Land grabs and the human spirit

Utah is home to three unique yet equally compelling geographic regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. To both locals and tourists alike, each region is home to wilderness that offers beauty and respite from the noise and chaos of the everyday.

From across the globe people come to bike our Slickrock trail in Moab, to ski our awesome powder, to hike and climb and rappel our mountains. Utah has an incredibly diverse and magnificent landscape that inspires poets, filmmakers, musicians.

With our land being so uniquely majestic, one would think we would be excellent stewards of our local patch of earth. And yet, time and time again our local government seeks to destroy our rich land in favor of industrialization.

Wallace Stegner wrote in his Wilderness Letter, “Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste.”

It is interesting that Stegner mentioned roads in his letter, as it is the existence of so-called roads Governor Herbert is using as an excuse to grab land in Southern Utah currently controlled by the federal government. Most of the “roads” Herbert wants to control are in fact creek beds, cow trails, hiking trails, etc. that would be offered up to the destructive powers of automobiles if Herbert is successful.

The lands Herbert is attempting to take are within and around the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. As a national monument, these lands are federally protected and maintained which costs millions of dollars every year. If Herbert’s land grab is successful, not only will the potential for land destruction increase, so will our taxes. Taxes used for protecting wilderness would likely be fine for most Utah residents. However, with our environmentally irresponsible local government what it is, it is difficult to imagine that our lands would indeed be protected.

Protecting our lands and our earth as a whole is more than just about taxes and simply distrusting our local government. Protecting our earth is a spiritual calling we must fulfill. We live in an increasingly mechanical world in the United States. But our spirits yearn for the soundtrack of wilderness, the feel of soil beneath our feet, the echoes of canyons calming our hearts. It does not matter if one is part of the dominant faith in Utah, namely the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Or if one is Buddhist, Krishna, Catholic, or any other faith. Or if one belongs only to the faith of himself. The human spirit longs to be in tune with nature.

We simply cannot attain our spirit’s quest for oneness with nature if we continue to destroy it at every turn.

It is easy to suppose that others will take care of the problem. Or to assume that government knows best. But, the destruction of wilderness cannot easily be undone.

It is the duty of every person to protect our home, our peace; these things that embody our wilderness.

Not Escalante, but still beloved wilderness

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