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New Route to End Utah's Wilderness Stalemate

Ashley Korenblat
Moab mountain-bike outfitter and public-lands consultant

"Folks in the rural West see kids in Grand Junction driving trucks for Halliburton making $80,000 a year. They see these jobs as good jobs, but they aren't going to last. (Utah Republican Rep. Jason) Chaffetz has said, 'We wouldn't want to do anything now that would prevent us from getting high-paid extraction jobs in the future.' Actually, you might. Look at the loads of people leaving Salt Lake City to move to Moab.

"Land in its natural state … is the basis of the tourism economy in southern Utah and, just as importantly, quality-of-life recruits. A business that is based on land in its natural state is going to be the one that lasts. Wilderness is a good tool for protecting that land in its natural state."

Lynn Jackson
Grand County commissioner, worked for the BLM for 32 years

"As Westerners, we're all getting pretty fed up with small minority groups with access to power wiping out huge swaths of our landscapes.

"When the (Greater Canyonlands) monument proposal first came out, we (the Grand County Council) sent a letter to the president. We said, 'We're not opposed to having a discussion, but a process where there's absolutely no dialogue, no discussion, no debate -- we're absolutely opposed to that.' And that's exactly what these 1906 Antiquities Act monuments are.

"I moved into Moab in 1982. We had a one-industry economy, and that industry was uranium mining. When Three Mile Island (nuclear disaster) struck, the price of uranium plummeted. This town nearly went into the dust. If this monument comes in, boom, we're back to complete reliance on one industry: tourism."

Brian Hawthorne
Public lands policy director for the BlueRibbon Coalition, an off-road vehicle advocacy group

"When I started, in 1989, you could drive your motorcycle or your bulldozer anywhere you wanted in Utah. SUWA realized that was a problem, and we did too. The BLM updated its management plans and designated trails. We lost 50 percent of our riding areas. Now, except for a few little sand dune areas, we're limited to trails.

"We're looking to keep what we have. We would like to see travel plans (on public lands) secure, not a never-ending trail closure process. The trail system could be improved -- re-routing trails, or maybe connecting two trails to make a loop. In some areas, we want to add trails. But the BLM is already doing that.

"We don't need these new (wilderness) designations. We're already protecting the resources."

Lowell Braxton
Utah representative for the Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry group

"We (in the oil and gas industry) are really not against wilderness. Most geologists and industry people, we hunt and we fish and we run wild rivers. We're against the uncertainty in the (leasing) process right now.

"One of the big mistakes we made as a state is saying we ought to wait this thing out. I've been working in Utah since the late '70s. The company I was working for in '76 had some property in a wilderness study area. We pushed on the BLM and they said, 'Don't worry, this should be resolved in a year.'

"I really believe that of all the opportunities I've heard since this started in the late '70s, this is one of the more serious ones. ... If somebody spits in the soup, the deal could be off, but I haven't seen that yet."

Scott Groene
Executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

"In Southern Utah and Salt Lake City, there's been support for wilderness for a long time, but it hasn't been reflected in Utah's leadership. The question is, can you put enough on the table here that you can get (state leaders) to agree to things that they might not otherwise?

"There really isn't a model for this, because of the magnitude. The Washington County bill was a pretty small, simple bill. The county-level stuff had crashed -- efforts to redo the Washington County process in Paiute and Beaver and Millard counties. I think people are starting over here. There are plenty of complexities, but … some of us believe that that's what might make it successful."