The Antiquities Act of 1906 (part 1): Why and What?

A friend recently posted a video of Glenn Beck reacting to Patagonia’s campaign against President Trump’s reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The purpose of this series of blog posts is not to argue with Mr. Beck and his followers. Merely, I wish to present a few historical and contextual facts that Mr. Beck left out of his tirade. It would behoove all of us to do a bit more research before giving credence to his words; he is, after all, merely a member of the media, paid for his ability to create shock and outrage among conservatives. From what I can tell, he does this job very well. However, he leaves out information that does not support his arguments. I have to break up my thoughts into multiple blog posts, simply to help me keep my thoughts straight and simple(r).

Native American cultures have lost a lot. And because history textbooks were generally written by the “winners” of wars, campaigns, events, etc., some facts are actually not represented and have been lost to time. It is these facts and perspectives that will give us a more complete view of history. It is this ignored or lost information we must seek. Often times, the truth is somewhere between the two perspectives.

Please feel free to explore the links I have provided and please read the full texts of these historic documents.

What is a National Monument?

According to the Antiquities Act, “…historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, what this DOESN’T acknowledge is the tie Native American tribes have to the land itself. Far more than the “European” or “Near Eastern” cultures that arrived here within the last 300 years, at least from my perspective. “Objects to be protected” is misleading verbiage to me as the land itself is often the object which cultures want preserved.

But… Why?

Of note is the first part of the Antiquities Act (conveniently not mentioned in Mr. Beck’s video), which states, “…any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.”

From my reading, this actual first clause of the act really hits on why the act was proposed and eventually passed. I say ‘eventually’ because the origins of the Antiquities Act (as a piece of legislation) started almost 25 years earlier – well before Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House.

A combination of archeologists, scientists and concerned citizens, interested in studying and preserving historic sites and artifacts abroad started to turn to reports of pueblos and diminishing settlements and cultures in what would become the southwestern United States, specifically the states of Arizona and New Mexico. In 1882, Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts, along with (what is now known as) the New England Historic Genealogical Society, presented to the U.S. Senate a document outlining why the nation should preserve and study sites and artifacts associated with Native Americans:

“…that these remaining are the remnants of very ancient races in North America whose origin and history lie yet unknown in their decayed and decaying antiquities; that many of their towns have been abandoned by the decay and extinction of their inhabitants; that many of their relics have already perished and so made the study of American ethnology vastly more difficult; that the question of the origin of those Pueblos and the age of their decayed cities, and the use of some of their buildings, now magnificent ruins, constitute one of the leading and most interesting problems of the antiquary and historian of the present age; that relic-hunters have carried away, and scattered wide through America and Europe the remains of these extinct towns, thus making their historic study still more difficult, and, in some particulars, nearly impossible; that these extinct towns, the only monuments or interpreters of these mysterious races, are now daily plundered and destroyed in a most vandal way…” (For the full text of this document visit the the NPS history of the Antiquities Act or, better yet, go through the archives of the New England History Genealogical Society.)

So where do we draw the line? The history of the United States, as it applies to events and actions upon this continent, is inextricably linked to the decimation of cultures other than those of European descent. I am not placing blame on past U.S. citizens, merely just pointing out that we, as a nation, have contributed to destroying the history of our continent often before we had a chance to learn from said history.

And who was it who said, “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it,”? (Actually, I believe that quote comes in many forms from many sources. )

Mr. Beck may not like how many acres have been set aside, but the legislation predates Roosevelt by several presidents. Congress just simply didn’t pass the legislation until more pots were hunted and structures were destroyed.

For further research, I recommend the following sites and organizations. From my reading, the National Park Service is actually the newest of these groups, and the collective histories of these groups are somewhat intertwined. Also do some reading on the explorations and studies of John Wesley Powell, Adolph Bandelier, and Lewis Henry Morgan, among many, many others.

  1. National Park Service Archeological Program: The Antiquities Act
  2. The New England Historic Genealogical Society
  3. The Archeological Institute of America
  4. The American Anthropological Association


Up Next: The First National Monument and The Great Multi-Use Debate


What’s Blooming This Weekend?

So here’s my species list for this past weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Loco Weed
  • Golden Banner
  • Beardless Sidebells Penstemon
  • Clustered Penatemon
  • Marsh Marigold
  • (Narrowleaf) Red Paintbrush
  • Yellow Paintbrush
  • Elderberry
  • Gooseberry
  • Serviceberry
  • Wax Current (already setting fruit)
  • Blanketflower
  • Sulfurflower
  • Blue Iris
  • Shrubby Cinquefoil
  • Beauty Cinquefoil
  • American Bistort
  • Chickweed
  • Yellow Sweetclover
  • Wallflower
  • Calypso Orchid
  • Bedstraw
  • Strawberry
  • Short Style Onion
  • Shooting Star
  • Blue-eyed grass
  • Yellow Stonecrop
  • Bladderpod or Draba
  • Sheepsorrel
  • Richardson Geranium
  • Pink Geranium
  • Primrose
  • Parry’s Harrbell
  • Leafy Cinquefoil
  • Heartleaf Arnica
  • Raspberry
  • Chokecherry
  • Yarrow
  • Pearly Everlasting
  • Alpine Forget-me-not
  • Alpine Avens
  • Alpine Primrose
  • Alpine Phlox
  • Lanceleaf Chiming Bells
  • Moss Campion
  • Dwarf Clover
  • Fendler Meadowrue (male plant recorded)

There are a few others. I am confident I am forgetting a few.

