and after rare, heavy winter rains, wildflower blooms can be astonishingly beautiful from February into March..

Montana’s Glacier National Park is another bucket list destination.

Often referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” it’s a unique place where rain forests, alpine and sub-alpine habitats, and prairie grasslands converge. It’s also a place where winter can show up any month of the year, and wildfires may erupt from summer into fall.

Instead of driving in traffic and vying for limited parking spaces I recommend taking free National Park Service shuttle buses on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway to Logan Pass and beyond. Then you can enjoy the scenery, watch for wildlife, and meet international visitors here to experience what’s truly in our own backyard.

You can also do some cool through hikes by using the park shuttle buses; consider getting off at one trail head and catching a bus ride back at another one. Be prepared and carry bear spray when hiking, though,as you are very much on your own in this wild corner of Montana!

Going early, or late, in the season to Glacier has its advantages and its drawbacks, depending on what Mother Nature is up to at the moment. Figure out and reserve where you’re staying well in advance, or go very early or late in the season and try your luck.

Whether you’re considering back country camping, front country campsites, or historic inns and lodges in or outside the park, there are many places to choose from. Although there’s not nearly as much lodging open in the winter, Glacier is a phenomenal place to experience Montana’s longest season. The nearby Blackfeet and Flathead Indian reservations, along with the National Bison Range closer to Missoula are also worth visiting and exploring when your travels take you to Glacier Country.

Olympic National Park in Washington State is another place you should see and experience in your lifetime.

It’s like a chunk of Alaska peeled off, traveled south and rammed into the Lower 48 in western Washington. The area is strikingly wild and different from nearly everything else close by-at times it’s easy to forget that over 3.6 million people live a few hours east in Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue!

The Olympic Peninsula’s remoteness and rugged terrain kept it from large scale European American settlement until the late 19th century, Today, from Grays Harbor north to Neah Bay, Sekiu and Clallam Bay, numerous Native American tribes live on or close by reservations where they maintain cultural traditions to different degrees. The Makah Cultural Center near Neah Bay is an especially impressive place to visit.

Olympic has glaciers, alpine environments, coastal and lowland rain forests, and rugged, wild beaches where black bears and even mountain lions still roam out to the ocean’s edge. Tide pooling, storm and bird watching opportunities abound, and botanists and wildflower lovers will be in heaven with the tremendous biodiversity that thrives here.

What’s also notable about Olympic National Park is how quiet it can be when you’re deep in the forest. During the “dry season” from April through September you should bring all rain gear anyway, but night skies can be amazingly clear and starry when the weather cooperates.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary preserves over 3,000 square miles offshore, protecting marine wildlife and their habitats, traditional cultures, and the region’s maritime history. No matter where you go or stay on the Olympic Peninsula, be ready for a positively life-changing adventure.

Stay tuned for more suggestions in the future, and in the meantime, I invite you to share some of your bucket list recommendations. It would be great to hear from you!

Hobie’s Nature Bucket List

Nearly everyone seems to have a bucket list of things to do, see and experience before they move on to the next universe.

It’s hard to suggest experiences to add to someone else’s personal bucket list, but the following few stand out for me as life-changing places. Plus you don’t need a passport to experience them, as they’re all in the U.S.

Here’s my top three for now, and later this fall I’ll round out the next few places on my ever- changing and growing bucket list. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what some of your choices and destinations are, so thanks for letting me know!

Arizona’s Grand Canyon is unsurpassed in geological scale, and it’s one of the most humbling places where you could ever spend time.

I never get tired of visiting this rugged, remarkably beautiful and protected place, no matter the season. From summer lightning and thunderstorms, to autumn fog and mist, to winter snows, the light play and constantly changing colors as the weather interacts with the canyon is spell binding. The scale, and distances, are vast, the weather can change in a heartbeat, and in contrast to the South Rim, the North Rim is a higher, cooler, much less traveled part of Grand Canyon National Park.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s foresight helped to preserve this area for future generations. As he said over a century ago, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Thankfully this has largely been the case since the early 20th century, and here’s hoping that in your lifetime you’ll be able to visit the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims.

