To say the Nov. 8 election was unalloyed bad news for the Redrock is flogging the obvious.
What is at stake? Just about everything you and SUWA care about here. The state will redouble its efforts to wrest millions of acres of public land from the American people and it will press its nightmarish RS 2477 road claims even harder—but now with a compliant White House. Any trend by the BLM toward reasoned judgements in its stewardship will be throttled in infancy. The wretched Bundy clan and other militia types will be emboldened in their defiance of the law—in everything from criminal trespass to armed confrontation with public employees. We’ll face both administrative and legislative efforts to roll back America’s legal protections for our air, water, land and our public land managers.
Any hope we had of quickly driving a stake through the sclerotic heart of Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI) is dashed. The fates of both the PLI and the Bears Ears monument are now unclear. The Utah congressional delegation will likely try to move the PLI legislation, or a new variant, in the new Congress; the Obama administration will assess the election before making its next move on designating the Bears Ears.
That dismal list is enough to make the point that needs to be made here. This is not a drill. The threats I delineate here are not hyperbolic. Neither, though, are we powerless. It is true that Bishop’s infernal House Natural Resources Committee will continue to spew ridiculous anti-public lands legislation. It is also true that our House sponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, Alan Lowenthal, won his re-election. He is a stalwart. Another is Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. He was not up for re-election this time around and he remains our Senate champion. If the Utah delegation intends to take either of them on in an effort to dismantle redrock wilderness, it will be in for a fight.
In significant ways, there is little new in any of this. From the beginning of SUWA and the campaign for redrock wilderness, the challenge has been difficult. Faced with intransigent Utah politicians, we have rarely NOT been on the defense. That is the nature of what we do. We have ensured that millions of acres of Utah are still wild. We have done it by holding the line, by fighting acre by acre to keep it wild.
When the 1994 election flipped control of the Senate and House to the Republican party, the Utah delegation sought to enact statewide anti-wilderness legislation. We stopped them in both chambers. And we faced the same unified Republican control after the 2004 election during George W. Bush’s tenure. We fought back and beat the “drill baby bill” tidal wave through fights in both the courts and the Congress. We have faced overwhelming odds before, and with your help, prevailed. We will again.
The experience of defending the canyon country over three decades has taught us that that even the friendliest administrations are never as good as we hoped they’d be. And the most hostile were never quite as ugly as we feared.
Donald Trump’s misogynistic and racist campaign dragged our nation further down the road to Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” We now live in a country of fact-free “truth,” where any information inconsistent with blind ideology is rejected.
If there is an antidote to this mess, it is wilderness. The rain and snow fall, the sun rises, and muddy rivers flow with a murmur, not a twitter. We need the natural world more than ever. And it needs us to protect it.
The things that matter are not fleeting and are not lost in a single night’s election. We can still protect the places and values that matter. Together, we will.
Get ready for the fight. The Redrock needs us all.