One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that am a super environmentalist. Most people think that I dress up like Pan and dance around the campfire. Some people think I secretly dream about owning a Nissan Leaf. I am continually getting requests to sign petitions to save something or encourage the government to do something. The reality is I am not a huge environmentalist. I don’t mate with trees, I don’t own a Prius or Leaf, and I don’t think everyone who works in the Oil industry needs to be lynched every time something goes wrong.
There has been a lot of talk in the news and outdoor circles lately about a new national monument, Bears Ears National Monument. This means my views have constantly been questioned, my opinion has been asked and petitions are sent to me. I personally am against a Bears Ears National Monument. I am not convinced that National Monument designation means better protection of the area. All a National Monument means is a lot more visitors. More visitors usually means more rescues, more competition for the locals, more graffiti, and more litter.
Currently when you have a place that is largely under the radar, most of the people that visit it are locals or people who have the skills and connections to find out about it the hard way. When something gets a National designation status to it, its a mating call screaming to the far reaches of the world to every moron in existence. A perfect example of this was a year ago when we were in Escalante.
We were in the Escalante area backpacking Death Hollow. We were camping at Escalante Outfitters like we always do before or after adventures in Escalante. There were four guys around the campfire from New Jersey. They had never been canyoneering before, but had just completed Neon Canyon. My friend Dawn started questioning them about the safety of their decision. Their defense was, it was in a National Monument so it would be heavily traveled and anchors would be readily available. Now this is something that happens everywhere, but I would bet that its greater in National Park areas. The amount of rescues that take place in Zion every year are much greater than the rescues that take place in the current area of the Bears Ears. I would imagine it has something to do with the amount of people that visit the areas. But that is precisely my point, National designation may equal more protection, but it also equals far more opportunity for problems.
The designation being sought after for the Bears Ears is only that of a National Monument not a National Park. National Monuments don’t get as much traffic, and they don’t have as much protection either. Recently we have seen two cases of flagrant acts of vandalism happen in National Parks, areas that have far more Rangers and far more traffic from regular law abiding citizens. Any real advantage to a National designation is easily offset by the amount of bad traffic the area will receive.
Recently in the Grand Canyon, two people spray painted their name over some rocks. This area wasn’t located in some remote corner of the Grand Canyon that requires a raft or a backpack. It was only a few feet from a tourist area complete with Rangers, parking lots and a plethora of southern Californians. Another woman, really hot woman, got caught painting “art” in 6 different national parks. She wasn’t caught because some noble park ranger was wandering bye while she was signing her name. She was caught because she was stupid enough to post it to social media. All the Rangers in the world didn’t prevent either of these things. However, the designation of “National” did attract her. Like her hot hiking outfit attracts me…not gonna lie 200 hours was a little stiff, the judge should have made her go out on a date with me.
The illusion of a national designation, is only an illusion, it does not offer more protection from the masses. It only increases the amount of problems. It makes it a bigger hassle for the locals, whose taxes pay for most of the access roads and services. National Parks like Zion have become such a hassle for most of the residents of the state of Utah that most of them avoid it. As a canyoneer it is one of the last places I will go. I prefer the current area of the Bears Ears and the Robbers Roost, mostly because it is less of a hassle than the National Parks or Monuments.
The argument of protection does extend beyond that of the stupid tourist. There is the issue of mineral rights, mining and drilling. I don’t propose that we drill everything on the planet, except maybe the hot chic who was putting art on rock. However, I don’t think halting all progress gets us anywhere either. I have been going to the Bears Ears area for more than 10 years. Actually, my first trip was when I was 7 and we went through the Valley of the Gods. I have seen more than most people have seen. Turning it into a National Monument means we will have one million yearly visitors who will look at 20 sites. A very miniscule percent of the population will see more than 50% of the Bears Ears area. I have seen about 50%. When I see new areas, there is nothing new, it looks just like the old areas. If they put an oil well in the the eastern part I turn and look at the western part. To preserve “the beauty” all you really need to do is keep them away from the 20 tourist traps, and the 15% that 95% of the people see. Trying to preserve the 85% that looks just like the other 15% for only 5% of the people doesn’t make sense to me.
Leave the area alone. It has survived just fine without the Feds telling me where I can camp and where I can’t. I like the area they way that it is, without a lot of people.