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by Dick Carter, HUPC Coordinator

From my vantage point of riding my bike or walking through what was once the small quiet town of Hyrum, now distinguished like far too many towns in Utah by its incessant growth, subdivision after new subdivision, promises of golf courses, farmers willingly selling their supposed farming heritage, acre after acre of sprawl, trophy houses on top of trophy houses to look for a view that isn’t there anymore, I get to see everything that is wrong with so much of this state and elsewhere. Or is it what is right?

Labor Day weekend just ended. Only a few weeks and months back, it was Pioneer Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day. What distinguished Hyrum’s Main Street on each of these holidays was the steady flow of big trucks- Ford, Dodge, Chevy V-8 950s, or something like that, hauling a camper as well as a trailer full of ATVs up the canyon. Not one or two, but a line up, literally. All good people- and law-abiding, of course!

Yet meeting after meeting with the Forest Service, not to mention, observation after observation, tells us otherwise. Illegal and unethical off road vehicle use is common, not the proverbial “1 in 10” justification for such use. Years ago the Forest Service allowed this kind of use-we are, after all, a multiple use agency-and then bought off on the rationale that only a small number of users are wild-eyed in order to justify what was obviously a horrid decision and could lead only to the nearly intractable dilemma now faced.

Why did capable Forest Service officials so easily ignore conservationists who pleaded, whined, appealed, and wrung their hands in dismay? And now, why is the agency so damned timid in facing the nightmare, even though it has highlighted ORVs as a major concern and always, in those meetings mentioned above, notes they are a huge problem. Of course, budgets and lack of staff play a role, but its almost as though these are excuses-- and unruly users are recognized as stumbling blocks.

Or maybe it really is what the Forest Service wants.

Whatever the case, it is deeply wrong- and not because it is a competing form of recreation to the muscle-powered crowd. (The mess far too many of them leave in the backcountry is nothing to be proud of!) The essence of wildness, of places defined by their own creation, is what is at stake-- some little corner where the stalking of a wild critter, the munch and crunch of wildness, the sound of summer growth, and the utter silence of winter defines a place.

It is obvious the price of gas had no impact and probably won’t in this culture where stuff accumulated and played with defines us. As long as we continue to pray to an economic system that counts the destruction of wildness (not to mention, clean air, etc.) as part of its positive growth (which adds to many of our pensions, annuities, trusts, etc.), we will watch wildness retreat, despite our yelling and screaming. In other words, the grocery store, gas station, McDonalds at the mouth of the canyon and the money managers down the street simply don’t see what is wrong with those big trucks. The tentacles of this religion swallow all of us and those wild “others” with little reflection.

So if all of this seems so wrong, why is it so “right?” The conservation movement hasn’t been able to rise to the occasion. So much of the faith community stirs within this pot, able only on occasion to peer over the edge. The education community can’t educate: since when did a University revel in fewer students and dollars?

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