Monday, December 04, 2017

Dismantling National Monuments and American Values

Today Donald Trump is in Utah to begin an unprecedented destruction of American values; the dismantling of protected historic, cultural, scientific, and environmental treasure.

Zion National Park
This isn't just about Bear's Ears National Monument and its energy resources. There's no respect here for the Native American peoples who have interacted with this landscape for thousands of years. Nor does this have anything to do with state's rights or individual loss of a western-ranching lifestyle, which really has a history less than 200 years old.

This is about lies and obfuscation. The people after this land don't care about Native Americans or any other Americans. They only care about their own personal monetary wealth.

If the oil, coal, and gas resources on these public lands, or the oil and timber on other public lands, are so vital for development, why won't the individuals and corporations that want to exploit them come forward out of the shadows? Why do they put politicians forward with silver-coated talking points? Why don't they participate in an honest discussion about what they want and how they plan to extract these resources? How many local jobs will they really provide? What is the actual cost to the land, the water, and local communities?

Historians have clearly documented the fact that coal mining leaves towns and villages impoverished for multiple generations. Whether it is in Wales, England, southern Illinois, Pennsylvania, or the Appalachian Mountains of the U.S., coal mining leaves the local people with poorer health, less income opportunity, and polluted land and water less able to produce healthy food.

We have lived it here in California, the boom towns of the gold rush, the cities that grew up around the gold and silver mines are mostly ghost towns. You've probably never heard of Aurora, Bodie, or Cerro Gordo, cities built on men digging in the ground and smelting ore. Places where toxins piled up and forests were consumed. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento became successful metropolises as suppliers to these towns, not as mining producers.

Across this country, families that struggle economically are so desperate for help they will believe shadowy thieves and the third-rate con-man they've put forward to speak for them. Struggling Americans are willing to believe that undermining their future will somehow provide them with a brighter present. The Republicans in Washington are trying to push through a similar empty promise with their flawed Tax Bill. 

From the dismantling of the National Monuments to the pending Tax Bill, if the supporters truly believed these were good moves for the country, they would be happy to honestly lay out all of the details. They aren't. What kind of a future are we accepting?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Do You Really Want To Dismantle U.S. National Monuments?

Sequoia National Monument

President Trump’s Executive Order 13792 to review national monuments “created under the Antiquities Act” may seem innocuous, but it threatens who we are as Americans.

Our National Parks and National Monuments protect wilderness, natural landscapes, historic, cultural, and scientific treasures so they will out last any single generation and benefit all Americans into the future. So what is going on with EO 13792? 

The Executive Order is asking for a review of national monuments that encompass 100,000 acres or more. Apparently size is the only reason to question the value of a monument. A letter sent by 17 members of Congress to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, containing their recommendations regarding 27 current national monuments, reveals the real reason for the reevaluation. Read the Letter.

The national monuments being recommended for either rescission (which means repeal of national monument status) or dramatic reduction in size, are not just Bears Ears National Monument, which was designated at the end of the Obama presidency, but national monuments established or expanded over the last 20 plus years by the past three presidential administrations–Clinton, Bush, and Obama. 

Sequoia National Monument
You’ve probably visited some of these national treasures. Here are a few of the recommendations I find particularly troubling:

Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA - (designated by Clinton in 2000) We know so much more about giant sequoias than we did 20 years ago. These unique and ancient trees depend on the forest and watershed that surrounds them. They are not single trees, but organisms interconnected with their entire ecosystem. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.” Harvest “timber resources.”

Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID - (established 1924 by Coolidge, expanded by Clinton in 2000) Expanding the monument protected three lava flow areas, Native American cultural sites, and unique wildlife. Concessions were made to allow continued hunting in some areas. In 2017, even the Idaho State Senate voted in favor of petitioning congress to designate Craters of the Moon as a National Park. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.”

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT - (designated by Clinton in 1996) We visited this monument for the first time this August; the geology was stunning. New dinosaur fossils are being discovered here every year and the record of human habitation goes back nearly 2,000 years. Concessions made to ranching allow continued grazing by cattle. Recommendation: “total rescission” of the National Monument. Pursue mining of coal and gas exploration.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA - (designated by Clinton in 2001) Largest expanse of native grassland remaining in California; home to pronghorn, tule elk, endangered kit foxes, and a variety of birds. San Andreas Fault crosses the plain. BLM land and land purchased by the Nature Conservancy were combined to create monument. Recommendation: reduce the current size “so that the monument is ‘confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected’.” Develop fossil fuel resources. (45 oil wells remain on monument land and 15 are active; future development is prohibited by current monument status.)

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, AZ and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, AZ - Both of these monuments are part of the Grand Canyon area. Vermillion Cliffs is to the north and Parashant is along the north rim of Grand Canyon. There are no paved roads accessing Parashant, it was initially BLM land, part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 23,000 acres of AZ state lands and ~8,000 of private land. It is a designated a Dark Sky Park. Cliffs was initial protected by the Desert Wilderness Act of 1984. Both areas are vital wildlife habitat: elk, mountain lion, desert bighorn sheep, and CA condor. Recommendation: “total rescission” of the National Monument. Pursue mineral and geothermal development at Vermillion Cliffs and mineral resources at Parashant.

Yellowstone National Park
What would Yellowstone National Park look like today if 50 years ago, we as a country had abandoned the idea of preserving natural places and wildlife, and reduced the Park to a small area around 'Old Faithful' and developed the rest for geothermal energy? 

Yosemite National Park
What would Yosemite National Park be today if it went the way of Hetch Hetchy and was dammed to generate hydro-power? 

Developing these unique landscapes for short-term gain is shortsighted. When you think of a place that feeds your soul, makes you happy to be alive, what do you think of? A coal mine? An oil field? Or do you think of a natural place?

