National Monuments in the California Desert.

This writing is about preserving California lands as National Monuments. This was written a while ago, and I had hoped to publish it. That did not happen, and I decided to post it on my blog. I realize it is one-sided. I don’t know the objections to making these lands a monument. I have not pursued the other side.

I am generally for finding a middle ground for every question. In this case, my particular preferences are strongly tied to one side. This is an opinion piece. If anyone has an opinion or wants to comment on this, feel free to do so. I seek a greater understanding of all issues.


Big Morongo Canyon

Big Morongo Canyon





Senator Dianne Feinstein has asked President Obama to enact the Antiquities Act and create three National Monuments in the California Desert.

The California desert is a place of great beauty with unique natural features. Residents and tourists are drawn to the three national park units – Mojave Preserve, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree National Park. All three provide recreational opportunities, unpolluted night skies, vast space, outstanding vistas, and cultural and historic landmarks as well as economic resources. This area is also important to the fragile ecological health of the area.

But the California Desert is at risk of losing its unprotected areas to development.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposed 2008 legislation to protect the California desert. It has been stalled in Congress for years. This has been going on despite a large, diverse support base that includes conservation groups, off-road recreation groups, counties, cities, energy companies, water districts, business groups, individuals, and Native American Tribes. Due to increasing urbanization, encroaching industrial development and climate change there is a pressing need to protect our public lands.

Senator Feinstein has now asked President Obama to enact the Antiquities Act and create three National Monuments.

The first proposed monument is Sand to Snow, 135,000 acres that start on the western edge of the Joshua Tree National Park and extend to the high peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains, including Big Morongo Canyon. This land would be managed by the forest service and the BLM collectively and would respect all private property rights that currently exist.

“Sand and Snow is a particularly important connective tissue between the Joshua Tree National Park and the higher snow-capped peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains,” said Seth Shteir, Program Manager for the National Park Conservation Association. “It is particularly important considering climate change, which animals have the room to roam to find food, shelter, mates, water and suitable habitat.”

The second proposal will make the Mojave Trails National Monument, approximately 1 million acres of land, a National Monument. The Mojave Trails National Monument runs along Route 66 – what John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road,” a historical, and cultural resource that can generate a tremendous amount of economic benefit for states, and local and regional economy. The Mojave Trail is also the connective tissue for wildlife corridors that link Joshua Tree National Park, the Marine Air Ground Combat Center, and the Mojave National Preserve.

The third proposal is to designate Castle Mountain as a national monument. Managed by the National Parks Service it is cut out along the Nevada border and surrounded on three sides by the Mojave Preserve. Castle Mountain was in the original 1994 California Desert Protection Act but was removed because of gold mining in the area.

Castle Mountain is a high desert grassland. It provides critical habitat for the desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, golden eagles, Swainson’s hawks, desert tortoise, Gila monsters, prairie falcons, Bendire’s Thrashers, grey vireo, Townsend big-eared bats and California leaf-nosed bats. Additionally, state and federal agencies are studying the possibility of reintroducing pronghorn antelope, the second fastest land animal in the world, back into the area.

Castle Mountain is home to the historic mining town of Hart and has a view of Spirit Mountain, a sacred Native American site.

“We at National Parks Conservation Association believe the new National Monuments will enhance the national economy, provide new recreational opportunities, raise the profile of the California desert as a destination for tourism and attract visitors from around the globe,” said Shteir

“We have to remember,” added Shteir, “Our parks are not biologically isolated islands. To protect species you have to protect the core area and surrounding wildlife corridors. These lands [Sand and Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain] deserve designations that recognize their scenic, ecological, cultural, and economic importance.”

Flagstaff, Arizona


On the road a couple of years ago.

On the road a couple of years ago.

The Grand Canyon Land Trust

This Blog page is dedicated to highlighting my month long trip, the Organizations I have connected with and the people I have interviewed in California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

I’m looking forward to getting home and laying everything out around me – notes, pictures, trinkets, catalogs and brochures. I collect everything on the road and sort through them later. For now, the information I am writing about is from memory, scribbled notes, organization websites and on-line research. I have a pile of books I want to read, but that will take time. I will transcribe the interviews later and post highlights of them later.

