I will never forget the morning of April 26th. I wasn't at a spectacular place or doing anything special... I woke up at my home in Newport Beach, CA just like any other morning. I made my way downstairs, as I do all mornings to make a cup of coffee and turn on the morning news. Now, I'm not one for any type of conversation or anything that requires me to be firing on all my cylinders before I've had at least one of those coffees in the morning, but it was literally within moments of turning the ON switch on both the TV and coffee maker where I felt my whole world suddenly shift.

On April 26th, president Trump signed Executive Order 13792, entitled "Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act". This order therein directed new Secretary Of The Interior, Ryan Zinke to review the National Monuments that were created since 1996 that are greater than 100,000 acres in size as well as other existing monuments that have been expanded.

These Monuments and Lands include:

Basin and Range, Nevada

Bears Ears, Utah

Berryessa Snow Mountain, California

Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado

Carrizo Plain, California

Cascade-Siskiyou, Oregon

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Giant Sequoia, California

Gold Butte, Nevada

Grand Canyon-Parashant, Arizona

Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah

Hanford Reach, Washington

Ironwood Forest, Arizona

Mojave Trails, California

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico

Rio Grande del Norte, New Mexico

Sand to Snow, California

San Gabriel Mountains, California

Sonoran Desert, Arizona

Upper Missouri River Breaks, Montana

Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona

Katahdin Woods and Waters, Maine

Marianas Trench, CNMI/Pacific Ocean

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean

Pacific Remote Islands, Pacific Ocean

Papahanaumokuakea, Hawaii/Pacific Ocean

Rose Atoll, American, Samoa/Pacific Ocean

Under this review, Secretary Zinke is required to submit a final report detailing these lands within 120 days of the signed order. If you do not know or are not familiar with Ryan Zinke, heres a few things you should know about him. Zinke is a former Republican congressman from the state of Montana. He is an avid hunter and fisherman and calls himself "an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt". In fact, the day he was sworn into office, he said "No one loves our public lands more than I. You can love them as much, but you cannot love them more." And now, he is truly about to show us all just how much he loves these lands.

So, what is a National Monument and how does it differ from a National Park? A National Monument is an area of land owned by the federal government that is deemed as protected. Because of the Antiquities Act (1906), a sitting president can create a National Monument from existing federal land in order to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features through presidential proclamation. There are 129 National Monuments that are protected land and they include historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest. Perhaps the most popular and controversial of these lands include the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears. It has been argued that the lands were made too big and without the support of the local community surrounding them. Other popular National Monuments include historical landmarks such as George Washington’s birthplace and the Statue Of Liberty.

Over the last couple of months, since the news of the review, I have come to realize how much these lands mean to me, and how much they mean to all of you. While this period of uncertainty has been distressing, confusing and disheartening, it has also been a time of empowerment, where people have risen up and have also come together. Those of us who love these lands know that the outdoors is one of the, if not the last, place where you can truly come as you are and where we also truly come together. Whether you’re hiking a trail or setting up camp for the weekend the things that separate us during our ‘work week’ fall away when we’re outside. There are no socioeconomic barriers between us when we’re chasing the end of a trail or sitting around the campfire.

Public lands, its trails, mountains and landmarks have been not only a place of recreation for me, but a place of solace. A safe place. A place for all… A place that no matter what you’re seeking you can find it, whether you’re hiking, biking, riding, climbing, paddling or just sitting still taking in the view. Over the last few years I have found myself drawn to and frequenting the outdoors more and more. What started out as a hobby of casual hiking grew into backpacking, climbing and also taking obscenely long road trips to explore new lands. It was just about a month ago that I visited the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I have also hiked the Mojave Trails and the mountains of the San Gabriels. Having been in these places, I can tell you that there is no reason good enough for me that these lands as they are should be changed or be less available to us, the people of the United States and our future generations.

Our public lands, all diverse in nature are important not only for their landscapes and wilderness, but they are also are emblematic of our American history and the core beliefs in which our country was founded on, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today, July 10th 2017 is YOUR OPPORTUNITY to use your voice in helping to protect these wild places for us, for our children and for future generations. Help to ensure that public lands stay in public hands by visiting THIS LINK. Today is not the end of this issue and We The People DO matter in writing the future for our lands and for the future generations to come. Let's come together during this time and fight to keep public lands in public hands.

-Nicole, @Im_NicoleMarie

#nationalmonuments #hiking #travel #utah #publiclands