Notes and Reflections by feoMike


in 1989, i took a semester off from college to take a field geography course out of san francisco state university focusing on public land management. we hiked for 10 weeks in southern utah and northern arizona, the most beautiful country on earth. the rag tag group of people i traveled and back-packed with over those fall weeks that year, opened my mind and heart to new experiences unlike anything i have ever had, and indeed it was that trip that i credit with me finding a career in geospatial analysis and public policy. so here i sit nearly 30 years later bewildered by some of the recent events in southwestern land management.

that fall, i road in the back of a pick-up-truck, nestled between internal frame packs and sleeping bags while staring wide-eyed at landscape that words don’t do justice to describe, along the burr trail when it was still dirt. less than two years later, they paved the burr trail. gone is now a sense of wilderness along the burr, that stood for generations. we also got to hike in a little known wilderness area, called egypt, a part of escalante. the formations we encountered that fall in escalante, the variations of red we saw in the soil, rock and sky pale in comparison to anything i have ever encountered. after the escalante trip, we attended a meeting of the southern utah wilderness alliance, and a party honoring the 25th anniversary of the passing of the wilderness act. we stood in the presence of activists who worked tirelessly to help protect the majesty of the south west american landscape. us young punks had no idea with whom we stood, and scarcely understood their struggle. what we did have in common is the shared experience of wilderness.

what i learned that trip, what remains deep in my soul, is that some resources are worth conserving unimpaired for future generations and providing for their enjoyment. some things have worth that cannot be measured by trade on the open market. some resources cannot be taken from land, and we as stewards must ensure that these resource, exist for others.

i was able to stand at the edge of escalante and gain a sense of what the word wild really means. i was able to hear from true stewards of conservation and grapple with their cause and celebrate the anniversary of landmark legislation to protect these resources. i was able to leave footprints, but more importantly take memories of a uniquely american wilderness. as i sit today, i am not sure i can honestly say my children (or future generations for that matter) will be able to have the same chance. i am sickened today by the actions of repeal. on that trip we studied not just the wilderness act and the endangered species act, but the federal land management policy act, the clean air act and the clean water act (the last 3 all signed by president nixon). these statutes passed in a time when, while great unrest existed, there was civility in discourse and action that begat true american first ideals; namely ensuring natural beauty for its own intrinsic value.

this missive unfortunately ends in lost hope. while i cry this evening, i hold on to the memories of the time i shared in wilderness. i only hope that some of my colleagues can do more than me tonight. i only hope that there is a slim chance my children can experience some mountains or canyons, without handrails.