Yellowstone in winter is my favorite season in the world’s first national park.

You can palpably feel how stripped down and elemental the world is at this time of year here, as every living thing must make incredible adaptations to survive through Yellowstone’s longest season. Snow and cold generally keep both prey and predator species down lower in elevation, making it an easier time of year to potentially spot wolves, and the elk, bison and other ungulates they like to hunt.

It’s also a magical time to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone shrouded in snow, ice and mist, and visit the incredible diversity of thermal features within a short x-c ski, snowshoe or walk from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The nighttime skies can be amazing when they appear, and Yellowstone welcomes about 200,000 winter visitors compared to the million-plus crowds that descend on the park both in July and August.

Yellowstone has a way of stealing your heart, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely be pulled back to visit in its other seasons, too.

Spending several days at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is another bucket list destination.

It’s border line overwhelming with so places to explore and discover near the two-mile long National Mall, which runs from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol Building.

Spend several days in the area if you can depending on your lodging and dining budget. D.C. area prices are high, but thankfully most National Mall area museums and destinations have free admission. Give yourself plenty of time, perhaps make a mini-bucket list of your priorities for while you’re there. Consider lodging in less-expensive Virginia or Maryland and taking public transportation into the city each day.

Some of my favorite places include the National Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, The Natural History Museum, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, The Holocaust Museum, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. If you have time, climb up the long winding stairs of the Washington Monument to get a different perspective on Washington, D.C.

In times like this, it’s sobering to know that these places in the nation’s capital are open to everyone, free of charge. They overflow and abound with lessons and stories encouraging us to climb and strive higher for the greater good of all humanity, for the greater good of future generations.

Keeping Perspective, and Staying Close to Nature In Chaotic Times

Nature has always been humanity’s teacher, illuminating myriad ways for us to live wisely, harmoniously and in greater balance with other species, and ourselves.

At times, we all learn and re-learn lessons we thought we had previously mastered. At this moment, it seems like the human world has gone batshit crazy just when believed we had made considerable collective progress in being more peaceful, more compassionate, and more tolerant of diversity and differences.

Many people have lost hope, wallowing in cynicism, anger and despair, and resorting to lashing out at, blaming and villainizing others. This collective tidal wave of human fear, distrust and negativity leads to deeper paralysis, stagnation and entrenched conflicts producing even more disruption, destruction and pain.

Unlike in our human constructed world,though, in nature, disruption is not personal, nor is destruction. Something is always being born or coming out of what may look like total annihilation or devastation on the surface.

Even when human generated tidal waves of crazy appear to be crashing on our home shores, nature is always showing us how to move forward, no matter what is happening outside of ourselves. The universe of which earth is part of is infinite, vast, beautiful and full of mystery. Yes, there’s a lot of chaos and there always will be, but there’s opportunity for inspiration, miracles and growth all around us if we dare to change our perspective and perception.

For me personally, I may do this by stepping back, moving away from distractions, and finding a quiet place where I can just be for several minutes. I close my eyes and tune in to how the breeze or wind feels as it flows across my body and the landscape, continuing to take deep breaths until I can feel my heart rate and breath relax. I repeat, this time smiling, as that also helps me come back to the moment.

And the moment is where the non-human beings with whom we share this planet live and dwell. They don’t worry, they don’t fret, they don’t question. They deal with obstacles, disasters and catastrophes as they happen, and yes, some survive while others do not.

Daily challenges and opportunities are the norm and not to be feared, nor is the future, or allowing what happened in the past to paralyze the present.

Being present, breathing deeply with my eyes closed in a quiet space and place, I tune in with other senses, listening to bird song, our cat Ren slinking in the bushes in search of grasshoppers or larger prey, leaves falling and tumbling to the ground. I tune in to trusting that I will always be o.k. if I listen to my heart rather than what the latest newsfeed, tweet or announcement tells me how to feel or react.

