A few years ago, local nature photographer Kevin Ebi was wandering up a forest trail in the central Cascades toward Twin Falls when he noticed a stump that was at least three times wider than any of the living trees along the trail.
“This stump is larger than a delivery truck,” he said. “It’s just mammoth.”
In that moment, the Lynnwood photographer realized that the forest, though beautiful in its own right, was not the same as it once was.
“While the forest has recovered from logging, it hasn’t recovered to its original state,” Ebi said.
When Pres. Donald Trump signed an executive order last month for over two dozen national monuments to be evaluated and potentially lose their status as protected national monuments, that feeling returned. Ebi got protective and felt a sense of urgency.
“I think that’s what’s at stake,” Ebi said. “The only chance we have to keep (these monuments) wild today is to make sure we keep them national monuments.”
That’s when he decided to create a free e-book featuring photographs of the 27 national monuments on the list to lose their status. He reached out to nine other nature photographers from Washington to New Mexico to Maine for content to fill the 129-page e-book, titled Land Almost Lost.
“Every person who participated in this sees the huge threat the national monuments are under and wants to make sure they’re preserved,” Ebi said. “Everyone understood the sense of urgency.”
Urgency because the public comment period for citizens to respond to the executive order will come to an end soon. Bears Ears National Monument’s public comment period ends on May 26. The comment period for all other monuments ends on July 10.
“We think if the people in charge see how much support there is for these monuments during this period, we can save them for generations to come,” Ebi said.
The photographers were able to assemble the e-book in about a week, Ebi said. Typically, putting together a book like this can take several months.
The executive order relates to the Antiquities Act, signed by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, which allows any president to name areas of federal land and water as a “monument.” Since then, no president has removed monument status from a national monument.
Trump’s executive order is part of his push to open up more federal land to drilling and mining, among other potential industrial uses. The executive order allows the Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review several monuments and determine if their monument status should be revoked. All of the monuments selected for review are 100,000 acres or greater and created in 1996 or later.
During the executive order’s signing on April 26, Trump said recent uses of the Antiquities Act were an “egregious abuse of federal power” by previous administrations. He specifically cited Pres. Barack Obama’s naming of the 1.35 million-acre Bear’s Ears as a national monument, which he said happened despite objections by the citizens of Utah.
Most of the monuments listed for review are in the western United States, spanning from Montana to Arizona and New Mexico. The two closest to southern Snohomish County are Hanford Reach in southern Washington and Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon.
One of the sites is the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. It’s one of the many sites on the list that Ebi has photographed.
“It’s the very top of the plateaus and buttes making their way into the Grand Canyon,” Ebi said. “It’s like the Grand Canyon, but a few thousand feet higher. It’s a beautiful place.”
A section of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana are also both on the list, areas Ebi describes as “wild.”
“You just hear the river,” Ebi said about the Upper Missouri River Breaks. “It’s a pretty remote area, no development, and you see these beautiful bluffs.”
Photos of every site can be seen in Land Almost Lost, which is available for free online or for download. In addition to photos, Ebi and one other photographer wrote essays about how they feel about potentially losing these sites. Page 9 of the book includes instructions on how to give public comment.
“We hope people will make public comments directly to the Department of the Interior, but also follow up with their senators and representatives,” Ebi said.
–By Natalie Covate
Does Kevin Ebi’s name sound familiar? He was also the photographer who shot the photo of Mount Haleakala that was featured on stamps celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.