Next week we should see the Alpine Sunflowers (Old Man of the Mountain) start to bloom. I saw lots of buds today!

A Wildflower Nerd’s Dream


Ok, so here is a dream project…. Republishing the taxonomic key to the flora of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Yes, I know how nerdy that sounds.

Don’t be a hater.

The late Betty Willard has become a hero to me. She knew, I mean she was an expert on, the flora of Rocky’s mountains and valleys. Her book, written with Linda and Richard Beidleman and published in 2000 (now out of print) by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association is, itself, an updated version of a much older taxonomic key, this time with several hundred photos and line drawings.


Many of us know a birder…. That dedicated seeker with binoculars that travels hundreds of miles just to add another species to their life list. (Admittedly, I know several.) I will never admit to that level of craziness, but I certainly have a life list of North American wildflowers. 

And helping me build that list is Betty Willard. I wish I could have known her and picked her brain while on a few hikes. Even today, after all these years, I found a couple of plants that were difficult to ID, even using her key. Perhaps they aren’t native. At least one is a lily of some sort, I am pretty sure, and she includes dandelions in her key, which are not native, so I am curious about what I found.

What really makes me curious is the fact that I think I know the lily… from other parks, maybe, or similar species… but why would it not be included here? The closest species I could find in her key is one that apparently likes shade. My plant was smack in full sun in the middle of Moraine Park. It was hidden in the grass, so perhaps it had a bit of shade. But not really. Generally a fairly hot meadow, except early in the spring right after mud season (or during mud season) – which is what we are nearly ending right now. 

I know it sounds totally nerdy, but to find something that Betty Willard might not have included makes my flower-loving heart skip a beat. A few years ago, a fellow interpretive ranger at Rocky Mountain told me that she considered Willard’s work the best for the park in our field. 

Pun intended, sort if.

So it has become a bucket list item for me, ever since I was told that republishing Willard’s work was cost-prohibitive for the folks who proposed it during the park’s centennial in 2015.

I have, perhaps, 200 species photographed in the park. And the ecological and ethnobotanical ramifications of said species. But in this age of low attention spans, the “I want it now!!!” mentality, and “Why does that matter?” attitude, I can see how the project can easily be cost-prohibitive. 

And it breaks my heart, for the following reasons:

  1. Fewer people are getting to know these majestic mountains as I (and the Betty Willards of the world) know them,
  2. Fewer people are connecting to their parks as I have,
  3. And science – and attention to detail – are going by the proverbial wayside. 

So it will still be on my bucket list, to expose this amazing land to future generations through the plants that produce the very oxygen, water and soil we rely upon. And publish a taxonomic key while I am at it.

Screw the smart phones. Let’s go find a Pedicularis.

This is one happy nerd on a mission. 

It’s Summer In The Mountains


Long’s Peak soars on the horizon looking over travelers on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s no secret that I love the high windswept meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park. By about February or March every year, I’m MORE than ready for wildflower season to commence.

But this year we Coloradans had a wrench thrown into our spring. on May 19-20 we had a huge storm come through. The National Park Service had nearly cleared and readied Trail Ridge for its annual opening on Memorial Day weekend, But when the storm hit, the front range mountains received several feet that kept blowing around for days.

And I had to postpone my first drive of the season. I make it a practice to make sure my Friday off (I don’t work a normal 9-5 work schedule) aligns with the opening of Trail Ridge so I can be a tourist for one day and just drive the road, stopping at every single overlook and enjoying the views. It’s just something I have to do after months of being stuck at 5,280 feet of elevation. 😉


Approaching Poudre Lake and the Continental Divide.

On June 3, I finally got to make my annual drive. There was relatively little traffic that morning – I was the only person stopped at Rock Cut, believe it or not – and the weather was perfect. Warm and sunny, with a bit of a breeze. The perfect day to drive Trail Ridge Road.

I made it over to Kawuneeche from Estes Park in less than 2 hours – even with a few brief photo stops – and walked through the meadows at Coyote Valley and Holzworth, and then walked up the Colorado River Trail a bit. Marsh Marigolds and Candytuft showed white in the meadows wet with the spring melt.


Chickweed. I could really use a macro lens for my camera.


The Colorado River flows through the Kawuneeche Valley.

It was a really nice day in the park. Next visit, I’ll be looking at the tiny flowers above treeline. I can’t wait!

