Utah Stories

Bears Ears National Monument—Two Million Acres of Utah Land Out of Federal Control—Should We Be Worried?

Is it a bad thing for Utah to have local control over our own resources and land?


At the behest of Orrin Hatch, Rob Bishop, and Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, President Trump made the right choice to return portions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase to local control. How could an environmentalist editor believe such a thing? Let’s examine the facts. 

Moab touring companies have been offering guided recreation on these lands since the 60s. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the old timers who have operated these companies. Lin Ottinger offered tours for forth years—he took me on a tour of White Rim. John Williams, owner of Navtec, has been a tour guide his entire life. I went with his company to Blue John Canyon in the Maze District. 

They have a vested interest in preserving the wilderness, but after Bears Ears and Grand Staircase allowed the Forest Service the authority, they began closing roads and access to touring companies and mandated restricted access. The majority of these roads were constructed by the old-timers in Moab for uranium mining. I was told if it weren’t for mining and miners the majority of these lands would be inaccessible and it’s highly unlikely millions of tourists would be visiting our State. 

Granting the federal government the authority to hermetically seal the area from locals and tourists, is not befitting the local economy, nor is it good for Utah. Further, there are places within the two million acres that could allow for areas to be mined that won’t permanently mar the landscape or ecosystems. It’s worth examining these places and methods rather than cutting off all access or assume only the Feds can protect us from our state leaders and local economic interests.

I’m in the minority on this issue at Utah Stories. I support those who protested at the Capitol, who want to protect and preserve our greatest asset. But I believe we need to control our own land and our own state. There are enough of us to make a difference in protecting our remaining pristine wilderness, and there is plenty of money funding this protections.

While a huge amount of money has flowed into this argument, it’s best to understand the nuances of complicated issues rather than assume that every leader in Utah is out for destruction of our greatest treasures.

Multi-millionaire founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, said to CNN, Utah’s Governor and Legislature are evil and out to destroy Utah. He also placed a message on the Patagonia website after Trump’s announcement claiming, “President Trump stole your land.” Chouinard’s money and influence further helped to punish our state leaders (and economy) by using threats and clout to move the Outdoor Retailers’ Convention to Denver. Our land wasn’t stolen Mr. Chouinard, it was put back under local control where it belongs.


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