Amidst the seemingly incessant drumbeat of horrifying environmental news, you may have missed this little fun tidbit that millions of acres of federal land might soon be up for grabs. On April 26, President Trump signed a powerful executive order that put all national monuments of over 100,000 acres created after 1996 under review, which left 27 monuments from Mount Katahdin to Giant Sequoia, under threat of logging, mining and other private development. We're not talking about giant obliques here. Monuments in this sense and what is under direct attack is some of the most pristine wildlife on Earth.
Brent Rose, a nomadic freelance journalist, had been itching for a way to connect his life on the road to a deeper cause. And so this June, he decided to visit and document all 27 monuments under threat by the Trump Administration's order. He started tracking his progress on his website and Instagram and four weeks, 6,500 miles, and one flight to Maine later, he'd succeeded.
The videos he produced are informative, jovial and bro-y, lots of #vanlife vibes and dad jokes and even Rose's actual dad, who joined him to help complete grueling pace needed to hit all 27 monuments. But despite the lighthearted tone, the mission could not be more urgent: The Department of the Interior's public comment period closes at midnight tonight. But even if you miss that cutoff, read on.
VICE Impact had a second to catch up with Rose to learn more about his travels and what's next in protecting natural monuments. The fight, according to Rose, is far from over.
VICE Impact: Which monument impacted you the most?
Brent Rose: Bears Ears just punched me in the heart, honestly. Just walking through there, you can feel the history of the area. And they have these immaculate petroglyphs. I mean the most clearly defined petroglyphs I've ever seen in my life, they look like they were just chiseled recently. And they would be absolutely pristine except they're riddled with bullet holes. And that to me is almost the perfect visual metaphor for this whole monument situation: You've got these amazing antiquities, these priceless relics of pre-Columbian American history and some idiot's shooting bullets at them cause they think it will be fun in the short term.
What has been the public response been to the project?
It's been overwhelmingly positive. When I get to these places, I try to talk to people that happen to be around the area. Some of them have been Republican and some of them have been Democrat and I've been really heartened to see that it really is a non-partisan or a bi-partisan issue. Because these are public lands and they're for everybody's use. A lot of people I spoke to really love those lands for hunting and hiking and ATV [riding], as well as a lot of people who want them for conservation and protecting the wild animals that live there. So it's been incredibly positive.
What's next for you and for this campaign?
Personally, I'm gonna take a nap that'll last like three days. [Laughs] Then it's going to be back to work.
I'm encouraging people to write to their congressional representatives and their senators, especially in areas that have these monuments and really, really drive home that these are public lands, they belong to all of us and they're not to be sold off to private interests. And beyond that, there's already a new executive order that threatens a whole bunch of marine sanctuaries, including Monterey Bay and the Channel Islands. That's a cause that's near and dear to me, and I really want to do something about it. I'll try to find a way to raise awareness for that. But in the meantime, keep writing in, keep on these elected officials or appointed officials. Tell them that this is not the public will.
The period for public comment closes at midnight tonight and you can submit yours here to the Department of the Interior.