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Utah's Canyonlands Debate Continues

A resolution calling for protection of Utah’s Canyonlands was held over for a year of study by Republican lawmakers on Thursday.

Utah Author Terry Tempest Williams made an impassioned plea for the state’s wild lands before the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Thursday. She urged Utah lawmakers to get behind Senate Joint Resolution 10, which asks Congress and the President to protect the Greater Canyonlands area.  

“The American landscape becomes us. It is the open space of democracy. If we see our natural heritage only as a quarry of building blocks instead of the bedrock of our integrity, we will find ourselves not only homeless but rootless by the impoverishment of our own imaginations. The eyes of the future are looking back at us – praying that we might see beyond our own time.”

The resolution Williams was there to support asks the federal government to work with public input to protect nearly 1.5 million acres around Canyonlands National Park in Southern Utah. Recognizing the disposition of the committee’s republican majority, Freshman Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis, the measure’s sponsor, appealed to members to let the bill see the light of day.

“I understand that most of your first inclination on this resolution would be to let it die here in committee. But I ask that you let it get to the floor, and let us have a reasonable, civil discussion about our public land.”

Republican Senator David Hinkins echoed other criticisms from the committee’s Republican majority, saying that Utahns aren’t compensated properly for land that is under federal protection.

“If the government wants to take this ground, fine. I mean it’s their ground, but they should be compensating the state and the counties that’s not being able to have a tax base to operate their counties. I could support something like this if this bill said something about…that their going to pay for what their using.”

The measure was referred for interim study by the Senate Natural Resources Committee Thursday. Senator Dabakis’s was the only dissenting vote.