"Enlibra" sounds like a nice rallying cry for the French Revolution or some place south of the border. But as a wilderness-debate catchphrase, it falls short of "Sagebrush Rebellion" or "perestroika" in initial effectiveness. Then again, those terms caught on over time and evolved to represent principles to which advocates of causes could attach themselves.
Maybe "enlibra" will do the same, though it is not a word we are likely to see soon on the cover of Time magazine. Of course, the cover of Time is not what it used to be.Give Gov. Mike Leavitt and his Oregon counterpart, Gov. John Kitzhaber, credit for creativity. "Enlibra" is the word the pair recently unveiled to reporters from national newspapers and magazines in New York and Washington. The term is derived from two Latin phrases, "en" meaning to direct toward; and "libra," to find balance.
Leavitt and Kitzhaber hope the word will become a symbol for moderation and balance in environmental dialogue. Yet moderation and balance by any other name still say middle ground - something most environmentalists want no part of. With many, protecting wilds is an all-or-nothing issue. For example, a recent reinventory of wilds by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance significantly upped the wilderness ante by identifying 8.5 million acres for possible designation.
And so it goes, both sides polarized on opposite ends of the issue with no willingness by protectionists to meet in midstream. Leavitt's philosophy of "enlibra," if adopted, would at least move players toward dialogue. It is hard to recall the last time anyone actually communicated about wilderness in Utah. In recent years, the debate has been reduced primarily to shouting back and forth, with most of the noise falling on deaf ears.
Besides coining a word, Leavitt and Kitzhaber set forth several principles of "enlibra." Those included not only the adoption of national standards but neighborhood strategies, rewarding results and not programs, facilitating collaboration and not polarization, and putting markets before mandates to encourage change. Those are sound principles that could benefit this and many other political issues.
Utah's governor has for some time encouraged a cooperative, stepping-stone approach to protecting qualifying Bureau of Land Management acreage - without success. There are some wild lands that everyone agrees qualify for protection. Start with those tracts and move on from there.
But that piecemeal approach has been flatly rejected by environmentalists who have had 3.2 million acres of de facto wilderness on "temporary" status by the Bureau of Land Management since 1980. Another 2.5 million acres soon will be reinventoried under order of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
So here everyone sits, at an impasse. Maybe the spirit of "enlibra" will prove liberating and change that. Then again, we don't expect to see it in the dictionary any time soon.