As the movement to protect Greater Canyonlands grows nationwide, the conversation about it is heating up in Utah, too.

In December, SUWA and several conservation partners (Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Grand Canyon Trust, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) sent a letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert urging him to “support the creation of a transparent, fair, public process” to discuss a potential Greater Canyonlands National Monument in southeastern Utah.

We sent copies of the letter to the entire Utah congressional delegation, as well as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The discussion in Utah about the future of Greater Canyonlands got a huge boost in February when Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis and state Rep. Patrice Arent introduced a joint resolution in the Utah legislature calling on Congress or the President to protect Greater Canyonlands.

Author/activist Terry Tempest Williams, Utah Sen. James Dabakis and Mark Ritchie of Black Diamond Equipment testify at a Greater Canyonlands hearing before the Utah Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee.

Two days later—and with fewer than 24 hours notice—more than 100 Utah wilderness supporters packed a hearing at the Utah State Capitol to support Dabakis’s resolution (nearly 50 had to stand in the hallway outside the hearing room).

The Utah Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee listened to testimony from Mark Ritchie, CFO of Black Diamond Equipment, and author/activist Terry Tempest Williams, among others. Ritchie detailed the Greater Canyonlands’ role in supporting Utah’s $5 billion-a-year outdoor recreation industry. Williams spoke of Greater Canyonlands as “a spiritual reservoir” and “a geologic truth that belongs to all of us.” Only one witness spoke against the resolution.

The committee members discussed the need to protect Greater Canyonlands (with some obvious disagreement about what “protection” means) before voting to take up the resolution during the legislature’s Interim Committee session later this summer.

That vote was a huge victory; the Republican-dominated committee simply could have killed the bill then and there. But the conversation will continue. We thank Sen. Dabakis and Rep. Arent, as well as the thousands of people like you across the country who have demanded protection for Greater Canyonlands. To learn more or get involved, visit

—Mathew Gross

(From Redrock Wilderness newsletter, spring 2013 issue)