Ever since the pioneers first came into our valleys, Utahns have relied upon the land for the necessities of life. Water, food, fiber and shelter were essential to survival and were the building blocks of our society. We learned early that wise stewardship of the land and its resources could provide a multitude of opportunities while protecting its beauty.
Utahns are still dependent on the land and its resources. Our economic future, in great part, lies with that land and how it is managed. Any decision concerning the management of our lands is going to affect Utahns.Consequently, I am concerned that a segment of our society seems to have forgotten the vital link between the land and our economic well-being.
There is a mindset that tends to view man as an unwelcome visitor to the planet, that everything man does damages nature and that man must be stopped before he destroys the earth.
This mindset has been translated into a national effort to limit use of and access to our public lands. Rather than trying to promote land management practices that protect our resources for human use, these extremists want to protect the land and our resources from human use.
Almost every item on the agenda of the environmental lobby would hinder the ability of Western states to strengthen their economies, particularly in rural areas.
Excessive wilderness designations, increased grazing fees, overhauling the mining law, prohibiting timber sales, extreme wetland restrictions, additional endangered species listings and many more all come in conflict with the viability of our land-dependent economies.
Today, in the name of preserving pristine wilderness, Utahns whose families have ranched for generations are facing grazing fee increases that would force many of them from the land settled by their grandparents.
Small Utah communities almost wholly dependent on the timber industry are facing economic ruin because the local mills are prohibited from obtaining an adequate supply of timber. Areas with a rich mining heritage are being locked out of opportunities for exploration as more and more land is removed from multiple-use.
Yet, this human cost is not apparent in the glossy brochures full of beautiful pictures of majestic scenery. One of the most devastating disasters that can befall a man or woman is the loss of a job. However, in making so-called environmental decisions, trees, toads and squawfish often receive more consideration than the working man or woman.
I am concerned about legislation being supported by some in Utah to designate more than 5 million acres as wilderness. Once designated as wilderness, the land would be permanently removed from reasonable use.
Wilderness areas would be off limits to all development and most recreation. It would be impossible to operate a car, an off-highway vehicle, a snowmobile, a bicycle and in most cases even a wheelchair. The elderly and handicapped have almost no means of entering and enjoying these areas.
Roads, dams, bridges, cabins, toilets and other permanent structures would be prohibited. Some wilderness areas will not even permit emergency helicopters to evacuate injured hikers. Logging, mining and other commercial activities would be banned.
Generally, no management of soil, water, fires, predators or insects is practiced; Mother Nature is allowed to work her will regardless of the consequences.
Wilderness is such an exclusionary and restrictive designation that it effectively locks out all but a minority of the public. It is an irrevocable and irretrievable foreclosure of vast areas of productive land and resources.
Turning an excess of 5 million acres, which is approximately the size of New Jersey, into an economic desert with no place for people would be an imprudent commitment of our resources and could well seal the fate of many rural Utah communities.
It would be a terrible mistake and ultimately self-defeating not to promote the efficient use of our resources. We must address the legitimate needs for clean air and clean water while developing a balanced approach to our various natural preservation needs.
Yes, there are some unique and sensitive environments that should be protected, but the vast majority of Utah's public land must continue to provide a variety of opportunities and experiences for everyone, not just a select few.
The multiple-use doctrine has allowed miners, ranchers, campers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, loggers and many others to cooperatively use and enjoy the public lands. With the generally capable management of these lands by federal agencies, natural resources have been conserved, and as wide a variety of people as possible have benefited from them.