The Exciting Monsoon Season opens soon on a desert near you!

Weather does not happen. It is the visible manifestation of
the Spirit moving itself in the void.
” Mary Hunter Austin

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Cloud shadows on the Cottonwood Mountains, Death Valley National Park

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

Preserving Public Lands with Photographs

GC163The National Parks Conservation Association invited me to Washington D.C. last week to lobby on behalf of OUR public lands, our National Monuments, the Mojave Desert, and the $12 billion National Park Service maintenance backlog. Although we had an appointment with Senator Feinstein’s, staff, on Tuesday morning I had the unexpected opportunity to directly offer my thanks to California Senator Dianne Feinstein for all that she has done for conservation (especially on my Mojave Desert) in the great state of California. Senator Feinstein championed three of our newest National Monuments (Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Castle Mountains) and I gifted her with a framed print of Castle Mountains National Monument. She was departing office and quickly heading towards the Capitol for a vote but very graciously spared me her time. Her face seemed to light up when I held up the piece for her. I dared not ask for a photo – I was shocked when she wanted one (with her own iPhone!). She loved the photograph and frame. She could have quickly blown me off and directed me to her staff but that did not happen. What a gracious lady and champion of our state. THANK YOU, Senator Feinstein!

Regarding the NPS Maintenance backlog (aka National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017): Please contact your Senators today and ask them to co-sponsor S.751. Next, contact your Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R.2584 (the House companion bill to S.751).

Finally, if you have yet to send in your comments regarding the current Administration’s “review” of our National Monuments, please do so TODAY (deadline is July 10, 2017). Tell the Department of Interior that you do not want your Monuments altered in any fashion and that your National Monuments (in their current state) are not available for commercial energy interests (the real reason behind this “review”). Comments from others can be viewed on the right side of the page and can be helpful in drafting your own words. Many THANKS for taking action on behalf of our extraordinary public lands!

My sincere THANKS to David Lamfrom and Emily Douce of National Parks Conservation Association for making possible my lobbying day and the meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

When the going gets tough, the tough go hiking

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I’ve been particularly neglectful of this blog for a long time and this likely is not the first time that I’ve said that here. So let me say it again: I intend to rejuvenate this blog and begin posting more photographs to it (with or without many accompanying words). Business and life keep me scrambling and busy and social media (namely Facebook) has become my standard way to share and disseminate ideas, links, photographs, and content. While Facebook is fast and easy and posts there tend to draw many more eyes, that’s not a good reason to back off here on my own platform. My archive houses tens of thousands of images and I plan to start popping them on here. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Thanks for being here with me.

Photograph: two photographer/hikers walk up a remote canyon in Death Valley National Park.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael

America: Your National Monuments are Under Attack

Proposed Mojave Trails National Monument

Mojave Trails National Monument – under “Review”

This is a very long post of vital national interest so I hope that you’ll bear with me…

America, your National Monuments are under attack even though the 45th Administration mildly terms it “review”. From the New York Times, April 26, 2017:

President Trump on Wednesday ordered the Interior Department to review the size and scope of national monuments larger than 100,000 acres created since 1996. He wants recommendations on whether any of those large tracts should be scaled back by presidential authority or by Congress.

Mr. Trump, signing the order at the Interior Department, described the designations as a “massive federal land grab” and ordered the agency to review and reverse some of them.

“It’s time to end these abuses and return control to the people, the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States,” the president said.

Yesterday’s egregious Executive Order (“Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act“) hits too close to home for me and impacts every American. This is not an issue of politics; it is an issue of national heritage and American pride. Far too many Americans are incognizant of what is at stake with this Order. Recognize that people from around the world visit America to experience and enjoy what is absent from much of the world: our incredible National Parks, National Monuments, and wide-open protected spaces of the American west (sorry, Eastern U.S.). This cannot be taken for granted as you are now bearing witness to the potential vulnerability of these designations under tyrannical rule. Numerous polls have demonstrated that voters agree on public lands: we want our lands protected, we desire access for recreation, and we oppose increased fossil fuel development. If you agree, now is your time to be a patriot and act for America.

Nine National Monuments in California will see “review” under this Order. I have been personally involved with the designation of four (San Gabriel Mtns NM; Sand to Snow NM; Mojave Trails NM; Castle Mountains NM) through my photography, letter writing, attendance at public meetings, and speaking at public meetings.

