SALT LAKE CITY — Reporters on occasion show up to Dugout Ranch to press Heidi Redd for her views on land, the West and the changing nature of what appears to most who come here to be a spectacular unchanging landscape of red rock cliffs and open space.
The New York Times showed up 20 years ago when Heidi was 55 years old, divorced, and trying to figure out a way to save this expansive cattle ranch about an hour's drive south of Moab. The answer then was to sell it to the Nature Conservancy which made a commitment to keep Redd here, keep the ranching life alive, and also use some of the land as an ecological preserve. It made national news.
In the summer of 2016, KSL and the Deseret News were here, looking at one of the ranch projects. As John Hollenhorst wrote: "Scientists at the ranch about 20 miles northwest of Monticello are currently monitoring 4,000 young cottonwood trees that volunteers planted last year as part of an elaborate climate experiment. It's just one of several research projects aimed at the future of ranching and the health of Western landscapes in the face of climate change."
Our Deseret News reporters were back here again in May, chronicling the information-gathering hike Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had with Redd. The hike was at the Dugout Ranch, which now resides in the Indian Creek region of the year-old Bears Ears National Monument. The Interior secretary wanted to hear the views of someone who is both an environmentalist and a cattle rancher. Redd had his ear.
She's worked hard to keep a strong measure of stability during her 50 years on the ranch. We went back there this week with Deseret News reporter Jesse Hyde joining her at the ranch for a conversation about what's next for the land and the impact President Donald Trump's actions in Utah Monday are expected to have here.
"It’s time to sit down and make a master plan. We’ve avoided it because we keep fighting about boundaries," Redd told Hyde, in a story that appears online Sunday evening and in the print edition Monday.
"I worry one president will say 1.3 (million acres) and here it is and then another president undoes it and you play ping pong back and forth and then in the meantime we have all these lawsuits so there’s never anything settled."
Instability. That's what both environmentalists and tourism officials and those with energy interests fear. That may be the ultimate result of the actions of both Trump and President Barack Obama. None of the locals know what to count on.
Trump lands in Salt Lake City Monday and with Orrin Hatch and other lawmakers and dignitaries at his side he is expected to sign an executive order to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument nearly by half.2 comments on this story
Lawsuits are expected to be filed and the issue will remain unresolved possibly for years to come. Meanwhile, Bears Ears is literally on the map. So much has been written about the area and the conflict that more and more people are coming to check out the landscape. Redd worries that without a master plan and an unsettled future, there is the potential for people to impact the landscape negatively.
So what's next?
Our reporters will look at two things: What the president does and what the president says.
We will follow the reaction and the expected legal battle about the Antiquities Act. And finally, we will continue to report on potential solutions to determine what really can be done to protect the land, the antiquities here, and the way of life for those who call this area home.
And to Heidi Redd, we will see you again soon.