This trip and this post begin with the Grand CanyonTrust in Flagstaff.

The Grand Canyon Trust was conceived in 1981 by a handful of outdoor enthusiasts who felt an urgent need to add additional protection to the Canyon. It was established in 1985 by Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt and other leading conservationists. The threats these people preserved then, are still around today and growing. Noise from air tours, pollution from coal plants, development plans on the rim of the Canyon, and other human encroachments continue to mar the Canyon’s integrity. The Trusts’ purpose is to protect the vistas, wild places, wildlife species, and fragile ecosystems.

It was determined by the organizers that issues not stop at the boundaries of the Park, and that the Trust should be an advocate for both the Grand Canyon and the surrounding Colorado Plateau. “The suggestion was adopted, and the Grand Canyon Trust emerged as a leading regional conservation organization, with offices across the Plateau and extensive connections among policymakers, land managers, scientists, and community leaders.” – Taken from the Grand Canyon Website.

History of the Grand Canyon.

The first evidence of human presence in the Grand Canyon is estimated at some 10,500 years. Native Americans have inhabited the Canyon for at least the last 4,000 of those years. I have not done enough research to discover the earliest inhabitants. The latter part of those years saw the migration of the Ancestral Pueblo People (the Basketmaker culture) and later as Ancestral Pueblo people to the Canyon. The Cohonina also lived in the area. Drought in the late 13th century likely caused both groups to move on. Other people followed, including the Paiute, Cerbat, and the Navajo before they were moved onto reservations.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a party of Spanish soldiers and Hopi guides into the Canyon. 200 years later, two Spanish Priests became the second party of non-Native Americans to see the canyon. In 1869 U.S. Army Major, John Wesley Powell led am expedition through the Canyon on the Colorado River. This particular expedition and later groups helped establish the science of Geology. The late 19th century brought about mineral interests in the region. The first pioneer settlements along the rim came in the 1880s.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Grand Canyon became well-known as a tourist destination. Most visitors made the trip from nearby towns to the South Rim by Stagecoach. In 1901, the Grand Canyon Railroad was opened from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim.

Federal protection of the Grand Canyon was established in1893, first as a forest reserve and later as a U.S. National Monument. In 1919, three years after the creation of the U. S. National Park Service, the Canyon achieved U.S. National Monument and U.S. National Park status.

On my first trip to the Canyon, I stood at the edge and cried. A ranger was nearby and with tears running down my face, I felt obliged to explain that I wasn’t always like this. That may or may not be true, but she kindly waved it away by saying, “You’re not the only one who cries at the sight of the Canyon.”

I have promised myself not to make judgments and simply collect, interviews and information, but the Grand Canyon goes to the heart of my project, and I suspect to the heart of my soul. The development of areas that are still basically wild is threatening our (Human and Animal) health and well-being. One environmentalist told me that there is very little land not touched by humans if any at all. Still, the thought of losing the Grand Canyon and other natural areas is disheartening. I know, many of you that I’ve spoken to, and many that live in my area of the country, the Morongo Basin, feel the same way.

I often reflect on my time in New York, when, after reading Henry James, I realized New York had been farm land. That is a level of being cut off from one’s environment, that you never imagined the land you live on to be anything but tall building and cement walkways. I had become so cut off from nature and even Central Park didn’t remedy that. Now, living in the desert and traveling, I desperately hope we all wake up to how fast development moves. Before we know it, the places we love will be back yards to wealthy homes if we can survive the development and declining resources.

I’m off on a rant. Back to the Grand Canyon Trust.

The Grand Canyon Trust is focused on protecting and restoring the health of lands across the Grand Canyon region and greater Colorado Plateau. The Trust employs public advocacy, private purchases, and collaborative partnerships. They rely on science for their on-the-ground management programs. They seek to limit uranium mining to protect water resources, and they work to guide future development.

In Arizona and Utah, the Trust emphasizes sustainable forest fire and grazing policies. In Utah, they are seeking more protection of wildlands, and the Trust is working to bring strong science into grazing management to North Rim Ranches and Plateau-wide, state and federal lands.

