Our Obligation: Environmental Activism in Utah

Jan 20, 2014

Paul and Lisa talk about their environmental activism in St. George.

Lisa and Paul remember how they met after both had moved to St. George to work on environmental issues.  They stayed up all night talking and found they had a lot in common including preserving the environment for future generations.  They have children and grandchildren and are concerned about their future.

Paul: I went to the University of Utah after I graduated from East High School, and enjoyed the time there. I joined an army reserve unit, which seems to be an experience that changed the direction of my life, because it was a legal unit, and I saw that lawyering was very interesting. I became a trained court reporter, and was eventually accepted into law school in about 1962. I worked in the county attorney's office as a prosecutor for seven years, and then ran for the office of Salt Lake County District attorney and was elected in Salt Lake County in 1974.

In 1988, I again ran for public office and was elected as the Utah State Attorney General. I served there for four years, and found that to be one of the most hectic, crazy times and interesting times of my life because I had a lot to do with the Utah Legislature. And if there was ever a hectic time, it's dealing- on a daily basis- with the legislature and with the laws of the whole state of Utah.

As the Attorney General for Utah, I saw a lot of the damage that was being done around our state to some beautiful areas and that Utah had very little ability or desire to clean up some of the messes that had been made in the state.

That's the point where I come to St. George, Utah, in response to a request to serve as the executive director of a citizens environmental group, Citizens for Dixie's Future. That was also the point I met my current sweetheart and partner Lisa Rutherford.

I knew what could happen if you "paved paradise and put up a parking lot." And I was hoping that maybe I could add my efforts and the efforts of our group and Lisa to making Washington County and St. George plan for the future and plan how they were going to build out instead of just sprawling all over the place.

Lisa: I guess that my passion for working on these issues all ties into my daughters and my granddaughters, and trying to head things in the right direction. You know I'm a reformed oil company employee. When I worked for the oil company, we were very proud of the work that we did, and the product that we provided to this nation to fuel the nation, but when we realized how wasted it is, and the little value people put on the product, we both got very concerned.

Paul: And I think we have an obligation- our society and our age group- because we've lived and enjoyed all of the fruits of those that came before us and all the resources available, we have an absolute obligation to pass that on to those that come after us.

And my great fear I share with Lisa is that we're not passing on nearly as good as we got. And we have to try and do something about that although it seems like a really uphill battle just getting people to conserve, to understand the resources are being used at a rate that will actually not go on for very much longer.

We're running out of fresh drinking water almost everywhere, and it's only a matter of possibly 50 to 100 years until it's crisis time.

Lisa: It's funny how people get different lessons in life. You have people who go into the military and they come out and some are hawks and some are doves. You have people who work for oil companies, they come out, some of them are just devoted oil company employees, others have learned that maybe that's not the future that we need.