Greater Canyonlands 50 years event
Terri Martin of SUWA and Jane Butter of the Grand Canyon Trust educate Moab residents on the Greater Canyonlands campaign during a gallery reception hosted by photographer Tom Till. Copyright Tim Peterson.

There’s no other way to put it: through late summer and into this fall, the Greater Canyonlands campaign has been on a roll.

In July, more than 200 health and well-being professionals from Utah sent a letter asking President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands as a national monument, citing the health benefits to all Americans when landscapes are protected.  The list of signers included doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, physical and occupational therapists, medical aides and technicians, and other well-being practitioners.  More than 500 more health professionals later signed the letter online (to add your name, visit

Senators Speak Up
If that didn’t get the President’s attention, we guarantee you a letter he received just a week later did. (It also drove the Utah delegation nuts—the very definition of a really short trip, you might fairly argue—but fun to watch just the same.)  Fourteen senators, led by Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wrote President Obama urging him to use the Antiquities Act to designate a Greater Canyonlands national monument.

Other senators signing the letter included Brian Schatz (HI), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH),  Patty Murray (WA), Barbara Boxer (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA), Tom Harkin (IA), Tammy Baldwin (WI) and  Robert Menendez (NJ).  These senators represent 13 states and more than 100 million Americans.

Author Terry Tempest Williams reads at our "Greater Canyonlands: The Next 50 years" event in Moab.  Copyright Tim Peterson.
Author Terry Tempest Williams reads at our “Greater Canyonlands: The Next 50 Years” event in Moab. Copyright Tim Peterson.

50 Years, 50 States
September 12th marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Canyonlands National Park.  That’s 50 years of gorgeous sunsets, tranquil hikes, and family exploration in one of the wildest, most beautiful parts of the United States—all thanks to a handful of Americans who had the foresight to recognize Canyonlands as one of Earth’s treasures and also had the will to protect it.

That work is not yet done; it falls to us to finish it. To emphasize that point, SUWA and our partners in the Greater Canyonlands Coalition held a series of events in Moab focusing on “Greater Canyonlands: the Next 50 Years.”  More than 150 residents of Moab turned out for an evening that began with a reading by author Terry Tempest Williams, followed by a special preview of the film “Our Canyonlands,” the work of filmmaker Justin Clifton in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust.  A panel discussion on the future of Greater Canyonlands rounded out the evening.  Former Canyonlands National Park Superintendent Walt Dabney was among the panelists.  The celebration continued the next day with an art showing and a free concert.

As we celebrated the park’s birthday, we also celebrated the tremendous support that has poured into the campaign from across the country.  We created a new “50 States for Greater Canyonlands” document that we presented to the Obama Administration during our Greater Canyonlands DC Fly-In in late September.  The publication highlights the work of citizens in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.  Here and elsewhere across the country, activists have written letters-to-the-editor, hosted events and slideshows, garnered the support of local organizations and politicians, put on art shows, and much more.  In addition, more than 21,000 people from all 50 states have taken photos and signed postcards urging President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands.

—Mathew Gross

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, autumn/winter 2014 issue)