NOTE: It’s been years since we received this kind of response
to a Zephyr story, but "The Greening of Wilderne$$" struck
a chord, harmonious or otherwise, with many of you. I’ve
included as many of the letters as possible and hope we can post
even more of them on the web site. Thanks to all of you who took
the time to write....JS
COMMENTS ON "THE GREENING OF WILDERNE$$"
Thanks for what is possibly the best article you’ve published
to date in that rag of yours ("The Greening of Wilderness in
Utah," Zephyr Vol. 17 No. 2, June/July 2005). I hope it stirs
up some healthy controversy and debate, though my fear is that it
may fall on deaf ears. I first set foot in Moab late one August night
in 1979 and still remember the impression the following day’s
first light on the red rock cliffs made upon me. It was the beginning
of a lifelong addiction to the sandstone of the Colorado Plateau,
where I subsequently lived for several years, some of them in the
service of your much beloved former employer the NPS. Though I’m
no longer a resident, I feed the sandstone addiction as many times
and for as many weeks a year as I can squeeze out of the drudgery
of working life. Depressed by the changes Moab has undergone in the
last 25 years, I haven’t been back since the mid-1990s, and
if I do return again, it will most likely be on the way to somewhere
else or in an increasingly hypothetical off-season. Sadly, Moab’s
fate is hardly unique, as you point out so eloquently in your article.
Especially disturbing is the growing use of the outdoors, in Moab
and elsewhere, as a proving ground for the latest backcountry toys,
be they 4x4’s, mountain bikes, or even backpacking gadgets.
Gear ought to be the means to an end, the enjoyment of wilderness
for its intrinsic value. However, the opposite is becoming more common,
as the outdoors get turned into a means for the organized, and often
competitive, mass consumption of gear. Instead of a refuge from consumerism,
wilderness is becoming just another place in which to consume.
It is nothing short of tragic that a wilderness movement inspired
in part by Abbey’s polemic against industrial tourism should
end up promoting what he denounced, or at the very least acquiescing
in it. Perhaps even more tragic is this movement’s growing
financial dependence on some of the very forces it was originally
created to fight. Let’s not forget that the wilderness movement
from the beginning opposed not only the destructive effects of extractive
industries like mining, oil drilling, logging, and ranching, but
also those of the rampant tourist development Abbey warned against.
To be fair, the frenetic growth of the industrial tourism we bemoan
would likely have happened even if the wilderness movement had actively
opposed it. Contrary to the frontier mythology of rugged individualism,
the old agricultural and extractive economy of the West always required
hefty federal government subsidies. It was never viable without such
subsidies, and is even less viable today than ever. Given the changes
in the national and world economies over the last few decades, some
sort of transition to tourism in the rural West was perhaps inevitable.
Like you, I find my disgust with cows on the federal dole rapidly
being overshadowed by disgust at the hordes of well-heeled "adventurers" in
search of someone to guide them through their next commodified "experience," and
at the luxury subdivisions sprouting all over the West like mushrooms
on the dung the welfare cows left behind. However, that one evil
has been overtaken by another, greater one, does not mean that a
return to the former evil would constitute progress, however much
less destructive it may seem by nostalgic comparison to the current
one. No doubt there is still room in the rural West for responsible
ranching and farming, but these will be museum pieces requiring substantial
and ongoing subsidy from the federal (or state or local) government,
an investment we could all agree to make for aesthetic or historical
preservation purposes. In exchange for that subsidy, however, those
engaged in such activities would have to agree not to trash the land
(and a few exceptions aside, their record on this is not especially
good, in spite of the decades of subsidies already received).
But this alone will not sustain even a small fraction of those who
currently live in places like Moab. Some other solution is required,
and hopefully your article will stimulate a discussion of what it
might be. Whatever it is, it will have to be more democratic and
egalitarian than the "amenities economy" currently touted
by many wilderness organizations, which do not seem very interested
in the question of amenities for whom and amenable to whom. The claim
that service economies benefit equally the wealthy being served and
the underpaid who serve them just doesn’t hold up and can only
hurt the cause of wilderness preservation in the long run. The Cloudrock
Resort Development you describe is both socially and environmentally
obscene, and if wilderness and environmental organizations fail to
actively oppose this sort of development, they will only confirm
the charges of elitism long made against them. The environmental
and wilderness movements will have to be for everyone, not just for
those who can afford the next guided eco-adventure or luxury lodge,
or they will be nothing at all. When wilderness becomes synonymous
with "exclusive playground for the rich," who will bother
to defend it?
