In the summer of 1985, no intrusion on the red desert of southeast Utah seemed as ugly or intrusive as a seismic truck and a goddamn cow.

I was a seasonal ranger at Arches National Park and watched helplessly and grumbled futilely as monstrous seismic vehicles, loaded with tons of high tech equipment, crept ponderously but surely across the valleys and mesas adjacent to the park boundary. The seismic crews crushed everything in their path; the result, years and decades later, is a patchwork of intersecting "roads" when viewed from the air, that begin nowhere and end nowhere. Future civilizations may wonder just what in the hell we were doing. Perhaps they'll think they were alien landing strips. Or perhaps Eric Von Daniken was wrong about mysteries like the Nacza Plain. All those confusing lines were perhaps simply the handy work of Inca seismic trucks during the planet's last industrial incarnation.

Cows wandered frequently into the arches; they fouled the water in Courthouse Wash and, for reasons I could never explain, faithfully and regularly made their way up the park road (always on the right side) to Balanced Rock, where they seemed to congregate near the viewpoint until local rancher Don Holyoak came up with his truck and removed them. It was the park's responsibility to fence the cows out but never ending budget constraints made that task nearly impossible. And so, for years, the cattle shuffled in and shuffled out. I grew to loathe them.

Environmentalists in Southeast Utah, as elsewhere in the Intermountain West, viewed the battle to save its dwindling wilderness lands in very black and white terms. And with good reason. Twenty years ago, the Rural West was still a vast, mostly unpopulated expanse of deserts and mountains and prairies, dotted with tiny communities that had changed little in a century, which depended mostly on the extractive industries for survival and which might get a small boost from tourism during the summer. Even in tourist vortexes like Jackson, Wyoming, gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks, the tourist season barely lasted three months. They called the off-season in Jackson, from Labor Day to Memorial Day, the "cocktail hour." It was that quiet.

Tourists could be a terrible annoyance, but their impacts were temporary and their visits were limited. And while their numbers seemed overwhelming at the time, they did have the decency to leave. Even in desert recreation meccas like Moab, the crowds had thinned to a trickle by October and the canyon country had time to recover. The lands didn't need "management" for tourist impacts; they simply needed to be left alone.

And so environmentalists devoted their time and energy and resources to fight the threats to wildlands they thought were most persistent and enduring--mining, timber, and cattle. In 1983, the Reagan Administration's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, came to represent everything environmentalists feared from a government, in partnership with Big Business, that saw land as simply a commodity to exploit for its natural resources.

We protested the accelerated energy exploration programs of the 80s, the extensive chaining of thousands of acres of pinyon-juniper forests to expand rangelands for ranchers, the destruction of forest lands in the mountains that saw the construction of new roads and the loss of wildlife habitat. We thought that if these lands could be spared further degradation by these huge industries, the West would simply be left alone.

Our assumptions were tragically wrong.


In the late 1980s, the conflict between the Rural and Urban West came more clearly into focus. Here in Utah, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, formed in the mid-80s as a grassroots local environmental organization, changed its strategy and began to abandon its local emphasis. Wilderness, SUWA argued, was not a local issue. The BLM wilderness lands in Utah were owned by all Americans, and consequently they deserved a greater voice in determining how those lands should be used. SUWA's membership skyrocketed, jumping from 2000 in 1985, to 20,000 by the mid-1990s. It argued that New Yorkers and Californians and Floridians had just as much of a stake in the future of Utah wilderness as a fourth generation rancher in Escalante. Never before had the argument been so polarized. And yet the polarization had just begun.

In the 1980s, the idea of wilderness needed no justification for most of us--it was simply the right thing to do. Environmentalists believed, perhaps a bit simplistically, that they were part of a crusade, a cause as pure and unselfish as any great social issue of the 19th or 20th Centuries. We believed that there should be places on this planet spared from the Hand of Man. Wilderness should be saved for the rocks and the trees and the animals that inhabited those lands. If wilderness offered a recreational benefit or an economic advantage, or even spiritual enrichment, those opportunities were secondary achievements. And beyond the legal designation of wilderness areas, environmentalists strove to raise the level of sensitivity to all lands.

Rural Westerners recoiled at the idea of wilderness designation, as non-motorized recreational tourism increased and small Western towns felt the impact of those increases. Wilderness proposals were met with anger and fear; if large tracts of land were shut down to any "mechanized vehicle" as the Wilderness Act mandated, the collapse of the Rural West was inevitable.

And not just its job market--the economics of the West was always a primary concern, but there was more to it than just the shutdown of public lands to extractive industries like oil and gas. They feared the loss of a lifestyle that not many urban Americans can understand, much less appreciate. The Rural Westerners may not have appreciated the dynamics and interplay of cryptobiotic soil communities or the sexual habits of a Blackfooted ferret, but they understood another component of wilderness far better than most members of the Sierra Club. Rural Westerners understood Solitude.

City dwellers could not fathom the isolation and remoteness of most rural western towns or comprehend just what the people who resided in these communities did. For the better part of a century Rural Westerners basked in the emptiness and solitude of the American West. Now suddenly, the onslaught of forces dedicated to "saving" the very places they had assumed would always remain empty and mostly untouched seemed impossible.

By 1990, the rhetoric had been ramped up on both sides."They want to lock it up for the elite few!" was the battle cry of most rural Utahns at the turn of the decade. That spring, anti-wilderness advocates presented a study paid for by the Utah Association of Counties that attempted to prove that wilderness designation would have dire effects on the rural economy of the state. The study's author, Dr. George Leaming, concluded in his report that designating 5.1 million acres of BLM lands as wilderness in Utah would cost $13.2 billion over the next 25 years. Leaming's estimates depended on two assumptions: What economic activities would have happened in a non-wilderness area? and how would these activities be reduced or eliminated by wilderness designation? His assumptions were extraordinary; the Leaming Report was based on the notion that without wilderness, 80% of all speculative minerals would be recovered and sold by 2015, and that with wilderness designation, all grazing, all mining, and all recreational visitations would cease. Completely.

The Leaming Report was easy to dismiss and other studies clearly showed that the numbers were extravagant. Three years earlier, Republican Governor Norm Bangerter created a Resource Development Coordinating Committee to consider the impacts of wilderness and could find no sign of economic disaster waiting in the wings. The report noted, "It is unlikely that exploration or development would occur in most wilderness study areas even without wilderness designation."

