Jim Trees' 2,000 acres are so close to Zion National Park that you can see the mighty stone slabs protected in it while sitting around his barbecue pit.
On a recent September evening the sun headed down the pink sky as members of the Grand Canyon Trust, including Trees, and guests sat on giant logs arranged around the barbecue pit, in an open field that was ringed with distant cliffs.A foreman and trust directors spread utensils on a table and prepared dinner.
"There's mountain scenery and there's arid country, sculpted land," said Stewart Udall, one of those guests. "I think the Colorado Plateau is the most scenic area in the world - let's begin with that. Not just the United States."
Udall is a giant in the conservation movement. Not only a director of the trust, he's one of its inspirations.
As Interior secretary from 1961 to 1969, Udall was in on the effort to establish Utah's Canyonlands and Capitol Reef national parks, plus 56 wildlife refuges, eight national seashores and lake shores, six national monuments, nine national recreation areas and 29 national historic sites.
He is profiled in a book about the pioneer conservationists of the West. His own environmental book, "The Quiet Crisis," was a best-seller in 1963.
While the feast was being prepared and swallows swooped through the sky, we talked about the Colorado Plateau.
This is a region with tremendous pressures and conflicts, Udall said. Hikers want to enjoy the natural peace of the Grand Canyon, while sightseers and local airlines want to fly into it. Mining interest vs. wilderness designation. National parks designation vs. energy development.
The area attracts more people all the time. The population boom creates additional pressures, as in motorized recreation. "In a region with a growing population, if you're doing nothing, you're losing ground," Udall said.
Damage to the Grand Canyon by water releases through Glen Canyon Dam disturbs him, too.
Although he was one of the government officials who helped build the dam more than 25 years ago, he now admits he has regrets. But he defends his actions, saying that fighting the dam-builders would have been political suicide.
Yet, to focus on the Grand Canyon is to miss the trust's real objectives, he said.
"We have a broad interest," Udall said. "We're not just wilderness, we're not just national parks, we're not just an `anti' organization. We feel we can be influential in working out compromises in some situations."
The group may help create wilderness areas and national parks, he said.
"We feel that maybe we can be the catalyst on some things, as we
ere on the noise in the Grand Canyon issue. But we're moving cautiously."
Udall said the trust believes there could be "some additional national parks" within the Four Corner states that make up the Colorado Plateau. Among these could be some "Indian national parks," set up on the reservations.
For example, there could be a Monument Valley National Park in southern Utah. Or a Zuni National Park in New Mexico.
"The Zunis will retain ownership," he said. "They will lease the land."
If such a national park were established, Congress would build a visitors center, roads and other facilities. "Congress would put up the money and the Indians would reap the benefit, as they should," he said.
Indians would be rangers and park superintendents. They could build motels. Visitors would be amazed at the things to be seen in these parks.
"It's got a terrific potential," Udall said.
Udall spoke at a barbecue on the property of Trees, chairman of the board of directors for the Grand Canyon Trust.
Trees is the founder of companies specializing in the management of fixed-income securities. He is a good example of the upscale people directing the group.
He served on the faculty of Harvard Business School, but his love for the rugged Western landscape prompted him to purchase about 2,000 acres along the Virgin River.
It could be a great cattle ranch. Only instead of raising cattle, Trees had the idea of reviving the orchard business, begun 125 years ago by southwestern Utah's pioneers.
Trees diverted water from the river to irrigate a test plot of all sorts of young fruit trees, keeping track of the weather with a meteorological shack beside the orchard. He's also building a new home that is a replica of an 1860 house on the property.
The barbecue was held in a field where a tree seems to grow from a rock. To get there, we had to drive a couple of miles from his gate, crossing a bridge, turning from one hilly dirt road to another - all of it on Trees' land.
Next: The trust and some of its issues.