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Monday, November 29, 2021

New book a ‘monument’ to protected wildlands in Southern California and beyond

With a nudge from Robert Frost, nature photographer QT Luong took the road less traveled—resulting in a photo-forward book depicting her visits to 22 land-based national monuments.

57-year-old Luong, best known for his award-winning book on 63 US national parks, explored America’s lesser-known monuments, most notably, in 2017 after de-listing protected wild lands by then-President Donald Trump. had been threatened.

The six that were on the chopping block are in California, and two of them are in the Inland Empire and one in the San Gabriel Valley. After receiving support from local groups and lawmakers, the monuments were left in tact and are featured in Luong’s recently released book, “Our National Monument: America’s Hidden Gems” by Terra Galleria Press.

Three other monuments that were shrunken by Trump to allow energy exploration — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and the Northeast Valley and Seamount off the coast of Cape Cod — were restored last month by President Joe Biden.

Threats to spoil the untouched lands with oil and gas extraction or mining prompted Luong to visit each of the monuments under review and tell their stories in paintings and essays. The unprecedented presidential review and the scaling up of some established national monuments prompted Luong to write in the introduction to his book: “We can no longer take the designation.”

“America’s Hidden Gems” was released on November 9, each containing extensive photographs along with testimonials from key conservationists involved in the designation effort.

By pointing his camera lens at the pink-and-orange sunset above Mount Wilson in the pine-topped San Gabriel Mountains, the peaks of San Gorgonio and the wavy Cadiz Dunes of the Mojave Trail, Luong set out to make the case for keeping the Inn and others closed. worked for. Off-the-beaten-path wildlands preserved in perpetuity.

“Some of the boldest conservation actions in America have resulted from the designation of national monuments, especially in the past few decades,” Luong said in a recent interview.

The author is a staunch defender of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was used by 16 presidents to designate more than 100 national monuments as untouchables.

“The legacy of the Antiquities Act was very much about protecting public lands in America,” Luong said.

Paris to America

Growing up in Paris, Luong immersed his crampons in the sport of mountaineering while in France. But his most adventurous climbing adventure began when he landed in Yosemite National Park and climbed El Capitan four times.

“When I came to America I fell in love with national parks … to see the most impressive part of this country,” said Luong, who now lives in San Jose.

A wrist injury put an end to his rock-climbing business, so he turned to photography. From 1993-2003 he went to all the national parks, camera and tripod. “Treasure Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks,” won 12 national and international book awards. Luong was featured in the Ken Burns documentary film: “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”.

After hearing about the national monuments, he started photographing them. “I saw it as an extension of my work in national parks,” he said. “I felt it would be good to visit public lands that are lesser known.”

A national park is more developed with campgrounds and hotels. A national monument is more rural, simpler and less crowded. These contain historically, ecologically and culturally significant landscapes and are usually under the management of the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to overcrowding of national parks and normally open spaces. Parks are often booked out months in advance, with day trippers met with long automobile entrance lines.

“But there are places, monuments, that are more daring, they require more freedom, more preparation, but they are as beautiful as national parks,” Luong said.

amazing discoveries

“I was really surprised by how big those mountains are. And how close they are to the cities,” Luong said of the San Gabriel Mountains. “They are seriously big and steep mountains.”

Luong described his first experience at the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, 346,177 acres of existing federal forest land that extends from Santa Clarita to Uplands in forested land. Dedicated by President Barack Obama in 2014 during a rare, personal visit to the edge of the woods in San Dimas, the monument erected by Obama’s pen is within 90 minutes of 17 million people.

Here, the Kies nation still waits each winter for the sun to shine through a hole in Big Rock, part of a ceremonial ritual made possible by the recent discovery of rock art. Luong explored the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, listening to the rumble of running water set by the shadows of dark valleys.

“There’s a scale cannon that you rarely see,” he said.

New book a 'monument' to protected wildlands in Southern California and beyond
Photographer QT Luong releases “Our National Monuments,” an illustrated book capturing national monuments across America on November 9, 2021. (image courtesy QT Luong)

On page 112 of the book, Nature for All’s program manager, Brian Matsumoto, writes of how he never knew about the vast forest, now until the age of 17, despite living only a few miles, for all to see and touch. It is a protected monument. Distant.

“The diversity is staggering,” he wrote. “Snow mountains, springtime springs and boulder-flowing streams with kids’ sledding.”

On the same page, Daniel Rossman, California’s deputy director of The Wilderness Society, recalls the day the president protected federal lands for the people of Southern California.

“I’m so excited that this talented artist was drawing attention to not only the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument but other, more recent monuments,” Rossman said in a recent interview.

a prayer answered

In the section dedicated to the Sand to Snow memorial, Jack Thompson, regional director of The Wildlands Conservancy, tells of a meeting with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who wrote the foreword to Luong’s book. His prayer for the wild sheep was answered that day.

Jewel was late to their meeting because a ram jumped in front of their vehicle. Later, Jewel told him: “I think Sand to Snow is the winner.”

One of the largest national monuments, the 154,000-acre preserve is located between the San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park and includes Mount San Gorgonio at 11,500 feet, the highest peak in Southern California.

The monument covers the snow-capped peaks above the valley below, to Black Lava Butte, where Luong described “distinctive Mojave Desert plants and granite boulders (which) rivaled those found in Joshua Tree National Park but without the crowds.”

He said the contrast of the highest elevations of the lowland desert landscape of Whitewater, Mission Creek, and Big Morongo Canyon blew his mind.

“Big Morongo is actually too lush for a desert,” he said. “I was surprised. Actually it’s like an oasis.”

National ‘treasury’

Surrounding the 1.6 million acres of Mojave Trails National Monument, Luong enjoys something he could never see in Europe: desert ecosystems, illustrated in his book by photographs of the ancient dunes of Cadiz captured in stunning colors.

“It’s pure desert,” said Luong. “Usually when you go to sand dunes, you find them in a national park full of footprints. But here, I was so glad we were alone, my friends and I, and we didn’t see anyone else. Except for animal tracks, it was pristine.

“It’s remarkable that you can have that kind of solitude,” he said.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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