A proud and defiant native

  • Louise Liston

    Stuart Johnson/Deseret News

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Though as a child she lived in Idaho and for a while in Tooele, Utah, Garfield County Commissioner Louise Liston has always considered her birthplace, Escalante, home. Before becoming a commissioner 10 years ago, Liston taught in a one-room school in the town of Boulder. Under her leadership, Garfield County has waged a rhetorical and legal battle against federal land agencies.

Louise Liston: "I love the land, and it's different from an environmentalist's love. We have a deep, abiding love; they have a weekend love affair. Their love is intense and passionate, but it's not an abiding love. That kind of love comes from making a living off the land. They go back to their amenities in their cities, while we continue to eke out an existence.

"I really think the president didn't know what he was doing when he created the monument. If he had visited the site, his perception would have been changed. He said, 'We can't have coal mines everywhere.' Well, that's right. We can only have mines where the coal is. Besides, the Kaiparowits is the ugliest place in the whole monument.

"But the monument is here and we've got to make something happen for the best. There are areas in the monument that deserve wilderness designation. In those places we could agree with environmentalists. But they want to drag the issue out for 70 years to keep their organizations going.

"We are already getting bombarded with visitors. Over Easter, the Hole-in-the-Rock road was bumper-to-bumper cars, and there were great clouds of dust. People were pulled off on all the side roads, and in the evening there were campfires everywhere. One couple in a Cadillac asked where they could climb the Grand Staircase. These people don't have any idea how rugged this country is. There will be accidents.

"Change is inevitable, but I think the land is going to be a victim. People will do a lot of damage that cattle and cowboys never did. You can't preserve the land and kick off the people. Rural values are the salvation of this country. I hate to see that go. We all do."

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