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Natural State? When you find it, let me know

EVERYBODY KEEPS talking about returning to the Natural State. I keep wondering where that is.

I want to know where it is, because someday I might want to go there. The reason I might want to go there is because that's where they want to take Lake Powell. The Sierra Club and other People Who Use Words Like Habitat say they want to return Lake Powell to its Natural State by draining it.Where is this, I wonder? Is the Natural State near Wyoming? Lake Michigan? Madagascar? Did they explain its location in geography class the same day they discussed longitude and latitude, because I suspect I missed that day.

As much as I love Lake Powell, though, I'm not sure the Natural State is a place I want to visit. Not after all the things I've been reading lately.

They want to return Wyoming to its Natural State, too - by releasing wolves there.

They want to return Idaho to its Natural State by reintroducing grizzly bears into the region.

They want to return Yellowstone to its Natural State by closing it to snowmobiling, so buffalo can't escape from the park via snowmobile trails through the deep snow and thus be eligible to get shot.

This Natural State sounds dangerous to me.

The more I think about it, the more I'm pretty certain I don't want to visit there, even if it does have Lake Powell. For one thing, every time I sent the kids off to school, I'd have to worry about little things, such as if they're coming back. Instead of wondering if they had a warm lunch that day, I'd wonder if they had become warm lunch.

I don't know about you, but the only bear I want near my kids is Teddy or Pooh. And before I get any mail from People Who Read Edward Abbey telling me that bears really don't want to hurt you and how it's man's fault if he gets mauled, let me say that knowing this won't make me feel better while the bear is picking his teeth with one of my ribs.

I admit bears scare me. A few years ago, I camped in a bear-intensive environment somewhere in North Carolina and was told to bury my food scraps 3 feet deep in the ground. I dug a hole deep enough to bury a Buick.

Wolf? Isn't that the animal that ate Peter? Frankly, I read too many Jack London novels to feel good about sharing the woods with wolves. That's the way I like my wolves - in books.

I can't help it. I've been conditioned to dread wolves. I think that wolf in "Dancing With Wolves" was acting, and that when the camera was off he tried to eat Kevin Costner.

When I go camping, I like sleeping in a tent or under the stars knowing that I won't end up as somebody's hors d'oeuvre. If the Natural State can't guarantee this, skip it.

But I do like Lake Powell, and I hate to think that I won't be able to visit it again. What a waste, all that fun going down the drain. Why should the Natural State get it? Frankly, this idea of draining the lake seems a little wacky to me. Even if you wanted to drain the lake, there are some practical things to consider.

For instance, when they built Lake Powell, nobody installed a drain. It's not a bath tub. You can't simply pull the plug when you're done with the water. It doesn't work that way. They'll have to call the plumber back, and you know how expensive that can be.

And just imagine the bath tub ring you'll have when the water's gone. Who's going to clean that thing? I'll bet that even people in the Natural State would be grossed out by a 350-foot tall, 2,000-mile- long bath tub ring.

Like most people, I think it's a little silly to drain Lake Powell. For one thing, where would everyone go to the bathroom when they visit the area?

Lake Powell was a good idea, and it's still a good idea. The only mistake they made was not installing the dam with a flusher. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean; you know that every June the lake could use a good flushing, like a giant toilet, which is basically what we're talking about here.

I doubt very much that we can return anything to the Natural State. For one thing, nobody seems to be able to find it anymore. It's too late for that. We can't undo what we already did. There is no turning back. Once man has artificially tilted the balance of nature, there is no reintroducing balance because any effort to do so amounts to the same thing - more artificial tinkering. This just throws things further out of kilter and creates other problems.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, for instance, worries that grizzly bears would endanger certain animals, namely fish and humans in the back country (and let's face it, if humans had to put themselves on their endangered species list, they'd probably care a lot less about the bear population). Bears also would feed on endangered salmon spawning in rivers and streams, which would undo federal recovery efforts for the fish (apparently, bureaucrats also live in the Natural State, with one arm undoing what the other arm is doing and so forth).

It sounds like an interesting place, this Natural State. Maybe I'll visit someday.

If I can find it.