On June 8, the 105th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt spoke at a National Press Club event to urge President Obama to provide strong leadership on conservation of our public lands. More specifically, he appealed to the President to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to expand protections of our public lands and to take a stand against the current Congress, which in recent months has repeatedly sought to undermine environmental laws.
Since the Antiquities Act was passed in 1906, it has been used by nearly every president to protect some of the most unique and spectacular of our national treasures, by designating them as National Monuments. Some of our most well-known national parks on the Colorado Plateau received their initial protection under the Antiquities Act, including Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, and Capitol Reef. More recently, the Act was used by President Clinton to designate four new National Monuments on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands on the Colorado Plateau, including Grand Staircase-Escalante, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Vermilion Cliffs, and Canyons of the Ancients. In sum, the Antiquities Act has been one of the most important tools in achieving conservation and protection of public lands on the Colorado Plateau.
Unlike the majority of BLM lands, which are managed for multiple uses such as grazing, mining, or recreation, BLM National Monuments are meant to be managed to protect the values for which they were designated. For example, Monuments might be designated to protect pre-historic or historic sites, special animal species, spectacular scenery, distinctive plant communities, or unique geology. On these lands, multiple uses are allowed, but only if they do not conflict with the protection of monument values. Thus, BLM National Monuments provide a balance between allowing people to use the land, while also protecting it for future generations. It is this, and other policy directives that highlight the importance of integrating science into management decisions, building and sustaining partnerships and a volunteer constituency, and engaging youth in education and on-the-ground conservation work that create important opportunities for preserving these lands for future generations.
Through the Kane and Two Mile Ranch and Volunteer Programs, the Grand Canyon Trust is working hard to support the BLM in fulfilling its conservation mission on the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which is encompassed by the Two Mile Ranch. In addition to the wonderful work completed by volunteers his spring, which included closing roads, building trails, and hauling off several tons of trash that was left on the Monument by previous ranching activities, we are continuing to develop strong science and education initiatives and opportunities on the Monument this year. These initiatives include:
- Building out our large-scale baseline assessment dataset by collecting repeat measurements at hundreds of ground plots established in 2005. These data can be used by managers to gain a better understanding of the status and trends in resource conditions and potential threats to Monument values.
- Documenting the unique flora of the monument through the baseline assessment effort described above and with the help of “Budding Botanist” volunteers. Information collected will be entered into regional databases that can be accessed by managers and other scientists to gain a better understanding of the diversity and distribution plant species on the Monument.
- Conducting livestock utilization studies to examine the effects of livestock operations on key plant species that help inform livestock management.
- Helping to support archaeological surveys, research, and site documentation through the Kaibab-Vermilion Cliffs Heritage Alliance and NAU’s Archaeological Field School.
- Removing tamarisk and Russian olive from Paria Canyon and monitoring the success of our efforts.
At the end of his June 8 speech Former Secretary Babbitt quoted one of our nation’s greatest conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt: “We have fallen heir to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” We appreciate your continued support in helping to conserve and protect our public lands.