In your article you have put your finger on what is wrong today
not only with environmental and wilderness organizations, but with
American liberalism in general. Thanks for putting in words (and
having the courage to publish them) the frustration I've been feeling
for years with the liberal version of environmentalism. My own politics
have always leaned several degrees left of liberal, but even so,
liberalism had generally seemed preferable to the alternative. However,
as liberals cling to certain privileges (like wilderness) for themselves,
while selling out much of the constituency that fought for securing
such privileges for everyone, I find it harder and harder to give
a damn whether liberals get elected or not. Clearly a lot of other
people do, too. Too many liberals have fallen for the false promises
of the deeply inegalitarian, free-markset logic of unrestrained consumer
capitalism, whose only values are profit and the growth that generates
it, usually at the expense of equality. But as Abbey also once observed, "growth
is the ideology of the cancer cell." Let’s hope we can
all remember this before both environmentalism and the land it seeks
to protect succumb to the cancer. Only by heeding Abbey’s dictum
can we begin to devise more rational, sustainable, and democratic
economies for the American West, based on stewardship of the land
and equality among its inhabitants rather than rampant consumerism
in the service of growth for its own sake.
San Diego, CA
MORE ON "GREENING"
Dear Mr. Stiles
Somewhat related to the sentiments of your especially fine story:
back in the 80's and 90's when I got out of the city more often than
I do now, I developed a preference for the deserts west of SLC out
in the Basin and Range over the Red Rock country around Moab. The
gentrification of wilderness had begun, I think, but its spirit did
not penetrate the sage desert. No prestige, no adventure out there.
Just being alone. Then back in town there wasn't much to talk about
with anyone. Just what I seemed to need. I do have one story: At
the spring equinox in 1987 near Lucin, I took a cup of tea to a spot
about 50 yards away from the tent to wait for the sun to come up.
The plan was to sit and watch the sun clear the eastern horizon--watch
it all the way up. Just exactly as the orb broke the line of the
horizon in the east a small pack of coyotes, maybe three, not far
behind me started barking and yipping with considerable energy. (I
was committed to watching the sun so I didn't turn around.) The sound
had a definite musical quality. They kept it up until the exact moment
when the orb cleared the horizon line, then stopped, all at once,
like a conductor's wand had come down. Half an hour earlier, two
ravens had flown over from northwest to southeast. W. Blake said, "The
wild deer wandering here and there/Saves the human soul from care." I
think that's about it. But I am writing to correct certain information
in your story about Patrick Diehl. Patrick, the natural politician's
antitype--his campaign slogan being "The Most Hated Man in Escalante"--did
not get 7 percent of the vote in the Second Congressional District
in 2002; he got one percent, 2,508 votes. Tori Woodward is his partner,
not his wife. They left Utah for Corsica, not the coast.
Love your work--
WAS ‘GREENING’ AN EXERCISE IN FUTILTY?
Everything you say in your long article is true; like Edward Abbey,
you aren't afraid of upsetting the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately,
you are still just railing against the inevitable-like the owner
of a house shouting epithets at a tornado which will ultimately tear
the house to shreds and cast its owner aside like so much Kleenex.
The fact is, that because this country has failed to control its
borders, and because the human species has failed to control its
numbers, in the next hundred years Utah and the entire Southwest
will simply be overrun by massive numbers of people. That is, if
we don't suffer a real nuclear war, terrorist strikes or plagues
(at least one of which is likely).
A combination of oil and gas drilling, overgrazing, condo-building,
mountain biking, ATVing, Jeeping, rock-climbing, hikers burying (or
not) their excrement, coal-fired power plants, wind farms, highways,
industrial manufacturing, outlet malls, etc. etc. will leave the
area a total loss to those who want "wilderness", if you
define that as a quiet place, untrammeled by man, with a substantial
number of native plants and animals. Our National Parks, from Yellowstone
to Arches, will still be there, but visiting them is already about
as "natural" as visiting the LA Zoo.
I live in Los Angeles. It used to be an OK place, with nice beaches,
good weather and efficient freeways. Now only a fool would go in
the water and "rush hour" is 24/7. (Still good weather
though). These hordes are coming to your corner of the world, and
soon. First among them will be me, of course, which is why I even
read your paper-I wanted to get a "handle" on the local
Aside from an unforgettable visit to Arches when I was 4 years old,
I first came to Utah as a time-share owner of a 60-foot houseboat
on Lake Powell. I didn't drive there in an SUV, I flew there in my
plane. And since the age of 10, I have considered myself an "environmentalist".
However, after my second visit to Lake Powell, I came across Crampton's
book detailing what was lost-Glen Canyon-and proceeded to do a lot
more reading, joined SUWA, Glen Canyon Institute, the Grand Canyon
Trust, and all the rest. I must have written hundreds of letters
and made hundreds of phone calls to legislators by now. I would gladly
agree never to visit Glen Canyon again if they would drain that reservoir
and restore that entire ecosystem. But they won't.