Billboard in Moab. 2005


But wilderness proponents were compelled to take the argument a step further. Supporting wilderness offered certain economic advantages that environmentalists believed should not be overlooked. Enviros pointed to a 1987 study by the University of Idaho that compared economic growth in rural western counties that contain federal wilderness, versus the growth of non-wilderness counties. The study concluded, "Counties which contain or are adjacent to federally designated wilderness are among the fastest growing in the United States."

Or as Lance Christie wrote in a 1990 Zephyr article, in behalf of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club: "Studies done on the economic impacts of wilderness on local economies consistently support the idea that...designated wilderness in an area acts like an advertisement that says: 'Here is a treasure house of environmental amenities! And, they'll be here tomorrow because some treasure-hunter with a bulldozer can't come and tear them up.' This advertising attracts people economists call 'amenity migrants,' causing twice the economic growth in rural areas with designated wilderness than in areas without wilderness."

Christie concluded, "The migrants responsible for this growth are younger, highly educated and move in to enjoy environmental amenities rather than because of economic opportunities...Once there, these energetic and educated people develop their own economic opportunities."

SUWA, the state's leading environmental organization, weighed in on the issue. It asked the question: "What is the economic impact of wilderness designation?" and had a ready answer. "Rural Utah counties that have booming economies, such as Grand and Washington, are growing because the public land, open space, and scenery provide the setting for a healthy tourist industry with an influx of people who want to live in such a spectacular setting. The future of Utah's economy lies in preservation of its wildlands and quality of life, as opposed to promotion of an economy based on the extractive industries."

The economic message from almost all environmental groups was bewildering and a bit duplicitous. While environmentalists attempted to suggest that the economics of wilderness would benefit rural Utah, their wilderness economics strategy would never augment or benefit the rural citizens who already lived there. Ranchers and oil field workers didn't have the money or the skills or the inclination to invest in tourist-based businesses. What was being proposed and embraced by the environmental community was a new economy that would simply destroy the old lifestyle of the rural west and replace it with a new one. Where would the rural westerners go? Perhaps they could get jobs at McDonald's or the Motel 6--environmentalists were vague on the fine points.

And what of these "booming economies" in places like Moab? Did the explosive growth of "amenity migrants" carry their own environmental risks? By the early 1990s, places like Moab had indeed exploded. Visitation in nearby national parks doubled in five years. Adjacent BLM lands were hardest hit. Visitor use jumped from about 130,000 in 1985 to over a million in a little more than a decade. Environmentalists said little of these new kinds of staggering impacts and the exploitation that brought them.

But Lily Mae Noorlander did. Ms. Noorlander grew up in Moab, lived through good times and bad, reveled in the quiet days when Moab was a sleepy orchard town, watched Moab come alive in the 50s with Charlie Steen and the Uranium Boom, only to see it go bust in the 60s--she had seen it all. But Lily Mae had never seen anything like this. To her, recreational exploitation was the Mother of all Obscenities.

In a letter to the Deseret News in 1994, Ms. Noorlander wrote: "Long-forgotten ranches, abandoned decades ago, are now front page fare in the full-color marketing pieces of this lucrative industry...Some of the direct consequences of their promotional activities, aside from generating profit from calendars, hiking exposes and membership dues include: more foot trails, bike trails, garbage, human waste, instructional signs, regulations, law enforcement patrols, costs to local government for crowd control, and a general loss of peace and serenity to the plaid clad, waffle stomper crowd.

"The spirit of wilderness," concluded Ms. Noorlander, "has already been stolen by those who profess to be its savior, but who have, in fact, trampled the life out of its essential serenity and solitude in an orgy of self-indulgence."

A few months later, as if to confirm Ms. Noorlander's greatest fears and suspicions, a letter was published in the Salt Lake Tribune and titled, "There's Money in Wilderness." The author was Randall Tolpinrud, president of Groupwest Properties Corporation in Salt Lake City. He wrote, in part:

"As a real-estate developer and homebuilder in Utah, I have a very strong interest in maintaining the long-term economic foundation of this region...Because of this conviction, I am concerned over the wilderness proposal suggested by our congressional delegation.

"I support the Utah Wilderness Coalition's proposal for 5.7 million acres (in 2003, the proposal is up to 9.3 million) of wilderness primarily because the long-term economic potential which wilderness designation will provide this state.

"The West is changing dramatically. Lands from Montana to New Mexico are rapidly being developed by people like myself in response to growing migration and population...We must look years and decades ahead. Wilderness designation will grow to represent a powerful economic opportunity as the West's open spaces shrivel from development. Utah, with its unique beauty and abundant national parks, could be positioned to reap significant economic rewards from masses of people seeking solitude in a wilderness experience from their fast-paced lives."

It was an extraordinary letter. Mr Tolpinrud was saying in effect, "Look...people like me are going to develop most of the West's open space. If you can save what we promoters can't get our hands on, we can make money from that as well." There was something contradictory about his image of "masses of people seeking solace in wilderness." How long would it take and how big would the 'masses' have to become before the purity of those wildlands was so degraded, they could no longer be called wilderness?

And that is the issue here.

I expected some sort of response from at least one of the Utah environmental organizations, but there were none forthcoming. The silence was deafening and has been growing louder ever since. In their quest to run up their membership rolls, and especially as the cost of lobbying Congress grew ever more expensive, groups like SUWA were hard-pressed to refuse the support of anyone, no matter how tainted their reasons for supporting wilderness were. What mattered was money. And lots of it. It wasn't a matter of environmentalists gone greedy or corrupt. They simply saw no other way to push their wilderness agenda than to play the high-dollar game. Just like the other guys. The danger was in becoming just like the other guys.

Meanwhile, the impacts from millions of those well-meaning "amenity clients" became more obvious with each passing season. Resource damage from hundreds of thousands of bicyclists, as far as 30 and 40 miles from Moab was clearly changing the landscape of Grand County. And it wasn't just the bikes. It was the vehicles that brought the bikes and bikers--it became a bit embarrassing to praise the non-polluting aspects of non-motorized recreation when most bikers drive their SUVs hundreds of miles so they can pedal for ten.

