There are few enough places left in the lower 48 where we can truly lose ourselves, stand alone and bask in creation’s splendor. One of them is the Greater Canyonlands region, a stretch of matchless country in southern Utah at the heart of which is Canyonlands National Park.
Greater Canyonlands, though lacking official protection, remains one of the last untouched frontiers of the West and one of the largest roadless areas in the lower 48. This is a place of cliff, canyon and valley, of spire and castle, of lush and improbable hanging gardens, of echoing alcoves and amphitheaters. It is also one of the Colorado Plateau’s most critical watersheds. Through it the Green, Dirty Devil, and San Rafael Rivers wind south to meet the Colorado. Along the way they nourish some 960 species of desert flora and a rich array of wildlife, from black bears in the Abajo Mountains, to mountain lions and desert bighorn sheep at Hatch Point, to peregrine falcons in Labyrinth Canyon. Seven endangered or threatened species find refuge there today and perhaps nowhere else.
Greater Canyonlands is large, but its size is no defense against the threats it faces. Proposed oil and gas drilling, tar sands exploration, and potash development—some of which would be within sight and sound of Canyonlands National Park—would carve up this wild landscape, harming air and water quality, fragmenting wildlife habitat, and degrading spectacular scenery.
President Obama has the power to protect the 1.8 million acres of public BLM and Forest Service lands surrounding Canyonlands National Park – if we can convince him to do so.