Amy Roberts: Monuments matter
My personal transformation over this last decade of my life can be summed up in two lines:
2007 — I’m drunk. I should call my ex.
2017 — I’m drunk. I should call my senator.
If nothing else, the Trump presidency has turned me into a bit of an activist. I’ve never been apathetic when it comes to politics, but until this year, I’ve never reserved time on my calendar to schedule a weekly call to my representatives in Washington. Not that they listen or care, their minds are made up long before my standing Monday morning dial date, but there’s something gratifying about filling their voicemail boxes with all the reasons they are wrong.
I’ve left a lot of messages for Orrin and Mike over the past year. This recent cycle has been largely dedicated to protecting Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Along with my phone calls and emails, the protests and pleas of thousands, including many tribal leaders, have been dismissed. Of course they were. There’s money to be made off those lands.
That’s the only reason the great Cheetolini cares. Trump couldn’t pass a fifth grade geography test, but we’re supposed to believe he could find Southern Utah on a map, much less has any genuine concern about the national monuments there? He doesn’t listen to scientists, combat generals or his Chief of Staff, yet we’re to believe he’s suddenly listening to the people of San Juan County?
It’s not believable. What is believable is that Trump, Hatch, Lee and other elected officials know oil and gas companies write far bigger campaign contribution checks than nature lovers.
In his announcement Monday, Trump drastically slashed the size of the monuments by nearly 2,000,000 acres. Uranium, oil, gas and coal mining companies will now have easy access to pillage this land, which includes sacred archaeological and cultural sites, diverse plant and animal life, and largely untouched recreational and scenic attractions.
You know what they say — small hands equal a shortsighted man.
Extractive industries are boom and bust. Yes, there’s lots of money to be made up front, but that’s always followed by environmental destruction, which leads to economic devastation. Park City knows that well. When the silver market collapsed, this town nearly did too. Skiing eventually saved it, but that’s a success story few towns can emulate. And even today we continue to feel the very real consequences of our mining history — contaminated soil and groundwater, sinkholes, erosion, and loss of biodiversity for starters.
I know the argument from the other side well — these monuments were sprung on them by liberal presidents. The locals had no say. I can relate to the frustration of not being heard by my lawmakers. But I question how this perceived ‘federal land grab’ has truly had a negative impact.
Tourism in the area has created a number of small businesses — from eco-friendly lodging to organic restaurants. Fossil fuels are a finite resource; small business growth is not. Further, studies prove spending time outside in nature boosts your immune system, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and decreases depression. Considering the GOP healthcare plan, those are some pretty beneficial side effects. Nature might just be the only doctor many will have access to.
But aside from all this, our public lands really are what make America great. Other countries have lower crime rates, better healthcare, more economic growth, gender equality and leaders who don’t behave like petulant children. They don’t, however, have the national parks and monuments we do. That’s the part that gets highlighted and circled on our national résumé. And Monday’s announcement left a big X on that document.
At the end of the day, even if those in San Juan County aren’t in favor of these monuments, this land belongs to all Americans. It is held in a trust for all citizens. Not just those living nearby. And especially not for those who stand to gain campaign contributions from bastardizing them.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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