There were cultural and social impacts as well. Moab and Grand County experienced a housing boom in the 90s that continues a decade later at full steam and with no sign of a pause. Most of the agricultural lands in the valley are disappearing literally overnight. The vast numbers of people coming to live in the canyon country pose a greater threat to the surrounding wildlands than anything else imaginable.

Still, any serious effort from environmental organizations in Utah to confront these impacts was almost non-existent. In this publication, for example, SUWA contributed regularly to each issue of The Zephyr for more than ten years. In that decade, SUWA wrote tens of thousands of words about a variety of concerns and impacts affecting the canyon country. By category, they wrote scores of articles about cattle, about mining and oil and gas exploration and about ATVs. But stories devoted to non-motorized impacts or the ever-growing amenities economy numbered just two.

The Eco-Challenge Race in 1995

From Eco-Challenge to 24 Hours of Moab

While Utah enviros continued to concentrate most of their attention on their traditional extractive adversaries, even a decade ago, they could rise to the non-motorized threat when the situation called for it. In 1995, SUWA and other groups actively opposed "EcoChallenge," a cross country extreme sports marathon of sorts, created by television impressario Mark Burnett and televised on MTV. The event crossed or came near many wilderness study areas, and SUWA was, as one runner complained, "all over us like a cheap suit." While the race was eventually allowed to proceed, SUWA's close monitoring of the event and the pressure it maintained on federal land agencies like the National Park Service and the BLM kept impacts to a minimum. And Burnett, frustrated by all the restrictions swore he "would never come back to Utah in a million years." Instead, he moved on to create the reality tv series "Survivor," and lowered the mentality of the television medium to depths never dreamed possible. It still hasn’t found the bottom.

But since then, opposition to these kinds of high adrenalin/low serenity activities by Utah environmental groups has all but disappeared, in part because many of these commercial outdoor enterprises have found a way to effectively coopt environmental groups—"if you can’t beat ‘em...join ‘em" has never rung truer. In the late 1990s I first learned of a new "industry" in SE Utah. Several Moab-based companies opened for business with the sole purpose of exploiting the scenic beauty of the canyon country. At first glance, this seemed like nothing new nor anything to get particularly concerned about. River companies and 4WD tour companies have been operating in the national parks for decades. They’re heavily regulated and jump through all sorts of hoops to maintain their permits and are very restricted as to where they can go. But these new "canyoneering companies" discovered that by keeping their trips limited to one-day outings, they could slip through the regulatory cracks, with very little red tape at all.

One of the most successful of these companies is "Desert Highlights," owned by a recent Moab arrival, Matt Moore. Moore began his enterprise in 1997 and continues to operate daily tours at several locations in Arches National Park. Moore’s tours are all cross-country, off-trail and lead visitors into sections of Arches that, as recently as 1996, saw perhaps 100 human visitors a year. Moore insists that his trips are not for adrenalin junkies and offers a natural history lesson along the way. But take out the key component of the trips—the 150 foot free rappel–and my guess is, his business would plummet like a failed belay.

Arches is a front-country park. The paved roads and 800,000 visitors a year who travel them are already a major disruption to what was once a remote and pristine environment. But there was always some comfort in the fact that one administration at Arches National Park after another saw the wisdom in keeping the backcountry remote and relatively untouched. The Park Service has always had a conflicted dual mandate—to preserve and protect the land, AND to provide for the enjoyment of the people. At least something was being preserved at Arches. Pressure by some groups to develop a backcountry trail system was consistently met with resistance by the NPS. There was some balance there.

So it’s hard to understand, much less accept, the benign way NPS officials have responded to commercial enterprises like Moore’s. Since 2000, Desert Highlights has conducted more than 500 off-trail tours with thousands of paying customers into the Arches backcountry. Desert Highlights continues to operate on a temporary permit and NPS officials continue to insist that the tours are not damaging the park’s once untouched backcountry. Nor will they address the future impacts as these tours expand and grow more popular. How can the National Park Service be so detached and disinterested?

Because the National Park Service, like most government agencies, needs a watchdog. It needs many watchdogs. When the NPS did its very brief analysis of the canyoneering operation, it concluded that "no affected publics" objected to the business. And that was true---not one environmental organization in Utah has officially objected to this canyoneering company or any similar operation. And there are now dozens of them. Why is SUWA, for example, unwilling to cast a critical eye at the Arches commercial activity? The fact that Desert Highlights prominently proclaims itself a "proud business supporter of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance" may have something to do with it, whether SUWA will admit it or not. This is the quandary environmental groups like SUWA face–they want to build a constituency of businesses who support wilderness, but this is the kind of compromise it must make in order to achieve the support it wants. And it gets worse.

One of the most offensive canyoneering web sites I’ve ever encountered was originally called "Select Circle of Few (sic)," now "Circle of Friends," operated by Shane Burrows of Draper, Utah. On his web site’s home page, he writes:

"Want to learn about a secret canyon before everyone else? Here is your big chance to join the ‘Select Circle of Few’ canyoneering program and be the first into newly identified canyons....for the unbelievably low price of $15 (it’s up to $20 now), I will email you canyon information before it’s published to the Climb Utah web site."

Yes...that’s pretty unbelievable. Yet, on Burrows’ web site, which he maintains is a non-profit organization, is a link to Desert Highlights which in turn offers a link to SUWA. I don’t believe anyone at SUWA would want to be a part of The Select Circle of Few; yet there are only two degrees of separation between them and an "unbelievably low price."

Perhaps SUWA and other enviro groups see no alternative but to embrace what Bill Brewster of ABC News called "one of the biggest, baddest, boomingest slices of the ever-swelling travel pie—Adventure Travel." In a 1999 story following a canyoneering tragedy in Switzerland that claimed 14 lives, Brewster wrote that the adventure sport would grow, despite accidents and the loss of human life. He interviewed Matt Moore for the report. Under the sub-heading, "Tragedy May Boost Popularity," Moore, according to the story, "had a slightly different take, saying that accidents like this week’s and a similar one that killed 11 in Arizona in August 1997 give a sport like canyoneering a ‘high profile’ cachet (

In 2002, SUWA even got into the act itself when it sponsored and promoted a number of slide shows by "legendary backcountry explorer and author Steve Allen." (Redrock Wilderness Newsletter). Allen called his show, "Canyoneering Chronicles" and he took it to nine different cities in Utah and Idaho, as well as New York City. In a related story in the Salt Lake Tribune, titled "Canyoneering Allen Says More People Should See Wilderness to Save It," Allen insisted that a mass influx of non-motorized tourists to wilderness areas was the only way to preserve our threatened wildlands. "We need more people out there, not less," he said. "Right now, the wilderness lands are in flux. They’re embattled. We need as many supporters as we can get...If places get too crowded, we can take appropriate steps (to limit access)." Again, no one in the environmental community stepped forward to challenge Allen’s strategy.

