Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wants to eliminate a significant portion of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This gigantic region, at 1.9 million acres was designated 21 years ago by President Clinton through the power of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives the president the authority to protect areas of great cultural, historical, and ecological significance that are already under federal control. This differs from a National Park, which takes an act of congress to designate. In the case of the Grand Staircase Escalante, it was largely BLM land prior to its designation and is still managed by the agency. This huge move, called an overreach by fans of the fossil fuel industry, effectively blocked a coal mining effort that would have permanently (yes, I mean forever) destroyed a wealth of resources. For example…
A DINOSAUR!!!! Not just any dinosaur, but the horniest dinosaur ever, a Kosmoceratops, discovered in 2006 in the region under threat by the Trump Administration. This thing, its remains dug up by volunteer paleontologist, has more horns on its face than any other dinosaur ever discovered. (Don’t worry, it’s a vegetarian and has been dead for 76 million years.)
Paleontological research efforts are still underway in the monument, thanks to its designation in 1996. This is such a bummer for the Utah Congressional delegation and governor who actively opposed the monument’s designation.
It’s hard to imagine, as I rolled down off the plateau on Smoky Mountain Road, that the dry landscape had ever been anything but a desert, but the presence of an ungodly amount of coal and the thought-provoking view of the Navajo Generating Station and Lake Powell in the distance, *bring to light* the evidence of how Earth’s our geological and climate history can change dramatically over time.
But wait, did I mention how fun the riding was? I mean, look at that road!! I spent 3 days riding, pedaled 160 miles, and got to experience one of the greatest endurance adventures of my life. Stay tuned for more adventures, as I plan to not only provide more insights into the glory of Grand Staircase Escalante, but to ride my bike on extended journeys through all four threatened National Monuments: Bear’s Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah, Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, and Cascades Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon.
Thanks to bikepacking.com for the route (below), Defiant Pack for making me a sweet custom frame bag and loaning me some gear, The Way of Compassion Bonedale Bike Project for all the training on bike maintenance, and as always, my dear friends and family who I love tons and don’t outright discourage me from going on crazy solo adventures.
ROLL ON, Thunder!!