My first involvement was with the San Gabriel Mountains NM. The movement towards it’s formation began in 2003. I photographed the region under contract beginning in 2010 (my photography was used to aid in the passage of designation). Passage of the Monument did not occur until late 2014, and only after much public meeting, discourse, and compromise.

Patently false statements are made when the President calls our National Monuments “massive federal land grab[s]” and the Interior Secretary says that he’ll “give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs.” We, the American people, own this land (not the “feds”); you already have the power (it’s your land); and much public process was part of their ultimate designation. This Administration continues to lie to Americans on behalf of the harmful extractive industries it is beholden to (what’s that about “draining the swamp”, you say?)

A particular segment of the Executive Order  is of great concern; I am emboldening the parts one should take careful note of:

Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of Federal lands, burden State, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.”

In reading this statement, let us not forget that we now have a Con Man real estate and golf course developer as President and an oil man as Secretary of State. The phrases “energy independence” and “economic growth” are ideas incompatible with land protection. If this Administration successfully achieves its goals of reducing the size or revoking the status of any National Monument, the door opens wide to yet more oil production and/or cattle grazing on America’s most beautiful and treasured lands. Will you allow this?

“[L]ack of public outreach and proper coordination…” can be summarily dismissed as a false statement (please see earlier links). Bears Ears NM in Utah is high on this Administration’s hit list (OIL!); note many public meetings with stakeholders took place prior to its designation as well.

[R]estrict public access to and use of Federal lands…” is another summarily false statement: NO citizen is denied access to any part of any National Monument at any time. You may not be able to ride your four-wheeler to your destination any longer, but complaining about a loss of such former use as off-roading demonstrates a misunderstanding of the reason for and need to protect public lands. If you’d like to see what is permitted versus prohibited at any particular National Monument: https://headwaterseconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/NatlMon_Permitted_Uses.pdf

The terms “Federal lands” and “public lands” are often used interchangeably. Federal lands are lands in the United States for which ownership is claimed by the U.S. federal government, pursuant to Article Four, section 3, clause 2 of the United States Constitution. Ownership of these lands is claimed by the U.S. on behalf of national and public interest (managing and distributing 327 million property deeds would prove very difficult). These are public lands to which all Americans (but not just Americans!) have 24/7/365 access. The exception to this rule are lands claimed by the Department of Defense for their training exercises (nearly 2 million acres here in California).
LINK: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346.pdf

Attempts to block National Monument designation and supporters of the 45th Administration’s Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act incorrectly cite loss of “traditional” use under new National Monument designations as their source of opposition: Off-roading; hunting; grazing; loss of valid existing rights, etc. Blanket statements regarding blanket prohibitions cannot be made; some Monuments allow hunting, some allow grazing, some allow off-roading. Complaints about loss of mining activities demonstrates a misunderstanding of the reason for and need to protect public lands. Please see: https://headwaterseconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/NatlMon_Permitted_Uses.pdf

These are the basic and most important facts regarding this Order; links to additional articles and details can be found at the end of this article.

Now, will you PLEASE do this for America?
1. Please share, reshare, overshare this post or any other like it regarding this Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act. Here is where sharing is truly caring.

2. Call Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at 202-601-3839 and tell him that any attempts to revoke or shrink our national monuments is an assault on our historical, cultural, and natural heritage. You can also send him an easy form-fill email:
https://secure.npca.org/…/Advocacy;jsessionid=00000000.app3…

3. Contact your Congressperson and tell him/her that any attempts to revoke or shrink our national monuments is an assault on our historical, cultural, and natural heritage. His/her job depends upon their fight for your public lands; fire them (with your next vote) if they fail to act. http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

4. If you operate a business or reside in San Bernardino County, California (home to Sand to Snow NM; Mojave Trails NM; Castle Mountains NM), please contact Representative Paul Cook at (760) 247-1815 and tell him that any attempts to revoke or shrink our National Monuments is an assault on our historical, cultural, and natural heritage. You can also email him: http://cookforms.house.gov/contact/
Specifically request that Rep. Cook send a written letter to the Department of Interior defending the designations and existing size of Sand to Snow NM, Mojave Trails NM, and Castle Mountains NM (all are in his District). His job depends upon his ability to fight for your public lands; fire him (with your next vote) if he fails to act. NOTE: office staff may seem uninterested in your call and may dispense false information by stating that Representative Cook cannot do anything. You may be told to call the President with your concerns. Persist, RESIST.

