Richmond native to Trump: leave our national monuments alone

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Teresa Baker, a Richmond native, founder of African American Nature and Parks Experience and author of the blog, African American Explorations, penned this opinion piece in response to President Donald Trump’s move to review and possibly rescind national monument designations made since Jan. 1, 1996, that span at least 100,000 acres.

By Teresa Baker

I’ve often wondered what would push me to the point where I was wholly dedicated to the protection of our public lands. I reached that level today. 

Today, a sitting president announced that the Secretary of the Interior is to reconsider the protection of monuments that were set aside under previous presidents. Most of the monuments speak to the cultural heritage in this country. Bears Ears National Monument, Native American sacred ground, was controversial and its designation was celebrated throughout the conservation community. The annual Outdoor Retailer show abandoned the state of Utah because the governor refused to stand against the call to do away with the monument. Also on the list are the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument and the Pullman National Monument, both of which are very important to me personally because of the work I do to engage a more diverse audience in the outdoors.

As a country, we cannot sit idly by and allow these proposed actions to take effect. We stand to lose much in the way of protected public spaces, spaces that took years to acquire. It took even longer to document the history of these areas and to prove their importance. It is no secret that this country has a record of denying history, and this attack on our monuments is no different. Most of the monuments on the list for review tell a story from the perspective of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. They document the history of civil rights and civil unrest in this country, and to do away with any of them would be a slap in the face of all of who came before us. Too many fought for too long to ensure environmental protections, civil rights, and historical facts were preserved; we cannot give up now.

It will not be on my watch that these places are taken away without a fight through the courts, through protest or various other tactics. We must resist the current sitting president and administration, who wish to see these ancestral lands sold off to the highest bidders. The damage the president is proposing by undoing the protections currently in place for these designated monuments would be permanent and devastating. Time is not on our side.

Man continues to be the greatest threat to the environment. We build without borders, we drill without sanctions, we act without care for the land around us. This is not sustainable for future generations. As a member of the Next100 Coalition, I will do my part to persuade all acting interests to do the right thing and combine our efforts with others to stand up to this action by the president and say no, not this time. And not ever.

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