Advocacy for The Parks

A letter Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior Ryan Zinke written in support of our National Monuments and National Sanctuaries submitted in response to the N.P.S. request for comment.

DOI-2017-0002-0001-Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996.


Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

Dear Secretary Zinke,

I am a former National Park Ranger, writer, traveler, and lover of the National Parks. In 2016, my husband and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve our country and our National Parks as National Park Rangers at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This experience allowed me to help protect one of the most recognizable works of art in the world and one America’s most cherished National Memorials. It has strengthened my resolve to use my experiences in the parks, ability as a writer, and belief in the incredible value of the National Parks to take action whenever possible to advocate for and protect these places (as Mt. Rushmore resident and parks champion Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently stated) “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

It was a true blessing to work as National Park Rangers during the Centennial of the NPS, and much of our training and interaction with the visitor to Mount Rushmore was centered around a key focus of the 2016 Centennial celebration: to advance the mission of NPS into the next century. The proposal of Executive Order 13792 and Executive Order 13795 the year following the celebration of 100 years of the National Park Service strikes me as an inefficient way to further the mission of the centennial campaign. The Orders do not further the protection for, or the education about, the parks or park service for the next 100 years. Nor does considering the reduction of these National Monuments fall in line with the long standing mission of NPS to “preserve[s] unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

In fact, I believe that this Executive Order 13792 and 13795 covey the opposite message: Even if a piece of land has been set aside as a national monument, it is not guaranteed to be preserved or protected for future generations. What is the purpose of the National Park System if places designated within its protection and preservation are not protected and preserved?

No national monument on the list should be reviewed, decreased, or spoiled in any way. The relevant stakeholders go beyond the residents of these states and the businesses/individuals that may want to access the resources within the park. The relevant stakeholders in this proposal are the American people and the future generations of Americans. All sites within the National Parks System, whether designated as a park, memorial, monument, historic site, etc. belong to and are preserved for ALL AMERICANS. These places are entitled to the protection that has been promised by the United States government and the Department of the Interior as National Park Sites.

However, since these National Monuments ARE being reviewed, I will present support of my claim: Basin and Range, Bears Ears, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Canyons of the Ancients, Carriso Plain, Cascade Siskiyou, Carters of the Moon, Giant Sequoia, Gold Butte, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hanford Reach, Ironwood Forest, Mojave Trails, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, Rios Grande Del Norte, Sand to Snow, San Gabriel Mountains, Sonoran Desert, Upper Missouri River Breaks, Vermillion Cliffs, Katahadin Woods and Waters, Marianas Trench, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea, and Rose Atoll National Monuments should stay as they are, intact, and continue to be preserved and protected as National Monuments and/or National Sanctuaries for their natural, cultural, archeological, and historical significance for our generation and generations to come.

It’s true that there are natural resources like timber, minerals, game, land, etc. that could be accessed for profit, if the size of these National Monuments was decreased, but the short-term gain of harvesting these resources is not worth the price. Natural, wild spaces that are destroyed cannot be repaired. What’s done cannot be undone. These places are home to the largest trees on Earth, fascinating geological wonders, protected and treasured plants and wildlife, and vast tracts of beautiful undisturbed wilderness, precious waterways, complex ecosystems, stunning mountains, incredible deserts, pristine marine sanctuaries, and much, much more. It would be a terrible shame and crime to current and future generations to minimize or destroy these PROTECTED places. There are other places to harvest timber, to mine for natural resources, or seek other items that are emblazoned with the draw of a dollar sign. NOT IN OUR NATIONAL MONUMENTS.

As the Executive Orders are centered on decreasing the size of these places, it is necessary to address this issue. The argument that too much land is being protected is a moot point – each acre of land maintains the cultural, natural, or historically significant features outlined in the Antiquities Act that are the reason the monument was established in the first place. TO SAY THAT NATIONAL MOUNUMENTS THAT ARE PROTECTED TODAY BUT SHOULD NOT BE TOMORROW IS LIKE ARGUING THAT THE LAND SHOULD NOT BE PROTECTED AT ALL. For example, in monuments that protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, {or} other objects of historic and prehistoric interest” there are an unacceptable amount of significant historical, cultural, and natural items that would again be at risk of poor management, looting, vandalism, and destruction if said monuments are decreased in size. The number of archeological crimes will surely increase if the proposed adjustments of Executive Order 13792 sends the public a message that strips this land and everything within its boundaries of its intrinsic value, importance, and legitimacy by reverting back to a state before they were granted monument status when they were grossly unprotected.

