Twice the size of Rhode Island, the 3,000-square-mile Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah has a bold, rugged and colorful topography marked by plateaus and river valleys and wind-carved rock cliffs. It is one of the dramatic landscapes recently protected by Congress and President Obama.
So remote that it was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped, it has yielded intriguing evidence of early civilization to archaeologists, of prehistoric wildlife in past eras to paleontologists and of the distant origins of the Earth itself to geologists.
Nonscientists, of course, can enjoy the wonders of the National Monument by hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, using off-road vehicles or river-running.
Photo: Eric Foltz / Istock
By Dan Shapley
< < See Nos. 1-10, and Nos. 11-22 in the Greenest 100 Days, The Daily Green's look at nearly 100 actions taken by the Obama Administration in its first 100 days to support environmental protection and a clean energy economy
23-26. International Leadership on Climate Change
Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama can't seem to go anywhere without discussing global warming, no matter what the purported context of the meeting, or who the leaders. Four noteworthy examples:
- Clinton in China: She told China that developing with the U.S. fossil fuel-based system as its model would be a "mistake" -- on her very first trip abroad as Secretary of State.
- Obama Attacks Tar Sands: Criticizing a close ally directly after being elected might seem unwise, but Obama made his point early on: Canada can't support the unchecked development of the Alberta tar sands, a fossil fuel project that has been dubbed "the most destructive in the world."
- Obama Highlights Climate in Economic Talks: One might focus on the collapse of the global economy during international talks on the collapse of the global economy, but President Obama took time to remind world leaders that the U.S. is now ready to lead on global warming, a statement that one could not imagine coming from a U.S. president in the 100 days before Obama took office.
- Supporting a U.N. Climate Accord: Continuing talks begun by President Bush with major polluters responsible for up to 80% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, Clinton convinced world leaders that -- unlike Bush -- the U.S. wants to support U.N. climate negotiations designed to produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in December in Copenhagen.
27-29. In Support of Gardens, Organic Farming and of Bees
The USDA has taken three soft, but high-profile actions that suggest support for local, organic and natural foods will have a higher priority:
- The People's Garden Project: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack broke up pavement at a USDA facility and promised to do the same at USDA facilities around the country. In their place? Community gardens highlighting organic, native and other green planting techniques.
- Bees at the White House: The USDA joined Michelle Obama in her new organic vegetable garden by installing hives of Russian bees that are resistant to a mite that has beleaguered U.S. beekeepers.
- The Largest-ever Survey of Organic Farming: The USDA's annual agricultural census this year will include the largest-ever survey of organic farming. While the survey was planned before Obama took office, we can imagine the data being used to promote this industry more under the current administration.
30. The Largest Expansion of Wilderness Protection in 15 Years
Another bill in the works before Obama took office, the Omnibus lands bill nonetheless has his signature, and designates 2 million acres of wilderness, scenic rivers, national parks, historic trails and other public protected landscapes. It's one beautiful legacy.