Here in Los Alamos, we prefer data to anecdotal (so-called) information, and the data about public support of public lands as presented in the recent letter in the Los Alamos Daily Post about Colorado College’s Poll on Conservation in the West is heartening: 78 percent of New Mexicans value conserving public lands.
Los Alamites with access to the mesas and canyons appreciate the quality of life open space provides. In fact, 16 years ago, many of us put those values into action as we worked diligently for two years to save our beautiful Valles Caldera from development as an Angel Fire-style resort (complete with hotel, mini mall, condos, and a race track). We then worked for fourteen more to ensure that this new public land would actually be open to the public who purchased it.
Maybe you were at the celebration of the October transfer from the failed for-profit Valles Caldera National Preserve to the newly accessible Valles Caldera National Park Preserve. Maybe you stood in the monsoon green under the dome of sapphire sky as prairie dogs stood watch within the tall grass and a red-tailed hawk wheeled over the group. Maybe you felt within all that grandeur your own spirit’s connection to its magnificent wildness.
And if you were there, you would have heard mention of the proposal to create a new National Monument, Bears Ears, in SE Utah. Bears Ears is yet another spectacular, unspoiled and diverse landscape that is facing resource extraction and development.
Why should we be interested in some place in SE Utah? Well, because many of us have explored this special area, and because we know the value of protecting this rare resource for everyone rather than just the few who profit from its development.
In addition, Bears Ears is the most significant unprotected cultural and archaeological area in the US. Los Alamites understand the irreplaceable value of cultural resources since we live within the evidence of 10,000 years of occupation. Don’t most of us love to explore the archeological inspiration of Bandelier?
Like Bandelier, Bears Ears is sacred ground to Native peoples who trace their ancestry to those who built the dwellings and created the rock art that grace these lands, Bears Ears remains vital to tribal communities as a place of ceremony, subsistence and healing.
As such, many New Mexicans support protecting these resources. Thus, Bears Ears is, in fact, a local issue. Our neighbors over the hill in Jemez Pueblo and all up and down the Rio Grande support it.
The New Mexico coalition to save Bears Ears includes the Pueblos of: Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Jemez, Santa Clara, Taos, and Tesuque, as well as Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Isleta, Laguna, Sandia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Acoma, Ysleta Del Sur, Zia and Zuni.
That’s a lot of people who want this place protected as a National Monument.
Because Los Alamos cherishes our local VCNPP, let’s ask President Obama to add Bears Ears National Monument to the newly designated Monuments of VCNPP, Rio Grande del Norte, and Organ Mountains Desert Peaks.
This land is your land; this land is our land. Let’s keep it for the descendants of all Americans.