Marc Thomas

Two weeks ago, Mr. Lynn Jackson submitted a column to the Sun-News criticizing the Sierra Club’s support for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument to protect additional public lands in southern Utah. He made the inaccurate claim that the Sierra Club doesn’t embrace a process of “open dialogue and discussion” when it comes to collaborative decision-making. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Indeed the Sierra Club’s staff and its Utah members are completely supporting and participating in the initiative undertaken by Congressman Rob Bishop.

But the Club also realistically recognizes that getting any kind of public lands protection bill passed in today’s Congress is nearly impossible, considering that half of its members are hostile to the notion of wilderness or lands protection.

This antipathy mirrors the historic bent of Utah politicians, which is why all the crown jewel national parks in southern Utah save one started out as national monuments designated by U.S. presidents utilizing the 1906 Antiquities Act. Such political antipathy, still prevalent today, runs counter to polling in all Mountain West states that shows two-thirds support for permanently protecting wilderness and public open space for future generations.

This is exactly why a law such as the Antiquities Act was enacted. When Congress is so broken that the will of the people matters little, then the President should have the authority to put those lands into protection for all times and for all Americans.

Ironically, the only Utah national park not started by presidential proclamation as a national monument (Canyonlands) had its size so gutted by Utah politicians that it provided the genesis for the Greater Canyonlands proposal.

Mr. Jackson scolds the Sierra Club, the Outdoor Industry Association, and others who advocate for a monument designation as being unwilling to compromise, thereby justifying that westerners gain ownership and control over “their lands across the west.” But it’s worth noting that the Greater Canyonlands region is owned by all Americans, not just westerners, not just Utahns, and certainly not just Grand County officials. Everyone from Maine to Montana has a say in how these iconic lands should be managed, whether they’re meeting with Rob Bishop or not.

The remarkable thing about a monument designation is that the process embraces both the public ownership and multiple stakeholders. Contrary to all the fear mongering rhetoric you hear, the President only issues the monument proclamation. He plays no part in deciding how the land will be managed. That’s to be decided by all of us, when the appropriate agency takes on the task of developing a management plan and asks for our input.

There is nothing secret, contrived or predetermined about it. But it does mean that we, the people, will continue to have access to the land without fear of losing that access because of privatization.

The Sierra Club has been very open and transparent regarding the monument campaign, including the public forum held at Star Hall three weeks ago with club executive director Michael Brune that seemingly so riled Mr. Jackson. Considering that there were roughly 200 people (mostly all Utahns) in attendance, it seems that many Grand County residents are embracing our outreach.

How ironic is it that the Sierra Club is accused of being unwilling to give ground on this issue, when in fact the state of Utah continues to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for claims that cow paths, dry washes, and streambeds are roads or for the Quixotic claim that the state will shortly wrestle ownership to 30 million acres of federal public lands, although most Utahns are against it and all constitutional experts have said it’s futile.

At the local level, I’ve about had my fill of Mr. Jackson’s piousness about the good manners of westerners and the western way of doing business. Are these the same westerners that threatened me with harm at the Monticello BLM office for suggesting that the bottom of Recapture Canyon stay closed to motorized traffic?

The same westerners that vandalized and threatened a campout at Dugout Ranch celebrating the Greater Canyonlands initiative last fall? The ones promoting an economic boycott of all Grand County businesses that signed a letter supporting the same? Or the county councilmen who talk of collaboration, then hastily shoot off a letter to the president railing against the possible monument without first gathering input from the people they represent?