Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Antiquities Act: A Monumental Success

Coldwater Lake, Mt. St. Helens NVM -
 one of the many wonders protected
by the Antiquities Act 
Of all the various designations of public land, National Monuments are most close to my heart. This is likely due to the fact that my entire life up to this point has taken place on the doorstep of one of the finest: Mt. St. Helens. Some of my earliest memories are from days spent hiking through the beautiful desolation of the blast zone. The influence of this place upon me has been profound, and were it not for the Antiquities Act the region may never have been protected.



Very little of America’s natural heritage has received formal and permanent protection. It is easy for one to say, looking out across an expanse of protected land, how vast it is, and to question the need for current and future protected areas. However, when considered against the vast majority of our nation’s surface area, our protected areas are puny indeed - barely capable of protecting and preserving our grandest landscapes in their natural state. If anything, many of these areas need to be bigger still. Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument needs to be two, even three times its current size to properly protect, manage, and provide access to all the wonders that surround it. We still have much work to do if we are to adequately protect our wild places, and the Antiquities Act provides a relatively easy and effective means of providing permanent and powerful protection for federal land.
Bears Ears National Monument
 Photo by Bob Wick, BLM

Gold Buttes National Monument
Photo by BLM
Bears Ears, Gold Buttes….. all the monuments currently under review were threatened by degrading forces before their designation. Now they are safe for future generations to enjoy - unless they are foolishly undone out of avaricious intent. It is the greed of a few that threatens them - a few people seeking their own, short term profit. Ironically, when protected, they support multi-billion dollar economies that will continue to benefit the general populace for years to come. However, there are those who would sacrifice these long term benefits if it means making a quick buck off of irreplaceable natural resources.

Monuments are vital to local economies; for example, without Mt. St. Helens NVM the nearby communities of Castle Rock, Toutle, Toledo, Cougar, and more would likely no longer exist. These are small logging boom towns that flourished until the Old Growth forests were decimated, but once those trees were gone their economy died. The designation of the monument saved these communities from the fate of so many other boom towns across the American West. Now hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the mountain every year, providing businesses for hundreds of miles around with commerce. In Cowlitz County, tourism provides a hundred million dollars a year of income.The monuments that are currently under review may be new and relatively unknown, but already they are providing an economic boost to nearby towns and businesses. This is not the temporary rush of cash that will soon die away as in extractive industries. Tourism and outdoor recreation are renewable, permanent economies. They are the kind of economies on which a healthy, stable community can be built.

Our National Monuments are among our greatest achievements as a nation, and the Antiquities Act is the tool vital to their creation. If the act is compromised, if even a single monument is reduced in any way, it will not bode well for our future. We rely upon National Monuments, and public land in general, for inspiration, recreation, relaxation, and economic success. If you have not done so already, comment in support of the national monuments under review, support them on social media, and in every way you can.  Let your representatives know how you feel - we must send a clear, strong message to Washington: Our wild places, our monuments, our love and respect for nature and natural landscapes, are among the finest qualities that America has to offer the world.

For more information and to comment, head to http://monumentsforall.org/


Staircase-Escalante National Monument


Special thanks to Scott Jones for organizing this Monumental day of blogging! Find him at @rscottjones on twitter and instagram, and check out his blog: http://justgetoutmore.com/