Colson: Republicans want to give it all away
Utah’s Republican legislators and governor want to join their national party’s cohort in giving away their natural resources to big business.
And they want to do it now, before President Barack Obama or anyone else can make a move to preserve what one writer termed “Utah’s Lost World” — a network of canyons, mesas and forests in the southern part of the state where one can go hiking for days without encountering another human, and where the only sign of human presence often can be a sudden confrontation with unrestored cliff dwellings or images etched on a red rock wall.
Author David Roberts, who wrote in last weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review section that he has hiked in these environs for decades, also revealed that last month the Utah state legislature, controlled by Republicans, passed a resolution opposing any additional restrictions for roughly 500,000 acres of the area known as Cedar Mesa and another, perhaps less pristine but no less culturally important area called the San Rafael Swell.
The reasoning behind the resolution, which Gov. Gary R. Herbert signed, is that leaving the region open to livestock grazing, energy and mineral extraction and other industrial uses of the land should not be hindered by such silliness as the creation of national monuments or parks that would preserve an important bit of our heritage for future generations.
Most importantly, these apologists for our corporate and industrial sectors maintain, the state must do something, anything to get these lands into private hands before that black man in the White House can declare these spots to be national monuments, which Obama could easily do in the spirit of the foremost preserver of public lands we’ve ever had, Pres. Teddy Roosevelt.
Oh, wait, Roosevelt was a Republican, too, so we don’t hear much about him when the proponents of such giveaways start justifying their actions.
No, the name we most hear, uttered in derisive terms, is Bill Clinton, who had the temerity to use his presidential powers to name other parts of Utah’s splendid and unique landscape, the Grand Staircase and Escalante Canyon, as national monuments.
Clinton did this simply because he could, and because he thought it was right, royally pissing off the state of Utah in 1996, and they’re still pissed off about it.
Now, of course, Obama could do the same, and these irreplaceable remnants of human residence on the land going back 13,000 years would be saved from the bulldozer’s blade, the cattle hooves and the driller’s rig.
Such an act would not, despite the caterwauling claims of those who would cry “FOUL” at such a declaration, put an end to such depredations on public lands. It would merely mean that, on this particular portion or our national property, such activities would not be permitted.
Which, of course, is what so angers the corporations and their supporters, because they want it all. They can’t abide the thought that any little bit of ground should be off limits to exploiters, even though these bits would be a small percentage of the public lands where such activities are allowed, even encouraged, by federal law and support.
Now, in the interest of complete disclosure, I must note here that I first went to Utah three decades ago or so, seeking solace and spiritual healing in the lands where our native predecessors lived in close alliance with the earth and the wildlife, a much closer alliance than we European usurpers had from the first moment we set foot on what we call American soil.
And, as a consequence of numerous trips over the ensuing years, when my soul was salved by the immensity of the surroundings and the solitude I could achieve by walking a short distance away from the centers of human activity, I have long argued against the endless trampling of the land by industry.
I know full well that there is no way to stop all industrial uses of our public lands, and recognize that some such uses have been and continue to be necessary for the continuation of our modern-human way of living.
But, damn, why do we have to give it all away to the corporations, the miners, the ranchers, the oil and gas barons?
Why can we not save pieces of it for its historical record and its spiritually cleansing effects, so that those who come after us can see examples of what we all have inherited from the ages without enduring the foul smells and unending tumult of our own ant-like industrial endeavors?
And, unfortunately, it is not just Utah that is hoping to give it all away.
The U.S. Senate recently, narrowly passed a nonbinding resolution to sell or give away the national forests, the Bureau of Land Management holdings, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges, leaving us only with the national parks and monuments that have already been established.
Do you see where all this is headed? Do you care?
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