Escapism: The root of harm towards our national parks and monuments

The sun sets over Bears Ears National Monument, as seen from the Moki Dugway on June 11, north of Mexican Hat, Utah. 
MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Katherine Frey

The sun sets over Bears Ears National Monument, as seen from the Moki Dugway on June 11, north of Mexican Hat, Utah. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Katherine Frey

In 2017 and 2018, an exponential rate of tourists visited national parks and monuments in Utah to experience a glimpse of America’s beauty. What kick-started this high volume of attention towards Utah?

Well, President Trump of course.

After Trump announced an 85 percent decrease of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, people began to go insane. How can he just destroy our country with the flick of his pen? Unfortunately, for those who tend to remain politically biased against Republican legislation, Trump’s plan for Bears Ears will actually benefit the monument itself and Utah’s educational system. Also, according to the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president has the right to either downsize or expand upon our public lands.

Bears Ears National Monument is the 12th national monument managed by the Forest Service and is the fifth monument to be jointly managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. With over one million acres devoted as Bears Ears, the Trump administration has decided to shrink the size of the monument by and sell the excluded land for private ownership.

Environmental activists such as Patagonia and National Geographic had good intentions when they began campaigns to ward off the Trump administration from damaging the national monument, but with their activism comes the real damage. The harm does not derive from bureaucratic power ruining American soil but actually our own two feet. The reality of this predicament is that our administration has little to no effect on the health of Bears Ears.

The land that will be sold has rumors circling around it that scream oil and mining while research has shown that there is actually little to no oil present in those lands. No one has even bothered to offer a bid on that land yet, so the assumption that the excluded 85 percent will be used for oil and mining is all a hysterical fallacy.

Another note to point out is that selling the land that was once Bears Ears will benefit the Utah Public School System. The profits made from the excluded Bears Ears land will be funded into the education system in Utah.

Society loves to blame their opposition. There is such an addiction to hate any Republican legislation that barely no one reads the facts or opens their ears to an alternative point of view.

This toxic hatred between the two powerful parties in our country has gone hay-wired. Hatred is swirling around our communities, and this hatred is blinding our generation. The harm being done to our parks is the cause of our own actions, not Trump’s.  

This damage of our parks is the result of escapism. To briefly define this phenomenon, escapism is the ideology of those who seek fantastical adventures to avoid their own reality.

The minute that Trump announced his downsizing of Bears Ears, tourists were lined up to see the sight. In particular areas, high volumes of tourists posing for the perfect Instagram ended up harming the land more so than Trump ever has.

According to Ralph Burrillo, an archeologist who specializes in the Bears Ears region, “I’ve gone to visit sites where people come and they bring their trusty, lovable mutt who excavates [digs up sites]. I’ve seen kids climbing on walls. There’s one iconic ruin there called Monarch Cave where a couple of hikers or photographers were posing, leaning against the wall that has been in place since the 1200s, and knocked it over.”

If anyone is guilty of the destruction in our national parks, it’s us. Let’s drop the romanticized portrayal of escapism from our parks.

Image Courtesy of the Denver Post