A letter from ‘Get in the Wild’ owner Christopher Hagedorn:
December 16, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
My name is Christopher Hagedorn. I am the owner and lead guide of Get In The Wild Adventures—a recreational guiding and wilderness leadership organization based in Hanksville, Utah. I am writing in regards to the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.
Over the past year, I have closely followed the arguments both for and against the creation of a new monument. Through this process, I have learned that both sides share a common interest in protecting this spectacular wilderness landscape surrounding the Bears Ears area. From sacred tribal traditions, hiking, recreating, and a variety of other uses, we share a common goal to preserve and protect this land. Our great challenge is the question: How best do we achieve this?
When the iconic southwest environmentalist Edward Abbey sat at his little house trailer in what was then Arches National Monument, there were only a few vehicles per day visiting the monument. On Memorial Day 2015, over 2,800 vehicles entered Arches National Park. Unquestionably, a lot has changed since the Antiquities Act was adopted by Congress in 1909.
Some believe and advocate that a national monument is a panacea for wildland protection. I disagree with this. A new monument may actually create more problems, such as overuse, increased vandalism, and looting. What we really need for addressing these issues is more funding and resources for the federal agencies that already manage these lands. This can be achieved without a new monument designation.
As a wildlands-based adventure company, I rely on the protections afforded by the federal government to conduct business. While paradoxical to some, I oppose the creation of a new monument in spite of the fact that it would likely provide a significant increase in revenue for my business. For me, protecting the land in its current form is far more important than additional monetary gain.
Did you know that this area is one of few remaining in the Lower 48 where solitude remains protected? This is an irreplaceable quality, and it will most likely go away should a new national monument be created. History shows that these designations bring in more people, along with the resulting human impacts to the land. Edward Abbey called this Industrial Tourism. National Parks and Monuments certainly have their place, but from my perspective we have more than enough in Southern Utah—a total of ten in all surround the Greater Canyonlands vicinity. Like most of us, I love national parks and monuments. I also love wild and untouched landscapes that remain much the way they were when Americans first arrived. There is a place for these unique and dwindling treasures, too. Again, the solitude and silence of the wild is an irreplaceable quality—one that a new monument may adversely affect. Let us preserve this for future generations as well.
As an outdoor adventure guide, I have spent much of my life exploring federal lands. I have a good understanding of what works well at national parks and monuments and what does not. I have a similar understanding of areas that do not have a formal park or monument designation. On the surface, it’s easy to believe that parks and monuments are the quintessential tool for protecting wildlands of all shapes, sizes and characteristics. In my view—they are not. Some of the most amazing wilderness areas I have visited in my life do not hold any type of formal designation. This is one of the primary reasons that I started my business at a location without any formal designation. One of the primary missions of my company is to operate at off-the-beaten-path locations. I want to be able to share these unique treasures that represent what true wildlands really are. On the majority of our trips and tours we never run into another human being. This is an invaluable quality that goes hand-in-hand with beautiful areas outside of park and monument boundaries. Once and area gets this designation, many such unique qualities are lost forever.
I believe in thinking outside the box of existing federal regulation and using a common sense, coalition-building approach. While there has been much disagreement about the Public Lands Initiative proposed by Utah legislators, I believe in the spirit of what this initiative is trying to create. Gather ideas from all common interests, and take the time to listen to those whose interests are great and voices silent.
PO BOX 29, HANKSVILLE, UTAH 84734
PHONE: (818) 381-9453 • EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org