Signed an Act of Congress ceding the Yosemite Valley and nearby Mariposa Giant Sequoia Grove to the state of California. With his signature two natural treasures attained a level of protection from loggers, sheep herders and other short sighted individuals. The land transfer wasn't perfect. Eventually Yosemite would become a National Park (1890) under Federal jurisdiction.
Now think for a moment about this random historical event.
The US was in the throes of a calamitous Civil War with no obvious expiration date in sight. Death and destruction was the order of the day. A war weary Congress was able to take a time out, sigh and say, this conflict too shall pass, let's think about our Nation's future. The Act passed despite the fact most Congressmen or Honest Abe wouldn't ever gaze upon a Giant Sequoia (Behemoths of Biomass) or see Half Dome, El Capitan or Yosemite Falls in all its photographs don't do it justice glory.
That is unselfish and forward thinking! That's what made America Great.
Now our Country is in the midst of another Public Lands debate. Twenty seven National Monuments are now under scrutiny to see if former Democratic Presidents wielded the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906 a little too "Bigly." Disciples of the Sage Brush Rebellion shout "Federal Land Grab!" only to discover the property is already owned by the Feds. (Most of the lands are under the Bureau of Land Management or the US Forest Service jurisdiction) In the words of Woody Guthrie, "This land is your land, this land is my land."
Yes! We are all part owners.
Utah's Escalante/Grand Staircase NM and the recently named Bear Ears NM has drawn the most attention.
In a recent blog, I spoke out about this contentious issue.
One good blog deserves another! So... I decided to give a further look-see at Bear Ears NM concentrating my efforts in the Dark Canyon region west of Blanding, Utah. (Oh the sacrifices I make to provide good copy and photos for my handful of readers!)
First off, both controversial Monuments have short growing seasons for human intervention. In winter, many of the unpaved roads get clogged with White Death (AKA snow). When wet the clayey roads become a slicker than phlegm mess. Even the most macho 4x4 trucks can get mired down in the primordial goo. Summertime is too hot and unforgiving in this desert environment. For these reasons, Spring and Autumn are the High Seasons.
I justI spent five peaceful days hiking the canyons, driving the dusty wash-boarded roads, reading, drinking IPAs, pondering things and sightseeing. In that time frame, I endured five minutes of conversations with other bipeds. It was wonderful.
Not everyone's in favor of the Monument. Many locals (I.E. Monticello and Blanding) want the upgraded Federal protection status to be rescinded. They look at the Ponderosa Pine covered mesas, the ravines, the canyons, the gulches, spires, turrets and arches to be their neighborhood sanctuary/playground. They feel by creating a Monument outsiders will come and "love the place to death." These are valid concerns.
However, there's a problem with rolling back Bear Ears NM status. This would empower the current Administration to unravel the other 26 National Monuments under review. A Domino effect of areas of Natural Wonder, History and Solitude could possibly occur. The "Drill! Baby! Drill!" Crowd are the type of folks who ask for a "taster" sampler in a brewpub, then demand the whole keg-for free! In other words, their greed knows no bounds.
For those who still seek to rescind Monuments, look at it this way. In the next four years there will be no net gain in National Monuments, Parks, Federal Wilderness Areas or Wildlife Refuges.
The one and only exception would be President "Aren't Golf Courses Wilderness Areas?" to declare New York's Central Park a National Monument. The reason? This would increase the property value of the nearby Trump Towers.
In the long run, it'll all average out.
Back to the start of this post.
153 years ago, Congress squinted into a cloudy Crystal Ball and took a chance. Now no one complains about Yosemite National Park's protected status. They might be miffed at the gaggles of selfie stick wielding visitors but not the scenery.
153 years from now, Americans won't be whining about too many or too large-sized National Monuments. They will be pleased to know they are out there for everyone's use and enjoyment.
Besides, future Sociable Hermits (like me) will still need places to go.
From my three-acre meadow campsite!
PS. Final photo. Yes! I am a tree hugger. Fido is marking his territory.
For further reading on our National Treasures: