Reading about the recent vandalization of the wonderful Birthing Rock, containing markings made by various Native American groups over the past 2,500 years sickened me. Sadly, the disrespectful destruction of such cultural heritage sites is too common. From the simple ignorance of just wanting to add their name to the carvings without understanding the cultural significance of the ancient place, to intentional destruction and vulgarity, these damages are happening too often.
|Goblin Valley State Park|
In late March of 2021, a Colorado rock climber proudly posted pictures of the drilling bolts with which he had defaced the sacred petroglyphs of "Sunshine Wall" in Moab. When other rock climbers exposed the damage he had done to the carvings, he acknowledged the severity of his thoughtlessness. "It's just poor education on my part, and I do take full responsibility," he admitted in a magazine article. Although his thoughtless act is a bell that cannot truly be un-rung, he did meet with BLM authorities and filled the bolt holes he had made.
Whether on Indian Lands or in National and State Parks, many of our national treasures, whether created by man or by nature, are in remote locations, difficult to constantly protect. A few years ago, a Scout Leader, with a group of men that included one with a video camera, entered Goblin Valley and managed to destroy an ancient rock formation by toppling the goblin off the rock on which it had balanced. He posed proudly for the videographer as he was cheered for his strength by the other men The photographer documented this video with these thoughtless words: "A New Goblin Valley exists with this boulder down here on the bottom."
|Roosevelt & Muir|
Speaking in Osawatome, Kansas on August 31, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said, "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value." (Yes, it is true that Roosevelt did not always adhere to his own advice.)
The second man who devoted his life to preserving nature is John Muir, who believed, "In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks." In speaking about our National Parks, he said, "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity."
Unfortunately, so many of us have realized Muir's necessity that in seeking the experience of nature we threaten the very wilderness we seek. We take with us the exhaust from our vehicles, the trash from our picnics, the diapers from our babies, and the other remnants of man that our good intentions leave behind.
In 1903, when Roosevelt spoke at the Grand Canyon, he said, "I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see."
|Grand Canyon Skywalk|
Muir's description that "Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn" seems not exciting enough to too many of us in our rush to be thrilled by disrupting the flow of Nature's peace with our dune buggies, carvings, hang gliders, wall climbing, and our sheer numbers.