Right now, the oil/gas developers and the housing developers are "winning" because
the suitcases they bring to Washington D.C. have more money in them
than the suitcases SUWA or even the Sierra Club can bring. Money
always wins. But in the end, the simple number of people in this
country, and the need for them to live somewhere and recreate somewhere
will overpower the desert. Any politician in this country who actually
closed the borders and issued strict breeding limits on U.S. citizens
would commit political suicide, and Americans don't want their off-road
vehicles or hiking privileges taken away from them, either.
In the last 10 years, flying over the West, the scars upon the land
from all manner of human activity have increased exponentially. Southeast
Utah is a joke. Dirt roads everywhere. Only west of the Kaibab Forest
have I seen large stretches where it really looks like no one ever
So am I a hypocrite? No, I'm honest about my intentions. To the
extent that my moving to the Southwest increases the population,
I'll be part of the problem. I could do you all a favor and just
kill myself, but I'll pass on that idea. I promise not to build a
giant house. Actually, I wanted to move to Escalante, but from what
I had been able to glean from here, Patrick Diehl's experience, as
described in your article, was about what I expected would happen.
And in my case, as a female bodybuilder, I'd probably get an even
less friendly reception!
But solutions, we want solutions! Well, I have none except this:
those of us who value "wilderness" should spend as much
time enjoying what is left of it as we can. Try to live responsibly,
write your Senators and newspapers, but don't expect anything but
the almighty dollar to triumph. And know this: the younger generations,
today's kids, don't expect or want quiet anyway, they grew up around
lots of people, they grew up on videogames, they seem to be happy
to get their "nature" on top of an ATV. They want cell
phone access, wireless internet, and a fast-food outlet within a
mile or two. And that's what they'll get. And we'll be dead. And
THAT'S the truth.
Pacific Palisades, CA
WE NEED JAMES WATT!
Very nice piece of work indeed. Some of this I trace back to James
Watt. Loathe him or not –– I did, as a young ranger –– he
was witty and outrageous. All the big enviro groups battened off
the reactions he caused. We poured in the contributions, they addicted
to the funds and staffing levels that ‘‘fighting Watt’’ showered
into their coffers. Abbey was good on industrial tourism; this is
industrial environmentalism. It works the same way –– create
a need, and satisfy it.
Along the way, they’ve come to resemble him. Except for the
wit. Where Watt did it for fun, in a bear-baiting way, just could
not keep from jamming a stick into the hive, the big enviro groups
are doing it humorlessly, frothing the airwaves with ever more strident
stories and claims. It’s what keeps the money flowing. Those
who don’’t care for stridency, or like a ration of sense
in 5 bushels of alarms and declamation, have gradually dropped off.
My personal breaking point was when National Audubon arrogated credit
to itself, in a self-congratulatory ‘‘story’’ in
its magazine, for saving the South Platte River from Two Forks Reservoir.
In the rush to self-aggrandizement, they managed to miss just about
every major player in that situation. It was all about the funding,
and to keep that up, you have to have a demon (preferably in the
White House) and a series of crises, each worse than the previous.
Part of the push to wilderness is sensible, unspectacular management.
If, for instance, logging roads were 3 meters wide rather than 10,
and were really closed when they weren’t actively cutting;
and if you could trust the Forest Service not to do clearcuts on
40-degree slopes and to do the sort of selective cutting that a good
fire mitigation specialist fosters, there’d be a lot less need
for wilderness. But they aren’t and you can’’t,
so it seems the only way to produce an aesthetic of management in
the government agencies is to strip them of the power to destroy.
A casualty of industrial environmentalism is what I would call the
idea of the pastoral. If it ain’t 100,000 acres of designated
wilderness, it ain’t shit. Moab is attractive not so much for
the red rocks as for all the roses, and the agricultural fields and
orchards sprinkled through it –– the long-term residents
of the city get sneered at a lot for their benighted pro-extraction
views, but they had an aesthetic that fitted people into enclaves
of beauty that mingled artificial, natural, and productive. No it
wasn’t wild, nor yet wilderness, but it was beautiful and it
was quiet and it maintained a notable diversity of wildlife and birdlife.
I don’t think either the developer set or the wilderness set
publicly values that aesthetic, based as it is on the idea that in
all aspects of your life, you can fit in.
A PERSONAL EARLY SUWA HISTORY
Thank you for writing the informative and insightful article. I'm
writing to add to the early history of SUWA and to put in a good
word for their direction of growth even though I was booted from
the board of directors by the director.