I trust that the world will be alright, that what I wish for others I also wish for friends and family members. When you stand on the edge of a vast canyon or ocean or look up at a brilliant night sky, it’s easier to connect with what untold generations of humans have always known, that we are a part of yet never apart from a benevolent universe and planet that wants us all to thrive, to be kind, to live and learn, to love, to fall, fail and then get up again, doing the best we can and know how to.

The earth, and the universe is bigger than any and all of us. That’s humbling and inspiring, yet the earth is our one and only home where we will choose to either live or perish together.

Let’s break new ground for others to follow and create a ripple effect of powerful, positive planetary change. Let’s gather in peace, trust and remembering that we all belong, that we are all needed and valued, that we are all scared at times, and that we all want to be safe, loved, respected, heard and understood.

Again, nature shows us ways to move forward. When you’re feeling discouraged, feel what you’re feeling, but remember that nature’s waiting for you, no matter where your feet are, to help you come back to yourself. You are unique in this world and you matter-we all matter.

And matter, ultimately, is what we are also all made of!

Re-Envisioning Earth (and Every) Day

Earth Day is celebrated in over 190 countries every April 22. It’s an annual opportunity to celebrate environmental gains we have made worldwide and continue taking action to make this planet a better place for future generations, for whom much is at stake.

In many ways, every day is Earth Day, when we acknowledge that our home planet sustains not only humankind, but all other life that resides here. The power of Earth to regulate natural processes is awesome and humbling. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the soils which nourish us, the list goes on for what our planet freely provides, except for where and when we have mucked it up. Sadly, that has been just about everywhere. It is only fair and just that we clean up our messes and re-dedicate ourselves to become better stewards.

Everything-from migrating birds to polar bears to the lungs of our planet, the Amazon Basin-depends on us doing so. Yet fracking, tar sands and other non-renewable energy extraction schemes continue to plague myriad landscapes, excavating ever more out of the ground while polluting air, water, and communities in their wake. This energy juggernaut is insane, akin to someone dying from lung cancer having cigarette smoke pumped into their home 24-7.

We know better. We have enough information to act decisively and do things differently.

We have tremendous capacity to move swiftly toward renewable energy use and take action to turn things around. But accelerated action and science-driven solutions alone will not save the planet for future generations. The art of cultivating greater kindness, empathy and compassion are equally vital for our continued survival.

Here’s an idea: this Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or another time of your choosing, send love and energy in gratitude to earth, and to all humankind as well. Express gratitude toward those who in the past made selfless, at times difficult choices to birth new beginnings. Acknowledge people today who inspire and give you hope, for hope and courage and action are unstoppable when we come from a place of protecting what we love rather than fighting what we are against. Consider young people from your own and other nations, tomorrow’s leaders and elders, and the world and life you want to gift them.

In The Art of Yellowstone Science, Bruce W. Fouke and Tom Murphy explore how the natural world has inspired art and science, and why neither field of expression and inquiry can meaningfully exist without the other.
The respective scientist (Fouke) and photographer (Murphy) find Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs terraces a particularly inspiring and dynamic place to fathom this relationship. One quote from their book leaps out, providing hope that all is not lost when we shift from fear to action:


The truth of everything is the truth of anything. Things happen and life exists for reasons that go far beyond our current understanding. Nature therefore stands as the most powerful and honest force in our lives, and human existence means living within the means of nature. Humanity’s quest for a sustainable existence will define our present and future place in the universe…

Living in Times of Rapid Change

Uncertainty and overwhelm can be unruly beasts, prowling the perimeters of our lives, seizing unguarded moments to grab us by the jugular, suffocating our ability to focus, prioritize, and take decisive action.

Their unrelenting presence can wear us down and out, falling prey to believing things are moving way too fast, there’s far too much to do, that we don’t even know where and how to get started.

