Grand Staircase-Escalante May 14, 2017

Nature and Cultural Awareness Journal May 14, 2017 Part 1

After a very brief drive, we landed at the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Visitor Center in Big Water, Utah, just north of Lake Powell. What a wonderful little museum for kids with a penchant for dinosaurs. It was our first experience with the BLM administration, meaning BLM rangers. All of our exposure to BLM land to date had involved leaving a check in a box or no interaction at all.


 
The visitor center itself was beautiful: built in a spiral form, meant to mimic the Fibonacci spiral, a pattern represented in art and nature throughout the ages. Because of the fossils, the architect wanted to reflect the beauty of
the ammonite, a predecessor to the squids that inhabited what was once a sea in this area.
 
 

 
Robbie was treated to a very fun outdoor area to touch dinosaur “fossilized bones” and run on a “crocodile eating dinosaur”. Apparently there were crocodiles in this part of the world that were larger than any Tyranosaurus Rex. Robbie loved all of these little bits of information. I must confess I found it eerily creepy, happy that stage of evolution was long gone.
 
 

 

 
A little history of the monument itself: Grand Staircase -Escalanate became the largest national monument in the United States in 1996. At 18 million acres, it became the first National monument to be administered by the BLM rather than the National Park Service (NPS). A bit of a strange marriage really if you consider the “primary” mission of the services: while the NPS is there “to preserve and protect”, the BLM is there to “manage” which means they are not adverse to using the resources of the land for those seeking profit. The monument itself has been widely controversial since its inception: President Clinton designated 3 parcels of land into the monument using the Antiquities Act. There are some, including the BLM ranger I spoke with, that say the move to make this land a monument was illegal hence the current investigation.

Curiously, in a conversation segue, the BLM ranger stated he did not believe in climate change, he believed it was solely due to the earth coming out of the ice age and the warming was part of the natural trend. While I would agree to the post Ice age warming, the accelerated version of what we are seeing has been clearly shown to be fossil fuel based. There was no getting a word in edgewise there…the ranger went on to say that he did not believe that solar was a viable alternative, his primary example was that it killed birds because of the extreme amount of focused heat the solar panels gave off. He was correct in that regard, just in the Mohave Desert solar array alone, over 6000 birds are killed a year. So many in fact that people call them “streamers” for the birds disappearing in a puff of streaming smoke. (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-solar-bird-deaths-20160831-snap-story.html)

In the BLM ranger’s opinion, the only really efficient fuel was fossil fuels. While I did not dispute the efficiency of fossil fuels, I found it a bit concerning that he was not interested in the uses of alternative fuels for use, including using solar for powering his building. He had no other suggestion for anything else but the status quo. Smaller arrays of solar panels did not seem to be creating much disturbance…for supplying most if not all the electrical needs of his facility…he did not confirm or deny it was doing much good. In some ways, he reminded me of the seemingly opposite end of the spectrum, people who protest climate change yet make no changes at all to their lifestyle. Most people are content with protesting, not necessarily with changing.

It is one of the things that has been most interesting on this trip. How do we balance our needs and wants with our impact on the environment and each other? Having a small tiny home that measures 6×18 feet has taught us we don’t need a lot. We appreciate hot water (mostly me), a comfortable bed, a place for toys (mostly Robbie), food, and a few other things that don’t take up much space to include the wonderful community of friends we have met from all walks of life. Being with this ranger made us think more about this.

The facility itself was a museum for dinosaur lovers, just one small room but dense in its impact. Regardless of one’s political ideas about the monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante is truly a paleontological miracle. The surrounding area is one of the few remaining places in the world that uncovers new dinosaur species every year, entire skeletons of dinosaurs every month…it is amazing. Here are a few of our pictures from the museum…
 
 

 

This picture below is of a remarkably intact baby dinosaur skeleton found in the area:
 

When I got to the scale and description of the mountains…
 

 
I realized a bit soberly that we still had another 4000 feet of elevation to climb to our evening destination and another hundred miles to drive…there was so much here. We had just driven through the Vermillion cliffs, a stunning geological wonder. There were millions of acres to experience and explore, hopefully preserved for future generations. But not for us today.

The tug on my arm and whisper, “Mom, I’m hungry” reminded me there was a mouth to feed and a van to fill with fossil fuel. So off we went, filling our tanks on the way up to Kanab and the Hoodoo filled Canyon of Bryce.
 
 

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