In the early 80's Gordon Anderson, then living in Moab, contacted
me about the Federal Highway's plans to build and pave the Burr Trail
and 80 miles of road on either side. Their plans involved doing to
Waterpocket Fold what they did to Comb Ridge on highway 95 east of
Blanding. I had just met him and Lucy Wallingford who held a meeting
about the wilderness study process in Moab. The three of us formed
the Save the Burr Trail Committee.
A couple of years later Clive Kincaid and Robert Weed drove into
the area all wild-eyed about how beautiful it was. Clive had been
a BLM wilderness manager in Arizona. I went over the Wilderness Study
maps with Clive and showed him how the BLM had illegally eliminated
vast areas from consideration because of uranium claims and hydrocarbon
leases in the Escalante area. I had been working with The Utah Wilderness
Association on the Forest Service Wilderness bill and was under the
impression that Dick Carter had traded most qualifying wilderness
on Boulder Mountain for the Uinta wilderness in the FS wilderness
Clive said, 'To hell with Dick Carter. We'll form the Southern Utah
Wilderness Association." I disagreed with taking a contentious
approach with fellow environmentalists and insisted it be called
the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. We used the Save The Burr
Trail Committee mailing list and started the organization. The board
of directors was made up of people from other towns in Southern Utah
and was supposed to be a grass roots local group.
Clive, Robert and I were promptly hung in effigy in Escalante and
Robert's house was vandalized. When the county illegally bulldozed
Long Canyon, east of the Burr Trail, I was jailed with a $250,000
bail for allegedly vandalizing four bulldozers (a county commissioner
plot). Later, Clive then in Salt Lake running SUWA tore up my $50
donation check (note from Sue: I made him cross my name off the check)
and kicked me off the board.
As SUWA became an urban environmental group its membership swelled.
When SUWA was "Grass Roots", we would hold a meeting in
Torrey and be met by angry loggers, then when SUWA went urban they
would have a rally in Salt Lake with a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.
SUWA evolved to incorporate lawyers and infiltrate Washington and
became the most effective environmental group for the Canyon Country.
They have uncovered and defeated many threats that would have gone
Sure, there are many ways to help the environment: The Grand Canyon
Trust has done more than any group to help the Escalante River by
buying out many of the grazing allotments. The development and valuation
of the west is as inevitable as the tide. As Jim Stiles the ranger
looked with scorn on the crowds of bikers scurrying like hot ants
across the slickrock, the conquering Park rangers were glared at
by the miners who populated Moab filling the bars, who ignored the
stockmen that shook their heads at those who swarmed over their land
that had been cut by arroyos from thousands of sheep and cattle brought
in by their Grandfathers who hunted down Chief Posey, living on Elk
Ridge, for eating 'Slow Elk' that had replaced the wild game.
One can't help but be filled with melancholy or worse at seeing
30 years of change in the canyon country. The only thing that doesn't
change is change itself. And as the ranches turn to ranchettes, the
highways become lined with businesses, and the back-country gets
invaded by ATV's and crowded with hikers, I only hope that people
will slow down enough to love the beauty of this living land and
by loving it will learn to love more. The human scene is only a temporary
blight upon the geologic life that remains unfazed like the walls
of Glen Canyon that emerged above canyon bottoms newly choked with
fresh lush life.
"IF INDEED IT WAS WRITTEN..." SIERRA CLUB IMPLIES
I'd appreciate it if you could send me a copy of the Feb 2001 letter
noted in this article and sent to Michael Liss regarding Cloudrock,
as well as his response. I have read through Minutes and Notes from
the Glen Canyon Group's Local & Political Issues Committee from
September 2000 through mid-year 2001, and could not find a copy of
this correspondence. I did find copies of Feb 2001 cover letters
I sent to Joette Langianese and Jerry McNeeley, with enclosures of
State Clearinghouse notices regarding SITLA's plans for Castle Valley & Johnsons
Up On Top, as well as HB121 (Michael Styler) on SITLA's management
role. I also had copies of many letters sent by Committee member
Bill Love, on his own behalf but reflecting Committee discussion
regarding water, sewer, open space, downzoning and related issues.
Our January 18th, 2001, Minutes state: "Since the MCA (Moab
Citizens Alliance) is doing such a good job of rallying outright
opposition to Cloudrock, the L&PI committee will draft a letter
to Liss outlining issues which we believe are not being addressed
adequately." (Two other members were asked to draft this letter.)
For some reason, I don't have a copy of this letter, if it was indeed
written and sent. In fact, the February 15 Minutes don't mention
or include the letter.
Many of our members were active with MCA, and one of them was among
the three who signed onto the MCA suit which was recently heard by
the Appeals Court in Moab. Taking a public stance and waging a media
campaign are rarely the most effective approaches.