We protect and preserve too little. We treasure too few. Stand-up for preserving our National Monuments. If we don't, the National Parks will be next.

See what other groups are saying about Executive Order 13792:

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: Letter regarding Bears Ears

letter from 121 law professors

Letter from the US Senate committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Letter from the International Dark-Sky Association

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cassini's Legacy

NASA image taken by Cassini Spacecraft from Saturn looking back at Earth

A bright round planet distantly twinkling in a vast dark sky. 

The image of Earth as photographed by Cassini looking through Saturn's rings gives me shivers. It is the same feeling that I experience during total solar eclipses. The Earth is a small place in the vast cosmos; a special garden and watery wonder.

Space is a cold and hostile place, yet here on our rock veiled in water and atmosphere life thrives in great diversity.

The spacecraft Cassini and its international support team have given humankind an invaluable gift: vision. Vision of a global community of scientists working together. Insight into Saturn's moons with their hints of possible life. But also, they have given us a vivid visual reminder of Earth's fragility. While we search for other life forms in the cosmos, may we work harder to preserve the unique place we call home.

Farewell Cassini and thank you for the images: 

More about this NASA Cassini image:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Celebrating The First Day of Spring 2017

This year the Vernal Equinox finds Southern California lush from winter rains. The garden is flush with flowers. The Lady Banks rose has more blooms than leaves. While she isn't a native, the birds love this thatch of thorn-less climbing rose. The house finches and white-crowned sparrows actually nibble on the rose buds. It is a great place for small birds to hide when the Cooper's hawk is on the prowl.

Several natives are in bloom already. It has taken this ceanothus (snow flurry) years to establish itself, but this year the white blooms are stark against the deep green foliage. Typically our blue-colored ceanothus (concha) is more visible.

The native verbena have been strong bloomers throughout the years of drought. Several of the sparrow and finch species explore beneath them. They may be eating tiny seeds produced by the plants or be thinning out the native insects that are attracted to this flowering species.

Rising summer temperatures in our area have pushed us to incorporate more natives from Baja Mexico into our backyard habitat. This Euphorbia xanti, or Baja spurge, flowers in spring and has tiny green leaves year round. It can be invasive, but up on our hillside it helps with erosion, is drought tolerant, and provides another thatch for avian parents to leave their youngsters. It has served as a play pen for our California towhees and Bewick's wrens. The maze of tiny branches provides roosting and protection for young birds left on their own during parts of the day.

While native plants are a priority for me, I have to admit that two of my favorite flowers in the yard right now are decorative non-natives: the wisteria and the clivia.

Named in honor of Lady Clive, Charlotte Percy the Duchess of Northumberland, in the early 1800s, Clivia miniata, or Kaffir lily, are beautifully flowering plants from shadowy forests of Africa. They are incredibly sturdy. The hybrid individuals in our yard came with us to this house over 20 years ago. They were separated from ancestors in Pasadena about 30 years ago. Clivia are somewhat drought tolerant if planted in shady protected locations. And if they don't seem to be thriving, you can dig them up and move them. Some of my plants have been moved three or four times before finding a location with protection, but enough morning sun to inspire blooming. One huge plus: the gopher won't eat them.

The Wisteria sinensis is a Chinese import, but known for adapting to Southern California weather. My wisteria is doing fine in a pot on the patio. It is also drought tolerant, but in a pot requires closer water attention. Not only are the blooms natural art, the valley carpenter bees love to visit them. This surprises me, but I am thankful that such a beautiful flower plays an important role in my backyard habitat. The hummingbirds also like to sit on its thin vine stems.

On this first day of spring. Take a moment to refresh your mind and spirit with the new life around you. Our first hummingbird chicks of the year fledged on Friday and the Bewick wrens have seven eggs in their nest. Soon the yard will be filled with baby birds.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

L.A. Women's March Jan. 21, 2017 - Activists Should Come Together

Where were you on Jan. 21, 2017?

Yesterday was a historical day. You felt that in your bones if you marched in one of the Women's Marches and saw images of like-engergized people around the world. 

I've heard disgruntled people saying "The election is over, stop whining." To these people I say "You are missing the point."

The president, his administration, and ALL of our elected officials need to hear the voices of the democracy. The people have the responsibility to speak out.

  • We marched to support women's rights, from Choice, to equal pay, to health care, to civil treatment around the world.
  • We marched for a healthy environment for our children and the future.
  • We marched for justice and fair treatment for all people, ALWAYS.

In Los Angeles we experienced a respectful, joyous, merging of all ages, racial backgrounds, sexual identities, religious faiths, and political priorities. If you hear someone speaking words of fear mongering and hate, claims of violence at the March in L.A., you are not hearing the truth. Ask what that source has to gain from those statements? Are they trying to silence your voice?

If you want to know what happened at one of the Women's Marches, talk directly to someone who was there. So many people were involved, that someone you know or have a connection to, marched. Ask a participant, reach out to a primary source. Here's our video of the day.

As a white woman, active in women's rights and environmental issues, marching beside activists from other priorities was a moment of awakening. When Black Lives Matters activists or Marriage Equality & LGBTG activists are marginalized, I am marginalized. When immigrants or people of any religious group are marginalized just for who they are, I am marginalized. When women are treated as second class citizens, humanity suffers. When the environment is compromised, the future is threatened for us all.

Let's galvanize the powerful inclusion demonstrated around the world on Jan. 21, 2017. Let's come to the table to find common strengths and shared values. Let's open our minds and hearts to understand each other and work toward shared solutions.

Divided we are issue activists. United we are unstoppable.

Why is the Endangered Species Act important?