Twenty seven National Monuments were recently reviewed by Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), Ryan Zinke, for reduction in size. Based on those analyses, the sitting President signed an executive order reducing two of those National Monuments….significantly. The best expose’ I’ve seen of what’s afoot here is summed up in a National Geographic article: What Trump’s Shrinking of National Monuments Actually Means
Reductions to National Monuments are currently hot button issues. Federal land ownership, especially in the West, may be an even hotter hot button issue.
Awhile back, there was a takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, OR. That wildlife refuge falls under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency under the umbrella of DOI.
Image Credit: Big Think
The “Image Credit” link under the map above takes the reader to the best analysis I’ve seen on the issue of Federal land ownership.
The perception that most often accompanied this map on social media sites was along the lines of:
Percent of land owned by the federal government. No wonder Westerners think this is a big issue and Easterners can’t understand why this is a problem.
The implied message is that Easterners don’t understand the problem because they aren’t as “affected” by Federal land ownership as Westerners are.
It’s easy to blame an entity, in this case the Federal government, for perceived wrongdoings especially if we don’t understand how and why public lands came to be in the first place. It’s much LESS easy to actually learn something about the history and development of how something comes to be.
A good analogy from where I sit is there are public parks in a lot of towns. Those parks are owned, operated, and maintained by those towns. Some public parks have playgrounds for children to have fun and play. Many have sandboxes. These sandboxes are to keep the sand in, to kind of “protect” it in a way. The sandboxes are geographical areas within those parks.
Kids don’t really understand the limitations of the boundaries of the sandbox. If they want to throw a handful of sand at someone else, they’ll do it.
Let’s say one thing leads to another and some children engage in a sand fight.
Who’s going to put that sand back when the fight is over?
How much sand is left within the sandbox?
How much of the sand got “contaminated” by dirt mixed in with dirt outside the sandbox?
How much will it cost to replace the sand that was lost?
Some towns might overlook the “crime” that was committed and make necessary repairs by taking those costs out of the budget.
Others may decide signs should be posted prohibiting sand fights.
Those are operations and maintenance considerations similar in concept to public lands, especially given damages that are caused by ranching, logging, oil exploration, and mining activities..
There’s also a widespread movement to wrest control and management of public lands from the Federal government and cede it over to individual states. Once the land is ceded over, it’s gone. There’s no “putting the sand back in the sandbox”.
States are “cash strapped”. Their funding sources are more “limited” than are Federal coffers simply by virtue of the fact their tax base is much smaller.
Those states will seek ways to lessen the financial burden imposed because they are now responsible to operate and maintain those new state lands, to put the “sand back in the sandbox” so to speak.
What’s the alternative? They’ll raise taxes on state residents! Or they’ll raise revenue by opening those lands up even more to ranching, logging, oil exploration, and mining.
If that doesn’t raise enough tax revenue to operate and maintain these lands, they’ll simply sell them off to private entities.
What’s lost in all of this is that you and I, the REAL owners of Federal public lands, will lose access unless we get permission from private companies holding title to those lands….a hit or miss proposition, at best.
I bet you’re wondering how “cemeteries” fit into all of this, right? Well, most municipalities have cemeteries. We honor those interred in all of them. We tend the grounds in which our loved ones are interred. We keep them neat. We keep the grass trimmed, and we make damned sure no weeds are allowed to grow.
Some cemeteries are out in rural areas. Most of them do not get the same care those in towns get. Some of the more rural cemeteries do, in fact, sometimes get overgrown and neglected.
But here’s the thing….how many cemeteries, urban or rural, have no fences? There are some, to be sure. I’d wager there are far more that do have fences than do not. Even with that being said, the boundaries of a cemetery are distinct; marked either with gated entrances or by some kind of marker(s) somewhere to let people know this is a place for solemnity, honor, and respect.
Now, imagine, if you will, people riding ATVs through that cemetery, tearing down the fences, riding over the grave sites, doing donuts and wheelies, ripping up the landscape, making all kinds of noise.
That happened. Only it wasn’t in a municipal cemetery. It wasn’t in a rural cemetery. No sirree. It happened in a remote area of public lands in Utah. It happened in direct defiance of rules, regulations, and prohibitions on recreational use for that specific area. Those rules, regulations, and prohibitions on recreational use for that area were put in place because that area is sacred ground….for Native Americans. It happened to Native American sacred ground. Sacred ground. Remember the Bundy standoff in Nevada? Remember Recapture Canyon in Utah?
I guess the question we should be asking ourselves is along the lines of why should municipal and rural cemeteries we consider to be sacred grounds receive any more special treatment than those of Native Americans, the Indigenous Peoples of America? In remote areas of public lands? Public lands that are designated off-limits to recreational use? Public lands that are sacred grounds?
Solemnity? Honor? Respect? Where were any of these in Recapture Canyon? Seriously, where…were…they? Anyone?
My two cents.
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