Over the past several months, Utah wilderness foes have stepped up their efforts in loudly whining about the economic devastation that would be visited on rural southern Utah should more than a few thousand acres of pristine wilderness be designated. These self-proclaimed, self-serving prophets of doom have succeeded in drawing the attention of the media to their rhetoric and have attempted to conceal their greed and blatant disregard for future generations of Americans by tying it all into the anti-federalist movement currently in vogue.
Gov. Leavitt has only poured gas on the flames by allowing county commissioners to make recommendations on what they consider areas eligible for wilderness designation. Perhaps these commissioners should take a lesson from Washington and Grand counties.By and large, the counties' track record on environmental issues has been dismally poor. Pine Valley Mountain and a section of the Virgin River Gorge are the only previously designated wilderness areas in these counties. However, Zion, Arches, and nearby (to Grand County) Canyonlands National Parks could also be called "wilderness areas," for the same regulations apply to these parks as to wilderness areas. No new mining or logging activities are permitted, although holders of mining claims still have the right to develop such claims; the use of existing roadways and livestock grazing is permitted; water rights are honored if previously designated.
These parks have been with us for many years, and I have yet to hear any complaints about the economic burden these "wilderness areas" have caused residents of St. George and Moab. On the contrary, how much of these communities' growth in the past two decades could have occurred without the influx of tourists' dollars providing a solid infrastructure for economic development? Take away wilderness and you take away your own future.
It is our privilege to live in a part of the world unequaled in splendor. Should selfishness and greed motivate us to the point where we can no longer share this splendor with our children and grandchildren? I strongly urge all who are not this short-sighted to voice your opposition to the counties' minimalistic wilderness proposals and support the Utah Wilderness Coalition's 5.7 million-acre proposal.
Salt Lake City