Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: National Monuments Reinstated

| Blog, Ranger Steve's Nature Niche

National Monuments Reinstated
by Ranger Steve Mueller

Before I was born, advocates working to protect fragile and easily damaged resources were encouraging Congress to protect them for public posterity. Others were desiring Congress make public resources private. Such Congressional issues are usually addressed in committees and frequently do not get to the floor for action for decades or do not get addressed by Congress. Wild Ones focuses on yards, but public lands need protection.

People like Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson led the way in bringing public resource needs to public attention. In the Great Lakes Ecosystem, Sigurd Olson was hung in effigy by people wanting to use public resources without restriction. After decades of discussion Congress created the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on the US Canadian border for which Olson advocated. Natural areas are required for many native plants to survive.

By the time I was in college, efforts to create Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore were finally getting debated for action. Industry wanted the unique ecosystem for development to complete what had happened to most of the region in the vicinity of Gary Indiana. Others wanted the small area set aside for perpetual public access as a natural landscape. At the time, Congress was also being asked to create Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Congress opted to protect the Indiana Dunes and consider Pictured Rocks later. Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore near Traverse City was being advocated. There were people who wanted Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes developed for private homes and mineral extraction and they opposed creation for public use. After decades, Congress created both as protected resources for present and future generations. Pitcher’s Thistle, Houghton’s Goldenrod, and Dwarf Lake Iris (shown below, left to right) thrive in the protected habitats.

During discussions, continuation of sand mining, home development, and activities in proposed protected areas eliminated natural resources in the natural landscape. Congress grandfathered existing private interests, but many are required to be purchased at public expense when sold to others in the future.

Beginning in 1975, I started presenting a program titled Wilderness – Unique Treasure. The program advocates for establishing a protected region in southern Utah, south of Bryce Canyon National Park, north of the Grand Canyon, and west of Canyonlands National Park.

Groups of people are working to denude this fragile ecological region in the lower 48 states of its resources before protection is established for the public. To protect such areas until Congress finally addresses it, the Antiquities Act was created so a president can designate it as a national monument until Congress acts to make it a national park, increase or decrease its size, or eliminate it as a protected resource.

The landscape is being overrun with roads in areas proposed for roadless wilderness. After 70 to 90 years, Grand Staircase – Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments were established on public land using the Antiquities Act to protect them until Congress acts to make them national parks, eliminate their protected status or to increase or decrease their sizes. Congress has the sole responsibility and authority to determine the future for the monuments.

President Trump decided to bypass Congress and unilaterally reduced the monument sizes and open areas for private resource extraction. Lawsuits were filed because it is illegal to usurp Congressional authority. This case, like so many, is pending action by the Judicial branch of government.

On 8 October 2021, President Biden reestablished the original boundaries of the monuments to allow Congress their designated authority to make the decisions regarding the monuments. I have been publicly advocating for the protection of the region for 46 years. It might be decades before Congress acts, but the area has better protection until they act. I encourage Nature Niche readers to advocate to legislators in favor of protection. I still present my program Wilderness – Unique Treasure when invited.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at [email protected] – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

Plant photos by Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org