If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I have a firm rule to never, ever mix politics with photography. You also know that “every rule has an exception,” and this will be it!
We currently stand on the precipice of an unmitigated disaster for photographers and nature lovers. The Trump administration has issued orders to severely reduce two of our National Monuments and is considering putting several other wild areas on the chopping block. Look, I have an equal beef with both Republican and Democrat politicians, so this is not about partisanship. This is strictly about us, landscape photographers passionate about our natural world.
In December the President reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by - get this - two million acres! Right now ten other National Monuments are being reviewed to determine whether they will be reduced in size, eliminated entirely, or managed by private concerns. These include some of the most photographed natural areas in the country, areas that are sacred to our indigenous people, or vital to the health of certain ecosystems. These critical areas include Monuments that are priceless for photographers, such as Giant Sequoia (https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sequoia/home/?cid=stelprdb5394941), Katahdin Woods and Waters (https://www.nps.gov/kaww/index.htm), Pacific Remote Islands and Papahanaumokuakea Marine Reserve (http://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/).
These natural areas are meaningful to the general public, too. According to a Harvard study, more than 93% of Americans feel that our national parks and other public lands should be protected. Yet oil companies are already pressuring the government for permits to drill in the areas of Grand Staircase-Escalante that the President just removed from protection .
If you doubt the importance of these natural areas to the environment, click on the links above and see for yourself. But I am not here to talk about the environmental benefits of these National Monuments, but rather their importance to artists; photographers, painters, sculptors and documentary filmmakers.
Ever since photography came to prominence in this country, photographers have always embraced our natural landscapes as a prime subject. Even in relatively recent times, American photographers such as Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell exemplified the very best of landscape photography using our National Parks and Monuments as their showpieces. The greats of National Geographic showcased these National Parks and Monuments and instilled an environmental ethos that many generations of photographers have pursued. We go out into these pristine areas for a quiet respite, to detox from our frenetic world, and to capture on film or sensors our interpretations of their natural beauty.
The truth is that for many children and armchair travelers, our photography is the closest they will get to these natural wonders. So, in a sense, our work has a multiplier effect in helping others understand the beauty, majesty and importance of these sites, as well as appreciating them for their artistic content.
There are more than a dozen environmental organizations and Native American tribes fighting this short-sighted Presidential decree in court. But those cases take lots of money and they can sure use your monetary support.
I’m sure you get my point, so I won’t belabor it. However, I am asking that each and every landscape photographer out there send an email to your legislators, The White House, and to the National Park Service demanding that these precious resources remain protected, not only for us but for generations of future photographers. Here is a chance for you to give back for all the beauty you have captured from them.