Possibly because there are so many amazing places in Colorado, I actually have reached the summit of only one of Utah's iconic desert towers. However, with that said, I have made some eighteen trips to this amazing state, many with students to gaze in wonder at the magnificence of the land. The Fiery Furnace is among my favorite places on Earth, and I’ve had wonderful encounters with my parents and own children in the bizarre Goblin Valley hoodoos. However, a place that caught me off guard was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It had been designated in 1996, and I didn’t think much of it until a trip with my wife and kids to see Zion and Bryce. Travelling down Route 12 from Capitol Reef, the nondescript high forest suddenly gave way to a dramatic knife edge with shrubby trees and otherworldly scenery just about where a sign proclaimed entry into this monument. Instantly, I knew that I would have to return.
I didn’t get the permit for the Wave on that trip, but had memorable views of hoodoos and spectacular desert scenery within this fabulous monument such that in a matter of days, it ranked right up there with the Tetons among my favorite places on Earth. When I did get that coveted Wave permit a couple of years later, I made a point to swing by Grand Staircase again, this time to climb to the summit of Yellow Rock at sunrise, hike down the spectacular Round Valley Draw, and then ford through frigid waist deep water to the wonders of Zebra Slot Canyon.
Unfortunately, all of these places: Indian Creek, the Wave, and the Grand Staircase are all at risk. A recent executive order by the president has asked for review as to whether these, some of the most amazing places on the planet, are worthy of protection. Bears Ears, many say, should be done away with entirely. And then, there's coal in the Grand Staircase, so members of the Utah delegation, the Sutherland Institute, and other moneyed interests would love to see it cut in size by a dramatic 90%. The review of these monuments included a public comment period. Those involving the continued existence of Bears Ears which include the phenomenal Indian Creek cliffs need to be in by May 26th. Those for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and twenty five other National Monuments need to be in by July 10th. Information describing comments and a link to the comments site can be found here. There are specific guidelines as to the nature of the comments desired given on this press release. To me, if you value the phenomenal landscape of the American West, it is well worth spending a few minutes to let the Trump administration know your thoughts.
Of the many other monuments at risk... Memories of a hike with my parents some thirty years ago to the dramatic summit of Ragged Top near Tucson come to mind; driving through the endless expanse of Texas and suddenly seeing mountains as spectacular as the Tetons in front of me just north of El Paso; gazing to the east and wild and snowy lands after a cold night on Mt. Katahdin; all of these places are now at risk…
UPDATE: In an interim report, Secretary Zinke said that he would likely recommend vastly reducing the size of Bears Ears National Monument. He extended the comment period for Bears Ears until the same July 10th date as the other monuments including the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.