The BLM is reworking their Management Plan for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. *Today is the LAST DAY to submit comments. Follow this link to have your voice heard.*
WORDS by LAUREN TEDFORD + MEDIA by JOHN DALE + ILLUSTRATIONS by HUNTER ASH
In other words, humankind needs wilderness- not just physically, but psychologically. Our lives are improved by it just existing at all. This, he believed, must be factored into Pesonen’s review despite being abstract and immeasurable.
In specific, Stegner was concerned about the future of Southern Utah’s desert areas— which he feared were on the chopping block unless Congress did something to protect them. Years and years later, this same area is still a point of concern for conservationists today. Megan Smith and her family are just a few of the people unsettled over the recent announcement to reduce wild lands in this area.
The Smiths (Megan, her husband Latimer and their two kids) live in Kanab, surrounded by the stunning red-desert scenery of Southern Utah. Places like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are part of their everyday lives. They live alongside the land, rather than at the expense of the land.
Megan worked for the Bureau of Land Management for several years and Latimer currently manages a river company and is a river guide— both are huge supporters of public lands, as you can imagine. The Smith kids spend as much time as possible outside. Whether playing in the dry, desert landscape in their backyard or on a multi-day Grand Canyon river trip, these kids already have a deep appreciation for wild places. About her kids, Megan said, “we’re lucky we live with open space around us, so being outdoors is part of their everyday.”
However, if these lands that the Smiths have invested so much of their lives in fall into corporate and private hands, their kids may no longer be able to climb on the sandstone plateaus or run through the valleys or dip their feet in the streams. The land will not only be private property, but will no longer be protected from damaging practices. Megan and Latimer are both very concerned by this. Megan remarked, “the very best feature of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is its contiguous land mass, making it one of the last—and hopefully, lasting—frontiers of the West. We lose an enormous gem as [this land] is piecemealed and parceled out.”
The Smiths have been studying all the decisions being made regarding this land and are talking to everyone that will listen about how to turn things around. Stegner is one of their inspirations. His letter went on to influence the passing of the Wilderness Act of 1964. This act allows for the designation of “wilderness areas”, America’s strictest level of land protection. One person speaking up can make one hell of a difference, and the Smiths are set on speaking up.
Controversy surrounding Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the current events surrounding America’s public lands is way too complex to fully outline is just one story-- that’s why this is only part-one of a three-part series. Stay tuned to learn more about the Smiths and the broader concerns about the future of Grand Staircase and our public lands.