Numbers indeed appeared to be the game that many organizations were and are playing, supposedly for the moral and philosophical support these groups think the non-motorized recreationists could offer. There is no bigger numbers game to be played than the "24 Hours of Moab" bicycle race, held near Moab each fall. The first ‘24' was staged a decade ago. Since then, their numbers have swelled in excess of 5000 and the race route comes, in some locations, within feet of proposed Utah Wilderness Coalition wilderness areas; in fact, part of the course was once raced inside proposed wilderness. But environmental groups have steered clear of the event, despite obvious environmental impacts, because the event is such a shot in the arm to Moab’s economy.

In fact, the economy generated by "extreme" adventure-type enterprises dominates Moab’s business district. The word ‘adventure’ is so commercially pervasive in Moab, it’s hard to escape it. Or even remember what it’s supposed to mean. A quick Google Search for "Moab" and "Adventure"provided almost 4000 hits, including: the Moab Adventure Center, Moab Adventure Xstream, Moab Adventure Headquarters, Moab Adventure Inn, Moab Adventure Package, Moab Adventure Guide, Moab Desert Adventures, Adventure Xscapes, Adventure Racing Retreats, Moab Resort Adventure Package and a link to the Moab Adventure Park, from WWTI Newswatch50 in, of all places, Watertown, New York. They reported the following:

MOAB, Utah - Riding down the ski lift from the highest point on the red-rock rim overlooking the Moab Valley in Utah, our feet dangled some 800 feet in the air as Scott McFarland talked about the latest project for his Moab Adventure Park. "We're applying for permits for a zip-line, a 2,500-foot-long cable that goes from the top of the hill to the bottom," McFarland said. "You get into a harness on the top and cruise to the bottom, kind of like you're flying.

"Without a braking system, you'd hit about 145 miles per hour. With the system, you'll go 50 or 60. That's on the computer, anyway. We'll see." One of the city's concerns in considering the permits is its noise ordinance. Nearby residents are worried about screams coming from riders zipping down the cliff. "

The report said it all. What one rarely hears mention of when talking about any form of recreation these days is silence. Or tranquility. Or spirituality for that matter. When was the last time anyone used the reverential aspect of wilderness as an argument for preservation? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hear. It may be that environmentalists seek to avoid conflict with businesses like these for the very same reason these businesses exist. Ultimately, it’s always about the money, whether the motive is honest and well-intentioned or not. That is where we’ve descended to...

The '24 Hours of Moab" bike race. 2003...7000 people.


Patrick Diehl is an outspoken environmentalist and a strong advocate for change in the Rural West. In fact, he’d like to dismantle it completely and start over again. Diehl ran for the U.S. Congress two years ago on the Green Party ticket and received 7% of the vote, not bad for a guy who, until recently, lived in one of the most remote communities on the Colorado Plateau (Diehl and his wife recently moved back to the West Coast). Escalante, Utah is eons away from becoming the next New West town. It is rural to its roots and proud of it. It has earned a reputation with some for being one of the most intolerant towns in Utah; even some environmentalists believe that Escalante simply wants to hold onto its lifestyle and its history The clear message, in any case is—don’t try to change us. Diehl was ready for a change, or more precisely, a revolution.

Two years ago, The Zephyr interviewed Patrick Diehl and his wife Tori Woodard at their home in Escalante. Their neighbor and Zephyr contributor Erica Walz interviewed Diehl at length about his views on what he called "The New Economy."

"The ‘amenities economy’ idea," Diehl explained, "that the Wilderness Society was putting out is what I think lies (ahead). There's still a fair amount of merit to this concept. Between the extractive economy and the purely touristic economy is a third way in which you have people moving to an area to live there and be part of the local society and perhaps the local economy--in many cases bringing their jobs with them and telecommuting--and the reason people come there is because it's a beautiful place to live. It's not going to be healthy and beautiful if you degrade it through logging and mining and grazing. It involves replacing some of the extractive economies. But I'm much less confident in the future of this economy (in Escalante) than I was four years ago when we moved here, and I also see that the savagery of the local resistance exceeded even my expectations. People will go very far to make their area be extremely unattractive to outsiders. It has to do with political power. If you let outsiders in, if you allow them to organize and voice their point of view you can easily lose control. These small towns have a lot to lose from a political standpoint if there's much influx from outside. So the chances of actually getting an amenities economy going in southern Utah is very bad in the short run because of the political situation."

Diehl wasn’t willing to completely abandon the rural population and believed work could be found for them if this New Economy took root. For instance, he believed a massive effort to cut and treat and remove the exotic plant tamarisk would attract a great number of the old locals, "if they were paid for it." But for the most part, Diehl wanted to see a dramatic turnover in small rural communities like Escalante, even its population...

"I think this town needs to double in size. If we're going to have more towns in this part of the world they should be more self-sustaining. They're really untenable. Not just in economic terms but as cultural units. Maybe 50 or 100 years ago when they were cut off from the outside world they had to create their own culture, but right now it feels like the further reaches of Provo to me--it's nothing, in itself."

What about people who enjoy it the way it is?

"I can't imagine enjoying it. I really loathe this town, and you can quote me. Socially it's a really loathesome place. You can put that in the paper. Absolutely. It's the worst place I've ever lived, and I've lived quite a few places. So some people like it--it's like there's no accounting for taste."

Ultimately, Diehl’s failed vision of a New Escalante only frustrated and embittered him. When Patrick and Tori left town for good, they left few friends behind. Escalante still holds onto its rural culture, backward as some people may see it, and intends to stay that way. Moab, on the other hand, could not have been riper for change.

Moab was already "a funky little town" in the late 1970s and it was that odd cultural diversity that made Moab such a prime target for the New West. Although we bickered and fought, the various factions in Moab at least co-existed. As a result, a level of tolerance, albeit shaky at times existed in Moab that wouldn’t have been found, even 50 miles down the road in Monticello. Ultimately, it was people like me who in a perverse way made the New West Invasion possible.

