Opinion: ‘Here is your country’

By Maryann Hendrickson / Commander, U.S. Navy, Retired, Las Cruces, Ruben Roybal / U.S. Marine, Retired, Las Vegas, N.M. and Jeff Swanson / Veteran and Military Chaplain, Alamogordo as published on abqjournal.com

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who while claiming to be a disciple of Theodore Roosevelt has had a hand in undoing Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act legacy and overseeing the largest rollback of public lands protections in history.”

For many veterans, words cannot adequately describe the meaning of protected public lands to those who have returned from duty. Hiking to a mountaintop, the rush of river rafting, camping deep in a New Mexico forest are all experiences made possible by public lands set aside for reflection and recreation.

Many of the most spectacular public lands we enjoy were protected through the Antiquities Act, signed into law 112 years ago on June 8 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt keenly observed that the looting of treasured artifacts and development interests were imminent dangers to America’s most special places. He also knew that if he waited for the slow process of Congressional approval to protect these places, the damage would be irreversible.

And so was born the Antiquities Act of 1906, giving presidents the power to designate national monuments and protect federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Within three years, Roosevelt had designated more than a dozen national monuments including the Grand Canyon National Monument, which subsequently became a national park and is now recognized worldwide as the symbol of the American West.

Alarmingly, the conservation gains made under the Antiquities Act have been attacked by a well-known veteran with an especially distinguished record of service. We’re speaking about our Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who while claiming to be a disciple of Theodore Roosevelt has had a hand in undoing Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act legacy and overseeing the largest rollback of public lands protections in history.

Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act has been responsible for saving such popular attractions in New Mexico as the White Sands National Monument, the largest pure gypsum dune field in the world; Bandelier National Monument, which provides an important window into our native ancestral origins, and El Malpais National Monument with its dramatic lava fields and caves for exploration. More recently, Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments were designated, attracting more visitors to important sites in New Mexico’s history and a wide array of recreation opportunities.

We veterans count on our national public lands for recreation and healing. In addition, our military history is protected in these lands – from Civil War battlefields to the remnants of the Deming Air Base practice bombing sites in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where pilots trained for pivotal overseas missions during World War II. We believe that protecting our national public lands is a patriotic duty.

But apparently not Interior Secretary Zinke. In his first year he conducted a “review” of 27 national monuments, recommended a drastic shrinkage of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante and encouraged President Trump to reduce the size of other monuments. In his recap of Interior’s 2017 accomplishments, Zinke asserted that he is creating a “conservation stewardship legacy, second only to Teddy Roosevelt” – all the while opening up new public lands to energy development and taking away protections in place for decades. This is precisely what President Roosevelt feared most and fought.

Roosevelt famously said to wilderness advocate John Muir while looking over the Yosemite Valley: “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Roosevelt knew our public lands are our heritage, and he championed the Antiquities Act to help keep America’s history, culture and outdoor treasures intact. We who fought to protect American values understand this. Along with the many veterans who have relied on our national monuments and other protected public lands for peace, solitude, recreation and more, our hope as we celebrate the 112th anniversary of the Antiquities Act is for Interior Secretary Zinke to understand this as well, and finally begin to lead like Theodore Roosevelt.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1180028/here-is-your-country.html

5 comments

  1. David R. Irvine: An open letter to Rep. Chris Stewart, who never responds but expects campaign contributions anyway (excerpt)

    “Second, as a retired military officer still (technically) subject to recall, I took the same oath you did to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It’s a presumptuous stretch to suggest that the depth of my commitment to that oath requires giving money to your re-election campaign.

    https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2018/02/10/david-r-irvine-an-open-letter-to-rep-chris-stewart-who-never-responds-but-expects-campaign-contributions-anyway/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another interesting blog! The No Bull Sheet.

    WE ARE WAY UPSIDE DOWN
    JUNE 2, 2018 MARK BAILEY 2 COMMENTS
    Upside down
    Our public lands could be so much better. So easily. But we manage them in an upside down fashion.

    Instead of managing the land for its intrinsic value as a natural landscape for the benefit of the vast majority of the public whom owns the land, we manage them for a noisy, tiny, belligerent, special interest group. The majority of us end up financing the degradation of our own lands. It is dumb of us. We don’t need to continue.

