Voices For the Wilderness: Public Comments on National Monuments Due Today

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Photo by T. Miller/NPS.

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Photo by T. Miller/NPS.

Three months ago the United States government initiated a review of the 27 national monuments that have been created by Republican and Democratic presidents over the past two decades. That review includes a period of public comment, which ends today, July 10.

Most people on both sides of the American political aisle don't see this question as one of partisan politics, but rather as the interests of some industries versus other industries—in particular, natural resources versus natural spaces.

Our Voices

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Photo © 2016 Chris Nicholson.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Photo © 2016 Chris Nicholson.

As a business that relies on the latter, and as people who love spending time in the wild, you can probably guess our opinion on the matter. We try not to wade into politics as an entity, but we did want to share the personal opinions of two of the NPAN partners and instructors. This is what Matt Hill and I submitted as public comments in reaction to the review:

Matt Hill

"I am co-founder of a photography workshop program that teaches night photography in public lands. We focus on national monuments and national parks.

"We provide an opportunity for our students to experience the uniquely dark skies offered by these locations which cannot be found elsewhere in the USA. They are also encouraged to learn about the landscape, wildlife, ecology and challenges each monument or land faces, and suggestions on how to honor, protect and share awareness about these qualities and challenges through their photography.

"Our students choose to spend their scarce vacation time or retirement money on supporting the local economies during our workshops. They also explore more monuments and parks in their own time, making more art and awareness in harmony with these precious spaces.

"I implore you to protect these unique, wild places. Do not exchange commercial benefits for irreplaceable acts of nature."

Chris Nicholson

"The lands of our nation belong to every citizen and every industry. But obviously some spaces need to be used by only one interest, as that use makes that space worthless for others. Outdoors enthusiasts have little use for lands riddled with oil derricks, and gas mining cannot occur on lands preserved for natural beauty. Therefore, a compromise is necessary—some lands relegated for preservation, some for development, mining, drilling, etc.

"That compromise was made more than a century ago. Processes were set in place to divide lands between interests that cannot share spaces, and a majority of available space has been dedicated to residential and business development. Business interests may not be happy with some specific results of that compromise, just as environmentalists are not happy with some. But that doesn't mean we go back on the compromise for either of those parties. Processes were put in place to determine which spaces would be set aside for preservation and which would be allowed to be developed, and the results of those processes should stand.

"Moreover, preserved lands may not benefit the industries of energy development, etc., but they are the lifeblood of the outdoors industries and local and international tourism. It is not the government's role to take existing economic interests away from one industry to grant them to another. The decisions and processes in place need to be respected and preserved in the face of special interests that seek to profit by strong-arming the American public out of compromises and agreements made in good faith over the course of generations."

Your Voices

If you're unsure of where you stand on the matter, a view of the spaces in question might satisfy curiosity. Journalist Brent Rose did just that—traveled to all 27 national monuments under review to see whether they're more valuable to America as natural spaces or business spaces. See his findings at www.27monuments.org.

Craters of the Moon National Monument. NPS photo.

Brent obviously has an opinion which drove his narrative, so if you would prefer a completely neutral view, consider exploring photographs of these national monuments on Google Images or Flickr, or on their home webpages. You can see a list of the spaces under review at www.doi.gov.

Regardless of where you stand personally on this issue, we encourage you to let your voice be heard. To register your public comment today, visit www.regulations.gov and enter "DOI-2017-0002" in the search box.

Chris Nicholson is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night, and author of Photographing National Parks (Sidelight Books, 2015). Learn more about national parks as photography destinations, subscribe to Chris' free e-newsletter, and more at www.PhotographingNationalParks.com.