Still, the philosophy of the environmental community embraced the idea of a vital "amenities economy" replacing the old one, whether many of us had misgivings about this alternate future or not. Fifteen years ago, the Sierra Club’s Lance Christie summed up the future in his Zephyr essay, "Wilderness Economics: Boom & Bust Baloney." Lance wrote, "If a community uses wilderness amenities as a drawing card, then offers goods and services people want when they come to enjoy the local amenities, wilderness can make the people selling those goods a lot of money. If the community resents visitors and opposes wilderness for taking away the freedom to dig holes searching for treasure, then wilderness (or any tourism) won’t make them money."

Christie was prophetic in more ways than one when he added a final comment, "The whole economic debate over wilderness tends to distract us from the fact that the major reasons for designating wilderness arise from non-economic values."

Indeed---yet that is exactly what happened. When Moab’s amenities economy really gathered steam in 1993, when seven motels were constructed in a matter of months and nationally franchised fast food eateries like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell and Burger King began to sprout along Main Street, when recreational visitation increased exponentially on surrounding public lands, none of the major environmental organizations expressed concern—not SUWA, not the Sierra Club, not The Grand Canyon Trust, not the Wilderness Society. It was as if they didn’t even notice.

Some were loathe to praise the specific consequences of the amenities boom, and privately expressed horror at the explosive and uncontrolled growth, but no one wanted to be on the record opposing it. It was, after all, their idea. In fact, some organizations went to great lengths to praise the stunning changes occurring in Moab and elsewhere, but always in broad vague strokes.

Three years ago, SUWA printed a feature story in its winter issue of "Red Rock Wilderness," their quarterly newsletter. It was called "The Local Economic Impacts of Protected Wildlands: Enhanced Economic Vitality." It was written by Thomas Michael Power, a Professor of Economics at the University of Montana. Power and his data asserted that protecting the rural West’s wildlands did not damage local economies; on the contrary he believed that "protected landscapes are often associated with enhanced economic vitality." But he followed that declaration with a curious caveat, considering the intent of the article, that was all but ignored by environmentalists. Power warned:

"This does not mean that those seeking to preserve natural areas should base their case for preservation on the economic expansion it will stimulate. That could be a dangerous strategy in the long run and one that may not be very convincing besides. In fact, in the long run, ongoing economic growth may well threaten the ecological integrity of wildlands as growing population, human settlement, and commercial activities and their accompanying pollutants isolate and disrupt natural areas. Even though wildlands may be good for local economic vitality, local economic vitality may not be good for the ecological integrity of those wildlands. (Emphasis added)"

The remainder of Power’s essay moves away from that warning. Using the data he had gathered, Power struck several blows in support of the amenities economy. He noted that "higher percentages of county land protected by national park, national monument, and federal wilderness status were associated with higher rates of employment." He discovered that population growth in areas near wilderness areas was higher than state averages. And Power observed that Wilderness "protection was associated with growth rates two to six times those for other non-metropolitan areas."

Power concluded, despite his early warning, "It’s is not clear why wildlands advocates would not want to meet the economic critics of wildland protection on their own ground, while also continuing to make the ethical, cultural, and environmental arguments. After all, if you can take away the only powerful argument the anti-environmentalists have, why would you not do so?"

It was as if he was saying, we can let the anti-wilderness people destroy the West on their terms or we can fight to destroy it on our terms. And aren’t our terms of destruction better than theirs? After all, before we destroy the wilderness, we’re going to protect it.

Environmentalists failed to see or would not acknowledge the double-edged sword Power offered. In a subsequent issue of "Red Rock Wilderness," SUWA attempted to put its own spin on Power’s report with some additional numbers of its own. SUWA noted that, "Total employment in Utah has increased by 45% in the last decade...What is fueling Utah’s pacesetting growth? Tourism and related services have been doing well...has been especially robust, and now provides more than a third of all jobs....Growth is not limited to urban Utah. In Grand County, a tourism explosion helped to make it the third fastest growing county in Utah."

All of this was told with almost evangelical enthusiasm. None of Power’s warnings saw the light of day in this particular spin. Finally SUWA noted the ballooning Utah population, which grew by 30% in the 1990s. "This tremendous regional growth, with Utah at its epicenter, is driven by Western quality of life factors like outdoor recreation, open space, and wilderness....There is a very real place for wilderness in Utah’s economic future. Protected by BLM, wilderness can serve as a modest sustainable source for economic well-being and community development."

There’s nothing"modest" about Moab’s transformation in 2005. Some environmental- ists might argue that much of the explosive change in Moab has nothing to do with their efforts to support a clean, upscale amenities economy. The rowdy raunchy Jeepers and the noisy noxious ATVs and the rabid Rock Crawlers seem to have nothing much in common with the leg-powered bicycle as a recreational diversion. It might be fairer to suggest that the amenities economy backfired in the environmentalists’ very own faces.

Except for the annual Jeep Safari itself, Moab was never much of a destination tourist center. Travelers passed through Moab as quickly as a ride to the Arches and a daily raft trip required. It wasn’t until the late 1980s, when bringing your bike to Moab was like making a trip to the Wailing Wall, that enterprising men and women everywhere began to seriously take note of Moab. Clearly Moab had achieved that special status reserved previously for places like Telluride and Aspen and Jackson, Wyoming...Santa Fe...Sedona. Just a handful of small towns around the West that suddenly, one day, discovered they had cachet....that mystical undefinable quality that makes everyone want to be able to say, "I’ve been there." What motivated entrepreneur could miss something like that? You could hear the wheels turning inside their minds:

If everyone knows about Moab now, and everyone thinks Moab is a cool place to be, and if bicyclists will come here in huge numbers and spend massive amounts of money in this economy, why can’t we do the same thing with other forms of recreation? Why not a hill climb for dune buggies? Why not a rock crawling event? Why not BASE jumping? Or rock climbing? Or canyoneering? Or skydiving? Or ATV jamborees and races? Why not anything that can make us a buck and pull more visitors to Moab? Who’s going to complain?

