Sunday, May 31, 2009

Grandstanding won't help preserve public land

Well I dont know if I agree with the sum essence of the title of this article. I am a firm believer in taking or making "Grand Stands" when necessary; our country was founded upon its people taking "grand stands" against oppression and exploitation. Why cant we? Anyways, heres the article, and I do agree with alot of other statements this (otherwise) insightful authoress makes;

"Grandstanding wont help preserve public land" By Laura Welp

Updated: 05/29/2009 04:43:53 PM MDT

On May 9, more than 100 off-road vehicles roared up the bed of the Paria River in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The river canyon has been judged wilderness-quality in more than one different government process, and has been closed to motor vehicles by the monument management plan for nearly 10 years, though that rule has rarely been enforced.

Another group came to the Paria River that day, and stood by the river asking people to respect the laws that protect the river. Bureau of Land Management and county law enforcement stood aside to let the vehicles pass, though driving in the Paria was clearly illegal.

This mass drive had a purpose: the promotion of a political viewpoint that rejects federal government control of the monument on principle (and is willing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to do it). Before the drive, Kane County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, incited the crowd with anti-government rhetoric, and the rally ended with, "Let's ride!"

The problem, however, is that Utah isn't the pioneer world that Utah's "cowboy caucus" politicians evoke in their speeches. Off-road vehicle abuse is already rampant on public lands in southern Utah, even on monument land. Really, this is only a monument on paper. For years now, the county has been allowed to run the BLM, to the detriment of the lands the BLM is charged to oversee. That situation needs to change.

The Paria riverbed was sometimes traveled by vehicles, with little harm done, when only a handful of people lived or traveled nearby. But past use is not a good reason to allow an ever-increasing number of motor sport vehicles to drive up the streambed. The ability to drive on something doesn't make it a road. That's simply common sense.

Though opinions around here don't lack diversity, there is one thing that rural Utahns hold in common: a deep connection to the land around us. Whether our families have worked the land for generations or we moved here because we fell in love with the place, our quality of life depends on a healthy landscape. Using the motor vehicle access issue to promote an anti-government ideology held by a small minority will rebound on all of us.

Those who stood by the Paria River last weekend believe that all of us have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land around us. To be worthy of this sacred trust, we must look beyond political grandstanding, partisan anger and fear of change. This place will inevitably change, but the nature of that change is up to those of us who live and work here.

In the Utah of the future, we want to see flowing water, abundant wildlife, clean air, plenty of peace and quiet, good work for everyone and a culture that reveres life. We want to see a protected Paria Canyon.

Laura Welp lives in Kanab and is co-chair of the Land Use Volunteers of Kane County.

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