83 years ago, today, my home park, Everglades National Park was established. The Everglades are different from the idea that most people carry of a national park. First- the Everglades were originally set aside not for their scenery, but the the diverse species of birds found within them. But in addition to that, the scenery of the Everglades is not the normal scenery most expect out of a National Park experience. There are no mountains. There are no massive trees or sparkling coastline. There is no impressive physical natural structure in the Everglades. But there is vastness. There is an infinite feeling of space stretching on beyond the horizon, a feeling of wilderness unspoiled, untouched, and unfettered by human concern and problems. And for that reason, the Everglades are my local salvation. No, I can’t go escape to the mountains when I find myself “nerve-shaken” and so in need of the “irrigating fountains of life” that John Muir so rightfully called our National Parks, but I can find myself delightfully surrounded by the overwhelming space of my wonderful River of Grass. Happy anniversary.
Mr. Trump is about to issue an Executive Order that imperils 1,018,114,328 acres of Public Land. These parcels of wilderness were originally preserved as National Monuments. Since the 1990s, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all contributed to the National Park System by setting aside land they deemed to be worthy of preservation for their scenic beauty and cultural significance. Now, with a new Executive Order, these National Monuments will be reviewed and possibly “un-designated”.
I find this absolutely sickening. Call your congressmen and senators and tell them you support the Antiquities Act and conservation. These National Monuments are the places that mean something to the underlying cultural values and beliefs that are the very sinew of the nation and its people. At one point, even the Grand Canyon was susceptible to the whims of commerce as miners and greedy hoteliers sought to privatize its vistas and minerals. But no, cooler and wider heads prevailed and saved the Grand Canyon for posterity. President Teddy Roosevelt swept the canyon under federal protection under the powers of the Antiquities Act, preserving the canyon as “undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gatherings shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.” And then Teddy Roosevelt underscored the meaning of conservation with a speech at The Grand Canyon: “Leave it as it is… man can only mar” what is a symbol of the natural wonders of the American landscape. The very idea that Mr. Trump would un-designate land that’s been deemed culturally valuable is so disturbing and antithetical to his hyperbole on “making America great again.” How do you intend to “make America great” when you devalue the physical parts of this country that are outstanding and sublime and special?
I hope Interior Secretary Zinke reminds the POTUS of the man he has called his hero on multiple occasions, President Theodore Roosevelt, and his words when talking about the National Park Service, conservation, and the parts of this country that already make this country great and worthy of our concern and respect.