A few weeks ago, I submitted a shorter version of an article we posted in The Zephyr called “The New West’s Big Lie” to the environmental newspaper, High Country News. Though “The Big Lie” was in direct response to a High Country News/Writers On the Range essay by outdoor industry leader Luther Probst, HCN refused to print or post it.
But other publications, including The Deseret News, the Grand Junction Sentinel, the San Juan Record, and the Moab Sun News did publish the essay.
Last week, the Moab Sun News ran an opposing commentary by longtime Sierra Club activist and Moabite Jean Binyon. Ms. Binyon ignored the basic premise of the article and chose to get sort of nasty. In part, she wrote:
“So Stiles, if you want to repeat your rusty diatribes and attacks on the likes of SUWA and David Erley, we can’t stop you. You do have a big megaphone. But really, your Zephyr is less and less like a cleansing wind that sweeps out pollution and cobwebs; more and more like an erratic blowhard careening out of, and back into, the past. Who needs it?”
The Binyons (Mike and Jean) and I have a long and conflicted history and Zephyr readers should at least know the Binyon backstory with me and others, including Ken Sleight. In the late 90s a group of us tried to create a Glen Canyon Group of the Sierra Club’s Utah Chapter. Leaders of the Chapter and the Binyons had a fundamental difference of opinion with some of us, on a variety of issues, and eventually I bailed. I remembered too late what somebody had warned me…”They don’t call it a ‘CLUB’ for no reason at all.”
The Binyons and their Salt Lake allies weren’t too fond of Sleight’s environmental objectives either and later he left the group as well. He never returned. At one point they even got crosswise with environmental icon David Brower when the Binyons accused him of offering a $250,000 bribe to the Sierra Club. I got to speak with Brower on the phone–he was stunned and hurt by the Binyons’ accusations. He died soon after.
It’s all here in an article titled
And finally the Binyons once accused me of forging an email from them to Cloudrock developer Michael Liss, back in the early 2000s, in which they provide their “conditions” for accepting that massive obscene development.
‘What kind of concerns did the Sierra Club have and what were their requests? Besides setting structures farther back from the rim of the canyon, Binyon made the following demands: “coloring roads to match the surrounding soil…parking lots colored to match the surrounding soil…utilizing medium to darker earth-tones, and non-reflective materials on all structures…outdoor lighting should be kept to a minimum…” They were literally cosmetic in nature.
‘The Sierra Club also encouraged restrictions on OHVs…”Next to cows, (this is) the most damaging thing currently happening on the mesa. Please be explicit in not permitting their use on the mesa.” Apparently, keeping out cows and OHVs was an acceptable trade-off for a massive multi-million dollar “wilderness” resort lodge and scores of condos and homes built on $600,000 lots.
‘Liss’s reply could not have been more accommodating, “I would be happy to discuss our project with you and members of your Chapter,” and added enthusiastically, “I am a member of the Sierra Club and greatly respect the work being done around the country.” No other environmental group in Utah even chose to express an opinion.
So that’s the background. Jumping back to 2017, I submitted a reply to Ms. Binyon’s remarks but the Sun News refused to print them in their print edition, explaining that there were two other related comments in the next issue. And indeed there were…
Moab’s Lynn Jackson also submitted comments but the Sun News declined to print them that week. So Jackson submitted the same text to the Moab Times Independent, who ran his comments as a guest editorial. Click here to read his editorial.
The Sun News’s publisher offered to run my rebuttal in their online version, but they didn’t do that either. While I was grateful that the Sun News ran my original essay, I have a fundamental disagreement with their decision to limit the number of letters to the editor. In the almost 30 years I’ve published The Zephyr, I’ve always felt that nothing–absolutely nothing–was more important than providing an opportunity for our readers to express intelligent and articulate views and opinions, whether I agreed with them or not.
While I do draw the line on ad hominem personal attacks, I have always welcomed a good debate and thoughtful discussion. During our print publication days, we made room for as many as six pages of letters, because each one of them represented the hard work and thoughtful analysis of our readers. When they put that much heart and soul into a letter or comment, they deserve to be read. It’s the least we can do.In this case, I was the reader who couldn’t get a letter printed. So here it is, as it was submitted to the Sun News…JS
This is in reply to Jean Binyon’s comments about my recent essay which asked a basic question–if the “New West” economy is the wave of the future, what happens to the rural Americans who have lived in the West for more than a century? What happens to those who have raised families, and earned their livings in a broader economy that included the extractive industries?
And finally, I asked if New Westerners ever consider the fact that most “Old Westerners” do not have the capital, or experience to invest in a recreation/tourist economy.
Jean Binyon never addresses those concerns. Instead she diverts attention from the issue with a bewildering array of conflicting statements and irrelevant complaints.
The fact is, Jean Binyon’s rant validates the point of my essay—that she and her ilk have no use for anybody in the rural West who lived here before they arrived. They don’t just hate OHVs, they hate the people who ride them. They hate oil rigs and the people who work on them. They hate cattle and the ranchers who own them.
And they aren’t too fond of me because I quote people accurately and I get my facts right.
Ms. Binyon credits her friends for all the things she likes about Moab while laying the blame for everything else at the feet of her ideological enemies. Aren’t “bicyclists and hikers” a part of the “long string of cars at Arches?” Don’t they stay at the same big motels and overnight rentals that Ms. Binyon loathes?
Environmentalists have been pushing an amenities economy in Moab for 20 years. This is the monster they’ve created. They can’t pick and choose the kind of tourist that is “acceptable” to their recreational tastes and deport the “deplorable” recreationists they deem offensive. This is the bed environmentalists chose to lie in.
There needs to be an honest and open conversation about the future of the Rural West. Ms. Binyon’s diversionary diatribe is as revealing as it is counterproductive.
Jim Stiles…yet again (from San Juan County, Utah)
PART 2…SIERRA CLUB LEADER BINYON SAYS “LOCALS” HAVE PRIORITY ON PUBLIC LANDS ISSUES???
When the Sierra Club’s Jean Binyon took me to task for my essay on the rural West and public lands, she surprisingly threw her support behind the “locals” who have otherwise been abused and reviled by other national and regional environmental groups.
Binyon claims that because I no longer live in Moab or Grand County that I sacrificed my right to express an opinion about issues affecting Moab or southeast Utah.
That’s an extraordinary concession for Mrs. Binyon to make and I’m sure the longtime local population is grateful for this stunning reversal. For decades, “Old Westerners” have insisted that their historic connections to the land should permit them priority in public lands decisions. Has Jean Binyon joined forces with the Sagebrush Rebellion? Or does she only oppose out of town opinions when they “get her ire up?” You can’t have it both ways, Mrs. Binyon.
Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.
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