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Keen Footwear Steps Up to Protect Nature-Rich Public Lands

If KEEN Footwear has its way, you soon could be treading on five newly designated national monuments—with or without their shoes.

If KEEN Footwear has its way, you soon could be treading on five newly designated national monuments—with or without their shoes.

On July 29, the outdoor-inspired shoe company launched its cross-country Live Monumental Campaign from a bright-yellow 1976 GMC RV, en route from Portland, Oregon, to its first stop in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The purpose of this two-month, mobile media blitz? To create awareness for the preservation of public lands and gather at least 100,000 signatures that will be presented to President Obama in late September to protect the following areas:

— Gold Butte in Nevada

— Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho

— Mojave Trails in California

— Birthplace of Rivers in West Virginia

— Owyhee Canyonlands in Idaho

“Many conservation groups have been doing work for years to get these places protected. As an outdoor brand, we thought, ‘Hey, we can help drive this conversation, too,” KEEN’s marketing director, Linda Balfour, explained the company’s intent. “We are asking the President to take a look at these places and realize that there is widespread public and political support for their conservation, and use his powers under the Antiquities Act to protect them.”

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According to the National Park Service, the Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, giving the President the authority to set aside for protection "... historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States," such as prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts.

The White House Blog reports that President Obama has designated more than 260 million acres of water, wilderness, parks and monuments during his presidency—more than any other president, it says—including the recent designation in July of the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in Northern California and a portion of the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas.

So what will a national monument designation do for these public lands targeted in the KEEN campaign? “What changes the most is that no new extractive permits will be issued for these lands, meaning no new oil and gas drilling can take place,” explained Balfour. “They would just be preserved for recreational and environmental value, as well as honoring any uses currently on that land.”

At the kick-off event in Las Vegas on July 30, the focus was on Gold Butte, a 350,000-acre region about an hour outside of Las Vegas known for its rugged mountains, desert wildlife and plants. Native Americans inhabited this area for thousands of years and painted stories on rocks, sometimes referred to as petroglyphs. Chairman Darren Daboda of the nearby Moapa Band of Paiutes attended the KEEN event. Although he could not be reached for comment, Shevawn Von Tobel, the outreach and communications manager for Friends of Nevada Wilderness, said, “Chairman Daboda spoke at the event and he was floored and so happy by the amount of support for protection of this place.”

Von Tobel said that Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been trying to get Gold Butte designated as a national monument for more than 10 years. “We’ve had bills in place, but it takes a long time. Congress has been immobile for way too long now.” She is hoping that KEEN’s push will make a difference. “It really is amazing to see a company like KEEN put the power of the outdoor industry behind this campaign.”

The timing for the Live Monumental Campaign could be perfect—or a little off—for one of these five proposed areas, depending on your perspective. According to the Idaho Statesman, Congress finally passed a bill recently to designate 275,665 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument after original legislation was introduced more than 10 years ago by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

In the Idaho Statesman story, Craig Gehrke, Idaho director with The Wilderness Society, said: “Today Idahoans can celebrate that the future of the wild Boulder-White Clouds area is secure and that its treasured lands and wildlife habitat will be preserved for future generations.”

It’s a big win for conservationists, like KEEN’s Balfour. “Public lands belong to all of us and we need to protect them for recreation so everyone can enjoy them.” She makes one last plea: “So we are asking people to sign the petition on livemonumental.com to add their voice in support of that.”

Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer to Indian Country Today and an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.