Jason Mark

Jason Mark is the author of Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man, and the editor of SIERRA magazine.

Recent Articles

Showdown at Standing Stone Camp

The Dakota Access Pipeline battle is just the tip of the iceberg. Across North America, a reinvigorated Native sovereignty movement is flexing its muscles—and racking up victories.

Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP
As a seasoned Beltway lawyer and lobbyist representing Native peoples, Tara Houska is no stranger to public conflicts. A member of the Couchiching First Nation and Ojibwe tribe, Houska represents tribal interests on Capitol Hill on a range of land-use and environmental issues. But when she saw a Facebook post in mid-July from a Standing Rock Sioux member named LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Houska knew she had to act fast. An oil conduit known as the Dakota Access Pipeline was threatening traditional Native American burial sites, and if it ruptured, would pollute the Missouri River. Allard was putting out a call for people to take action on the North Dakota banks of the Missouri River. Houska packed up her stuff, jumped in her car, and drove across the country to join the ranks of the self-described “water protectors” at the Standing Stone Camp, where she would spend the next three months. When she arrived, her tent stood alone in a big field. By the beginning of fall, it was...

It’s Really Not Easy Being Green Now

Environmentalists prepare for a long, hard fight in the age of Trump.

(Photo: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Donald Trump’s policies can be hard to pin down, but it’s clear that on environmental issues—especially climate change and energy—a President Trump will do big damage, fast. President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda relied heavily on executive actions—actions that Trump can all but erase in his first days, if not first hours , in office, especially with Republicans controlling Capitol Hill. During the campaign, Trump threatened to “cancel” the Paris Agreement on climate change, which he has called a “hoax.” He pledged to eliminate regulations on oil and gas drilling. He called the Environmental Protection Agency’s work “a disgrace.” He said he would eliminate all “unnecessary” energy industry regulations, and promised “complete” U.S. independence from foreign oil. Of course, making campaign promises is one thing, and fulfilling them quite another. Trump has already said his...

Utah Monument Fight Pits Native Americans Against Land-Use Militants

A swath of high desert known as Bears Ears has become ground zero in the long-running battle over the nation’s public lands.

(Photo: AP/Rick Bowmer)
By all accounts, the looting was terrible. Across the Southwest a century ago, thousand-year-old Native American granaries were pillaged by clay pot hunters. Grave robbers worked in the open. In the sandstone dwellings perched high in the cliffs, tourists cut souvenirs out of the ancient ceiling beams. Vandals carted off heirlooms by the wagonload. In response, Congress acted swiftly. In the summer of 1906, the House and the Senate passed, and President Theodore Roosevelt quickly signed, a law known as the Antiquities Act, which was designed to protect America’s cultural and physical treasures. Results were immediate. Within two years, Roosevelt had invoked the new law to protect Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower (held sacred by the Cheyenne and the Lakota as “Bears Lodge”) from timber and mining interests, to provide new security to Chaco Canyon and Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, and to safeguard Arizona’s Montezuma’s Castle and the Grand Canyon...

Park Service Centennial Spotlights Public Lands Disputes

While the 100-year old National Parks Service still enjoys widespread public support, conservative attacks put the future of public lands in jeopardy.

National Park Service via AP
Having lost the $2 billion contract to run the concessions at Yosemite National Park, a food service, lodging, and retail company called Delaware North has left the park and taken with it the names of several iconic landmarks—the corporate equivalent of taking all of the marbles after losing the game. Beginning in 2002, Delaware North began trademarking many of the place names inside Yosemite National Park. When it lost the bid for the right to run Yosemite’s concessions last year, the company sued the National Park Service to require that the incoming concessionaire pay it $51 million for the right to use many of the park’s historic place names. So now the Park Service has been forced to rename many Yosemite sites. The Ahwahnee, the beautiful lodge in Yosemite Valley, will go by the generic-sounding “Majestic Yosemite Hotel;” the Wawona Hotel (an Indian expression for an owl’s hoot) will be known as the “Big Trees Lodge.” Delaware North...

Where the Wild Things Are

AP Images/Google
Picture a perfect Southwestern day: The air as clear as gin, the bright blue sky marked only by a few stray clouds. In this spot, the waters of the Colorado River are placid, cool green, with none of the muddy brown foam found in the rapids that, over millennia, have carved out the Grand Canyon. Redwall limestone cliffs stretch high above. They’re streaked with desert varnish—the stain left by manganese seeps—and lightly colored with the aquamarine of lichen. Eons of the planet’s history are visible from here, whole epochs rendered in the span of a few thousand vertical feet. It’s an awesome sight. Then I move my mouse over the river surface and click on a small circle of white in the water. The scene swirls in fast-forward, and I continue my trip downriver. I’ve never rafted the Colorado River through the bottom of the Grand Canyon. My “experience” through that wonder of the world came courtesy of Google Treks, the information company...