Brigham Young once chastised a hunting party for killing more animals one day than Mormon pioneers trekking across the country were able to eat.
President Young, the LDS Church leader who brought Mormons to the Salt Lake Valley, had strong feelings against wasting natural resources. He preached reverence for all of God's creations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that Earth's inhabitants should be good stewards of the land.But President Young's environmental consciousness has waned in the shadow of the university named for him.
Even though Utah County is rife with environmental issues - air, water, endangered species, wetlands, disappearing green space - it isn't known as a hotbed of environmental activism. Outside of a handful of activists, many haven't made their voices heard.
"I do think there is a real need for a good, strong local environmental group," said Julie Mack, who has long fought against expansion of U.S. 189 through Provo Canyon.
Maybe the times are a changin' as the 25th anniversary of Earth Day approaches Saturday.
"I'd say that it's kind of blooming," said Mark Clemens, a Provo Sierra Club member.
Brigham Young University professor Sam Rushforth, founder of the Utah County Clean Air Coalition, said things haven't been better during his 25 years in Provo.
"This is really peculiar to me because the 104th Congress is really anti-environment," he said.
Mack also sees a quiet rally going on. "There are people who care very deeply and are doing a lot of different things that don't get a lot of press," she said.
Some of those unrecognized people belong to BYU Eco-Response, a campus club that takes on a new environmental issue each semester.
"We kind of dabble in everything," said Camille Heaton, the club's president.
Most recently, club members blanketed wilderness hearings up and down the state. They also solicited thousands of BYU students to sign postcards urging politicians to support a proposal to set aside 5.7 million acres of wilderness in southern Utah.
"I was really shocked and happy with the results," Heaton said.
Conservative Utah County residents, including BYU students, are typically hesitant to lend their names to environmental causes.
Culture might be a factor in the apparent passiveness. Utahns generally believe those in authority are working for people's best interest, Rushforth said.
"We're not a very cynical people," he said.
Clemens, the Sierra Club member, agrees. "I think there is a reluctance to question," he said.
Mack said Utah County residents are also busy with jobs, families and church responsibilities. It's difficult to get people involved with an issue. When they do, it doesn't take long for burnout to set in. Mack, who now serves on the Utah Air Quality Board, said that's too bad, but understandable.
Highland resident Liz Blackwell likes to think of herself as an environmentalist. She organized a committee last year to stop develop-ment on Traverse Ridge, one of the last open areas on the Wasatch Front. She wishes she had more time to devote to the issue but does what she can out of passion.
"I love this place. I love the land here. I love the animals," she said.
A New Jersey native, Blackwell has seen what urban sprawl does to an area. "The West is all that's left. It doesn't go on forever," she said.
Environmentalists are often written off as liberal extremists or radicals.
Mary Carter, who with Heaton is organizing an Earth Day celebration Saturday at Kiwanis Park, said she'd like to change that perception.
"I am not one these environmentalists who is anti-Geneva, anti-this, anti-everything. My phi-lo-so-phy is not to point fingers at corporations. I don't see any bad guys anywhere. I want to get rid of this myth that environmentalists are anti-everything," she said.
Staunch environmentalists would probably disagree with Carter's philosophy, but that doesn't bother her. "People make enemies out of each other when they should be working together," she said.