I have been struggling with the idea of whether or not to go to Utah, more-or-less all of 2017 so far. Utah is a state that I love. The opportunities in that state are nearly unrivaled; they even have what I consider to be probably the most underrated hike in the entire national park system that I have seen to date (Druid Arch in Canyonlands). The people are wonderful people. It’s always a joy spending time in Utah for me. But with the state government and federal representation going on an all-out dishonest attack on our public lands–our birthright as US citizens–I have had to question if I want to contribute tax money to support them. The answer is a resounding NO.
I recently made a new friend in Arizona, Scott Jones. I had a wonderful time talking land conservation and overlanding while I was near him. He made an excellent post on this topic. In it, he outlines how to contact the state of Utah to let them know that they will not be receiving any revenue from us as long as their attack on our land continues. I want to point any of my readers there for more information: http://rscottjones.com/outdoor-recreationists-tell-utah-youre-not-visiting-year/
Utah relies on our outdoor recreation dollars to help fuel its economy. As a community, we contribute nearly $12 billion to the state’s economy—employing more than 122,000 people while generating $856 million in state and local taxes! That’s the kind of economic impact that should make anyone take notice.
But instead of catering to us as an important constituency, Utah politicians have repeatedly given us the middle finger by opposing popular national monument designations and even trying to undermine our public lands altogether.
As a community, we can do better in pressuring the state to better reflect our conservation values. We deserve to have Utah working hard to attract our business, not taking our hard earned travel dollars for granted while they attack the places we love.
Perhaps you haven’t been following the news as much as I have on this topic. As much as it pains me to see our birthright so neglected in media attention while under such profound attacks, I’ve brought it up less on my blog than I have social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook. I usually try to keep this blog just about my travels and keep politics out of it more than I do on other media. The truth is, my Facebook friends know that I’m talking about politics all the time: it’s something I consider vastly important to our lives in the US, and it is something I just enjoy, even when the clouds of US politics are seeming pretty dark.
Recently, a bill was introduced by a Utah Representative by the name of Chaffetz that would transfer a large amount of our land to states, most likely to be sold to the highest bidder when the states needed to find extra funds. States simply don’t have the resources to individually manage the large swaths of land that the federal government does in our interests, and further, it is directly taking them away from being the sole possession of every US citizen and placing it directly in the hands of states who have no obligation to act in the interest of all of us.
That bill ended up being informally withdrawn (apparently, it’s being discarded but no one cares to do the paperwork to make it formally withdrawn; this isn’t actually a big deal at all and happens all the time). However, that same representative also introduced a bill that would gut any means of federal law enforcement on millions of acres of our land, forcing state and local governments (who don’t have the funds necessary for the task) to try and accomplish the same purposes. This bill is still going forward and has multiple co-sponsors. It essentially guts the protection of our lands from illegal activity that threatens those lands for all future generations.
Even more, the Utah state government has formally requested that the federal government remove the National Monument designation from Grand Staircase-Escalante and the new Bears Ears National Monuments. Controversy over national monument designations isn’t new: even parts of Grand Teton National Park, when first designated as Jackson Hole National Monument by FDR, created massive controversy. Today, it’s a national park valued by people around the world, bringing in immense value to the local and state governments in Wyoming. Another similar controversy surrounded Jimmy Carter declaring several national monuments in Alaska (total of 56 million acres worth). Today, those are tourist attractions bringing in new revenue to Alaska.
(Unfortunately, as a part of the 2 named controversies, Congress must consent to new national monuments in Wyoming and any new national monuments greater than 5000 acres in Alaska. Even worse limitations are being requested in Utah, including an attempt to repeal the Antiquities Act altogether by some.)
Bears Ears National Monument (pictured in the headline picture for this post) protects some of the best preserved, most valuable Native artifacts in the entire world. Some complain about how large of an area it is, but the entire area is full of this remarkably valuable archaeological sources, in addition to invaluable other scientific resources. Obama created it late in his term, something many presidents, Democrat and Republican, have done since the Antiquities Act, some coming within less than a week of the next president’s inauguration in the past, even. Yet when he created it, he even conceded large swaths of valuable land to the opposition, leaving them out of his designation. I would encourage anyone to go and read his full proclamation, describing, in detail, why the designation is so important to the American People, and how it is, in fact, exactly the kind of designation that the Antiquities Act was made for in the first place.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is worth note as being in a very similar position to Bears Ears. It has been controversial since Bill Clinton designated it, but the monument protects some absolutely invaluable resources on our land.
These 2 monuments are absolute treasures belonging to all of us, along with all of the national parks and monuments spread across this beautiful country. Along with all of the other public lands.
This is our birthright! It is an absolute outrage that Utah’s politicians wish to steal our birthright from us in the interest of development that will provide less economic value than those lands provide us in their current state today.
So, I am making my choice to avoid Utah until they cease their attack on our lands. I encourage my readers to consider following me down this road. Many large outdoor companies are leading this charge, even calling for moving large outdoor recreation conferences to states who actually value our land. One person, alone, will have little impact, but if everyone who is outraged by this even half as much as I am joins, Utah will have no choice but to face irreparable damage to their economy or back off of our land and leave them for future generations to truly enjoy.
The link I provided by Scott Jones above lays out how to contact appropriate parties in Utah and let them know that we will not stand for this. Please consider reviewing and sending in your own words on this matter as well.