Truthfully, hardly anyone. Some environmentalists bitterly oppose the dramatic growth in the use of ATVs in Southeast Utah and the damage from these vehicles has been stunning. But how did the environmental community ever think it could limit the amenities economy to the kinds of functions and activities only they approved of? I doubt if anyone who despises the motorized recreation industry can take much pleasure from knowing that imitation is the highest form of flattery. But the truth is, after Moab cut its teeth on bikes, the sky was the limit, no matter how dissimilar the activity might seem to some. It still is.

John Hendricks' 27,000 square foot home at Gateway, Colorado.


When Thomas Power set out to analyze the effects of wilderness on the rural economy, he noted an anomaly that he could not initially explain. "Researchers," he wrote, "puzzled by the growth of population in western Montana, despite low wages and incomes, studied the location of new residential housing to determine what locational characteristics explained the decisions homebuilders were making. They found that the closer a location was to a designated wilderness area, the higher the likelihood of new construction. The same was true of national parks."

Power’s bewilderment is old news to most of us who live in small communities near parks and wilderness. New home construction, which took off in Moab during the early 90s, is often intended for part-time residents, people who have no intention or need to seek employment in the area. In fact, these homes and condominiums are in a way, very disconnected from the socio-economic needs and difficulties of the community to which they have, at least physically, joined. They exist in something of a vacuum, because so many of these part-timers are oblivious to the issues and problems that affect the town. They don’t know much of the town’s history and know few of its citizens, they don’t get involved in local politics and don’t vote. They do pay taxes and they don’t impact the educational system because most part-time residents don’t have school-age children, but they still demand the services that they believe their tax dollars entitle them to. In almost every case, this kind of second home community negatively impacts the tax base; in other words, when towns grow in this fashion, everyone pays more.

And what about the land upon which these homes are built? Almost always, in the small towns of the Rural West, new residential developments are built on what was agricultural or grazing land. Once again the "cows versus condos" debate raises its persistent head. No environmentalist, worth his organically-grown natural sea salt, has much patience for the West’s cattle industry and especially public lands grazing. And the damage caused by some ranchers is well-documented and disgraceful. I lose patience with ranchers who abuse and destroy the very land they make a living from, but I try to avoid painting all ranchers with the same broad stroke. Ranchers run the spectrum like everyone else. If someone, for instance, tried to tell me that rancher Heidi Redd didn't understand the heart and soul of the American West, I'd have to hurt them in some slow and tortuous way. Heidi has lived most of a life at Dugout Ranch in San Juan County, Utah and I'm glad she's there.

But while some environmentalists may believe that paving over alfalfa fields with something like Rim Village is striking a blow for Mother Nature and the New Economy of the West, we should remember Thomas Power’s warning about the long-term view of this kind of development. Runaway tourism/growth/expansion of towns like Moab should cause all of us to take notice and give pause---to re-think all of this. Exploding tourist numbers and a ‘second home culture’ transform a community, shift the emphasis of the town away from the people who live there and toward the tourists who don't. Moab doesn't exist for its citizens; it's there, in fact, for high dollar transients. And it rarely benefits the small-town residents that were there during the tough times; it's the new arrivals with the capital to invest that flourish.

Most of Spanish Valley, once a bucolic, laid-back mish-mash of alfalfa fields, cow pastures, junk cars and funky homes is rapidly vanishing in a sea of condo developments and faux adobe second homes. Who can suggest that Rim Village is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than the alfalfa field it replaced?

And out of that shift comes a vital question for all environmentalists. When we talk about highest and best use of a piece of land, just what exactly do we mean, particularly when it comes to water and farmland? One morning last summer, a friend and I were discussing the fires sweeping the West. The conversation turned to water and my friend, the owner of a recreation-based company, complained bitterly about the amount of water devoted to agriculture in Colorado.

"Did you know," he asked bitterly, "that 80% of the water in Colorado is used for agriculture? Yet farming and ranching only constitute 14% of the economy?" (my numbers are estimates--I can't recall the precise figures but that's close)

A decade ago, I might have nodded sympathetically and joined the chorus of dissent. But instead I said, "So what?"

"So what?" he growled in disbelief. "What are you talking about? You think it's GOOD that farmers use so much water?

"Well what would you prefer?" I answered. "Take the agricultural lands in many of the valleys in Colorado. Would you rather see them save the water for human consumption and encourage 50,000 people to move into the area? If you shut down the farms, surely there will be plenty of water for massive urban expansion."

"No," he replied. "I don't want that either."

I shook my head. "Well, it's going to be one or the other. As B. Traven once said, 'This is the real world, muchacho, and we are all in it.' Do you think they'll just let the water flow slowly to the sea? This is America, pal. Somebody's going to make money off that water."

So this is a hypothetical question about highest and best use of the land that all environmentalists need to consider. Imagine a 100 acre alfalfa field that requires 100,000 gallons of water a week to produce a healthy crop. But what if a condominium complex of 300 units could be built on that same 100 acres and the water use by all those new condo residents could be cut by as much as 75%. Would the new construction represent a "higher and better use of the land" because it used less water? It's a question we all need to consider.

I still understand the points made by "cow-free" advocates. I still recognize the damage caused by reckless grazing practices. I know changes need to be made. But at a time where the commodification of beauty, where the "amenities economy" is rapidly creating an entirely new threat to the beauty and solitude and health of the American West, a "cow-free" West as an end-all solution to resource degradation is foolish and simplistic. Never underestimate the greed of American Entrepreneurialism.

Of all the entrepreneurial efforts that might fall into the "amenities economy" status, nothing is as grandiose as the proposed "Cloudrock Resort Development," first introduced to Moab citizens four years ago, after months of secret negotiations by the developer, the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration and local elected officials.

Cloudrock, as originally proposed and to be built on a mesa south of Moab called Johnson’s Up on Top, called for three luxury lodges with 198 rooms, 50 condos and 75 homesites—lots would start at $600,000. According to the Cloudrock Development Proposal, assembled by the project coordinator Michael Liss and obtained by The Zephyr in 2000, the plan was stunning. It reported:

Our intention is to create a world-class wilderness destination resort community in the American Southwest for people who enjoy the beauty and cultural legacy of the region. The centerpiece of this community is the Cloudrock Desert Lodge, an intimate luxury wilderness lodge that will set the tone and standard for the entire community...We expect our guests to return time and time again, finally deciding that this is where they want to build a second or third home...We plan to spend the time, money and creative energy necessary to create a real estate development that will deliver top prices.

