A new day dawning?

 

At times, it seemed that peace would never break out in southern Utah. At least not when it came to wilderness. As Jim Stiles, a long-time chronicler of Utah wilderness battles, wrote in an HCN opinion piece last year, "Bullheadedness is what defines both environmentalists and those locals who'd rather see coal mining or oil and gas drilling as the basis of an economy" than tourism.

Nine Mile Rock ArtBut there's a curious trend afoot in canyon country these days: compromise. We took note last summer when the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, a notoriously hard-nosed, litigious group, cut a deal with oil and gas giant Bill Barrett Corp. over a controversial drilling proposal on the Tavaputs Plateau in southeastern Utah. The unusual give-and-take left some SUWA supporters scratching their heads. So the group posted an explanation on their website: "Why SUWA Decided to Compromise with the Bill Barrett Corporation on the West Tavaputs Plateau." Among the reasons they gave was this: "We decided to engage with BBC in the hope that we could reach an outcome more favorable to wilderness protection in this area than could be accomplished through protracted legal battles." Not insignificant words from a group with a reputation for never having seen a protracted legal battle it didn't like.

Skeptics may have written that deal off as an anomaly, never to be repeated. But SUWA and a couple other environmental groups were back at it this month, this time finding common ground with Enduring Resources, another gas company, over a drilling plan for the Uinta Basin

Still skeptical that a new day will ever dawn in Utah's disputed wild grounds? Wait! There's more! A wilderness deal in San Juan County, "thought dead or dying last year when Utah Republicans booted former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett from office," still has a heartbeat, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. In discussing it, a county commissioner even doled out a bit of praise for The Wilderness Society to the Trib's reporter: "Their vocabulary is not limited to a two-letter word: ‘No,’ ” Lynn Stevens said.

Of course, there is still plenty of fightin' to be had in Red Rock country. Utahns brought an early legal challenge against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's wild lands order, which ordered the BLM to inventory public land for "wild" designations (read: no ATVs, no drilling). And Utah politicians fanned the flames of local fury: Rep. Rob Bishop, R, dubbed the order a radical job killer and "an early Christmas present to the far left extremists who oppose the multiple uses of our nation's public lands." Congress obliged his and other Westerners' displeasure by defunding the wild lands initiative when they passed the budget bill. 

Cally Carswell is HCN's assistant editor.

Image of rock art in Nine Mile Canyon, courtesy of Ken Lund. Licensed under Creative Commons.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.