I am particularly interested in this aspect of conservation and will have more to say about it in future posts.

The Grand CanyonTrust is fighting developments such as a proposal to build a tramway and another proposing drilling at the park entrance. Both could harm deep aquifers that feed Grand Canyon Springs.

Again, my purpose here is to bring information and not to judge, as hard as that it is at times. I’m open to talking to everyone, including developers. I’m particular looking for organizations and people who bring something new to the table. I’m not against development, and I love what cities have to offer. I also love nature. How can we come together?

I have added a photo from an earlier trip. I did not go to the Grand Canyon this time.

Feel free to look them the Gand Canyon Land Trust website. It is a beautifully designed.

Again, this material was researched on-line. The interview I had with the Director of the Grand Canyon Trust will come later.

America – “In Land We Trust”

Blog page
Friday, October 30, 2015

America – In Land We Trust

I have wanted to post a blog page since I left home on September 30th, but I did not take into account the amount of time I would be on the road and unable to do any writing. I have been posting on my Facebook page and the “America” Facebook page. I have also sent out three emails describing some of the incredible experiences. All that has been attempts to keep everyone informed about my journey. I have resisted posting on the blog page. The Blog page needs to be focused on the purpose of the journey and my discoveries. I want this page to be about Land and not about me.

With that said, I will begin. Since I have been on the road I have acquired a couple of dozen interviews from people on the street, educators, people working in the field of ecology, land trusts, lawyers, law professors, conservation groups, farmers, ranchers, wildlife protectors and people involved in land issues. With all of these interviews behind me I’m beginning to get a bigger picture of this project. I have always thought it was about the American consciousness about land. That is big, and I know The work would have to be broken into sections to begin to talk about it. I know that I didn’t want my opinions to interfere with the opinions of others. I don’t want this piece to be a teaching, lecturing or critiquing platform. I want it to be a documentary. I want it to be a neutral place where varying opinions and experiences get expressed. If there are solutions, I want them to have a place for discussion. I also encourage each of you to comment about any or all of my writings. I want to know what land, land protection and land ownership means to you. I want to hear about Ah ha moments. Are you affected by time spent on the land? Do you find refuge in cities? I want to hear if green places matter. Do you want and use parks? Where would you live if you had a choice.

For me, this journey has cemented the understanding that I know very little, and there are so many different expressions and possibilities. It has also brought about a sense of urgency to take stock and care for the land we have. I am being educated about the misuse of land and the consequences to all that. I am also learning that the answers aren’t necessarily what we think they are. Every life matters, human and animal. Every experience matters – agricultural, ranching, city dwelling, traveler, sportsman, adventurer, advocate. What doesn’t work is extremism. When we talk at each other. When we command, demand and take away individual freedom, we all lose. We have different points of view, and that makes this life and this country so interesting. Can we work together? Can we get to the bottom of things and see that most extreme points of view are based on fear. What will happen if we alleviate fear? Will we then be open to other points of view? Will we learn to live more harmoniously with people who are different? I certainly hope so. And I am careful in all this, not to be naive. This is not easy. It will take time. It will take work.

We know very little about climate change and changing environmental issues, but everyone, for or against the conservation of land has an opinion on their land. To city dweller, rural resident, student, professional, land is precious. The room to move around, the freedom to change our minds about our home location, these are essential American ideals. Some people get passionate about the issues that surround land use, and some are lethargic. Those that have no position don’t feel they have freedom. They feel at the mercy of circumstances. Sometimes, even as we begin to look at land issues and environmental concerns it can feel so big, that you again feel helpless.

I have been interviewing people with a wide variety of views, and some who are actively seeking a way to bridge divides. My piece, America – In Land We Trust is a presentation of all those voices. My hope for this very large work will be a way to open dialogue, start conversations where there aren’t any, present new possibilities and remind people they aren’t alone.

Please feel free to share this and comment. Let me know what you think and over the next couple of months, as I transcribe the interviews I’ll introduce you all to the people I have met and the place I have gone. Take this journey with me.

The photos in this Blog are of Hispanic Charros (Horsemen) in Dallas.





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