It is often more productive to work behind the scenes, attending
meetings and hearings, providing information to decision-makers such
as commissioners, council and board members, and acting as individuals
to carry out a joint strategy. Please e-mail me these letters or
snail mail to us.
Mike & Jean Binyon
EDITOR’S NOTE: Copies of the letters were sent to the Binyons
on the same day their email arrived. I can’t recall a time
in 16 years when any reader suggested that I fabricated a letter
to substantiate a point of view. For that reason, despite objections
from the Binyons, I have printed their letter in its entirety....JS
FROM THE MAN WHO SELLS SECRETS FOR 15 BUCKS
This email is meant to be a comment for publication in the next
FEEDBACK section of the Zephyr!!! I would like to thank Mr. Stiles
for mentioning my website, and its foremost outdoor program 'The
Circle of Friends', in his article 'The Greening of the Wilderne$$
in Utah History'. The publicity generated has been large, positive
and welcome. We work hard to make Southern Utah enjoyable and accessible
to those who are interested in its outdoor opportunities. We look
forward to providing the public with information, maps and route
descriptions to all of Mr. Style's beloved and clandestine places.
With our help there is no need to spend years as a local resident
or National Park employee to gain the maximum value from outdoor
recreation in Southern Utah. We look forward to reading future rants
from Mr. Style's.
Editor’s Note: Thanks for making my point Shane....Yes, there’s
not even a need to appreciate the beauty of the canyons...just send
FROM A RURAL UTAHN WHO LOVES WILDERNESS
Yes, I finished your article (over the course of two days). First,
a little background: I was born and raised in the quaint little town
of Tropic, Utah adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park. My family
has occupied the greater Bryce Valley area for at least five generations.
My great Grandpa was the infamous county-commissioner/LDS stake-president/road-building/sheep-herding/patriarch/father
of ten Sam Pollock. An arch near Hackberry Canyon bares his name
(that sort of infamous). So you get the idea of what sort of environment
I was raised in. I’m proud of my heritage and I love my family.
But "wilderness" was a dirty word. However, as a child
I lived outdoors. Bryce Canyon was literally my backyard. I spent
much time "punching" cows as my Dad held grazing permits
on the Kaiparowits Plateau and Dixie National Forest. I hunted, fished,
hiked, built huts in the foothills of Bryce Canyon, etc. I fully
appreciated "wilderness" without realizing a name was attached
to it. But it was still a dirty word.
After high school I spent a typical Utah-boy, two-year stint overseas
in the country of Scotland. Five subsequent years of college and
seasonal employment with the National Park Service and Bureau of
Land Management ensued. I now find myself working as a backcountry
ranger for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Escalante,
Utah (I didn’t plan it that way; it just happened). After years
of reading, hiking, thinking, and—yes—solitude, I consider
myself a "wilderness advocate." However, since this "conversion" occurred
I’ve been pissed off at both sides. I’m sitting on the
fence amidst this polarization with a panging urge to slap both enviros
and ranchers in the face—several good, hard slaps mind you.
They just don’t get it and it frustrates the hell out of me.
This is coming from someone who has dedicated his life to these
damn landscapes. A good friend of mine mentioned once that these
landscapes don’t touch her heart; conversely, they reach in,
grab hold of her heart, and squeeze. I echo her sentiments one-hundred
percent. But the change is killing me. I hope you’re right
in your assumption that "Escalante, Utah is eons away from becoming
the next New West town." FYI, A Hogi Yogi just arrived near
the entrance of Bryce Canyon; it’s happening. I recently viewed
a photograph of my hometown (Tropic) from the mid-1980s (when I was
happy and oblivious in elementary school). To gaze upon this as it
appeared twenty years ago and to consider what it looks like now
literally evoked tears. Bowdie wept.
I’ve often thought of gathering my frustrations into words.
Your words struck me. Now I’m even more inspired. I know you’re
often accused of whining but you said what needed saying in a pragmatic
fashion. Hopefully those standing on each side of this pragmatic
fence we’re sitting on will listen…dammit. Thanks for
KUDOS TO NED MUDD
I just read Ned Mudd's article "Welcome to the the Dimformation
Age" and am truly inspired...inspired enough to subscribe! My
husband and I usually try to pick up every issue at Main Street Bagels
in Grand Junction, CO...but we are now subscribing just to make sure
we don't miss anything and to support something real/local.
It is the only thing I've read for a while that is worth reading;
hell, I'd pick it up just for the cartoon characters! Thanks for
the inspiration (and if you like to print my email, fine by me)
Grand Jct, CO
MORE PRAISE FOR MUDD
Stiles---once agin, excellent issue- ned mudd is just my kind of
curmudgeon (sp?). It would be great if he could do a regular column.
