To the Editor:

The Grand County Council deserves thanks for promoting civil discourse at last week’s open forum and allowing diverse constituencies to weigh in on the Public Lands Initiative.

A troubling attitude that surfaced repeatedly at the forum was that descendants of old-line Moab families merit disproportionate influence in policy-making. The pride that such individuals take in the legacy and accomplishments of their ancestors is understandable. But it is simply not justifiable to claim to that anyone deserves special treatment by virtue of his or her pedigree. All citizens of Grand County possess an equal claim to representation. Whether individuals were born here or elsewhere; whether their families have called Moab home for six generations, six years, or six months; whether they are young or old, able-bodied or physically challenged, well-off or struggling, their civic rights are totally on par, as befits a nation founded on the idea that “all men are created equal.” In a democracy, every citizen should count for one — no more, no less.

Likewise, it is easy to understand the resentment that some old-family Moabites feel toward newcomers. The latter, in many cases, have beliefs and commitments that seem to threaten the foundations of a way of life rooted in resource extraction. One angry speaker at the forum expressed the wish that the clock could be turned back thirty years, so that those of us who have joined the community since that time would vanish from the scene. Here again, I submit that what lies behind this sentiment is an illegitimate sense of privilege and entitlement. Typically, we newcomers made a conscious decision to move to this valley out of love for the land, to which we feel as strong an attachment as those who are fortunate enough to have lived here since birth. We contribute as taxpayers, consumers of local goods and services, and business- and property-owners. In any event, we are here and we are not going away. And I think that longtime residents should not want us to do so. Let’s recall that in the 1980s, after the collapse of demand for uranium, Moab was a dying town. What brought the community back from the brink was the decision to shift its economic base away from underground resources and toward the priceless above-ground ones that drew newcomers here, and that the Public Lands Initiative is meant to preserve.