Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Op-ed: Bears Ears monument would bring unintended consequences

By Nathan Nielson

This week Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will visit San Juan County to hear local opinions on the various proposals for Bears Ears. I hope she considers the unintended consequences of a national monument. Instead of hallowing sacred space, a designation routinizes and domesticates it. Instead of protecting the environment, a national monument increases the human footprint. Instead of aiding native ceremonial rites, regulations limit access to wood and herbs. Instead of returning nature to a pristine state, the park service monetizes the land to expand its operations. Instead of opening up the scenery, the government cordons and partitions it. Crowds come, mystery leaves.

To capture beauty, you have to tame it. And in taming it, you lose it.
What was once wild and scarce now becomes part of the mass machinery of modern bureaucratic and commercial life. Tourists, T-shirts, toll booths and air-conditioned visitor centers tarnish the landscape. Advertising firms are hired to exploit its images. This is the practical cost of protecting beauty. Places transform into copies of their original selves...
Nevertheless, the appetite of large, impersonal power rarely checks or trims itself. The safer route is the flexibility of broad local management adapting to local realities. Tribes, ranchers, environmentalists, the business community and government representatives are in the best position to hammer out solutions. Hopefully the Public Lands Initiative of Congressman Rob Bishop will enable such cooperation. In a society with so many competing interests, not everyone can expect to get what they want all the time.

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