On Monday, Dec. 4, President Donald Trump announced that he'd be slashing the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument.

The southwestern landscape — which currently covers 1.3 million acres of red rock canyons, sweeping vistas, and archaeology sites, such as ancient cliff dwellings — would be shrunk to about 15% of its current size. Another nearby monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, would also be cut by about half.

[rebelmouse-image 19530301 dam="1" original_size="750x364" caption="Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr." expand=1]Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr.


National monuments are sites already owned by the federal government that have been set aside as particularly important to cultural or natural heritage. The Statue of Liberty is a national monument, for example.

Bears Ears was designated as a national monument in late 2016 by President Barack Obama after lobbying from local environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, and local Native American tribes to protect them from oil and gas extraction, logging, mining, or other environmental harms.

In his announcement about this decision, Trump explained, "Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington."

But this is a wild mischaracterization of how protected lands actually work and who owns them.

National monuments aren't just pretty places for elites kept around for their good looks. They're assets that belong to the people — and there are lots of reasons why that matters.

[rebelmouse-image 19530302 dam="1" original_size="750x499" caption="Tourists check out ancient rock art at Bears Ears. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr." expand=1]Tourists check out ancient rock art at Bears Ears. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr.

For one thing, they're a good investment.

National parks, monuments, and other public lands are the backbones of domestic tourism and outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, and hiking. The outdoors industry is worth more than $800 billion a year and supports 7.6 million jobs.

In fact, a study showed that just being near protected lands could help bring economic growth to small towns or rural areas.

For another, the wild areas of the United States help nourish and sustain its citizens.

About 124 million Americans get their drinking water from national forests and grasslands. And forests remove as much as 10% of America's carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year.

Finally, many of them help protect our history from literal grave-robbers.

[rebelmouse-image 19530303 dam="1" original_size="750x499" caption="Ancient cliff dwellings. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr." expand=1]Ancient cliff dwellings. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr.

Bears Ears, for instance, has been home to the local Native American tribes since time beyond memory and is home to thousands of important historical and archaeological sites, some dating back as far as 13,000 years ago. Looting, vandalism, and grave-robbery has plagued the area for years, and archaeologists and historians were hoping that federal protection might finally put an end to it. Now those hopes have been dashed.

"This is the worst-case scenario," Jason Chuipka, co-owner of Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants, told Nature.

The New York Times quoted Helaman Thor Hale and Andrea Hale, who are Native Americans, as saying of Trump's move, “It’s a historical trauma our people have been through over and over."

But listen, you're not here for a deluge of facts and quotes. If you are, there are plenty of amazing articles and resources out there that show how incredible our parks and monuments are. What you're here for is this:

This land is not just Trump's land. It's your land.

[rebelmouse-image 19530304 dam="1" original_size="750x433" caption="The Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr." expand=1]The Valley of the Gods in Bears Ears. Photo by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr.

National parks and monuments aren't the president's land or Congress' land. They are just the stewards of them. The real owners are all of us.

Trump's decision is already being challenged in the courts. On Monday, a coalition of Native American tribes filed a lawsuit. Environmental organizations like The Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society have followed suit, and the retailer Patagonia announced it will as well.

Until these cases are decided, however, the fate of Bears Ears is uncertain.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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