The sun is just up here in Western Colorado, another brilliant blue sky day, which makes me think of you in Washington, far from the canyons, mesas and mountains where you grew up.
It must feel choking sometimes, the press of traffic and marble mansions, when you’re used to vast Western horizons. It’s a big difference between here and there.
Out here, we’re made by the sense of land. Think Mesa Verde, Sleeping Ute and the crags of the San Juans always at your back. We’re fortunate to have a wealth of public and protected lands.
This means generations down the line, we will still have this sense of unencumbered land, a resource that is becoming rarer in the world than oil.
You must worry sometimes, like I do, that the sprawl of our many industries might darken your home landscape. You must be torn by the demands of a loose-cannon administration, and the pressure to open wild places to extraction, when far more than GDP is at stake.
I drive a car and fly in planes, not unlike you. I use resources that we pull from the ground, and know they have to come from somewhere. But not from everywhere. Some places are best set aside. There seems to be no end to our hunger. If we can’t protect these canyons, mesas and mountains now, we may never have them back in our hands.
I’ve heard you say that the Antiquities Act is being abused when local perspectives are not incorporated in decisions like Bears Ears. Were you there when then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell listened to days of local comments in July’s sweltering summer heat?
It must have struck you as odd that Ryan Zinke breezed through and listened to only carefully selected voices, doing exactly what you are decrying, donning a cowboy hat and hearing only what fits his plan, not hearing the majority that wants these monuments in place.
He disregarded indigenous agreements, a historic alignment of tribes that would begin to heal the wound of land forcibly taken, treaties not honored. He did the same to the millions of comments that poured in with support for the established monument boundaries. Who was he listening to, I wonder? Based on the new and dramatically shrunken borders, I’d say it wasn’t the people.
As you lean toward bills that would limit our ability to protect lands through the Antiquities Act or otherwise, I ask you to remember home. Think about what it means to stand on dusty ground, to feel what is over every horizon.
D.C. must be consuming at times; easy to forget where you came from and what deeply, viscerally matters to the people of the West. Yes, jobs and family matter, but maybe more so is the place, the reason we stay.
I admire anyone who can go into the fray like you and do the hard work, but don’t get lost out there.
Remember where you came from, and all of us out here on this bluebird morning, glad for what we have.
Craig Childs, author of Apocalyptic Planet, House of Rain, Finders Keepers and other books, is a writer and adventurer based in Norwood.