THANK YOU for what you do for America!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael

Immense, Silent, and Sacred

I have released a beautiful 46-page 8″x8″ softcover book containing eighteen of my photographs exhibited during The National Park Service:100 Years-California Dreaming exhibition at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento, California. These eighteen images span many years of my work in Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Books purchased through my website are signed/autographed. Immense, Silent, and Sacred can be fully previewed at MagCloud. Please note than purchases through MagCloud are unsigned/not autographed. Digital downloads are also available.

It has never been easier or less expensive to own my photographs in print form (that’s a little more than $1 per photo). Many thanks in advance for your support and purchases!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael

On Exhibit: Beverly Hills Art Show – Oct. 15-16, 2016

bhasoct2016I will be exhibiting my work again at the beautiful Beverly Hills Art Show on October 15-16, 2016. This wonderful outdoor show features more than 240 artists from around the West working in all media and takes place along Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills between Rodeo Drive and Rexford Drive. I will be present both days from 10am to 5pm – Space 410 (between Crescent and Rexford) – and I would love to meet and share my work with you. This show is FREE! More information can be found here. See you in Beverly Hills!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Bearing Witness

This essay features numerous links to important illustrations and articles referenced – please click them.

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Michael worships a Giant. Sequoiadendron giganteum, Sierra National Forest

For many years in the West we’ve been hearing and learning about drought-stressed trees (USDA Drought Monitor), bark beetles, and climate change. My anger is justified when the 2016 GOP Presidential nominee comes to California for money and support and declares that our drought is political, not real.

During my adult life, “permanent” snowfields in the High Sierra have disappeared; its glaciers are dying; and alpine ice climbs I once made can no longer be repeated (not until the next ice age, anyway). I’ve also experienced the disappearing glaciers of Glacier National Park (expected to be gone by 2030) and near and dear to me, Joshua Tree National Park could lose its namesake trees by the end of this century. Overt signs of climate change are available everywhere in the West – if one is paying attention and not politically motivated to deny them.

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Giant Sequoia, Sequoia National Park

Following the opening reception of my latest exhibition in Sacramento, California, I decided to take the longer and slower route back to Southern California through the western side of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range. As a lifelong hiker, climber, and lover of the Sierra, I have always enjoyed its tremendous diversity. The east side of the range rises abruptly more than ten thousand vertical feet over the Owens Valley – from high desert to the alpine zone and the granitic massif of Mt. Whitney in just a few short horizontal miles. By comparison, the west side of the Sierra makes a long and gradual rise from the San Joaquin Valley towards its mighty crest – nearing sixty miles at its widest – containing chaparral and oak covered foothills, shadowed and fern-filled forests containing massive conifers (including the world-famous Giant Sequoia/Sequoiadendron giganteum), and life-giving rivers (the Kern, Kaweah, Kings, Merced, Owens, and many others) that make habitation and agriculture possible in otherwise arid California. While the East side is the dry side of the range, the west side is typically forested, wet, and green – lush and verdant by California standards (Pacific Northwesterners are laughing). My recent tour of the range, however, has forever altered my view. The Sierra Nevada will never again in my lifetime look the way I once knew it.

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Transformation – Sierra National Forest

On August 11th – the day before I began my drive to Sacramento – I received from a friend a link to a disturbing article: “Forests of fatalities: after 70 million tree deaths, worst “still to come – which highlights tremendous tree mortality throughout the state. A Washington Post article of December 2015 similarly suggests “fairly consistent predictions of widespread loss of piñon pine and juniper in the southwest, sometime around 2050.”As I headed north on Interstate 5 through the San Joaquin Valley- the Valley that feeds much of America’s humans (not its livestock) – I was shocked to see so many dead crops, dying trees, and fallow fields. Some of these “Central Valley” communities have gone dry in recent years and have had to truck in water just for human consumption.

Outside of Yosemite Valley, my busy schedule over the last couple years had kept me away from most of the western Sierra. My return was met with much shock and sadness. The U.S. Forest Service has declared that Sierra tree mortality jumped eight-fold from 2014 to 2015 – from 3.3 million dead trees to 29 million dead trees. In 2014, I might have suggested that there were no dead trees in the Western Sierra. No matter where one looks now, a sea of dead trees encompasses the view.