A Symbol of My Freedom… and A Bit More Inspiration

So, my gun-toting, Republican brother posted another Meme of Brilliance today. Sadly, I’m sure he found humor and truth in this picture:

I grew up around guns. I even learned how to shoot. And because of my family’s choices, and my subsequent life experiences apart from my family, I can see both sides of many perspectives. I am rather happy to have found freedom in other choices. I don’t have to live constantly on the defense and crippled by stereotypes because my choices and habits allow me independence of mind and body.
With that background, let me me share a symbol of my freedom:

So what is that? An incomplete sock? Those five little U.S. size O double point needles, to me, symbolize a skill of independence, a tradition of artistry and self-reliance, and a small way for me to separate myself from the Corporate Monster that forces us to all wear the same things, eat over-processed foods that kill us, and give up our ability and thought. 

I can spin my own yarns (although I did not make the yarn pictured), take a few measurements, and create something I need and will use every day. If I see a pattern in nature while I hike, I can translate it to yarn and carry that moment of joy and inspiration with me every time I wear that pair of socks or gloves (for I use these needles for both types of projects).

While the yarn pictured makes an interesting fabric due to the way it is dyed, the real interest for me is on the other side of the sock:

I really want to name this pattern “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, but I’m afraid that name might be taken. 😉

I have said it before, I am a girl who likes dirt, plants and the great outdoors. I got the idea for this pattern after seeing a rattlesnake slithering along the ground at one of my former parks. Diamonds don’t have to be set in 14 karat gold to be special. And lots of folks like many types of diamonds.

I haven’t bought a pair of readymade socks in 15+ years. But I have a rainbow of pairs of socks that reflect my travels, observations, and experiences. Freedom of creation and supplying for my needs. 

My kniiting needles are indeed a great symbol of freedom.

Saturday Reflection

Guess a man needs an upset now and then to remind him that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.
-Dick Proenneke, One Man’s Wilderness

It has been such a roller coaster this year so far. I’ve read One Man’s Wilderness many times since I bought the book on my first trip to Alaska ten years ago. We need these hiccups, especially in our interactions with Mother Nature, to help us remember our place. We are part of the greater ecosystem, not in charge of, despite the common perspective of our culture.

Yesterday’s experience with the older lady from south Texas on the ice made the quote stand out further to me.

My fear of going down the steep, narrow section of trail, and the woman’s fear of ice and falling, were enough to make me ponder. We each need to get out there and test ourselves. We aren’t all-powerful and we can only conquer what we try.

Another Rebirth

My Dear Friend,

Will you understand? Or will you just see a mountain to conquer?

I have experienced every emotion imaginable within this mountain cathedral. Joy, pain, love, security, insecurity, loss, fear, contentment, wonder.


Today, as I took a last look for the season at the rooftop of this grand place, I worried how you would feel upon your first visit. Because if you are not open to loving it as I have, then I don’t want share it. I would rather keep it safe for myself.

I have been on both the giving and receiving ends of lessons here. I have seen beauty; I have seen death. And more than I can express, I have seen rebirth.

I have seen the rebirth of forests and landscapes that were taken for granted, mountains and trees who would always be there for us. Slopes green with conifers, rushing waterfalls, and flowers of every color and shape that we photograph endlessly because we have an inkling that they might be special for some reason.

But why are they special? Are they truly for us? Or are we each just part of this picture?

When I wore a ranger’s uniform, people would ask me why all of the trees were dead. Some people, who looked with very limited vision, saw only grey tree trunks and death. And a bug to blame. Not only did they miss the continuation of life, but they didn’t train their vision on the processes, the next generation, and the future. They thought only of the here and now.

Furthermore, did they really stopp to consider the role our species has played in this death and rebirth?

Ther was an audible sigh on the wind today. This cathedral has been trampled by the unseeing masses for months now, and needs its winter rest. It needs the refreshing snows, the cold and dark that trigger so many annual rituals. It also needs understanding, care and a view of the bigger picture on our part.

The trees and rivers need protection, respect, and people to reconnect with the natural processes upon which our lives depend. We can’t just see a mountain and climb it. We must fight for wildness. We must fight to just be allowed to clean up our water sources. We must fight for fresh air and the plants that help us clean up the polution our lifestyles create.

We must fight for these resources. Because with out them, our lives won’t exist. It is not enough to say we care. We must put action in the place of words.

Our National Parks and other public lands are the remaining vestiges of the continent as it was intended to operate. We would do well to heed the lessons they teach.

So when you get out here, don’t spend your time trying to summit a peak. Rather, slow down and sit by a stream and be mezmerized by the endless patterning of the ripples. Watch the squirrels chatter and scamper about in their search for food. Listen to the bees buzz from flower to flower as they play their role. Smell the forest floor after a rain.

Please do yourself a favor. Stop thinking of this as your mid-life crisis and realize this is a chance for rebirth in a sacred place. I hope I am priviledged enough to be a part of it.