Ralston lends hand to Utah wilderness push

Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Local mountaineer Aron Ralston will head to the nation’s capital next week to convey his passion for the canyons of southern Utah, including the one that nearly took his life.

But first, Ralston takes his message to what will likely be an amenable audience, with a presentation on the slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau in Utah Wednesday at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. He promises slides and stories from experiences in Utah’s canyon lands – a favorite destination for many locals.Ralston, who has stepped up as a wilderness advocate since his harrowing and now-legendary experience in Utah’s remote Blue John Canyon in 2003 – he severed his hand after it was pinned beneath a boulder in order to escape the slot and almost certain death – has, of late, been working with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

He will join advocates in lobbying on behalf of America’s Redrocks Wilderness Act, a bill that would preserve 9.5 million acres of public land in southern Utah as wilderness – areas currently under threat from oil and gas drilling, as well as motorized use by ATVs and the like, Ralston explained. The advocates hope to line up more than 200 co-sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives in order to move the legislation out of committee and onto the floor for debate. The push for a huge contingent of co-sponsors comes in light of what Ralston said is a lack of support for the measure from Utah’s congressional delegation.”The strategy is to show the congressional leadership there’s national support for the public lands,” he said.”This is my first foray into lobbying – meeting with the heads of the committees, the Colorado delegation,” Ralston said. “I’m sort of intimidated, I must admit.”His presentation at ACES will touch on some familiar places for lovers of Utah’s canyon country – gems like Neon Canyon in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Moonshine Canyon in the San Rafael Swell, and Fish and Owl canyons in the Cedar Mesa area.

He’ll also offer a slide of himself on a return trip to Blue John Canyon, which the proposed wilderness legislation would protect.”I’ve been blessed with this miracle and my life, that came from the Utah canyons,” Ralston said of his ordeal and ultimate survival. “Here’s my chance to protect it.”The presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $4, but free to ACES members. The center is located behind the Aspen post office, at 100 Puppy Smith St. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is


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