November 21, 2014
From our public lands, from the Twitter feed of the U.S. Department of Interior:
@Interior caption: Fall foliage and snow-capped peaks make for a stunning shot of Conway Summit #California @BLMca #nature
In my winter drives through the desert mountains of the Great Basin I often marveled at how a dusting of snow could turn a landscape generally painted in tones of brown with a little green into almost black and white. Then there are those black and white landscapes slashed by stunning gashes of color, or tinted subtley.
Conway Summit shows the stunning gashes of color this week. Grays, whites, blacks — and gold and pink. It’s in the western part of California, near Nevada and Mono Lake:
Conway Summit (el. 8,143 feet (2,482 m)) is a mountain pass in Mono County, California. It is traversed by U.S. Highway 395, which connects Bridgeport and the East Walker River on the north side of the pass to Mono Lake and Lee Vining to the south. It marks the highest point on U.S. 395, which also traverses high passes at Deadman Summit and Devil’s Gate Pass.
Conway Summit is named after John Andrew Conway, a settler in the area in 1880. Geographically, it was formed from an upland plateau by the sinking of the land in the Mono basin area. The Sawtooth Ridge of the eastern Sierra Nevada, topped by 12,279-foot (3,743 m) Matterhorn Peak, rise to the west of the pass; Green Creek and Virginia Lakes, in the Sierra Nevada to the west of the pass, are two local destinations for fishing, camping and aspen trees. The Bodie Hills and the infamous Bodie ghost town lie to the east.
This scene comes from our public lands, the undifferentiated lands held in trust by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and managed for multiple uses. You and I may look at this photo and marvel at the beauty of America, and say a little prayer of thanks for our public lands. Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz see potential for high-dollar vacation residences throughout this scene, if only the land could be sold off.
June 6, 2014
You’ll be hard pressed to find a photo with more brown #bears in it than this one @KatmaiNPS. #Alaska pic.twitter.com/j3QpP5u30G
Fishing brown bears, and one seagull, in the Katmai National Park and Preserve, from the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed.
Thanks to Bill Martin, Jr., and Eric Carle, author and illustrator respectively of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education pulled this book from reading standards suggested books, because the board confused Bill Martin, Jr., with another Bill Martin who had written socialist texts. The book was eventually reinstated.
May 20, 2014
Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.
Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.
Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.
Yellowstone National Park’s Twitter feed: Spring sunset on the Madison River. pic.twitter.com/8nZSxJvBeZ
May 20, 2014
A family off to find and settle their homestead, 1886. Photo from the National Archives
History and demographics of the United States were forever changed when the Homestead Act became law early in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln, on May 20, 1862.
With Congress paralyzed and unable to act to do even minor good things now, it’s astonishing to think how the Congress of 1862 could do so much to open the American west, in the middle of the American Civil War. Perhaps Congress was able to act because legislators from the South were absent, and did not oppose progress.
In any case, the Homestead Act encouraged Americans who lacked property to strike out for the western territories and states, to make a new life, to found new towns, cities and farms, and fulfill what some call the nation’s “manifest destiny.”
The bill that became the Homestead Act, H.R. 125, in the 37th Congress, 1862. Image from the U.S. National Archives
Here’s the history from the National Archives:
The notion that the United States government should give free land titles to settlers to encourage westward expansion became popular in the 1850s. During that time the U.S. House of Representatives passed numerous homestead bills but southern opposition in the Senate prevented enactment. In 1860, during the 36th Congress, the Senate narrowly passed a homestead act but President James Buchanan vetoed it and the Senate failed its override attempt.
When the 37th Congress convened for its brief summer session in 1861, now without members from seceded states, it was preoccupied with Civil War-related legislation. The House took up briefly the homestead issue in December but postponed further consideration of it until the following February. The House finally passed the Homestead Act on February 28, 1862 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The act worked its way through the Senate until May 6, 1862 when it passed easily by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—which both houses agreed to without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln who signed the act into law on May 20, 1862.
The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.
- The Homestead Act of 1862 (ingallswilder2.wordpress.com)
- The Homestead Act, one of the 100 important documents in American History (National Archives)
- Off The Mark (brainiac-conspiracy.typepad.com)
Photograph of Daniel Freeman on his homestead, circa 1904; in 1863 Freeman, then a Scout for the Union Army, became the first American to file an application for a homestead, in Nebraska; Library of Congress photo
- Teaching with Documents: Lesson plans and support materials for teaching about the Homestead Act, from the U.S. National Archives (NARA); be sure to see the first homestead application, from Daniel Freeman
- Library of Congress, Primary Documents in American History: The Homestead Act
- Homesteading and migration: Documents from the U.S. National Archives Migration in History exhibition and materials, including homesteading documents for Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp’s brother, and for Charles P. Ingalls, the father of author Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Homestead National Monument, in Nebraska; women were allowed to own homesteads, more than 50 years before they got the vote
- More documents at America’s Story (Library of Congress): “The Homestead Act Went Into Effect”
- For most of the history of homesteading, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was the principle agency that took the applications and administered the program; BLM’s on-line exhibition for the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act in 2012 holds interactive media presentations, and more information
- “The Plow that Broke the Plains;” homesteading and “free land” played a huge rule in the creation of the Dust Bowl; this post at Great Plains Trail discusses that and the federally-produced documentary on the disaster
Much of this post has appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before; the Homestead Act deserves commemoration.
