Bluegrass band Slim Pickins plays at the Peace Tree Cafe in summer of 2014. From left: Neal Clark on mandolin, Jeff Brennan on guitar. [Photo by Eric Odenthal]

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the protection of Canyonlands National Park, local supporters of the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument have a number of events planned for the weekend.

Proponents of the GCNM point to the somewhat arbitrary borders of the Canyonlands basin in its current designation. Conservationists hope to “complete the park” by extending the boundaries to the high sandstone rims that form the natural border of the landscape.

As part of the festivities, there will be a free showing of Justin Clifton’s film “Our Canyon Lands,” produced in partnership with the conservation society Grand Canyon Trust, on Friday, Sept. 12 at 8:30 p.m at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

The following day will feature more celebrations with an Art Walk reception hosted at the Tom Till Gallery at 61 N. Main St. from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., followed by a free bluegrass show at 9 p.m. in the Eddie McStiff’s plaza, 57 S. Main St.

The showing at Star Hall will be the film’s first screening. The film is one of six films in a series produced by Clifton and the Grand Canyon Trust and at 31 minutes, it is the longest film of the series. All six films are dedicated to the subject of preserving the land surrounding Canyonlands National Park. In addition to the “Our Canyon Lands” screening will be the showing of another surprise short film.

After spending the better part of the last decade working for adventure and environmental film festivals in Colorado, Clifton decided to make the transition from curation to creation of film after working with refugee filmmakers in the Kakuma refugee camp of northern Kenya.

“The refugees’ work and passion is so inspiring to me,” Clifton said.

Screening the film for the first time in Moab was a no-brainer for Clifton.

“It just made sense to include this film as a part of the celebration and to screen it for the first time in the community that helped bring it to light,” Clifton said.

Author Terry Tempest Williams will be performing a reading on wilderness to accompany the film, and a panel discussion will take place immediately following the film, featuring Grand Canyon Trust executive director Bill Hedden, former Canyonlands National Park superintendent Walt Dabney and Canyon Country Rising Tide’s Emily Stock.

Grand Canyon Trust has worked extensively in southeastern Utah, Utah Wildlands program director Tim Peterson said. Hedden, a former Grand County Council member, was an effective advocate for the removal of the Atlas uranium tailings pile in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the trust has more recently worked on compromises between wilderness and mountain-biking interests in the La Sal Mountains south of Moab.

Similar missions between Grand Canyon Trust and Clifton led to the collaboration.

“We’re keenly interested in the permanent protection of the outstanding public lands around Canyonlands National Park,” Peterson said.

The Art Walk reception at the Tom Till Gallery will provide information on Greater Canyonlands and free appetizers during the monthly Moab Art Walk, which focuses on art studios and shops in downtown Moab. Local bluegrass band Slim Pickins, featuring Jeff Brennan on guitar and vocals, and Neal Clark on mandolin and vocals, will follow with a free concert at Eddie McStiff’s plaza. It was not a hard decision for the band to agree to participate in the celebration.

“We’ve both been living in the desert for a number of years and have a strong connection to southern Utah canyon country,” Clark said. “A party to celebrate the legacy of Canyonlands while raising awareness about future protection for Greater Canyonlands was good enough reason for us (to play the show).”

People interested in contributing to the conservation cause are encouraged to sign the online petition to protect the Greater Canyonlands at The anniversary celebration will continue throughout the year, and more information on upcoming events can be found online at Volunteer opportunities are always available by inquiring in person at any of the events.

Peterson encouraged people interested in learning more about the conservation movement to attend the screening, gallery show and concert where they can learn about the challenges faced by the Greater Canyonlands, the threats to the landscape, and the opportunities and possibilities for the next 50 years for Canyonlands.

“We must ask ourselves,” Peterson said, “’Are we willing to sacrifice this landscape for less than a month’s worth of fossil fuels, or will we demand a lasting legacy for the Greater Canyonlands region by protecting this wonderland for future generations?”

Film screening, gallery reception, concert this weekend aimed at celebrating parks and supporting proposed monument

We must ask ourselves, ‘Are we willing to sacrifice this landscape for less than a month’s worth of fossil fuels, or will we demand a lasting legacy for the Greater Canyonlands region by protecting this wonderland for future generations?

What: “Our Canyon Lands” film screening and panel discussion

When: Friday, Sept. 12, at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

Cost: Free


What: Art Walk Reception

When: Saturday, Sept. 13, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Tom Till Gallery, 61 N. Main St.

Cost: Free


What: Slim Pickins Bluegrass Concert

When: Saturday, Sept. 13, at 9 p.m.

Where: Eddie McStiff’s Plaza, 57 S. Main St.

Cost: Free