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Bears Ears: We Must Protect This Spectacular, Sacred American Monument

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Bears Ears: We Must Protect This Spectacular, Sacred American Monument
Tim D. Peterson

By Mike Matz

Eighty-one years ago, Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, proposed a vast, four million-acre national monument for southern Utah. Over the ensuing decades, pieces of Ickes' vision were realized in the establishment of Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.


Last year, another president and his interior secretary took a big step toward completing Ickes' dream. At the request of five Native American tribes living in the vicinity, and after nearly a weeklong tour by former Interior Sec. Sally Jewell of places proposed for protection, Barack Obama signed a proclamation under authority of the Antiquities Act to designate 1.3 million acres of land as the Bears Ears National Monument.

The move protected an area of sublime beauty and major cultural significance: Bears Ears includes more than 100,000 archeological sites.

"We worked very closely with our scientists, people on the ground, people in the communities that know these landscapes well, the tribes, particularly in [the] case of Bears Ears, that understood what's needed for hunting, gathering and traditional practices and sacred sites," Jewell recently told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Those shaped the boundaries of these monuments which were very carefully thought out."

On April 26, President Donald Trump took action that could begin to unravel the achievement of this decades-long vision. He signed an order directing Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review all national monuments established in the past 21 years—upward of two dozen sites in states primarily across the West, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—to assess whether the "reservation" of these public lands is "the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected" and whether the "designated lands" are really "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures."

Hikers approach a sandstone spire formation on the Owl Canyon trail in Bears Ears National Monument. Bob Lingner

In late March, I visited Bears Ears with friends. We camped at the head of Mule Canyon, spent time at a rim overlooking Arch Canyon, and hiked into Owl Canyon and up Indian Creek. Our conclusion: This is a spectacular place. Sec. Ickes in 1936 and the coalition of tribes last year were absolutely right in pushing for its protection, and all Americans are fortunate to have this natural heritage preserved for them and their children and grandchildren.

Throughout the monument, we saw prehistoric structures and historic landmarks, from the intricately built stone watchtowers that guarded a water spring at the head of the canyon to Newspaper Rock, a sandstone slab filled with centuries' worth of pictographs.

These 2,000-year-old petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock near Monticello, Utah, are within the Bears Ears National Monument boundary. Bob Lingner

We heard coyotes yipping at dawn, just as the sky was beginning to light the red rock afire. High up a sandstone fin we spied ancient cliff dwellings carved into the nearly vertical rock face. In the deep blue of a cloudless day, an arch spanning two precipitous ridges cast a stripe of shade on the canyon bottom where we hiked. We saw elk traversing a mesa through sagebrush flats and deer browsing in juniper-pinyon forests.

Each of these moments is etched upon our memories, and we count ourselves lucky to have found Bears Ears as it has always been.

It is now up to all citizens to speak up for our national monuments. Submit your comment by May 26 to urge President Trump and Sec. Zinke to preserve Bears Ears as it was approved. My friends and I have. Having experienced this special place ourselves, we are now personally invested in its intact protection so that our children and grandchildren can explore and enjoy it as we have.

Nevills Arch in Owl Canyon off Cedar Mesa in the monument. Bob Lingner

Mike Matz directs The Pew Charitable Trust's U.S. public lands program, focusing on wilderness and national monument projects.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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