• Sarah Schlaefke

What do we do now?

View from Selfish Wall, Indian Creek, Bears Ears National Monument.

It was wild. It was free. It was untouched. It’s gone.

As I sat in the office today, fingers crossed that somehow Trump’s press conference would go any way but the way that it did, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by thoughts, words, images, and sentiments of what the great desert holds.

It took me a few tries to start this post, to get past the swearing, the name-calling, the utterly ridiculous negativity that’s been overwhelming me regarding this topic as a whole. But I feel these things for a very real reason, and you might, too. And if you don’t, here’s why you should.

Even if you’ve never been to Grand Escalante or Bears Ears, I’d argue that it should be the same height on your list as Bali or freaking Cancun. It is truly wild. Out there. You lose cell service about a half an hour before you dive deep into red canyons, winding past steep sandstone cliffs and past desert brush huddled under juniper trees. Find orange sand kicks up behind the wheels of your car and beats vibrant colors against the massive blue sky. Littered with golden boulders and free-standing pinnacles, if you saw this landscape, you’d know only an act of God could create such beautiful structures (and yes, I know the science, it’s pretty flipping amazing, too). As you pass by cliffs, you notice ancient drawings pounded into the black patina, left by people who enjoyed the free-roaming land hundreds of years before us. Slowly, crumbled homes and living rooms appear under enormous slabs of free-hanging rock. As you stare at them, you can envision what life could’ve been like for the ancient natives who dwelled there, braving the desert day after day, just as I love to do now.

You hear nothing man-made. You see nothing man-made. But you, man, are overwhelmed, devastated, by the absolute unrealness of the great desert. It’s like being on another planet, but you’re not, you’re right at home.

And get this, this is just how I feel about physically standing there. I just moved here. There are natives and people who have lived there and in its vicinity their wholes lives, and I truly can’t imagine how distraught they are right now. Especially when this has been driven by an individual who’s idea of nature is a golf course on top of an old landfill.

Newspaper Rock pictographs from hundreds of years ago in Bears Ears.

Needless to say, I am floored that our administration still didn’t listen to our voices and still has announced to reduce protection over these sacred lands. This is an even bigger mess because it is in-your-face-proof of our governmental system failing. This is bad because during Secretary Zinke’s public comment period, 3 million Americans weighed in on the Bears Ears issue. About 99 percent disagreed with this proposed announcement. Yet look what they went ahead and did anyway. This is bad because now the land that was a national monument will be either owned by the state or sold to private companies for them to do whatever with, which could be mining, logging, ranching, and pretty much all the other ways you can think of destroying an ecosystem. This is bad because even if the state designates the land as a state park and they don’t make money on it, then the land gets thrown away into the hands of private oil companies FOREVER. This is bad because once they suck the Earth dry of all the natural resources that may or may not even be there, the industry will just abandon roads and pumps, left to rot there in the desert, serving as eyesore-reminders of how poorly we treat Mother Nature. This is bad because Native Americans hold this land sacred, and really, can’t we just freaking care about them for once as a nation?! This is bad because those who voted Trump into office STILL don’t see what the issue is. This is bad because now we all feel helpless, hopeless, and we want to give up. This is just plain bad.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t argue with crazy. And you can’t argue with ignorance either, apparently. So now that by some act of a naïve executive order, we’re about to lose our public land, something we deserve and have earned as citizens of the United States – what the hell do we do now?

Well, I will tell you this, I don’t have all the answers. But I have a few. And some of the answers don’t exist yet. But we start with fighting. Resisting. And speaking up. Sign petitions. Keep an ear out for movements; they’ve happened before. Write to your representatives even when it doesn’t seem like they listen. Educate yourself and talk about what wild lands mean to you. Not just Bears Ears, not just Grand Escalante, ALL wild lands. With this monumental mistake underway, ALL our public lands are under attack.

Oh and also, man the heck up and have an opinion. Vote. Too many Americans just stood by and watched while Trump won the election last year. “I don’t do politics,” is not an answer anymore. If you don’t do politics and therefore didn’t vote, then this is your fault. Grow up, read about the real world, and take responsibility. Vote like a freaking adult.

Follow movements and organizations such as Patagonia, Duct Tape Then Beer, The Nature Conservancy. These groups are aware of their voice and their impact; be part of it.

Duct Tape Then Beer

Contact your elected officials

Patagonia This Is Bears Ears

Native American’s Rights Fund

Access Fund

Monuments For All

The Nature Conservancy

So do yourself a favor and share this post, share these links. Save your own public land. Save your voice. Stand up against those destroying our nation. If you do nothing, it becomes your fault.

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