Since the designation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, our elected officials have been assuring our outdoor heritage by protecting land for generations to come.
Before leaving office, President Obama helped to set aside more than 553 million acres of new national lands, including these recent additions:
For thousands of years, through the inhabitance of multiple distinctive cultures, this region has absorbed the essence of human history. It is an unbelievably archeologically rich location. It is also a beautiful wilderness, full of rugged outcroppings, rich desert colors, and stunning vastness, including its namesake mesas.
With the help of activists and preservationists, the importance of Bears Ears reached the ears of the White House and on December 28, 2016, a presidential proclamation entrusted the land to the federal government for protection. The 1.3-million acres preserve geological formations as well as architectural remains and a trove of indigenous artifacts that are still being discovered.
The land will be jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Perhaps most importantly, the joint planning force will also recognize the voice of Native American tribes and nations that have historically been the stewards of the area. The Bears Ears Commission will include one tribe-elected official each from the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, and Zuni Tribe.
When you think of the Grand Canyon, you probably think of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona—and specifically the awesome chasm for which the park is named. But the land surrounding this amazing geological feature is an indispensable part of its overall ecosystem. Keeping this area safe for generations to come is just as important as protecting the canyon itself. Enter Gold Butte National Monument.
The newly preserved area in Nevada spans the 300,000 acres between Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, creating a buffer for wildlife and ecological preservation.
Rich with flora and fauna, Gold Butte reminds us that the desert is much more than just an empty expanse. It’s a dynamic, ecologically delicate and beautiful place worthy of respect and protection. The area also teems with traces of past residents, from the remains of indigenous civilizations to evidence of historical mining and ranching operations.
Plan a Visit
When planning your visit to these or any wild place, remember to respect their integrity and be aware of your impact on sensitive areas. Don’t let unleashed pets have the run of the place and keep them away from designated archeology sites. Teach kids to respect the natural formations and historical human constructions alike.
These new monuments shouldn’t be treated as playgrounds. But they are not-to-be-missed examples of America’s natural and historical beauty. They belong to all of us to visit, appreciate and protect.
The concept of federal land has always been divisive. At every stage, since the opening of Yellowstone itself, opponents have worried that government overreach would result in unfair or unwise management. In years to come, the fight over how best to care for and use the land, including Bears Ears and Gold Butte, will continue.
Yet for all the competing interests and different ideas about how land should be governed and used, it’s impossible to imagine that any American, upon looking over the rim to the vastness of the Grand Canyon, could be anything but grateful for all the wild that federal lands have kept in tact for generations to come.