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National Monument review and why we need to speak out

My National Parks personal project is kind of a new aspect of my work, that has been on pause as of late, it has given me the time to reflect on my photographic adventure. Along the way I have visited places like John Muir rock in Kings Canyon, and the Snake River overlook where Ansel Adams took his great image The Tetons and the Snake river. I spent a day trying to find the best place to shoot a shot that looked as close as possible and then had to come back when the light was right two days later to get this shot.

These places stir a reverence to times when the National Park Service was in its infancy and many of the parks we now know and love were not even conceived then. The Parks establishment took the dedication of men like Muir, Adams who became park advocates and countless others such as John D Rockefeller who bought land and donated which became part of Grand Tetons. They spoke out and convinced the presidents and politicians that these lands were sacred and should be kept undisturbed.

After 4 months on the road 24 National parks and countless national forests and monuments I found each has their own story of people who fought long and hard to protect each one. In March during my journey I saw the news of the executive order from our 45th president in which it would allow the sale of National Forests, monument and even park lands to be determined by a congressional committee. So with one quick whip of the pen he put in to motion the unraveling years of work by conservationists, scientists from many fields, philanthropists and artists. These lands not only hold beauty and wonder but many are Native American sites that have been there for hundreds and some thousands of years. Why would we sell these lands? All I can answer is greed. The push for oil in our country now knows no bounds oil rigs surround the park I visit most often Theodore Roosevelt National park.

Now many would say wow what a great image but this image is disappointing to me, as the yellow light in the background is not northern lights, a sunrise or even close city lights. The lights are from oil flares in the distance. People wonder why darkness in a park is even necessary well like humans animals have biological clocks and this intrusive light affects their normal routine. Not only are the rigs flares having an impact but this photo in the south unit shows just how close the rigs are to the park in some places.

On a trip to Glacier I swung into Theodore and got some great photos (in a future post), I stopped along the road and walked in about 100 yards to get this shot of  a rainbow which was rare this year as it was a big drought year. It was an ok shot but did not lend itself to any wide-angle composition as this rig and others would have been in the frame. I was so disappointed that just down and left of this beautiful scene was an oil rig.

The fence  is the park boundary and the rig is basically right next to it with another on the hill in the background. Now I can only hope this company is operating under strict EPA rules however the watershed protections have also been drastically reduced so they can put things like this closer to our parks and rivers. Not good, and especially if you look at enlarged section of this photo.
That is standing water next to oil holding tank and rig, granted this was after a rain of about an inch but it makes me wonder how safe it is next to a national park? Murphy’s law of what can go wrong probably will. So this president wants to loosen restrictions on watersheds and rewrite boundaries for parks and monuments that were made for a reason by past presidents.
The review board set up by Donald Trump results have not yet been fully released Ryan Zinke the department of interior has said that Bears Ears National, Grand Escalante, and Cascade-Siskiyou all are going to be affected. It is not a coincidence that each of these monuments all have resources that companies want. Fates of other parks have yet to be determined.
This landscape photo was shot in Bears Ears which contains uranium an extremely toxic ore to mine with radioactive waste that needs to be contained, Cascade Siskiyou holds many trees the logging industry is after, and Grand Escalante contains rich coal reserves. This administrations erosion of environmental water shed policies, border review have shown that they are not in this for the American public. If the money gained from these resources actually would do any good like providing healthcare, education for our youth, paying down our national debt some would argue it is a fair trade. I however do not believe this to be true they are merely looking to line the pockets of big business; and rob the American public of lands that for historical or conservation reasons have been set aside to be protected from mining, drilling and logging. Regardless of who put them there they deserve to be preserved and protected for the wildlife as well as for people to visit. The reasons these parks are large is because they are large tracts of land with no services and they are adjacent to many national parks or monuments. They serve as safe avenue for animal migration, and keeping the areas next to parks undeveloped and wild. In the case of Bears Ears there are many Native petroglyphs and ruins throughout the area. We should not have to see oil rigs next to a boundary of a park or worry about the water not being safe due to mining and drilling in national park watersheds. Let us also not forget that many of these lands were originally Native American reservation lands given by treaties which were broken, so now the government wants to break an agreement with the American public.
We love our Public Lands for many reasons hiking, camping, photography and in some forests and grasslands hunting and fishing and they need to be protected for the uses they were intended. Pristine wilderness is something that takes decades to bounce back from logging and mining should never be sacrificed we are moving towards a greener society and before we get there fully lets not sacrifice the places we have left for a quick buck. Do not let your voice go unheard speak out to your state representatives!

Six month photographic journey into the National Park System.

For two months I have stared at a blank screen some how waiting for the words to miraculously appear from a journey which some would call a futile effort, yet others would say it was the time of my life, but for me I think it will be the first of many adventures that cannot be summarized in a mere blog post. The range of emotions ran the gamut from the calmness and serenity of the sun setting in the desert, to sheer and utter terror on a four mile hike out through Chiracahua Canyon in the dark seeing large close-set eyes following me.

As the country was being divided by the media, and a President who sought to unravel works of former administrations of protecting places for our enjoyment and the conservation of ecosystems that support diverse life. I was envisioning fulfillment a dream that had built in my soul since I saw the works of Ansel Adams the amazing photographer, and advocate for the National Parks.

There I was with my 40th birthday soon staring me in the face and little I had planned to carry out by 40 actually finished. Which I suppose is what most of the people feel when they hit 40 since most of their great things in life probably weren’t planned at all. I read Kerouac’s On The Road many years ago and it rang so true in certain parts. The excitement of the open road the dotted lines flying by, the T in the road with an arrow in either direction that you just ask yourself for the answer, or when it comes down to it a flip of the coin. So I started to set the plan in motion to rid myself of the chains I had wrapped myself in by society telling me I needed the newest things, a nice apartment, a great paying job, and a hefty savings to enjoy my life when I retire. As I begin to rid myself of things and wants or expectations of what my life should be, I found a greater understanding of what makes my life fulfilling to me.

So this is the first post of many about my travel, and the places I have seen, and hopefully my skills as a landscape photographer can get you some enjoyment and a feeling that our National Parks, National Monuments, and national forests/grasslands need to be protected. You may say wait a minute these places are Federally protected. Well there are many things that threaten these places as well as our environment in general. I ask you to join me here and to keep checking back as I post experiences and photos over the last 6 months. A journey through our great American shrines to the beauty that brought our immigrant ancestors to this land and shaped generations of conservationists, artists and scientists to ask questions and fight to save them. These are the places we think of when we try to explain the beauty of our country to others.
landscape, national parks, Grand Tetons National park, Oxbow Bend
This is Oxbow Bend in the Grand Tetons National Park. When we visit serene places like this we can take in the view and gain perspective of trivial problems and hit the emotional reset button. In our lives we have been conditioned to distance ourselves from nature so we can be closer to Modern conveniences, cell coverage, shopping, restaurants, a comfortable bed and wifi. The understanding I have gained in my travels, that although these things are nice they distance us further from our natural place on this earth and the connection we have with it. This is the first to come of many so stay tuned you can follow me on twitter, fb, linked in just click link on top right.