    The main threat to the health of the land in the West, hard to see although it is everywhere, is public lands ranching. Nothing does more damage to public lands than public lands ranching.

    In Utah, as is typical in arid western states, agriculture is less than one percent of the economy. Ranching is less than half of agriculture and public land ranching is only a small portion of ranching. Yet it effects and degrades nearly 65% of the land in the state. Public lands ranching could not continue without subsidy. We would not miss it economically if we stopped, but the land would be much improved.

    Mexican gray wolf (el lobo)
    For instance, we upside downers subsidize eradication of the predators that are necessary to keep the land in balance. Recently, in late May 2018, Craig Thiessen, a public land rancher in New Mexico, pleaded guilty to purposefully killing a collared Mexican gray wolf. He must have laughed as he was ordered to pay $2,300 in restitution. From 1995 through 2016 Thiessen received subsidy payments totaling $387,788 from you and me in order for him to continue to desecrate public land as his cherished way of life. Many ranchers like Thiessen like their cowboy hatted image of themselves out on the range but where they make their living is hat in hand at the florescent lit subsidy welfare offices of the federal government. Public lands ranchers could not wreck the place without us.

    Mexican gray wolves narrowly escaped extinction with the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and their placement on the list of endangered species in 1976. At the Rewilding Institute wildlife ecologist David Parsons writes:

    As European settlers moved west with their large herds of livestock beginning in the late 1800s, two problems occurred simultaneously to permanently alter our Southwestern ecosystems. Unregulated hunting for sport and markets, and apparently just for the hell of it, decimated wildlife populations. And unregulated grazing by cattle and sheep degraded fragile grasslands and riparian ecosystems. Watersheds were laid bare and erosion was unleashed with a vengeance blighting landscapes to a condition that the ecologically unenlightened now perceive as the normal “look” of the West.

    Early western cattle barons were politically connected, and convinced Congress to pass legislation to establish a federal agency in 1915 with a mission of eradicating large predators from the land.

    The land was stripped down and degraded to what today we accept as normal. Fewer than a dozen wolves remained at one point. They were trapped and bred in captivity or the species would be extinct. But their survival remains tenuous. The wolves today are managed for political reasons, not, as required by law, for scientific ones. There are not enough wolves out there yet to create a sustainable, genetically diverse population. Unscrupulous cowboys like Thiessen kill them, laugh, then go collect more subsidies. They are additionally helped out in killing struggling wildlife by federal agencies like the inaptly named Wildlife Services. Wildlife Services is a federal agency we allow to kill millions of wild animals each year, over 2.7 million in 2016 alone, for the benefit of the public lands ranchers. Now the land is out of balance with too many ungulates of all kinds overgrazing everywhere. It is nuts.

    What it could be
    It could be beautiful. We think of the overgrazed, cheat grass riden, barbed wired status of most of the land in the Intermountain West as normal. It is not. Nature would largely heal itself if we got the private livestock off of our public land. We could start with the lawbreakers like Thiessen and revoke their grazing permits, as the law requires. These scofflaws graze by permit, not by right. We don’t need to offer the law breakers a buyout. Get them off the land.

    We would then be right side up. See who is laughing then.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This should be no surprise EXCEPT for Rep Betty McCollum. Her support of this is very disappointing.
    Did she not get enough truthful information?

    From AWHC

    The House Appropriations Committee today took a devastating action to authorize the BLM to manage wild horses and burros in non-reproducing and single-sex herds by subjecting them to risky, invasive surgeries like this ( link to video):

    If passed by the full Congress this would spell the beginning of the end for the iconic, free-roaming mustang herds of the American West.

    While this is bad news, we can stop it in the Senate. Game on!
    Here’s what you can do today:

    1. Call Your Senators at 202-224-3121. Tell them to stand with the 80 percent of Americans who want wild horses protected and humanely managed. Ask them to oppose any 2019 appropriations language that authorizes the slaughter, killing, or sterilization of these cherished federally-protected animals.

    2. You can also let the amendment sponsor and supporters know how you feel about their vote.

    Rep. Chris Stewart, amendment sponsor, 202-225-9730
    Rep. Ken Calvert, Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, (202) 225-1986
    Rep. Betty McCollum, Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking member, (202) 225-6631

    Liked by 1 person

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