The article on the greening of the movement- you hit the nail on
the head, dude. Exactly the thoughts on the issue I've been having
these past years but of course cannot articulate like the stilesmaster.
I'm gonna pass it on to my ecofriends for their comments. keep up
the good work!
MORE RUMINATIONS ON THE GREENING OF WILDERNE$$
These questions have bothered me for years. As an artist I'm aware
that developers are always hunting the next trendy art district(cover
your trail.) I don't have the answers but I need to respond. I do
feel some regret because I embraced the ideas that encouraged this
trend,but we need to be careful before we place blame. This could
be just a new variation of gentrification or suburban sprawl taken
to it's perfectionist extreme. Chambers of Commerce have been dreaming
of this for generations(300 days of sunshine a year.) Ski resorts
without the snow.
If this is true then we have bumped into that ugly troll under the
bridge called the class struggle. America isn't about equality,it's
about getting rich and looking down on the less fortunate. The most
obvious way is to build a big house on the hill. If you need to prove
something to the world or make a statement or just own the view,you
may be compensating for some self-esteem issues, get some help. If
you live in a custom home with no neighbors or no sidewalk you might
be elitist, search your soul. Do you feel a need for privacy fencing
or a wall,a private road or no tresspassing signs? Don't call a realtor,this
is a problem for a mental health professional.
St. Louis, MO
TRYING TO FIND SOME BALANCE
I just finished reading Jim's piece on the evolution of the capitalistic
development of Moab and it's impact on the canyonlands, but I wish
I had waited until next month to read it. Background. Three years
ago my brother and I broke loose to drive the tourist attractions
of Utah--Arches, Zion, Bryce, Powell..... You can count us among
the multitudes of flatlanders who love your rugged neighborhood;
we're coming back next week to raft the Cataract down to Hite; and
After months of browsing all of the outfitters in Moab, taking into
consideration that our somewhat advanced ages, we opted for sort
of the "Cadillac" version of a rafting trip, our first,
and perhaps only, down the Colorado. I don't have to explain to you
Moabans what I'm talking about, do I? Anyhow, after reading Jim's,
sometimes very moving, editorial, I pondered. What will be the depth
of my footprint in Utah's wilderness? I'm going to be one of the
1000's of transient humans jamming that stretch. Is my impact any
different than theirs? I like to think that our collective footprint,
as compared to the other "activities" that Jim set forth
in his editorial, is much shallower. We're floating on a river and
camping on its banks. What harm is that? I'm really not sure. In
one of Abbey's stories he described a place that he discovered down
in Arizona somewhere, and he wrote that he wasn't going to tell us
where it was. Katy Lee poignantly described many times, how she felt
like an intruder, almost regretting that she had walked into one
of Glenn Canyon's secret places. I'm only hoping that I'll be traveling
with people with this on their mind.
SQUARE FEET VERSUS BTUs
Re: "Did anyone (Pitkin County Commission) think to
limit the number of square feet on new home or re-model constructions?"
Back in the mid-Ninties, when I was living in Telluride, the Pitkin
County Commissioners DID limit the size of new construction. They
set it at a maximum of 20000 square feet. Shortly thereafter, Prince
Bandar (Bandar Bush, the oil sheik buddy of the Bushes) purchased
two adjacent lots in Aspen and built a 20000 square foot house on
EACH lot. The houses were then connected by an above ground passageway
and a subterranean passageway.
So the Pitkin County Commissioners in their own dopey little way
were 'trying to do something'. But you can't checkmate someone with
unlimited money, the will and the ego to do whatever they want to
Santa Fe, NM
OMISSIONS & ADDITIONS TO THE ‘GREENING’ STORY
Dear Letter to the Editor:
I just finished reading your tome on the shortcomings of the environmentalists’ strategy
for preserving wilderness, or rather absence of strategy, that is,
your observation that none of them make a peep about the rampant
development. You attribute this to several factors --- they were
the ones who promoted ecotourism to start with as a means of preserving
the wilderness but now that it has gotten out of hand --- either
by an excess of people in general or by its extension into motor
vehicle usage --- they say nothing because those making a buck off
this new industry cleverly fund the environmental coffers and the
environmentalist touted this economic strategy for years. I think
that’s succinctly sums up the article, right?
In an article of that length I think it was incumbent upon you to
mention a recent huge success, the Castle Rock Collaboration’s
momentous defeat of private development in Castle Valley, right?
I mean that was a great and enormous victory. Admittedly, the article
mostly focused on the adventure tourism market in Utah, but you made
a side point that residential development is an outcome perforce
of the eco-tourism industry. So it is worth noting that victory.
