In improving quality of life, public lands worth defending

To the editor:

Your article about the study conducted by Colorado Mesa University for the BLM reinforced what Westerners experience every day: We utilize and enjoy our public lands to such an extent that they improve our quality of life.

The study is a timely reminder because right now there is an all-out attack on our public lands.

The Trump Administration is slashing the size of two nearby national monuments, Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase/Escalante, both established under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906. In fact, June 8 marks the exact day that President Teddy Roosevelt signed it into law.

Bears Ears is a treasure trove of sandstone canyons and Ancestral Puebloan structures estimated to number over 100,000 in an area of about 1.4 million acres. The administration intends to shrink it by 85 percent, leaving 72 percent of the archaeological sites vulnerable.

Grand Staircase/Escalante comprises an area of over 1.8 million acres containing Ancestral Puebloan structures along with striking scenery and dinosaur fossils over 75 million years old. It is also a mecca for outdoor recreation and a boon for the local economies. The Trump Administration wants to reduce it 47 percent.

Despite the job creation and many economic benefits of public lands, there are several bills currently going through Congress to gut the Antiquities Act, Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument and the Bears Ears National Monument.  Other bills would limit the expansion of existing monuments and the creation of new ones without congressional approval and to turn over all federal lands (national forests, BLM lands, park service system lands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife reserves, etc.) to the respective states in which they lie. We all know what this would lead to: the privatization or development of these treasures.

The public land system in this country protects our natural, scenic and cultural heritage and is the envy of the world. We urge our Colorado congressional delegation to learn more about Chimney Rock and other national monuments and to stand up to the Trump Administration against these assaults.

Representative Scott Tipton sits on the House Energy and Natural Resources committee and has the opportunity to vote no on these threats to the Antiquities Act. Write to or call Rep. Tipton at
(202) 224-3121 and tell him to stand up for our national monuments and the Antiquities Act.

Sincerely,

Ernie O’Toole

president, board of directors,

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association,

Chimney Rock National Monument

Pagosa Springs