I recently read that Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has an aide who racked up 65,000 miles on his Nissan Versa while traveling from one meeting to another to discuss the Public Lands Initiative (PLI); which is indeed a lot of miles. Although, over the course of a single year back in 1980, I put well over 100,000 on my Toyota SR5 Shortbed — traveling to the foot of many a trail throughout the West out of a passionate interest to experience firsthand the wildest and remotest of our nation’s commons. This is when I first discovered Utah, developing an abiding respect for the unique values of the state’s untrammeled, biologically diverse, wide open spaces.
This moment of tender reflection is hostilely interrupted when pondering the estimated 36,000 miles of winding cowpaths and wheel-ruts the American people will be forced to recognize as incontestable highways through the open desert if the PLI were ever to become reality.
These phantom tracks in the sand (that can hardly be seen without a squint of the eye and a stretch of the imagination) meander far and wide throughout the state of Utah. To divest stewardship of even one public cow-pie scraped off a cowpath would be setting a disastrous precedent. Gratuitously paving the way for endless caravans of heedless citizens, emboldened by a sense of entitlement, claiming they now have certain inalienable rights to express an excess of deliberate, in-your-face individualism — and just to prove it, they’ll ride roughshod over the land in their Allout Terrible Vehicles, indiscriminately tearing up flora, fauna and centuries-old cultural heritage sites.
Which, come to think of it, would suit the machinations of land-grabbers and their congressional enablers just fine. To be charitably brief: By guile and by chicanery, the goal is to diminish the ecological integrity of wilderness-quality lands in order to end, once and for all (to the last syllable of perpetuity) any conceivable reason to desire their protection. That way, nobody will put up a stink when our impoverished public lands are turned over to the mining, timber and fossil fuel extraction sector.
It’s no wonder, instead of legitimate protection of wilderness through the National Wilderness Preservation System, Utah’s Republican representatives want to give the American people their PLI; which in itself may not spell, but it sure does smell — like another stratagem of the Land-Grabber’s Caucus to plunder and hoard.