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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unknown Arch


Under our noses, a chance to make a statement—and a difference

I’m talking about the Hills because we photographers have a unique opportunity to help make history here, to make a difference for our children and future generations. We can protect the Alabama Hills from being overrun and prevent the hundreds of arches from being trampled. In 2007, I contacted California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and proposed an Alabama Hills National Monument. James Peterson in the Senator’s office has since worked closely with the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, an active organization that includes local citizens, businesspeople and Inyo County Board of Supervisors members. The group is crafting a “designation” for the area that works for all concerned—not National Monument status, which they feel gives too much control to the BLM, but some protection to encourage tourist dollars to continue flowing into the area, while also protecting it from overuse and abuse.

Meanwhile, I’ve worked with Kevin Mazzu of the Stewardship Group and David Kirk of the BLM to urge that arches and other granite forms be protected within the final designation. Whatever the final decree, which is coming soon—perhaps this year—we photographers can be an important part of the process.

There’s a key term at play here: the word “stakeholders.” The Stewardship Group and BLM keep a running tally of Alabama Hills visitors, right down to the percentages of each group. “Stakeholders” include hikers, bikers, horseback riders, American Indian tribes, local businesses, mining interests—and photographers. We can be counted and heard. One way is to visit the area. Let it be known you want it protected.

There are regular meetings of the Stewardship Group in nearby Lone Pine. If ever there was a time to be seen and heard, this is it. We can contact key people. I’ve added some contacts here. We’ve had opportunities to protect our sacred lands in the past, such as Kings Canyon National Park, which came about through grass-roots activism inspired at least, in part, by Ansel Adams’ photography. We have one again, right now—in the wonderful, unique Alabama Hills. I urge you to join me and be a part of history.

RESOURCES
Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, Kevin Mazzu
www.alabamahillsstewardshipgroup.org/about
BLM, David Kirk
David_Kirk@blm.gov
BLM, The Alabama Hills
www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bishop/scenic_byways/alabamas.html
BLM, The Alabama Hills, Advisory Council Update
www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/info/newsbytes/2009/375_extra_-_.html
David Muench’s youthful vigor and spirit have evolved his mastery with the 4x5 view camera to include 35mm film and, most recently, digital SLR shooting of which he says, “I feel I’m doing some of my best work right now.” Over the course of some five decades, his work has been celebrated in more than 50 exhibit-format books such as Plateau Light and Eternal Desert, as well as innumerable exhibits and permanent installations. See more of his images at www.muenchphotography.com.

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