Featured Artist: Harvey Halpern
The natural world around us, especially the realm of true Wilderness, has the beauty and power to astound and move all of us. In an increasingly mechanized and alienating artificial environment, where we spend so much of our time, any glimpse of the natural world acts as a soothing breath of fresh air. My aim as a photographer is to impart to the viewer a sense that there is a world of true Wilderness that is out there waiting to be experienced.
Unfortunately, the natural world is under siege. It’s no longer responsible to escape from the pressures of our urban existence for a period of renewal and then turn our backs on that very landscape, which is threatened. The canyons of Southern Utah are the most unique and beautiful landscapes on the face of the planet, but that beauty has not made them immune from a myriad host of threats. Dams, unnecessary roads, fossil fuel extraction, over grazing, and rampant off road vehicle abuse are just some of the threats these public lands face.
The latest threat to these public lands—lands owned by every American citizen—comes from the Trump administration. National Parks are created by an act of Congress, but as you’re aware, Congress recently has been unable to agree on much of anything. Many of our greatest National Parks—the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Olympic in northwestern Washington, and
four out of the five National Parks in Utah, for example—all are protected as National Monuments. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the President the power to preserve areas of public land as National Monuments. A citizens movement in Utah, spearheaded by an unprecedented coalition of five Native American tribes, urged the Obama administration to protect 1.9 million acres of lands in Southern Utah. These lands contain the highest concentration of ancient Native American sites in all of North America. Ruins, rock art, pottery, spear points, and arrowheads abound in that part of southeastern Utah. How- ever, the area is being stripped by looting of not only pottery and artifacts but also of rock art and graves. That is why this coalition of tribes (Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain, Zuni, and Ouray Ute) felt the urgency of acting before it was too late. In December 2016, President Obama set aside 1.35 million acres of this already public land as the Bears Ears National Monument.
In 1996, President Clinton set aside an even larger area of stunningly magnificent lands as the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The major (but not only) threat to this area was a proposed coal mine. Owned by a Dutch corporation, this mine would have raped our land and contributed to global warming all to profit a foreign company.
The Trump administration, in their maniacal quest to exploit every fossil fuel no matter how polluting, is looking to possibly rescind the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument designations. While it’s not at all clear that Trump has the power to rescind a monument designation, he certainly thinks he does. It’s up to all of us as the owners of these magnificent lands to work together to protect them. Some of the citizen groups fighting for these lands are: The Sierra Club, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). They could all use our help and support. §
Harvey Halpern has been photographing Wilderness since 1978 with the emphasis of his work being the canyons of Southern Utah. By focusing for so long and hard on one region, he has been able to get into truly remote areas. He has photographed canyons that no one on foot has seen for over 700 years. When he is not photographing, he renovates old homes in the Cambridge area as a member of a worker owned carpentry collective.