As to who might be a candidate for a Cloudrock future, the proposal could not be clearer:

We will use a highly-targeted approach, planning intimate get-togethers at the homes of our friends and initial clients, as many second home real estate purchasers are often as interested in who their eventual neighbors might be as in the property itself.

It really said that. And to add insult to injury to anyone with a net worth less than $10 million, the marketing plan promised that:

Johnson’s Up on Top will be marketed as a vacation community for affluent families and individuals. The Moab real estate market does not currently serve this segment well, with most developments targeted to a somewhat lower economic bracket....the lodge and condominium units that will comprise this mesa village will form a dense complex in the spirit of the Italian hill towns like Siena and San Gimignano...The Phase III condominiums will be built in the spirit of the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde.

Clearly, Cloudrock was selling itself to the wealthy, but more specifically to high-end visitors and future home buyers who also considered themselves environmentalists. Liss was quick to point out the easy access to national parks and wilderness areas, some adjacent to Cloudrock itself.

There was a time when the environmental community might have ben appalled by such an extravagant scheme. After all, the conservation movement is rooted in the word "conserve." How could such an opulent, consumptive and arrogant plan even dream of winning the acceptance of environmentalists? In the Amenities Economy, anything is possible.

As the Cloudrock development became better known and was required to submit itself to governmental and public scrutiny, the Glen Canyon Group of the Sierra Club weighed in on the issue. On behalf of the group, Jean Binyon addressed its concerns to Michael Liss in a February 2001 letter. Binyon made it clear that, "It is our consensus that the best thing for Johnson’s is no development at all." Having said that, however, it was also obvious the Sierra Club had no intention of putting up a fight. "We realize you are making efforts to ensure that Cloudrock meets standards above and beyond Grand County’s....We realize you are well on your way to completing the preliminary plat, and incorporating changes becomes more difficult with the passage of time. Never the less, we hope you will be receptive to our concerns..."

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.

Binyon 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.

How could any environmental group be so passive or silent in the face of a project that was so contrary to the basic principles of conservation? These homes, whether they were constructed with the most energy-efficient, recyclable technology available, would be massive consumers of natural resources, would be clearly visible from Arches National Park and other scenic areas and would play havoc with the social fabric of nearby Moab by driving property values and taxes even higher. To recall Thomas Power’s warning again:

"...ongoing economic growth may well threaten the ecological integrity of wildlands as growing population, human settlement, and commercial activities and their accompanying pollutants isolate and disrupt natural areas."

How can environmentalists sit idly by? Because they can’t oppose the very economic strategy for the Rural West that they have embraced philosophically for years. And especially because they fear the risk of biting the hands (and dollars) that feed them. In the battle for wilderness in Utah, fundraising plays a greater role with each successive session of the U.S. Congress, as wilderness advocates push for permanent legislation. Money is everything. Or as Chris Peterson, Executive Director of the Glen Canyon Institute puts it, "It is felt that without playing the game on their opponents’ terms, they don't stand a chance. So is it better to win or lose the fight? Those with experience in the field of environmental advocacy deem it necessary to play ‘dirty’ and enlist any and all means necessary to accomplish their goals, and believe that walking the alternative ‘high road’ is an exercise in futility and ultimately leads to failure."

How much "dirt" are environmentalists willing to endure? Try this on for size...

John Hendricks is the CEO of cable television's Discovery Channel. He says he has passionately loved the West since he was a kid when his father told him that the most beautiful place on earth was a seldom-visited redrock paradise called Gateway, Colorado. A few decades later, John Hendricks bought it---lock, stock, and barrel. John Hendricks is rich. His attorneys made offers to local landowners that were hard to resist and by 2002, he had accumulated more than 6000 acres of property, some of which he intends to put into conservation easements. Then, Hendricks decided to build himself a home where he could survey his holdings. At last report the Hendricks home has just enough space for John and his wife to feel cozy---about 27,000 square feet. (See photo on page 18). It was reported to be the largest residential construction project in America a few years ago.

The John Hendricks Castle is perhaps the most grandiose acquisition and construction in a frenzy of western land buying by America's wealthy and elite in the last decade. It is becoming a familiar sight—mansions and castles perched on the brink of some mesa rim or canyon, or mountain side, staring down at the little people.

An acquaintance of mine, the leader of an environmental group in Western Colorado, and I were lamenting the mega-homes and mansions being built everywhere in Colorado, from the Front Range to Glade Park and eventually, Gateway came to mind...

"What about this John Hendricks guy and his castle at Gateway," I said. "He’s got to be the most extravagant of them all."

There was a long silence on the other end of the line.

"Uh...I think Hendricks is trying to do the right thing," he said softl.y.

I paused briefly...

"So how much money does he give your organization?"

Another brief pause. "A lot."

People like John Hendricks have found an age-old way of gaining respectability and even adoration; they simply buy it...they buy everyone. His contributions to ‘worthy causes’ are significant. He has kept a few artists eating well and contractors love him. Maybe the Second Feudal Society is our only option, where the peasants and serfs wait and hope for their wealthy masters to sustain them. And hope that their masters are the benevolent type.

Environmental organizations have certainly benefitted from large contributions. Consider the financial status of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). For years, it has portrayed itself as the underdog, one more struggling environmental group, trying to survive against the powerful ranching, mining and ATV lobbies in Washington, D.C.

In a 1999 story for The Zephyr, current SUWA executive director Scott Groene wrote in praise of his former boss, environmental legend, Brant Calkin:

"Brant offered his staff low pay but lots of autonomy to ‘do good and fight evil. The benefit of lousy pay is you get to experiment.’ Calkin offered low wages because no environmentalist should be in it for the money, and ‘pay doesn't affect the quality of the staff.’ He offers as rationale both that environmentalists have an obligation to spend their members' money wisely, and that small salaries ensure that only the passionate keep their jobs. He adds that while experience is useful, it doesn't automatically result in better or smarter actions: ‘smart young people with fresh ideas are just as important as those who have been around the track a couple of times.’"

