Last week, I left my home in Moab and traveled to Salt Lake City just in time to hit a “Red Alert” day — meaning the air quality was so poor that breathing could damage your lungs (yes, my driving contributed to the problem).
Somehow that made it all the more disappointing when two days later Governor Herbert spoke at the “Take Utah Backwards” (a.k.a. “Take Back Utah”) off-road vehicle rally at the state capitol. A crowd of pollution-belching ATVs and non-street-legal vehicles first joyrode up State Street, and then the governor shared the stage with elected officials and other sundry notables (like a representative of the Farm Bureau) competing for best at bashing environmentalists.
Why would our Governor promote more off-road vehicle use on our public lands? In the southeastern portion of our state, on
just BLM land alone, there are 20,000 miles of dirt routes for motorized use. He wants more?
Herbert shared the stage with Representative Mike Noel, whom the governor previously appointed to his so-called “Balanced Resource Council” — the committee intended to foster civility in public land discussions. When Noel recently learned that SUWA had resolved conflicts with an energy company over natural gas and wilderness at the north end of Desolation
Canyon, he declared that SUWA was an “enemy of the state and the people and the children of Utah” (I hope my wife
and kids don’t feel that way). You might have expected the governor to boot Noel from the BRC for that one. Instead, the governor’s staff sent a written defense of Noel to the Salt Lake Tribune, and on Saturday, the governor gave a shout-out
to his “good friend, Representative Mike Noel.”
If there is a silver lining to all this, it’s that only a few hundred attended Herbert’s speech, not the 10,000 predicted by promoters. These folks are losing momentum fast.
Does this look like 5,000 attendees to you? That is what the Take Back Utah organizers have “estimated.”
Photo by Scott Braden.
Off-road vehicle use is probably the greatest threat to Utah’s spectacular wilderness. We need political leadership, not pandering, if we’re going to resolve the Utah wilderness debate and protect the Redrock.
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance