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ACTION UPDATE: Projects of the High Uintas Preservation Council


HUPC’s Dick Carter participated in the January 12 Wasatch Front Forum sponsored by Save Our Canyons and Wild Utah Forest Campaign. Dick was asked to initiate the panel discussion of roadless area issues in Utah by providing an historical review of the past Forest Service roadless area inventories and the successful effort at enacting the Utah Wilderness Act of 1984. (Dick was the principal "mover" of that historic campaign.) Joining Dick on the panel were Denise Boggs of the Utah Environmental Congress, Liz Thomas of SUWA, Rainer Houck and Robert Uzelac, off-road vehicle advocates. Another warm January night.


On 15-16 January HUPC board member Marty Steitz rode shotgun with Dick Carter down to Boulder, Utah for a two day forest activist conference sponsored by the Wild Utah Forest Campaign. Aside from the evening hike up Calf Creek and Dick’s history of the BLM wilderness review and overview of the Escalante drainage from Hells Backbone, the highlight appeared in Torrey, where the two stopped for candy bars and coffee at the gas station. There, buying a soft drink, was a bona fide clown-- purple hair, size 21 shoes, red nose-- the whole thing! As he walked out Dick asked the clerk if it was normal for clowns to be in Torrey mid-afternoon in mid-January.The clerk’s response brought an hour of stories as they drove under blue skies over snowless Boulder Top: "Well, he’s from Hanksville!"


Remember long ago when Summit County (see HUPC Action Alert, 11/97) was debating the "Eastern Summit County General Plan Related to the Traditional Use of the Land?" At least two hearings were held, one in Coalville and one in Kamas. Lots of discussion surrounding wilderness ensued-- would the County recognize wilderness as part of the traditional use of land and support the concept of wilderness

or would it reel in fear of wilderness and mistake it for a threat to the survival of the eastern, less developed portion of Summit County?

In November 1997 the County looked at the issue in more detail after significant public input. What was finally passed in late 1998 was the deletion of the "generally disfavors wilderness" replaced with "will consider expanding wilderness as well as wild and scenic river designation in areas that will not limit... viable or productive traditional economic uses."

On balance the resolution is reasonable, but sad in many ways. Like so many places, Eastern Summit County is rapidly converting from a rural to bedroom suburban community. The plan is probably too late and ironically wilderness will probably be the only thing that will hold a bit of the Summit County ruralness. The County should be jumping at the prospects for more wilderness and less development.


From Rich Warnick we were alerted to the Citizen Participation in Government Act, S.B. 27, sponsored by State Senator Mont Evans. It is a good bill! SLAPPs is another acronym for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. A little over a decade ago some corporation began threatening and filing lawsuits against individuals and small grassroots groups for nothing more than participating in legal planning process, oftentimes dealing with the classic open space versus development projects. These SLAPPs often silenced opposition in the most fundamental right-- petitioning government do the public’s bidding, not corporate development.15 states have adopted some form of legislation intended to discourage SLAPPs. S.B. 27 would allow defendants targeted by such suits to file a motion to dismiss on grounds that the action is in response to their participation in the process of government. By the time you read this short update hearings may have already been held. If you are interested in this, contact your state legislature. 


It was an unbelievable January morning in Kamas on Saturday, January 9-- the third in the Uintas Issues Forum. Unbelievable because at 10 AM when the meeting started it was already approaching 50’ F, the ground snowless, and skies a spring-like blue!

The topic was wilderness-- not how much should be designated on the Uintas but what wilderness is and why it has become such a symbolic constant. And therein started another rather unbelievable event--

a conversation about wilderness that seemed full and informed. One after the next the 40 or so attendees took their allotted opening minute or so to both define wilderness and explain why it is so important. While a few chose to speak of wilderness in the third person, almost everybody spoke from the heart about the value of wilderness, its importance and the need to protect deserving wildlands. Less than a partial handful spoke derogatorily about wilderness.

Present were representatives from the environmental community, retired Forest Service employees, grazing permittees, ORV advocates, horsemen, conservationists and a handful of Forest Service managers.

The discussion settled on definitions, clarifications and historical perspectives on wilderness and how the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown in content and context. Not without the conflict, dispute, and polarization that are part and parcel of wilderness, the discussion focused on a hopeful personal understanding and value of wilderness. The most common theme of this discussion was that wilderness harbors a value that transcends human definition and provides a buffer from day to day mediocrity.

Whether this will be a step toward designating additional High Uintas Wilderness with a meaningful discussion focusing on the ecological values of the mountain will be seen. Let us hope.

The next Uintas Issues Forum is set for early March in Kamas and will focus on ecosystem management. We hope you’ll join us. If you want information on the forum, give us a call.

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