My thoughts about “Treasured Lands” by Q.T. Luong

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When I learned that Q.T. Luong was publishing a landscape photography book of his work in America’s National Parks, I was filled with envy. Ever since I can remember my life has been dedicated to visiting and photographing National Park Service sites, and this man’s work has always been then looming large over my journeys. He’s the first man to visit and photograph all 59 National Parks in large format film. He is featured in Ken Burns’ 2009 park documentary, and even had his photo of Yosemite featured on the cover of the associated book and DVD. His website is my gold-standard for landscape photography, and although he isn’t aware of it I’m happy now to declare that we’ve been in a silent competition for some time (at least in my head). In fact, my Undiscovered America project was in part a reaction to his extensive work. I asked myself what I could do to distance myself from his overwhelming shadow… so I set off to photograph potential National Parks because he hadn’t photographed them yet.

In October 2016 Luong’s book “Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks” released and became a one-stop-shop for planning your adventures into our public lands. In it’s 454 pages it details, with photography examples, the defining features of each park and the best methods of visiting the locations. Text excerpts provide personal stories, maps, stats, and photographic advice for maximizing your time in the parks. Each entry carries images for a variety of seasons, times of day, and hiking abilities so you can tailor your visits. Many landscape photography books have been published since the invention of the camera, and possibly even more travel guides have been produced, but no other book seems to have grasped the experience of actually visiting our natural wonders by combining these aspects. The book is the ideal companion for the park-minded traveler, however the author would be the first to point that while his book is a significant recourse few people would be willing to carry it around on trips due to it’s size and weight. An optimized digital version is also available, although owners of the print book will find a link on page 13 to buy the discounted digital companion, enabling you to bring the work and recommendations with you on your travels.

Treasured Lands is a book we’ve desperately been needing, and the one man best qualified to lead us visually into the parks has finally done us the honor of creating it.

-Zack Frank

Obama Names New National Monuments in the West

by Charley Lanyon

(via New York Magazine)

On Tuesday, President Obama created two new national monuments out of sacred tribal lands in Utah and large tracts of desert in Nevada. The move, which puts an end to years of wrangling over the spaces, seems likely to further inflame passions in the West, where opinions over the federal government’s management of public lands has become something of a flashpoint.

Obama’s creation of Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah is especially history-making. The federal government already owns about two thirds of the land in Utah, and the new monument will put another 1.35 million acres under its care.

Quimby donates 87,500 acres for National Monument

Via the Portland Press Herald, By Kevin Miller

Roxanne Quimby’s foundation donated more than 87,500 acres in the Katahdin region to the federal government Tuesday in a critical step toward creation of a national monument in Maine’s North Woods.

While representatives for Quimby and the Obama administration remained silent Tuesday about a potential national monument designation, news of the land transfers drew strong reactions from those involved in a debate over the changing use of Maine’s vast forestlands. Supporters cheered a gift that they predicted could revitalize the region’s struggling towns, while opponents warned that providing a foothold to the federal government would inhibit economic development in the North Woods.

“It’s a sad day and a crying shame,” said Mark Marston, an East Millinocket selectman and vocal critic of the monument plan. “I think it’s just a pathway for a larger (national) park down the road.”

Documents posted Tuesday morning on the Penobscot County Registry of Deeds showed that Quimby’s nonprofit, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., had transferred 87,654 acres to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The documents were signed by Quimby and Rachel McManus, a deputy realty officer for the Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service. The land is located to the east of Baxter State Park, which totals roughly 209,000 acres. Much of the transferred land abuts Baxter.

The move could allow President Obama to use his executive authority to create a national monument – a designation of protected land within the National Park System – just as he has done roughly two dozen times during his presidency. The transfers became public just two days before the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary – an occasion that Obama is expected to use to create new national monuments across the country.

Potential National Parks #5: Atchafalaya Basin

One of the most well-known, but equally ignored landscapes in America are the bayous. While the Everglades, Biscayne, and Congaree National Parks all protect environments that people perceive as swamps, each of these wetlands contain very different plants and animals, as well as appearing tremendously different when viewed side by side. The bulk of the bayou’s are found along the Gulf Coast from Houston to the Florida panhandle, with the highest concentration in Louisiana.

The Atchafalaya Basin is a region of swamps in southern Louisiana that is the largest expanse of wetlands and river deltas in the United States. Over the last two centuries massive dredging and efforts to use the basin as an overflow for Mississippi River floods have reshaped the lands into a spillway and disrupted flora and fauna.

Fortunately for conservation efforts, the basin includes over 100,000 acres of swamps that have yet to be altered by dams and water management like most of the southern wetlands. At present the land is owned and protected by the state of Louisiana but recently there have been proposals by the local chapter of the Sierra Club to turn the land into a National Park, with the stipulation that the land remain in the hands of the state. There has been surprising success with their proposal, with the state’s Senators and Governor open to the idea of the park.

The park proposal calls for a roadless environment that is only accessible by boat. The land is not currently open for resource extraction although it’s hard to see how the basin could remain untouched as populations and energy needs rise, not to mention the current political climate in the United States, so it would be important to move quickly and make the proposal a park before someone proposes an alternate use for the land that would take it out of its natural state.


The ‘Potential National Parks’ series is part of the Undiscovered America Kickstarter project

to document lesser-known natural wonders that could become future National Parks.

Click here to pre-order the Undiscovered America book.

President Obama Announces New National Monument To Women’s Equality

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The country’s newest national monument is now dedicated to women’s equality.

President Barack Obama took the occasion of Equal Pay Day to designate the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument.

“A woman has to work this far into 2016 just to earn what a man earned in 2015. And what better place to commemorate this day than here at this house, where some of our country’s most important history took place,” Obama said at the dedication.

Previously known as the Sewall-Belmont House, the building became the home of the National Woman’s Party in 1929. From that base, members of the party authored hundreds of pieces of legislation in pursuit of women’s equality. The new monument is named for Alva Belmont and Alice Paul, a major benefactor and leader of the movement respectively.

“This house has a story to tell; this is the story of the national women’s party whose members fought to have their voices heard,” Obama said.