Rock climber Alex Honnold argues we must do more to defend US national parks from a slew of imminent environmental threats
Just over eight years ago, I completed a free solo ascent unroped of the one of the most beautiful and challenging climbs in the world: a 350 metre crack called Moonlight Buttress in southwestern Utahs Zion national park. At the time, Alpinist magazine called it one of the most impressive free solos ever achieved.
While I find it hard to articulate exactly why Im drawn to this type of exposed, unroped climbing, the setting certainly plays a big role. Zion is aptly named: its a promised land of striking multicolored sandstone cliffs soaring from a green valley below. Though Im intensely focused when I climb, the gift of doing it in such breathtaking places is not lost on me.
Unfortunately, Zion and other parks and public lands around the US are at risk from a variety of threats. Its easy to assume that these lands are protected, but thats not the case. Especially out west, our shared lands are, as Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye and other tribal leaders recently wrote, under siege.
In this centennial year of the National Park Service, let us celebrate the parks and lands that are our birthright to use and enjoy. But let us also commit to protecting these places for the next hundred years and beyond and recognize that defending these commonly held treasures requires our vigilance and effort.
Zion is one of nine Western parks and lands across Utah, Colorado and Arizona where, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air quality is threatened by dangerous emissions from two 70s-era coal-fired power plants in central Utah. Harmful pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and particle pollution, also threaten the families and businesses that call this region home.