National Wildlife Federation Members, Supporters Share Experiences, Speak Out for National Monuments
“They feed my soul and rest my spirit.”
The effort by the current administration to undo and shrink national monuments, specifically in Southern Utah, is alarming. This stands as one of the most brazen roll-backs of conservation protections across such a wide swath of landscape.
The president filed proclamations carving up and drastically shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah after Secretary Zinke made the recommendation to do so. Lawsuits challenging the actions have been filed. Meanwhile, the country is waiting to hear about possible changes to other monuments.
With this push to dismantle monuments that preserve important wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and cultural, historic and natural treasures, the National Wildlife Federation wanted to get a sense of what some of our members thought about the monuments that have been dismantled: The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. Had they ever been to either or both? What were their experiences like? Would they want to go back?
Their comments reflect the widespread support these monuments have nationwide and the deep value they hold in allowing Americans to experience wildlife and nature.
More than 250 National Wildlife Federation members and supporters from 42 different states let us know about their visits to the monuments.
We were struck by the geographic diversity of the respondents and by how many people visited multiple times with friends and family. Both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears are remote and hard to get to, with relatively little infrastructure – which makes the geographic diversity of our respondents quite impressive. Every corner of the country was represented, with most of the respondents hailing from the Western states – 48 percent. But people came from all over: the Midwest, 21 percent; South, 17 percent; Northeast, 14 percent; and even Alaska and Hawai’i at 1 percent each.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the most visited, with 88 percent of the respondents indicating that they had been there. This makes sense, given it has been a monument since 1996. Half of the surveyed members visited Bears Ears National Monument and 38 percent of the respondents visited both monuments. A significant number of the respondents – 37 percent — had visited either one or both of the monuments multiple times.
The most popular activities in the monuments were viewing historic and archaeological sites (71 percent), wildlife viewing/birdwatching (68 percent) and hiking (64 percent). Other activities mentioned were camping, fishing, mountain-biking and motorized recreation. Visiting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante made a strong and positive impression on many of our members.
Here are some of their comments:
“Both monuments are wonderful places! We have been exploring both monuments since and before their inception. The land within Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments are full of natural beauty and relics that absolutely need to be protected!!! These special places need to stay protected. Opening this land to extractive industry will benefit only a few people, where the monuments and what they provide allow enjoyment for millions.”
“We were on vacation on our Harley Davidson, and were on the narrow road looking out over the beauty that is all of ours to enjoy. And not only appreciate it in our lifetime, but for future generations alike. At the top of the mountain, we were greeted by a RV enjoying the vista along with us. We soaked in the smells and warmth of the altitude and appreciated the privilege of freely enjoying it. I don’t want to lose this freedom…
“They are part of our national treasures. We should all be able to enjoy this beauty forever. Free from development, and free from the anxiety of knowing they may disappear for selfish reasons.”
“The last time I was at Grand Staircase I met the man who discovered a new dinosaur there. He was informative and wonderful to talk with. The monuments need total protection! More discoveries could be lost forever. As a hiker and avid outdoors person, I find peace and beauty in these places. They feed my soul and rest my spirit.”
-Ronda, South Carolina
“Our visit to Bears Ears and Natural Bridges National Monument was inspired by President Obama’s designation of it as a National Monument and our Navajo guide Jesse’s description of the area as one of her people’s important cultural resources. We felt privileged to be able to visit such a productive, meaningful and beautiful landscape.”
-Elizabeth, New York
“My family has visited for generations and consider these monuments a part of a family tradition. We look forward to this time of year to connect with the great outdoors and these natural treasures as a soul restorer.”
“We had family gatherings there to camp, fish, hike and enjoy the area. They bring very fond memories.”
“In Bears Ears, one cannot hike down any canyon within the monument and not find artifacts. I spent two months in 2017 in Bears Ears alone, photographing the monument. I have backpacked extensively through Grand Staircase-Escalante, with a large portion of the areas I backpacked no longer in the monument under the new boundaries.”
“I’ve been visiting Southeastern Utah for about 50 years, Both of these national monuments are amazing places to hike and camp. The scenery is grand, the cultural history is awesome, and the opportunities for quiet recreation are vast. Southeastern Utah captures the American imagination–when people think about the Southwest, they think about Southeastern Utah. We need to protect these landscapes and the outdoors industry they support.”
“Deep quiet, grand vistas, a remembrance of true humanity, and soul. I cannot imagine what we will become without our wild places.”
“The experience there is balm for my soul.”
-Esther, North Carolina
“Breathtaking. God’s plan in action.”
Clearly, the experiences had by our members were unforgettable. Along with the stories many also sent words of encouragement and support for keeping Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments intact and protected for the future. On behalf of our members and all Americans, we will continue to work hard to reverse this wrong-headed attack on our national monuments.