May 18, 2014
U.S. Department of Interior, Twitter feed: Beautiful view of the Moon over
Mabius Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. #California @BLMca pic.twitter.com/u0KYyJ6p0S
Interesting points, reasons to like this image:
- No, that’s not the Sun. It’s the Moon.
- Who knew California had natural arches? I mean, it makes sense — but there’s one in Virginia, and a bunch of them at Arches National Park, and . . .
- An arch that should be in Utah, in the Alabama Hills, but not in Alabama, in California.
- Great photograph, obviously a long exposure.
Let’s see if we can find the name of the photographer. Pox on Interior for failing to fit that into the caption. Photographer is Steve Perry, and you should check out his site (and buy some photos!). (Thanks, J. A. Higginbotham, for tracking that down.)
- America’s public lands, showing how they are unexcelled at astonishing us.
- What? Interior called the “Mabius Arch?” No, it’s the Mobius Arch!
- This place was named after the Confederate warship C.S.S. Alabama. Sympathetic miners making claims on minerals, it appears. “The unusual name Alabama Hills came about during the Civil War. In 1864 Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine discovered gold ‘in them thar hills.’ When they heard that a Confederate cruiser named the Alabama had burned, sunk or captured more than 60 Federal ships in less than two years they named their mining claims after the cruiser to celebrate. Before long the name applied to the whole area. Coincidentally, while Southerners were prospecting around Lone Pine, there were Union sympathizers 15 miles north near Independence. And when the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsarge in 1864, the Independence people struck back. They not only named their mining claims ‘Kearsarge’ but a mountain peak, a mountain pass, and a whole town as well.”
- More than 400 movies were shot using Alabama Hills for a backdrop, including How the West Was Won, Gunga Din (standing in for the hills of northern India) and the 1960 Audie Murphy classic, Hell Bent for Leather.
- Geologists will love that this area is a prime example of chemical erosion — rocks made out of the same stuff as the craggy Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, but eroded differently.
- Lichens by moonlight! (Or is that just desert varnish?)
- Alabama Hills Recreation Area: “On May 24, 1969, the BLM dedicated nearly 30,000 acres of public land west of Lone Pine, CA, as the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. Management plans are being considered that will eventually include a scenic trail system that people may walk and enjoy this geologic phenomena at a leisurely pace.“
- Several more views of the arch, at NaturalBornHikers.com
- A few hundred other shots at Flickr, many of them spectacular
- Everybody knows about Mobius strips, right? Maybe as “Moebius?” Wolfram’s version. Cut the Knot. Wikipedia. Fun found by Jennifer Ouelette. More fun at Phil Plait’s shop (Bad Astronomy) involving rare earth magnets, liquid nitrogen, a superconducting puck, and a Mobius strip.
April 17, 2014
Passenger jet and Moon. Photo by Rodger Schmitt, from Lake Powell, Utah.
Handheld Nikon. Nikon stabilizing lens. Good hands, I’d say.
Third to last time I was out near Lake Powell, I was with Rodger (and about a dozen others) organizing hearings of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. We flew into Page, Arizona, on an Otter II coming up from Phoenix flying low, looking for elk, and legally buzzing Rainbow Bridge (impressive from the air, too).
We had a luncheon meeting at Wahweap Marina, as I recall; no time for boating.
Then we were off to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. There we inspected pine trees 30 feet tall, growing between the ties of the then-abandoned rail lines. (And did a lot of other stuff.)
Today trains carry tourists to the South Rim on those tracks, the trees gone. Progress, really.
Rodger carries on in the knowledge that use of the outdoors, especially these public lands, heals souls, and sometimes gives you great photos.
Rodger said I could borrow the photo. Thanks!
April 15, 2014
It’s a relic of the Civil War and Congress’s intention to strengthen the Union when Nevada became a state in 1864, but there it is, in Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution, making a mockery of Cliven Bundy’s claim to owe allegiance to Nevada and its Constitution, but not to the U.S.:
Sec: 2. Purpose of government; paramount allegiance to United States. All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair[,] subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existance [existence], and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.
Here’s the essay quiz, students: The standoff between the Bureau of Land Management cowboys — each of whom swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the U.S., in contrast to Mr. Bundy who claims to owe no allegiance to the U.S. — and the armed mob who threatened to kill those same employees of our U.S. government: Did Nevadans (or Idahoans) violate any part of Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution? Which clauses?
I used to say “the Sagebrush Rebellion is over; sagebrush won.” Even the sagebrush are losing this one.
From The Atlantic: Eric Parker, who lives in central Idaho, aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp in Bunkerville, Nevada. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters) (See also Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, with regard to Mr. Parker’s actions here.)