As Teddy Roosevelt said in 1903 when the when the Grand Canyon was in similar jeopardy, “LEAVE IT AS IT IS. YOU CANNOT IMPROVE ON IT. THE AGES HAVE BEEN AT WORK ON IT, AND MAN CAN ONLY MAR IT.” This sentiment can and should be applied to the entire list of National Monuments and Sanctuaries in question.

These National Monuments are utilized by the public in a variety of ways that prove their worth and legitimacy as they are. Rock climbing, hiking, camping, biking, photography, swimming, fishing, boating, diving, bird watching, inspiration seeking, solitude, communion with nature, exploration, education, general recreating, and more…. The list of responsible, non-harmful ways to use and enjoy the land goes on and on. As the argument is being made to decrease the size of the monuments so that they can be consumed for other purposes, it seems as though it is being forgotten that they already being used. They are places for recreation and exploration. They are places for discovery, education, and inspiration. They are among the best wild and wonderful places in our country. IT IS OUR JOB TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THEM FOR NOW AND FOR THE FUTURE. Also, keeping the entirety of these places protected and designated as monuments would preserve and protect the land for recreational and cultural use within the boundaries, and hopefully, also encourage the same responsible land management beyond the boundaries.

Economically, keeping these National Monuments protected for the tourist and recreational trade is good for the economy of the respective states in which they exist and for our country. If these National Monuments are not protected from private interests or being leased out for mining or other natural resource seeking, jobs and businesses promoting outdoor recreation are at risk while the land is also at risk of being destroyed. Land is not a never-ending, renewable resource. We have what we have. Once a natural place or element has been destroyed, it will never be the same again.

In section (vii) of the request for comment, the last directive under which you will be considering Executive Order 13792 and Executive Order 13795 is “such other factors as the Secretary deems appropriate.   As Secretary of the Interior, I am sure that there are many other factors that you will take into consideration when making recommendations to the President. Since I do not know what other factors you will contemplate, I present to you with three factors that I would like you to consider.

1.We do not need less protection of our national park sites; we need more.

The message that is sent by decreasing the size and protection of these places is that they do not matter. It conveys that even though millions of people enjoy their beauty, wonder, solitude, recreation, wildlife, plant life, landscape, cultural history, unique ecosystems, geology, trails, waterways, mountains, deserts, plains, and more, that these places are not that important-not worth protecting and keeping intact. Which as Secretary of the Interior, I must assume that you do not agree with.

As stated on the DOI website ( “As keepers of our nation’s legacy, we manage the resources in our care to benefit Americans now and in the future. Our department and its employees are developing and implementing the cutting-edge science and expert management techniques that make this possible. We are also taking actions to help America transform the challenges it faces today into opportunities for tomorrow.”

Your response to Executive Order 13792 and Executive Order 13795 is an opportunity to prove your worth as the keeper of our nation’s legacy. You have been quoted to say, “Without question, our public lands are America’s treasure;” I agree. It is now your job to protect these treasures by recommending to the President that our National Monuments and National Sanctuaries should remain protected, as they are, and not be minimized or decreased. The search for usable land and commoditized natural resources MUST take place out side the boundaries of our National Parks and Monuments.

  1. One of the greatest aspects of National Parks System Sites is the unique wonder and potential for natural experiences held within their bounds. It is in recalling the great value of JUST BEING IN AND ENJOYING each actual place and space, unencumbered and unfettered, that I think we should reflect on why each is important to protect. Being a writer, these places inspire me and feed my spirit. As such, I believe it is important to share with you a moment in a two of the places under review: Craters of the Moon and Rio Grande Del Norte.

