Like Antaeus, the mythical Greek giant who was invincible as long as he was touching the earth, Deseret News environmental writer Joseph Bauman says he has a similar need to commune with Mother Earth.

"I have a real physical and immediate need to be in contact with nature," said Bauman, who's noted around the office for his weekend sojourns into Utah's deserts in his Suzuki Samurai."I grew up in the East and can still recall terrible images of what it's like to live just outside a major Eastern metropolis and only have smog, power lines, high rises and crowded freeways as your everyday vista. I don't want to live in a place that has so little touch with the soil and nature," he said.

Which is why Bauman found his way to Utah in the first place and has no intentions of ever leaving.

He said Utah has some of the most important untouched areas in the nation. And it sometimes frustrates him to learn that so many Utahns don't understand how precious these natural resources really are.

Bauman said there are no permanent wins for nature - only permanent losses. "You can block an environmentally damaging project 10 times, but if it passes on the 11th, that's all she wrote," said Bauman, who has been the paper's environmental writer for the past 14 years.

"Having lived elsewhere, I realize that not everyone has what we have here. Some people save all year to come to Utah and hike through one of our desert areas that we can just drive down to in a weekend."

A book he published last year about his personal favorite desert getaway spot is one of Bauman's biggest achievements. The book, "Stone House Lands," details the natural and human history along with the scenery, solitude and potential threats to the San Rafael Swell area in southern Utah.

He calls it his effort to repay nature. "I did it as a work of love - not a real attempt to make any money," he said.

In fact, were Bauman to have his druthers, he'd gladly swap his environmental beat for a full-time literary career.

"I think I have something to offer in writing books," he said. "Journalism is not my ultimate goal. Don't get me wrong. Journalism is a high calling and plays a very important role in society, and I'm not looking down at it. It's just that some of my strongest (writing) talents are things that don't fit too well into newspaper writing."

In the meantime, however, Bauman thinks Deseret News readers are still owed his best efforts. Which is why sometimes he'll erupt with the fury of Mount Vesuvius at his desk in the back of the newsroom.

Bauman's temper is legend with other Deseret News staffers, but he takes most of the subsequent kidding in stride and attributes such displays to his low tolerance for the little facets of life that prevent him from doing his best job.

That, and editors, of course.