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Value of wild places

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller


In 1975, I began sharing my passion for preserving what is now known as Grand Staircase National Monument. It was established in 1996 using the Antiquities Act. I have been presenting a program titled “Wilderness, Unique Treasure” advocating for wilderness protection for that area and others for 42 years. Thanks to efforts by Theodore Roosevelt over a century ago, the Antiquities Act was created allowing presidents to create national monuments on publicly owned land to protect and preserve areas for present and future generations. Congress then has authority to make it a national park, leave it as a monument or eliminate it.

Roosevelt established national forests as another means for maintaining economic, social and environmental sustainability. Michigan has national and state forests with wilderness areas within them.

The Bureau of Land Management is another agency charged with protecting and managing public lands. Each is governed by you and your neighbors collectively under the name government. When using the term government, think of it as you and your neighbors instead of some nebulous thing called government. 

My wilderness program is based on a book written by Aldo Leopold who was designated as the most outstanding conservationist of the 20th century. In “A Sand County Almanac,” he shared the significance for preserving remnant wilderness areas for recreation, science, and wildlife. 

My program, with photographic slides, includes prose and poetry and is accompanied by Leopold’s reasoning for preserving wilderness. It is my most popular and well-received program. Email me for a program brochure and request your organization to invite me to present. Wilderness protection is of immediate concern. 

You and neighbors are represented by a majority in the US House and Senate that are considering proposed legislation to prevent establishment of new national parks and to give the president authority to reduce the size of current parks without Congress approval so they can be mined for oil, coal, and be timbered. Congress and the judicial branches represent you and neighbors to limit the president from making unilateral decisions that only represent him and a limited number of people. The public comment period regarding the issue had 99 percent of 2.8 million comments say leave the parks alone. The three branches representing you and neighbors protects from dictatorial decisions by those expected to represent all Americans and not just 1 percent.

Presidents, like other elected people, tend to represent a limited number of people instead of representing all Americans through compromise. Presidential actions are balanced by Congress and Judicial branches representing you. When Congress struggles to protect your inalienable rights, it requires compromise to meet the desires of the real government that I refer to as you and your neighbors. Our current president stated Congress and Judicial branches prevent him from accomplishing work he wants done and he wants authority to make decisions without their approval. That would move us towards dictatorial leadership. 

Aldo Leopold who was an avid hunter and advocate for protecting wilderness stated: “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away them.” Now, we face the question whether a still higher standard of living is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us in the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech. 

Elected officials should represent all of us and appoint agency heads that focus on agency missions. They should be staffed with skilled people that make decisions based on the agency mission for present and future generations. My program will help provide understanding on why Roosevelt and Leopold advocated for protecting parks and wilderness. Hopefully, you will agree with them. Not only is Utah’s Grand Staircase threatened with elimination but parks across America might lose protected status. National Parks have been said to be America’s best idea. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.


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