Yet when these things happen, as they do for all of us at times, it’s crucial to stop or pause what we are doing, and step outside. Just beyond our work and living places, nature’s rhythms await, illuminating how we can navigate more confidently and compassionately in the “real world” as well.

First, find a calmer, quieter place and space where you can relax for several minutes.

Put your mobile and other electronic devices on silent or vibrate mode.

Know that there is only this moment and this moment is perfect as it is.

Take several large in and out breaths and feel your feet connecting firmly with the earth.

Feel the earth’s energy flowing through your feet, steadily filling up your entire body with light, calm, peace, calm, trust and clear purpose.

Take several large in and out breaths as you imagine this calming, revitalizing energy accompanying you throughout the day, at work, at home, wherever your feet may be.

Know that you are already doing enough. You are enough.

Allow inspired thoughts to guide your next steps and actions upon returning indoors.

In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle encourages us to “Realize that your entire life journey consists of the step you are taking at this moment. There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention…When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”

Sure, we’re living in a crazy, uncertain time of rapid global transformation, but in the end we can only be responsible for transforming ourselves. As we do that on a personal level, we inspire systems and organizations experiencing chaos and upheaval to move in the same direction.

By being alive, by being human and by being loving, compassionate and present you are already making a huge difference.

And that is enough.

When you first notice uncertainty and overwhelm encircling your thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions, do your best to deter these beasts from becoming powerful saboteurs in your life.

Think of them as willful, spirited teachers, reminding you to return to your true self and essence.

To step back, to reframe, to recalibrate.

To illuminate the path of progress, not perfection.

To remind you to reach out, encourage and uplift others experiencing overwhelm and uncertainty in their lives.

And that is enough.

Happy Birthday, Yellowstone!

Yellowstone will celebrate its 146th birthday as a national park on Thursday March 1. It’s still remarkable that Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 established the world’s first national park at a time when the American West and its original inhabitants were rapidly being subdued, and seemingly every acre of land in the region was slated for settlement and development by newcomers.

In Yellowstone, perhaps for the first time as Americans, we courageously chose stewardship and restraint over conquest and extraction when it came to how we viewed and valued land. This decision has since inspired the U.S. and other nations over the years to set aside more areas worthy of protection and preservation, and today nearly 100 countries have national parks. With a continually burgeoning world population living in urban and suburban areas, though, it’s important to set aside even more of our remaining wild places for current and future generations.

We shall see if that indeed happens. Current leadership for the most part seems to be indifferent at best and rather hostile at worst when it comes to fully funding and protecting our bountiful yet precarious natural heritage. Please let your elected representatives know how vital this matter is to you, and to a healthier future.

Yellowstone and other remaining wild places, regardless of their protected or unprotected status, are not sacrifice zones. They are where we all came from and where we all belong. They belong to all of us and to future generations.

It’s our responsibility to be wise, forward-thinking stewards of these places rather than acquiesce to a powerful few intent on plundering them for short-term profit and personal gain, leaving damaged, severed landscapes in their wake for everyone else to pay for and live with.

We cannot afford to let that happen.

We can all do better. Our ability to live and thrive as part of rather than apart from nature hangs in the balance.

As Henry David Thoreau reminded people years before Yellowstone entered our national consciousness, “The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me.”

America’s Best Idea, and One of the Last Best Places, in Winter!

The late great writer and historian Wallace Stegner once wrote that “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Since Stegner first expressed his sentiments in 1983, we’ve added many places as national park units to protect and preserve for current and future generations, and to continue educating people about our shared natural, cultural and historical heritage.

Yellowstone was my year-round home from 2001-2005, and I am grateful that guiding groups allows me to return in all seasons to the world’s first national park. Yet there’s something super special about being here in winter.

Things seem stripped down to their essence in Yellowstone in winter, yet much is going on here during the park’s longest season. Different animals prefer to make a living in, on, or under varying levels of snow. Voles and other small rodents tend to occupy areas deep below the snowpack and close to the ground, where the temperature is usually balmy, right around 32 F, no matter how frigid or windy it might be above. Certain animals are good at getting down to vole level, such as coyotes and foxes that may dive into the snow in hopes of catching these critters as a snack. Other mammals such as bison use their massive heads as plows to shovel snow away to get at sparse vegetation that lies below.