I’m not sure if you are advocating against the amenities business
in toto. I think people should come to these areas as I believe it
will induce them to want to preserve them upon seeing their beauty
--- but to this you point out the 500 tours in the remote areas of
Arches, that is, the numbers are destroying the beauty. But the counterpart
to that is quotas. Only allow so many people entry per day or per
week into Arches through the front door at least. Sustainable tourism
it is called. Why be against non-motorized recreationist in toto?
Ultimately I 100% agree with you that it is baffling that the eco-groups
are not fighting the commercial development. The commodification
of the wilderness to preserve it ---- like burning the Vietnamese
villages to save them. The illogic of Western civilization. I love
your point that the New West contingent are so entrenched in their
Comforts that they do not recognize the enemy within. Some of your
writing is so poignant --- building homes "far bigger than anything
we’d ever need to be happy" What a line.
You write, "How can we condemn oil exploration when our own
consumption of oil is staggering?" Harper’s had an excellent
article entitled The Oil We Eat, available at http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/080904G.shtml , and it’s worth reading.
This is a whole different subject, but what about the eco-warriors
who destroy ski recreational land development plots like in Aspen,
SUVs sitting in dealership parking lots, and the like? Now these
are people taking action. It would have been interesting for you
to at least comment on activists who bring results on the very point
your are making – to take action against the those who directly
or indirectly adversely impact wilderness for amenities --- although
that topic would open a can of worms, an age-old discussion on tactics,
means justifying the ends and all that EF! business.
Circle of Friends: I’m shocked you exposed the name, providing
the guy’s exasperating website publicity?!! Kinda defeating
the point since Circle of Friends is so google-able.
To your credit, you criticize the very people who provide advertising
to the paper, primarily the adventure tours companies but also all
the enterprises it spawns that would never have sprouted without
the commodification of the wilderness -- their trickling tributaries,
such as cafes, bakeries, the art shops, realtors, etc. You take a
risk that they will withdraw their money which provides you the very
forum for a view that attacks them. Either you have massive cajones
or you’ve been around long enough that you’re confident
most folks are accustomed to your forthrightness and grant you your
opinion. The village gadfly, if you will.
Castle Valley / Athens, Greece
Thanks for your addendums and observations. Re: "Circle of
Friends," I felt that the story lacked credibility if I didn’t
identify the culprit. I also have to believe that people taking the
time to read all those words are not doing it in hopes of finding
$15 "secrets." I think that any newspaper willing to express
an opinion must be willing to "bite the hand that feeds it" and
hope for the best. At the very least, environmental organizations
who accept funding from wealthy individuals (not to mention corporations)
must be willing to do likewise...JS
ENOUGH ADVENTURE COMPANIES ALREADY!
We recently completed a 12 day visit to Moab, our third
in the last 12 years or so. The changes since 1993 are startling
as you have been documenting so well in the Zephyr. Between our first
and second trips, there was an explosion in the number of hotels,
and a small increase in the number of restaurants. On this visit,
the number of "Adventure" companies really caught us off
guard. On our initial trip, there were a few rafting companies; I
don't remember any climbing outfitters, nor do I recall any commercial
group off road tours. Off road driving seemed to be limited to drive
your own or rent locally. Main street seemed very familiar, however.
Which brings me to my point. With the demographics of aging baby
boomers, I think many of these adventure companies will be struggling
to stay in the black. As a 55 year old, I acknowledge that my risk
taking days are behind me. One good fall on the Slickrock trail was
all it took to convince me. We rafted the Westwater, did some canyoneering,
and the teenagers climbed. The adults enjoyed the hiking and the
tamer biking as much as the tours. But the reality is, we're going
to be moving at a slower pace from here on out. With an aging population,
I'll predict that the number of adventure seekers will be slowly
declining. I'll also predict that there will be no need to build
more motels. There will still be the thrill seekers, just not as
many. Other than big weekend events, I think many motel rooms will
go unsold. I believe (and hope) Moab has reached a saturation point
in the number of commercial enterprises that can support themselves.
We love the energy of Moab. May all in business be able to keep doing
what they love to do. But I don't think anyone should seriously think
about starting another bike shop, adventure company, rafting outfit,
or motel. The demographics are against it. As for us, we'll probalby
be back someday for a shorter stay looking for the canyon country
qualities Abbey described that brought us here in the first place.
As always, keep up the good fight,
p.s. What the heck was that guy thinking when he built the chairlift
near the portal?
Well Stiles, you've outdone yourself again.
The caca will take wing over this one, no doubt. I'm a bit dubious
though about the assertion that, until recently, environmentalists
have worked from a biocentric perspective of nature as its own reward,
and that only now have we been sucked into the black hole of nature
as "amenity". My memory is that mainstream enviros have
always pushed the recreation angle. The biocentric crowd have always
been marginal freaks in our culture. Even Thoreau, in his own way,
talked about his time at Walden largely as a quality of life issue.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing to think about what we get from wilderness.
