Over the past several months, we have witnessed a desultory downward spiral of our democratic republic and, due to our distraction, the climate crisis has been relegated to the far back burner.

The Trump Administration is taking full advantage of our distraction by encouraging a ridiculous amount of oil and gas leases in close proximity to Arches, Canyonlands, Bears Ears and Capitol Reef. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent turmoil in our country have taught me many things, but among the most important is how reliant we are in Moab on tourism dollars.

In a recent story NBCnews.com described our city as “Moab, one of many Western towns with economies that are almost entirely tourism-based.”

None of us can refute the fact that we enjoyed being able to make a left-hand turn or loved having Ken’s Lake and the bike trails to ourselves, but then sadly watched as restaurants tried to eke out a living offering take-out to 15 customers a night. Not to mention the businesses that couldn’t be open.

The tourists come here for the same reasons I did initially 28 years ago: the surreal red rock desert, the clean air, the vast sky, the opportunity to hike and explore in deep canyons devoid of human development. Can you imagine biking Deadhorse Point State Park smelling the off-gassing of a well, or trying to explain to your 5-year-old at an overlook in Arches that the ‘towers’ you see are actually composed of steel, not rock?

Additional drilling will further exacerbate the environmental pandemic we are facing, and of course, there is the irony that currently we have TOO MUCH oil. These leases exist for decades so we must consider the long-term impact on watersheds, wildlife habitat and air quality as well as the devastating impacts on national parks, sacred Native American grounds and recreational experiences.

The pandemic has taught us many things and among them, I hope, is the importance of solitude and connection to the natural world. I would like for us to become known as the solar mecca of Utah, not the drill mecca. It is not too late for our influence. The U.S. has rallied together to fight racial inequality and it is long past time to rally for environmental equality. We are the only voice the earth has and we cannot grow complacent and think that our voices can’t be heard.

Please let Governor Herbert know that these leases are not beneficial to the land, our tourism economy, and most importantly, what we want to leave to our children and their children and their children.


Michele Murray-Hedlund