As snow depths and conditions change, predators may benefit for a while, or maybe things will favor prey species. Deep powdery snow may make it hard for wolves to chase and catch an elk or moose. In crusty snow conditions, though, a 100 pound wolf could easily stay and race atop such a snow layer, while a 700 pound elk might crash through and become trapped, potentially breaking its leg en route to becoming a meal.

Nature has no favorites in any season, and both predators and prey species share a dynamic web of interdependence with scavengers, decomposers, microbes, and other players in intact natural ecosystems such as Greater Yellowstone. Some of the park’s over 10,000 geysers, mud pots, hot springs and steam vents keep high elevation areas from being buried in snow, or stop bodies of water from freezing completely over, benefiting everything from ducks and swans to ephydrid flies whose lives are restricted to within a few vertical inches of these thermal features.

Yellowstone is a true winter refuge for many species, and its quiet, stillness, and vistas are enjoyed by about 200,000 visitors from December to March, in contrast to July and August, when over two million visitors pass through the area.

Visiting Yellowstone in winter is certainly not a draw for everyone, but for those who choose to venture here then, it’s an exceptionally exhilarating and rewarding time to experience one of America’s wildest places.

Giving Thanks, For Everything

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” -Ram Dass

The above words of wisdom were steadfast companions as Erik and I visited family and friends in Virginia and North Carolina the first part of November.

We visited with my Dad, perhaps for the last time, a few days after his 91st birthday. He’s now in end-stage dementia, and it was sad to see a once feisty, resourceful and independent spirit so utterly reliant on others for his care.

While visiting with him that afternoon, I wondered what it must have been like for my parents to have had five children in a little over a decade, and the sacrifices they made to raise us.

I also wondered what he could now remember. As I flipped through a photo album showing him family pictures from over the years, he especially lit up upon seeing a picture of his last dog, an Irish setter named Beau. With other photos he was less responsive, but he grinned when I joked that none of us five kids had gotten a speeding ticket in over a decade.

Beau and my Dad became an inseparable family duo starting in 1992. My parents had already been divorced and living apart for several years, and my siblings and I had all moved out by then, too. After Beau died in 2003, our four-bedroom house in the suburbs became an even quieter, less vibrant place. Still, my Dad managed to remain independent until 2011, when he first moved into an assisted living facility, yet the decline he has experienced since May this year has been especially rapid and irreversible.

It was hard to gauge how my Dad might have been feeling when Erik and I saw him. Before arriving there, I feared that his new home would be lifeless and stagnant, a place where everyone languished in a holding pattern until they passed on. Instead, I was encouraged and uplifted by the compassion, patience and presence his caregivers exuded as they helped him and other residents navigate their daily lives.

This surprise gift was borne from choosing to be present with my Dad as he was in that moment, not from expecting him to be a certain way at this time in life for me. This gift of being present, along with Ram Dass’s words of wisdom, became trusted companions for the remainder of our journey back east, and our travels home to Montana.

After seeing my Dad, Erik and I drove for about nine hours from the mountains of western Virginia to Hatteras, North Carolina. We met up with my oldest sister there to honor my Mom’s passing two years earlier, in a place where she felt especially at peace.

Later on, my younger brother and his 18-year-old daughter drove down to join us in celebrating and remembering her life. That evening, we feasted on crab cakes, scallops, french fries, hush puppies, coleslaw, and super sweetened tea, things my Mom especially enjoyed when she vacationed here, usually in September, right after Labor Day.

This fall, it was great to make a pilgrimage to the Outer Banks and to travel back to Virginia. It was awesome to spend time with family, and remember and honor the life, love and memories we have shared together, alongside creating new experiences and memories. We are grateful to now be home, following an epic journey acknowledging the impending departure of one parent, and the recent passing of another.