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Thousands of dead conifers through a haze of wildfire smoke. Chiquito Ridge, south of Yosemite National Park

As I made my way from Sonora to northern Yosemite National Park, I traversed some new ground and received yet another horrifying glimpse of Rim Fire aftermath. I was in Yosemite NP while the Rim Fire burned and distinctly recall near zero visibility at times. That fire had begun and consumed approximately 400 square miles of Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite NP just three years prior. The view from a prominent overlook revealed not a verdant green forest filled with undergrowth, deer, and birds; rather a brushy and barren landscape that will likely never return to its former verdant glory (not in our lives).

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Can’t see the forest for the dead trees. 2015 Willow Fire aftermath – a long view to Mounts Ritter and Banner in the Eastern Sierra

Making my way further south only revealed more horror. For the first time I got a glimpse of the 2015 Rough Fire aftermath which ravaged Sierra and Sequoia National Forests and parts of Kings Canyon NP. A prominent overlook of Kings Canyon revealed a nearly desertified landscape, looking more akin to dry southern California ranges than the Sierra I once knew. I found myself becoming more depressed about the bleak devastation before me and believed that climbing a mountain might deliver good tidings – I headed further south to Mineral King Valley (Sequoia/Kings Canyon NP).

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Beautiful Mineral King Valley filtered through the smoke of the Sequoia NF Cedar Fire (still active at time of this writing)

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Sawtooth Peak (the prominent fin on right), Needham Mountain (behind), and Columbine Lake. Mt. Whitney is visible far to the east.

I aimed for Sawtooth Peak, six miles and 4500′ elevation gain from my camp in Mineral King Valley. I started walking early to beat the heat and meet my wild neighbors who keep different schedules. Along the way I met at close range numerous marmots, grouse, squirrels and velvet-antlered mule deer. Walking alone and quietly always brings rewards. As I neared Sawtooth Pass, I began to see smoke moving my way from the south.

Hiding out under the trees of the Sierra for several days prior, I was unaware that yet another fire had erupted while I journeyed south. Daily sky views to that point had never been promising. Always orange or gray – never blue – the central California sky had been altered for weeks by the Soberanes Fire on the coast (erupted on July 22, still active at time of this writing).

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Mineral King Sierra with a plume from the Cedar Fire blowing up to the south

As I neared the summit I saw a huge plume to the south. My heart sunk; not another one!? At first I believed that it might be the Blue Cut Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest far to the south – it had only begun a few days prior. Little did I know that the Lake Isabella region was getting hit by yet another new and quickly-growing fire (which had suffered the devastating Erskine Fire only weeks prior).

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. John Muir

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I look distressed. Self-portrait on the summit, with the rugged Kaweah Peaks behind me

Quiet walks in the wild and climbing mountains has always been my antidote. It uplifts, it nurtures, it restores, it heals. But good tidings diminish quickly when even the view from a summit leaves one with a feeling of anguish. I stayed as long as I could. The air was getting thicker with smoke, my breathing was altered (especially at more than 12,000 feet above sea level) – I decided to depart before the smoke or my disposition worsened.

 

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My last look south from the summit

California’s natural landscape is very dynamic and has always been shaped by wildfire – this is not likely news to anyone. But it all changes when one factors unstoppable population growth, historic drought, community building in hazardous zones, and ultimately – repeated human-caused fires (not wild: power tools, downed power lines, bullets, sparks). We are helping to quickly transform and destroy the landscape we love.

Among the books in my collection is Charles Little’s The Dying of the Trees. Written in 1995, Little offers insights to dying forests around our globe. Much of it human caused, but not much mention of climate change. It was at that point beyond our knowledge and not part of our everyday lexicon. Only twenty-one years later, climate change has become very real very fast, and very threatening to our own ways of life. Every western U.S. state is suffering deeply from its effects; models predict it will only worsen.

The Sierra Nevada I once knew is no longer. Attributing blame is unimportant; acknowledging it and acting on it is paramount. Should any reader of this essay be among those who deny the overwhelming science and evidence of climate change , I invite you to California for a very personal and sobering tour.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.