Groene continued, "Brant never asked his staff do anything he wasn't already doing. For example, he and Susan Tixier earned a total annual salary of $20,000 between the two of them as Director and Associate Director, about a third of what the current SUWA director makes now (in 1999). Brant never stopped working, whether it was leading the Utah Wilderness Coalition out of shaky consensus efforts, hustling money, or fixing a fleet a beater SUWA cars (he was renown for resurrecting aging office equipment and trucks). And when it seemed everything was done, he'd start cleaning the office. "

But in 2005, SUWA is awash in money. Its 2003 "Form 990" report, available to anyone who requests it because of SUWA’s non-profit status, shows the organization had net assets or fund balances worth $3,557,886 at the end of 2003. That figure is up significantly from the previous year, when net assets were $2,829, increase of almost three-quarters of a million dollars in just one year. Salaries and benefits exceeded $600,000 annually. Its executive director earned an income of $72,000 plus benefits in 2003 (though according to new Executive Director Groene, that salary has been reduced to just under $50,000). SUWA even has a Charles Schwab Fund, worth $831,632, although the fund lost almost $100,000 during what turned out to be a bad year on the stock market. While many non-profits invest their revenues in such ventures, it probably rarely occurs to most contributors that their membership dues might end up on Wall Street.

SUWA’s counterpoint in the wilderness world, especially when it comes to road and trail access on public lands in the west, is the Blue Ribbon Coalition, headquartered in Pocatello, Idaho. The BRC has been a voracious advocate of ATVs and other forms of motorized recreation and most grass roots environmentalists would assume that the powerful motorized recreation lobby gives them the edge in fundraising. Yet a comparison of the two organizations’ Form 990s shows otherwise. SUWA outspent BRC by more than $1,500,000 in 2003. And while BRC operated at a loss that year, SUWA increased its net assets by almost $600,000. BRC’s net assets at the end of 2003 were a paltry $59,100. I don’t suggest here that pro-motorized recreation deserves more funding by any means. And perhaps the funding gap can be attributed to a land ethic that is moving away from motorized recreation. But the notion that environmentalists like SUWA are the economic underdogs—the David to BRC’s Goliath—is pure myth.

In the end, money ultimately doesn’t seem to be swaying anyone in the decades long fight for wilderness. Ten years ago, SUWA’s staff was half the size it is now. Its starting salaries, in keeping with Brant Calkin’s admonition, were about $16,000. Now, with more money than they can even hope to spend, SUWA and the Utah Wilderness Coalition is no closer to passage of a state-wide wilderness bill than it was then.

As Ed Abbey once said: "What we need is something entirely different."


There are voices of dissent as environmentalism falls further away from its ethical roots. A letter to "The Public Forum" in the The Salt Lake Tribune caught my eye not long ago. It was a letter from David Jorgensen of Salt Lake City about environmental ethics. "It is unfortunate," he wrote, "that wilderness advocates must resort to economic arguments as part of their advocacy. There are some areas that...should be left alone for their own intrinsic worth and not just for human economics or even human enjoyment."

But in the same issue, page one, another article only confirmed Jorgensen's fears about the future of the environmental movement. The headline read, "Outdoor Group Threatens to Leave Utah Over Land Deal." In response to a disastrous plan by Interior Secretary Gale Norton to cut millions of acres of BLM wilderness from Utah, and with the support and blessing of Governor Leavitt, Peter Metcalfe threatened to move his Outdoor Retailer trade show, worth $24 million to the state's economy, somewhere else.

Suddenly, Leavitt was in a panic and quickly scheduled a meeting with Metcalfe and other outdoor industry representatives, "in hopes of," according to The Tribune, "selling them on his environmental bona fides." It was clear who had become the most powerful environmental lobby in Utah. It wasn’t the Sierra Club. It wasn’t SUWA. It was the Outdoor Retailers Association.

"Selling" was the key word here, because that's what's happening. All the intrinsic reasons for wilderness are being lost in the hard-sell, not just by the people who oppose wilderness, but by those who support it as well. All the eloquence of John Muir and David Brower and Wallace Stegner and Ed Abbey, among many others, couldn't move hearts and minds to a decent wilderness bill. But the suggestion that eloquence and values and integrity have given way to trade show boycotts, the commodification of Nature and the marketing of beauty as our most powerful tools for wilderness preservation somehow fouls the very meaning of wilderness itself. The Outdoor Industry needs a pristine wilderness to make money, so what better reason to preserve it? For the environmental community to embrace, or even cast a blind eye toward that philosophy is more than many can bear.

At the core of the environmental movement has always been the belief that its constituents must adhere to the ethics and values that make them environmentalists in the first place. It’s much easier to be a consumer than a conservationist. From the beginning, we’ve embraced the idea of living a simpler life. Of leaving a much smaller footprint on this trampled old planet of ours. Of honoring and respecting the natural world. Of even making a sacrifice in order to assure that some part of our earth is left unscathed by the Works of Man. Our purpose and our goal has always been to pay tribute to The Land itself.

The threats to The Land are greater than they have ever been. And many of those threats come from the same forces that have always endangered the last special places. Oil. Mining. Timber. Motorized Recreation. Industrial Tourism.

But how can environmentalists escape the label of hypocrisy? How can we condemn oil exploration when our own consumption of oil is staggering? How can we condemn the impacts of motorized recreation while we turn a blind eye to the damage caused by ever-growing numbers of non-motorized recreationists? How can we heed Abbey’s warning of Industrial Tourism when, at its heart, that kind of economy is the future many enviros have embraced for 15 years? How can we condemn the timber industry when we continue to build homes at an alarming rate that encroach on the habitat of the very wildlife we want to protect and then construct them far bigger than anything we’d ever need to be happy? And when some of our biggest environmental contributors consume massive amounts of natural resources to build monstrous part-time homes, how can we possibly accept their donations?

Like a civil rights organization in the 1960s accepting money from a man who belonged to an all white country club—these are the contradictions that destroy our credibility. And like the Civil Rights Movement of 40 years ago, saving what’s left of the wild American West is a moral issue, first and foremost. We didn’t fight for the rights of African-American men and women because there was a dollar to be made. Nor should that be our motivation as environmentalists to save wilderness. If we continue to follow this dangerous path, we may some day wonder if the Road to Victory was worth it.

Or wonder what it is we actually "won."

Aerial view of ATV tracks near Moab, Utah and the
ever-growing community of Castle Valley, also near Moab.

For other Zephyr stories on this issue, go to our web site:

"It’s Time to Look in the Mirror" April/May 2001

"The Feedback Issue," June/July 2001

"Arches & Loopholes & the NPS," August/September 2002

"Ranching in the West," June/July 2003