On Jan. 24, Ken Rait, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Issues coordinator, gave his view on compromises in regard to the wilderness debate. Much of his "view" was so biased and extreme that I find it useless to address in terms of common-sense reasoning.
However, his statement that "the Environmental Protection Agency reports that livestock grazing has deteriorated Western watersheds to their worst condition in history" flies in the face of studies done by the federal agencies whose job it is to manage and protect those grazing lands.Those studies show that our public lands are in better shape now than they have been for the past 100 years. Who, then, are we to believe - the people who work on the land 52 weeks of the year or the EPA, whose expertise is obviously lacking?
The 1964 Wilderness Act, with its so-called "timeless values," is fast becoming a haunting nightmare to many Americans. It is looked upon by many as a means of undermining the nation's economy, defense and democratic principles.
Operation Desert Storm is a living testimony of ballooning dependency on unstable foreign countries for vital resources that are being permanently locked up in wilderness designations throughout our country.
I get the message from Ken Rait and others that scars on the land should take precedence over the scars left from the loss of human lives, that populations of spotted owls, gray wolves or grizzly bears take precedence over populations of people.
Popular author Alston Chase recently warned that "Environmentalism and civil liberties are on a collision course. Many professional environmentalists in this country and elsewhere believe they know what is best for the rest of us. Coping with environmental decline while preserving civil liberties may be the greatest challenge now facing the world. In our rush to save the planet, we must not sacrifice ourselves."
Chase goes on to say, "It is very destructive when the fate of a region is determined by the people who don't live there and have no stake in the outcome of the decisionmaking process."
We in Garfield County know exactly what he is talking about. It seems that members of the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, etc., are dedicated to sacrificing the human rights and civil liberties of those who live here and have been stewards of the land for more than a century.
All of a sudden, they, and they alone, know what's best for us. Families, communities and schools are no longer part of their environmental equation.
This same reasoning is all too evident in Wayne Owens' 5.7 million-acre wilderness bill. In short, he is saying to heck with 10 years of intensive studies by the BLM and millions of taxpayers' dollars, we know what is best and what areas should be "saved."
The cry of Owens, Rait and other wilderness advocates is that the land must be preserved for our children. What they really mean is that it must be preserved for their children, because most children - yours and mine - will never see it. But, our children will be the ones who will continue to pay for it.
Rait puts it this way, "In Rep. Owens' HR1500, we ensure that the greed of today does not rob our descendants of their wilderness legacy."
In answer to that, my words are, "In Rep. Owens' HR1500, we ensure that the greed of a few elitists who choose to lock up millions of acres of public lands with no thought of the people who depend on those lands for their livelihoods, will rob our descendants of a legacy guaranteed by the Constitution of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I wish I could show some of Utah's "glorious canyon country" that is literally being ravaged by past and present wilderness users.
In speaking with BLM personnel, those canyons are fast becoming wall-to-wall depositories of human waste and toilet paper. (One backpacker was even quoted as saying, "Give me back the good old cow.")
In my opinion, those "wild places," as Rait describes them, were better off when they were literally "untrammeled by man" or wilderness by nature without being designated as such and desecrated by the very persons crusading for their preservation.
There are already over 100 state and federal statutes protecting Utah's scenic wonders in state and national parks, national recreation areas, national Forest Service wilderness, wildlife refuges, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), instant study areas, etc. The fact is, the whole environmental issue is based on emotionalism rather than on sound management practices.
The protection of our environment for future generations is a noble objective, that is, if you can ensure that future generations will be here to enjoy it.