I am thankful for everything that I have learned and received from my parents over the course of their lives, and I intend to pay this forward to the best of my ability.

Over the coming winter solstice, Christmas, new year and other holidays that are fast approaching, I also set the intention to not dwell on the past, to not worry about the future, and instead be as fully present as I can in every moment.

That truly is all any of us ever have, the present moment, yet that’s so easily forgotten and dismissed when our lives become crazy, busy or both. Thankfully, nature connection freely provides us reminders and opportunities to be still, be present, slow down and take stock of what’s truly important.

May you and your loved ones experience tremendous peace, goodwill, camaraderie and community this coming holiday season and into the new year.

May you be grateful for everything in your life.

May you reach out and extend these gifts to others.

May we all celebrate the ebbing of darkness, and welcome the returning tide of light to our one home planet in the weeks and year to come!

Monumental Legacies

National monuments are a direct result of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents “the authority to, by proclamation, create national monuments from federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.” The Act also allows presidents to set aside or accept the donation of private lands for such purposes.

Without the protections and powers vested in the Antiquities Act, many of our most valued and beloved public lands would have been irreparably diminished, destroyed, or sold off to the highest bidder.

Today, President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have their sights on reducing the size of, eliminating, and transferring ownership of lands within certain national monuments designated since 1996. About two dozen such designations remain in the cross hairs for further scrutiny, under this administration’s claims that they are too large, or that local communities weren’t sufficiently consulted or involved at the time of designation.

One wonders what Grand Canyon, Zion, Acadia and other national parks, all initially protected as national monuments, would look like today if earlier presidents had done what Trump would like to do with public lands belonging to all Americans.

In the mid-1880s, congressional attempts to protect the then Arizona Territory’s Grand Canyon from exploitation were defeated, yet in 1893 the canyon became part of a forest reserve established under President Benjamin Harrison. It stayed somewhat protected as part of a re-designated game preserve created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Using the newly granted powers of the Antiquities Act, in 1908 Roosevelt established by proclamation the 800.000 acre Grand Canyon National Monument.

For nearly a century now, the Supreme Court has upheld that there is no size restriction on national monuments. In Cameron vs. United States in 1920, it said that the president was free to protect a very large object of scientific or cultural interest-even if others had their eyes on the area for extractive or commercial purposes. That large area in question was The Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon became a national park by act of congress under President Wilson in 1919. In 1975 President Gerald Ford signed into law an act of congress incorporating Marble Canyon National Monument (designated by President Lyndon Johnson) into an expanded Grand Canyon National Park.

Thankfully, the vast one-million acre Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, established in 2000 and bordering the national park to the northwest, is not under “review” by the Trump administration, but others in the Southwest such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante remain on the chopping block.

With the Grand Canyon and other significant places, it’s taken a steady, bi-partisan succession of administrations and congresses over time to build upon what others have protected and preserved before them. In 2017, it’s murky as to what kind of legacy the President and his Interior secretary envision when it comes to our public lands.

President Lyndon Johnson, over 50 years ago, said that “if future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

This administration should use, and not curb, the authority of The Antiquities Act to protect more lands with significant natural, cultural and scientific features. It should designate more national monuments, and stop spending time and resources undoing the conservation legacies of others.

It should also stop fueling the myth that we already have enough, or more than enough public lands already. We should be doing everything possible to ensure that people long after we are gone can enjoy and experience a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, rather than after we got through with it.

If Trump’s and Zinke’s current efforts should prevail, we all become impoverished. Their efforts would likely not stop with undoing national monuments; public lands, regardless of their status and designation, would proceed to be sliced and sold off in piecemeal fashion.

Americans would surrender a freedom envied worldwide, the right to publicly access and enjoy these special places. Let’s not squander these amazing assets we all hold in common for the private, permanent gain of a few, while leaving future generations little to nothing of our natural heritage.

« Older posts