Craters of The Moon, October 2016 – 4:40 pm Drove through the rain and grey, cloudy clouds to get here. It’s bright here though, vibrant fall colors in some areas, the same golden trees were admired a year ago when we took the elk rut road trip from Wisconsin, through the Rockies, and to this place. We are seeing snow for the first time in months, and still not in WI. We did the scenic drive twice after snagging the same awesome campsite we had last visit. Beautiful pastel and grey scale skies over the bizarre edges of lava long since cooled to rock – long, dark fields of holes and points, cracks and fissures, all colonial black – the black of burn, of stove, of charred, yet still curved and clustered in shot-spatter lava pockets. Bubbles, tunnels of air creating now open caverns of darkness –outside underground. We are in our tenet, snuggles into the crater of our room. The cold chill in the air is so obviously and beautifully Autumn. I love the smell, the dark deepness of color, the spice of the Earth in each view you consume.

9:24 pm The Park is so quiet now, at night. No animals or insects seem to inhabit this place, though I know this to be untrue. This crater in a Medusa-ed landscape of points and pockets. So quiet like stationary rock, like dead Earth, like so quiet that I feel I must fill it with these words.

On April 2016 – As we rolled along, we watched the clouds. It looked like it would be raining by the time we hit New Mexico, our next destination being Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. We increased elevation, drawing closer and closer to the clouds, through the small town of Cimarron, where the Rockies meet the plains and suddenly realized that it was not rain, but snow! North of Eagle’s Nest, we dropped into the top of the mountains in New Mexico. The snow was bright and beautiful, swirling around us. We passed through the small towns spotting big horn sheep along the way.

We pulled into Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument in mid afternoon, swung through the visitor center, and chose a campsite at Big Arsonic Campground.  Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument is the headwaters of Rio Grande River as well as the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River.  The monument is of immense natural and geological importance boasting volcanic cones, canyons, wild rivers, grasslands, and a wealth of artifacts from generations of human settlement.  It supports an abundance of wildlife and is also on the Central Migratory Flyway.

From our site we could hear the river rushing through the gorge 800 feet below us. The snow had stopped after a beautiful, big-flaked showing. Pinion pines clustered our campsite and descended into the grand gash in the land. The spring sun emerged and ignited the color in the canyon walls. A vulture sliced svelte wings through the updraft. Ravens cawed and cascaded along the rim. The afternoon sun started the insistent drip and splash of fresh snow thawing.

We hiked to the confluence overlook of the Red River and Rio Grande and then returned to camp to pitch the tent and make dinner. Flatbread sandwiches with peppered turkey, several cheeses, and Nueske’s bacon. The snow started again, sprinkling the distinct tic-tic of frozen flake on stretched tent. Lumps of snow fell from the trees in large splats as the South sucked the precious moisture in. As the afternoon reached for evening, we relaxed at our campsite, exploring the rim of the canyon and listening to the world’s best white noise; a river amplified by the natural megaphone of a canyon. It lulled us into a deep slumber that cradled us into the morning.  

These places are much more than just land or water to be cast out of the protective net in which they are now preserved. They are alive. They inspired. They educate. They heal. They are a part of us all. They are OUR NATIONAL PARKS.

  1. The NPS Centennial report states that to connect people to the parks in the next century, we must

DEVELOP and nurture lifelong connections between the public and parks—especially for young people—through a continuum of engaging recreational, educational, volunteer, and work experiences.

CONNECT urban communities to parks, trails, waterways, and community green spaces that give people access to fun outdoor experiences close to home.

EXPAND the use of parks as places for healthy outdoor recreation that contributes to people’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

WELCOME and engage diverse communities through culturally relevant park stories and experiences that are accessible to all. (11)

Nowhere in the NPS Centennial report and future outlook does it say that we should reduce the amount of land that we protect in the National Park System or “unprotect” land that has already been designated a monument or sanctuary.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The American people and lovers of the National Parks everywhere are counting on you to do your job and protect the parks. I know that you are just coming into this position with a new administration and it might be a long haul, but I believe that you entered the park service for the same reason my husband and I did: To protect the parks. Thank you.

Very Sincerely,

Adrienne S. Jaeger