Today’s photo depicts a brilliant sunrise over Manti-La Sal National Forest of Southeast Utah. Though the shot itself was taken from Arches National Park the proximity of federally protected lands even beyond our national park borders allows a symbiotic relationship between multi-jurisdictional areas. This is important in keeping ecosystems in tact, preserving wildlife corridors, and protecting watersheds; natural forces which of course are oblivious to the arbitrariness of manmade boundaries yet are extremely vulnerable to their implications.
Land management has become a hot-button topic in the American West. While the issue has always been contentious and distrust toward government overreach is deeply engrained in the rugged individualism that makes up the western psyche, matters have escalated with recent events such as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon. To the outsider looking in this may seem merely a curious affair, and when framed as a battle over grazing rights one might even feel compassion toward the occupiers, mistaking their cause as a romantic defense of the cowboy way of life. This of course is only a facade. What they really want is an exemption from the rules. They don’t feel that regulations established for the protection of land, wildlife, natural resources and preservation of special areas for the collective benefit of the American people should apply to them. And this is only a microcosm of the larger battle that’s being waged.
Legislative efforts are underway in places such as Utah and spreading throughout the West to allow states to take ownership of federal lands (such as National Forests, BLM areas, and National Monuments.) Those visibly behind this push are Senators such as Ken Ivory (R-UT) who spread the illogical claim that local state governments are better suited than the feds to manage the millions of acres in question. Lurking behind the scenes, however, are groups such as ALEC- the American Legislative Exchange Council– a conservative network established to write and promote policy for the benefit of its ultra-wealthy membership. Funding comes from giant corporations such as Exxon Mobile and billionaires such as the Koch brothers. With this in mind, it’s easy to see that the real agenda is to deregulate our public lands in order to remove environmental safeguards and pave the way for increased exploitation of our natural resources.*
Whether dark money is being used to directly fund uprisings like we’ve seen at Malheur or is simply contributing to propaganda meant to turn the tide of local sentiment, this is a dangerous situation that should not be taken lightly. It’s a sad irony, but many who support this movement are the anti-government conspiracy theory types who live in fear of having their liberties taken. In reality, they’re being played like puppets by these shadow organizations that are intent on stealing the last of our wide open spaces and destroying them for profit.
If you’re a nature lover; an environmentalist, a hiker, a photographer, a hunter or fisherman, you know the importance of protecting our public lands. Please take note and keep a close watch of what is going on. These are not simple grassroots sagebrush rebellions. There’s a bigger movement, with sinister implications at stake.
*It should be noted that mineral leases, oil drilling, grazing and logging already exists on some federal lands; and while the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management takes criticism for attempts to limit these activities, there is equal scrutiny from environmental groups who feel the government allows too much. However, States don’t have the financial ability or national accountability to provide the protections currently in place. Usurping ownership of federal lands will almost certainly open the flood gates to widespread resource exploitation, and the secondary damages such as air and water pollution that come with it.