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Utah has few peers when it comes to grandeur, but ignoring its limitations could destroy it, according to Pulitzer Prize-winner Wallace Stegner.

The state's "color, form, variety and capacity to inspire awe and reverence have no equal in the world," he said. But he added a word of caution. "In a state like Utah that looks as sturdy as the Rock of Ages but is actually fragile as a flower . . . boosterism can be harmful."Economic development must be weighed against the potential for harm."

Stegner and his wife, Mary, were honored guests Tuesday night at a "tribute to Wallace Stegner," sponsored by Project 2000/Coalition for Utah's Future, held at Snowbird. During the evening, dignitaries, including former Gov. Scott M. Matheson and actor Robert Redford, honored the former Utahn for his literary celebration of Utah and the West and for his continuing promotion of conservation.

Proceeds from the benefit dinner will be used to support coalition projects.

The Stegners left Utah in 1937, but the state still has "nostalgic and affectionate claims on us," he said.

Among Stegner's observations about Utah:

"Next to Nevada, it's the driest state - only 3 percent arable. And most of that is owned by the government.

"Except for the Wasatch Front and a few oases, there will shortly be no room for the kingdom's exploding population to come."

Utah's agricultural capacity is likely to shrink. Ranges can only deteriorate faster as "people try to make them carry more stock than they can carry. We must rely on other resources, most of which have other dangers."

Stegner told his audience he feared that "someone will try to do too much in the future with Utah's coal." He recalled days in the '30s when he stood on 1300 East and looked out over a city obscured by coal smoke.

Redford said he attended the banquet because of his passion for preserving Utah and his love of Stegner.

"What are we passing on? Are we the beneficiaries of what we've been working for? Or the victims?" he asked. "Each family gets its hue and cry from the generation before."

Parents must pass the preservation cry on to their children, he said.

In addition to receiving the award, Stegner joined the board of directors of the Southern Utah Wilderness Association.

SUWA, with 5,500 members, advocates wilderness designation for more than 5 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Utah.