America’s public land system is the crown jewell of the global conservation movement and the envy of the world. When Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in the year 1906, he did so because he saw a looming threat to an American landscape that he loved and cherished on a fundamental level.
He feared that, if left to their own devices, people who he referred to as “short-sighted men” would “rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things.” Not only would they be robbing those who are currently enjoying these lands, Roosevelt deduced, but they would be depriving future generations—”those within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction”— from experiencing, learning from, and growing alongside the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
The same type of “short-sighted men” that Roosevelt held at bay back in the early 1900’s have found a voice and are mobilizing a movement in 2017. They seek to undo critical public land protections enabled by the Antiquities Act—Roosevelt’s long-heralded legislation. Without these protections, the public could lose access to places like Bear’s Ear National Monument (pictured above), the Grand Staircase-Escalante of Utah, the Ironwood Forest National Monument in Arizona, the Upper Missouri River Breaks of Montana, and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, just to name a few.
The only thing capable of slowing down the alarming trend of forfeiting federally protected land to ill-quipped state governments are the slow, but steady moving wheels of democracy. And democracy starts with you.
As Roosevelt once said, “the movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”