While all the divisive political news was swallowing the airwaves and headlines, Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior on March 1. The next day, he rode a horse to his first day at work. He will be in charge of the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.
The former Montana Congressman calls himself a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. It turns out that Pres Roosevelt was also a horse rider. But Roosevelt didn’t have to deal with climate change – which Zinke says is real. [I don’t want to say “believe in climate change”. It’s not a religion.]
Will he protect our public lands? Well, he did say clearly that our public lands are not for sale. So what do I hope he does?
Like the drawing on the right says:
Invest in our National Parks
Fund the maintenance backlog
Hire more permanent rangers
Protect our future generation (of trees and mountains)
and get out to our parks
I designed the card and my talented friend, Mica, drew the card. I then created postcards which I’m giving away to anyone who is willing to send them to their representatives. You can download your card here.
When I first signed up for Nicole’s Sleepaway Writing Camp in Waxhaw, I knew I had to find Buford’s Massacre Battlefield. In Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, I wrote about this Revolutionary War battlefield in South Carolina where the Patriots were massacred by a British Regiment led by Banaster Tarleton.
But the battlefield isn’t a national park unit or a state historic site – hard to tell who protects it – so I never felt the need to search it out.
When I drove to the writing retreat, I stopped at the Museum of the Waxhaws and asked where the battlefield was. The first woman I spoke to didn’t have a clue and she had to bring out the historian. It turned out that the museum had a big display on Buford’s Massacre. Here’s the story:
Lt. Col. Banaster Tarleton on the British side meets Col. Abraham Buford with the Southern Continental Army on May 29, 1780. The American Patriots were badly beaten. But the legend is that Tarleton continued to slaughter the Americans after they surrendered. This infuriated the Americans who came out in greater numbers for the Battle of Kings Mountain.
The site isn’t as obscure as I thought since my iPhone map app could find it. It’s south of Buford, SC on US 522. A field with a large sign, several monuments and plaques and a couple of graves. But one monument got my attention and was worth the search.
This monument was first erected on June 2, 1860.
Now why did the good people of Lancaster County wait so long to erect a revolutionary war monument? This was part of a movement to remember the revolutionary war just as the potential of a Civil War was heating up. I have seen similar monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park. The message was
If we could unite to beat the British, why can’t this country stay together now?
* I’ve read that you’re a big hunter and angler. You’re an outdoor person and that’s a huge advantage right here. You understand that outdoor pursuits can only be done on public lands and you’re going to manage a lot of acreage.
* Before I ask you to safeguard our public lands, I want to encourage you to get out there and experience them. You’ve probably seen Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. However, have you visited Stones National Battlefield in Tennessee, which has the first Civil War memorial?
Go to Cowpens National Battlefield in South Carolina where American Patriots trounced the British, the best world army in the world at the time.
* Please understand that national park units, all 417 of them, not only protect and preserve wild land but also artifacts, battlefields, homes and building. That takes money. The National Park Service budget has shrunk from one-eighth of 1 percent of the overall federal budget to one-16th of 1 percent – from 0.125% to 0.0625%. Those are very small numbers.
* The National Park Service also interprets its holdings. If visitors just saw Wright Brothers National Monument on the North Carolina coast, they would think that it’s a field of grass, no different from a piece of land in their neighborhood. So what!
It’s only because the National Park Service explains that in 1903 the Wright Brothers managed to get a plane in the air for the first time twelve seconds. The day’s last flight was fifty-nine seconds – an almost five times improvements.
* All lands need protection. But that takes money, money that you’re going to have to get from Congress. Our public lands need to be primarily supported by public taxes. We can’t depend on entrance fees, as important as that infusion has become. Besides, so many parks and wildlife refuges don’t charge. Friends groups are vital to our lands, but again, our government has to support our lands.
* Speaking of hiking, (and kayaking and birding), use your imagination and your energy to do something memorable your first year. You’re first and foremost an administrator who will manage over 70,000 people. But that doesn’t preclude actually using the land and setting a good example.
Last year, Cassius Clay, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiked a hundred miles in the Smokies with various groups for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. In so doing, he inspired 2,200 others to do the same and keep records.
I challenge you to find something of your own:
Visit and hike in several national parks in each NPS region, find an endemic bird in each region or experience at least one park unit for each war that the United States has fought.