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Now Is The Time to Protect our National Lands

"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
-- Wallace Stegner, Writer & Historian

Photo credit to Scott Thomsen.

One day last week, I needed to clear my head. I stepped out of my office, jogged the short distance toward the water, and was at the Lake Michigan shoreline in minutes. I spent the next hour walking the beach, breathing in the wonder of this majestic body of fresh water, and feeling grateful that this 35-mile stretch of National Lakeshore has been protected – not just for me, a Glen Arbor ‘local’ -- but for everyone in our country to enjoy.

When I heard of President Trump’s plan earlier this week to shrink Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by some 80%, I was heartsick. Now comes the news that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is reviewing all the nation’s monuments to see if they, too, wouldn’t be better used for increased hunting, commercial fishing, off-road recreational vehicles, timber extraction, and oil and gas exploration. Where will this end? Could the treasured Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore be far behind this commerce-centric examination?

Bears Ears, located in southeastern Utah, currently encompasses 1.3 million acres. According to
the U.S. Forest Service website, Bears Ears is “among the most significant cultural landscapes in
the United States. Bears Ears has abundant rock art, dwellings, ceremonial sites, granaries, and
many other cultural resources reflecting its historical and cultural significance to a variety of
Native American peoples.” Some of its petroglyphs date back 5,000 years – truly a national
treasure!

President Trump, however, has taken the unprecedented step to shave nearly one million acres
of this protected pristine parkland. A group of the five Native American tribes that have
ancestral ties to the land – the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes -- have
filed a federal lawsuit through the Native American Rights Fund to halt President Trump’s
action. Additional lawsuits are also being filed by Patagonia and 350 other businesses,
conservation groups and Native American tribes that have come together on this issue to
protect public lands.

Patagonia is one company, in particular, that I am proud to have partnered with on other
environmental issues, including a video urging the shutdown of the aging Line 5 pipeline that
runs under the Straits of Mackinac. I had the honor of hosting Patagonia’s president, Yvon
Chouinard, here in Glen Arbor about 15 years ago. Yvon, a respected rock climber, once taught
media personality Tom Brokaw to rock climb, and he taught author and mountaineer Jon
Krakauer how to ice climb. I was thrilled to be able to teach him how to dune climb on our
magnificent Sleeping Bear Dunes. Now our paths cross again over this critical issue.

Doing What We Can

For our part, Cherry Republic has decided to stand with our Native American sisters and
brothers by pledging $5,000 to the Native American Rights Fund as part of our annual 31 Days of Giving campaign. I encourage you to join us in supporting the NARF, or by contributing to
the conservation group of your choice that is fighting this move by the Trump administration.

A final thought. A large part of this debate centers on “states’ rights,” which sounds like a
positive thing, right? (Give the power back to the people on a local level! Get it out of
Washington!) Yet it’s been shown time and again that when national land is turned back over to
the states, local communities tend to focus on local economic benefits, often without regard to
the larger national interest. I know this to be true even in my own family. In 1971, Leelanau
County had more than a few detractors who fiercely fought against the Sleeping Bear Dunes
National Lakeshore designation. You may be surprised to know that my parents were among
those who attended meetings to speak out against establishment of this park.

But only one generation later, here I am, an avid park-loving neighbor who doesn't know what
he'd do without The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And I know it will be the same
for Bears Ears. Please join me in acting now.

Bob Sutherland
President, Cherry Republic