Theft of Moqui Marbles in Grand Staircase National Monument

These round balls are called moqui marbles are natural and take millions of years to erode out of solid Navajo Sandstone – They are hard concretions of iron that formed in the sandstone. After they are exposed to millions of years of sunlight they develop a dark polished patina called #DesertVarnish which takes eons to form.

Currently, these #moquimarbles are under threat because of their value on the #BlackMarket. They are also popular with the new age tourist trade and they can fetch a pretty penny by the piece. Last I spoke with a BLM Officer, they stated that over 30,000 lbs of these marbles have been stolen from off of Grand Staircase National Monument in Southern Utah. This is truly saddening, because I’ve actually gone to many of the locations where these marbles have gone missing and it destroys and scars the landscape where they were heavily removed. If you’re caught robbing these off of a federal monument, you may as well rob a bank because the consequences are just as severe!

While I do not believe that wilderness is virgin, untouched, or pristine – I do think that humans have an innate responsibility as stewards over the land. The people who rip off these moqui marbles do so for a quick buck. The beauty, once changed, is irreplaceable.

The image above shows a moqui marble out in the wild in an area where theft has occurred regularly for decades according to sources that live in the nearby community of Escalante, #Utah. Mostly what I was able to find here were bits of marble in a place that was once filled with shiny black marbles, smooth and baked in Desert Varnish.

An Alien Landscape – Grand Staircase National Monument

I captured these landscapes a few years ago out by Big Water, Utah on the way to Lake Powell, just after sundown.

In the early 1990s, Bill Clinton, President of the United States declared this national monument a rare treasure and designated over 1.7 million acres of land in Southern Utah off-limits. It stirred  a noteworthy controversy with local ranchers who have worked on the land for generations. On the other side of the token, there are countless historical Indigenous cultural and archeological sites inside the monument as well as an unknown treasure trove of undiscovered dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.

I do empathize with the ranchers and people whose livelihoods were affected by the monument’s creation, including my own family, but it was worth preserving these irreplaceable and priceless resources.  These sacred places do not belong to us; they belong to the future generations who have yet to be born and these histories cannot be rewritten and can easily be lost in time, forever, with any sort of carelessness.

As a photographer, the landscapes of the Grand Staircase remind me of another planet – a strange alien world in another galaxy and that is an amazing feeling to tap into. Places like Big-Water can heal the soul with its sheer beauty and you can feel the ancient ones (historic tribal peoples) whom once used this land. Traces of their long existence are found all over the monument.

I’ll be returning to Grand Staircase pretty soon with a Sony A7R and capture much more details photos of these alien landscapes.

 

Cedar City in Fresh Snow

This is what my hometown of Cedar City, Utah, looks like in the fall and spring. This was captured in the historic downtown area on Main Street just shy north of Historic Cedar Theatre.