On April 26 President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of the Interior to review National Monuments created within the past 20 years with an eye toward rescinding or downsizing them. The aim is to allow commercial development on those lands.
I’m a product of my experiences in California’s Sierra Nevada–among its peaks and forests. I’ve wandered through the magnificent redwood forests of the national monuments bracketing Sequoia National Park, north and south. I’ve admired those huge trees, many of whose ages span over a thousand years. I would hate to see them cut to simply fill out the bottom line of a timber company.
You see, I believe these forests and their trees are much more valuable–to you, the reader, and to me. National monuments, land set aside for their natural and/or historical value, are federal lands. This means that it belongs to each one of us. It belongs to you and it belongs to me.
This was brought home to me in one of my most intense spiritual experiences; it has shaped my life.
Lakelet above Lyell Canyon north of Donohue Pass, Yosemite National Park
After spending several days backpacking along the John Muir Trail, we had a layover day at the lower lake of the Lake Marjorie chain, north of Pinchot Pass. After a leisurely day of soaking in the beauty, before dinner I wandered to a veiwpoint overlooking the Upper Basin and deepening valley of the South Fork of the Kings River. A beam of light from the setting sun shone through a low point on the divide across the valley. It was quiet and peaceful.
As I sat, I considered that this was federal land, held for its natural qualities and for the enjoyment and inspiration of all. This meant that I shared in its ownership; it belonged to me as well as to every other American.
Then I realized that this ownership went far deeper than in the legal sense. These inspiring mountains, lakes, streams and forests belonged to me, personally, at the deepest possible level of my being. I was overcome by emotion–awe and thankfulness for such a blessing.
I have gone on to earn my Master’s in geology, work at camps and a ski touring center, and volunteer for the Sierra Club, all with the abiding knowledge that I am, as well as is everyone else, an owner and steward of this amazing world of which I am an inseparable part.