Of course, when that legitimate self-centeredness gets ramped up
into an "amenities" economy... Well, you've covered that
in painful detail.
You have all but stated the core problem: We will never have a healthy
relationship with our wild remote country while our urban lifestyle
is so inherently consumptive and unsustainable. Most enviros have
some vision of sustainable ecotopia, if you ask them. But somehow,
that's always on the back burner behind the fight over rural land.
Meanwhile rural residents, to no avail, have been consistently challenging
us on that very hypocrisy, with every good right and reason. After
all, the ranchers, miners, etc. have taken up the challenge of deriving
their sustenance directly from the flesh of the land, instead of
drawing a paycheck through seven degrees of separation. As environmentally
destructive as it often is, nonetheless they bear this challenge;
and that is no theory. Radical earthies show more integrity in recognizing
the beast, but have yet to grapple it. It's too big. Every stitch
of clothing or bite of food is almost invariably produced through
some environmental devastation. Amenities, indeed.
Here on the Wasatch, pastures and vacant lots have been getting
converted into condos and strip malls at warp 10. Living in cookie-cutter
neighborhoods with cookie-cutter neighbors and cookie-cutter jobs
and chain stores, it's no wonder urban dwellers drive 1,000 miles
to bike ten. That's no mystery.The question is why in the hell aren't
they biking around town? I gave up my car 24 years ago and haven't
looked back. My bike is my transportation. But when I get to where
the road ends and the trail begins, I park the bike. Bikes are too
fast. You don't see the hummingbird hovering in your face, or the
lizard pasted dead on the trail by knobby treads. There's too much
you miss, and too much you DON'T miss.
Speaking of speed, how furious some car drivers can get when they're
compelled by a bike to dampen their precious automotive velocity
for even a heartbeat! And they usually have some bumpersticker like "TREES
ARE THE ANSWER". I mention this because Stiles wonders why people
seek ramped up eco-adventures instead of quiet, solitude and spirituality.
You miss the point, my man. These people are accustomed to hurtling
themselves around in insulated wheeled coffins, immersed in radio,
cell phone chatter, and all manner of consumer noise.For them, the
Float Fly & Flout Death Eco-Adventure Tour IS solitude. It IS
spirituality and remoteness. Sorry Stiles, it's worse than even you
That being said, I have the craziest idea that Moab, in particular,
might be able to turn a lot of this around. Moab is blessed (or possibly
cursed) by a phenomenally diverse and talented population for its
size. Let me put a rather daring concept on the table, just to look
at: Permaculture. There's gobs of discussion about what that even
means. But consider: This is desert. How about reusing water from
sinks and bathtubs? Saves money; saves water. A truly conservative
county or city government could get behind that. What to do with
the water? Perhaps make a deal with the developers. Dwellings can
remain. The parking lots go and get replaced by orchards and gardens.
Obviously, that leaves many details to be worked out. But imagine
the look on the eco-adventurer who checks into their motel room to
see a sign: DO NOT PUT ANYTHING DOWN THE SINK OR TUB THAT YOU DO
NOT WANT ON THE LOCALLY GROWN ORGANIC PRODUCE YOU WILL BE EATING
HERE. THAT'S EXACTLY WHERE IT GOES. Moab is small enough that this
type of truly eco-conscious advance could be made community wide.
Yet it is big enough that such an achievement would be world class
and would attain worldwide attention. Believe it or not, some people
will actually pay to be shown that they can reuse their graywater.
You can't export the canyon country; you can only trash it all by
trying. But permaculture can, and should, be exported back to cities
Finally, a word of caution for our redoubtable Stiles. In his History
of the Peloponnessian War, Thucydides recounts how the good people
of Corcyra started killing each other as the Greek world began dividing
itself between Athens and Sparta. Those who did not want to take
sides were the first to get it. He wrote about this 2,500 years ago
as though it were already a well established pattern. You tread a
dangerous path, amigo. Do not let the fist in your face distract
you from the knife headed for your back.
Salt Lake City
MORE ‘GREENING’ OBSERVATIONS/CORRECTIONS
Jim, Patrick Diehl received 1.14% of the Congressional vote in 2002
and .63% in 2004. His showing in the election (and his on-the-ground
impact in southern Utah), is far from the seven percent you referenced
in your article. In truth, it was not a very big Diehl. Those who
oppose the designation of large tracts of wilderness in southern
Utah couldn't have found a better foil than Diehl. His over-the-top
rhetoric and dismissive attitude simply put flesh and bone to every
stereotype about environmentalists held in southern Utah. Great article.