Category Archives: Bears Ears National Monument

Making conservation happen

Leave It As It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt’s American Wilderness by David Gessner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Leave It As It Is by David Gessner

Gessner has come West again and this time with the intent to be an inspiring and effective conservationist. His was a brilliant idea to focus on Teddy Roosevelt as an example of getting things done in conservation. Somehow Gessner, a guy from the east coast, has a handle on our issues in Utah as well or better than anyone here. It is vaguely frustrating. Gessner’s acknowledgment of people I know who were involved in the work, like Kristen Johanna Allen, the publisher at Torrey House Press, THP author Steven Trimble, and THP board member Regina Whiteskunk Lopez, makes me think I am at least associated with getting things done via my board work with Torrey House Press and Western Watersheds Project.

THP is going to publish Gessner’s upcoming work, Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight: Sheltering with Thoreau in the Age of Crises. It is my privilege to read the galley next.



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America is Back

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6abc Philadelphia

America is back. It was not the landslide victory for democracy that polls misled us once again to expect. (Just shoot me if I ever again read a poll.) But we have a decent, experienced, sane President-elect Biden, and thrillingly, we finally have a very exciting and gifted woman and a minority in Vice President-elect Harris. After having a sociopath as president for these four excruciating years, just returning to normal will be such a tremendous relief and improvement.

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Defying Trump II

I remember pondering in my excellent high school civics class whether something like Nazism could happen here. The common wisdom and a pervading sense of pride and patriotism was that it could not. But the Germans I knew all seemed like good people. And smart. I look back those forty plus years and give myself credit. With trepidation I thought, sure, it could probably happen here, too.

Sadly, here we are, our constitutional democracy is crumbling under a relentless assault. Republicans today are failing in a similar manner to how decent Germans failed in the 1930’s.

I wrote on these pages after the 2016 election of my three legged plan to defy Trump.  I set out to:

  1. Publish books with progressive ideas promoting love of the land
  2. Promote and support women in leadership
  3. Build a blue oasis in a red, red state

I am doing pretty well on all three. Torrey House Press is having a record year and is building a terrific staff to keep expanding its impact. I plan on raising a cool $1 million to help them further build capacity. The board, besides me, is all women and so is the staff. And to a small but hopefully useful extent I levered my observatory to help the town of Torrey, Utah become an International Dark Association certified dark sky community.

I want to do more.

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Evolving Culture at Winter Solstice

On the longest night of the year, under a full super-moon, a ritual evolves in a small Utah town.

Bluff, Utah, December 21, 2018

A full super-moon rose as complete dark enveloped a crowd gathered in the December cold around campfires and torches to celebrate the longest night of the year with art, culture, and sculptural pyrotechnics.

For those like me who are not motivated by the Christian religious myth of Christmas, Winter Solstice is the natural time to celebrate the turn of the seasons. A ritual is called for and one is evolving in rural Bluff, Utah, with all the resulting tensions that come with change and growth.

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Torrey House Press publisher, Kirsten Johanna Allen, in search of words from the land. 12/21/2018 in Bluff, Utah

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Gaslighting our Sacred Public Lands

One of the ugly features of the new Trumpian Republican Party is the tendency to frequently and blatantly lie. Trump, according to fact checkers, averages 6.5 lies a day. To cover up, he twists reality in a way known in psychological circles as gaslighting. It is a practice used by narcissists, wife abusers and dictators alike. Trump says and does things and then denies it. But it is more devious than mere denial. As Frida Ghitis frames it at CNN, he lies then blames others for misunderstanding, disparages their concerns as oversensitivity, claims outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and otherwise twilights the truth. Now Utah’s Republican junior U.S. Senator Mike Lee is giving gaslighting a shot by attempting to make Utah’s much beloved public lands out to be a conspiracy for and of some mystery “elitists.”

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For “elitists” only

In a June 2018 speech to the reactionary right’s Sutherland Institute he called “Honoring the Founders Promise on Federal Lands” (you can see the full speech here) Lee stands on his head and claims that our sacred public lands are for a private elite and in order to liberate the lands for the people they must be privatized.

I kid you not. Continue reading

Deadbeat cowboys, faith, racism, dark money – and hope

From my new companion blog, The No Bull Sheet

January 14, 2018, Torrey

Inter-Tribal-Logo-Brown-on-white-300x300_0316-e1459542189197Here in the West it is cowboys and Indians again. Or still. I believe the battle will soon turn against the cowboys.

Cliven Bundy and his deadbeat cowboy clan remain free, still owing the United States over $1 million in federal conviction fines and grazing fees, and still illegally trespassing their cows on desiccated public land. Trump came to Utah in December and signed away some two million acres of national monuments, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history. Utah has lost the lucrative Outdoor Retailer convention.  As our politicians disgracefully cheer, Gallup reports that 61% of Mormons approved of Trump in 2017.

I am trying to figure out what gives. Continue reading

Ugly locals

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Republican, and Mormon, land grabbers smugly celebrate breaking another promise to American Indians. Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017

2017 was a rough year for our beautiful, fragile, public lands in Utah. I look at the image above and all I can see is Utah’s Republican politicians celebrating a gang rape led by the pussy grabber in chief. I am with the Salt Lake Tribune that the image is of Utah at its ugly worst as these quislings celebrate kicking American Indians in the teeth and sucker punching the rest of America. All in the name of . . . what exactly? Continue reading

Trump backfire

Backfire. Like what happens when you tightly plug the barrel of a gun and pull the trigger. Like what is going to happen to the current Republican administration after it tries to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency, eviscerate the Endangered Species Act (it is now legal to shoot wolf pups and bear cubs in their den), and eliminate or fracture existing national monuments. Most of us Americans are against these shenanigans. A big backfire in favor of conservation is imminent.

I keep telling myself to spend more time reading the stack of print magazines I subscribe to and to spend less time online. So on a trip this week to Seattle (destination Whidby Island) I grabbed an Economist, Harper’s and The Atlantic Magazine for the plane. I like Harper’s in particular because of the longevity of the “Easy Chair” column. The West’s Bernard DeVoto first wrote in the “Easy Chair” in 1935 about many of the same issues that remain today, like ranchers and other businesses trying to take and use up public land. In the August issue writer Richard Manning has an optimistic essay (here) that the political fortunes of environmentalists are already on the rise. In this seemingly dark hour of losses on many conservation fronts, I recommend reading it.

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The public lands of Mt. Rainier, seen from the plane.

One would be excused if while traveling across the vast open spaces of the West, crisscrossed with barbed wire and with cows everywhere, one concluded that ranching and farming were a big part of the economy. They are not. Continue reading

“America is wasted on a lot of Americans.”

Earlier this week Kirsten and I were on our way from Cooke City, MT to Red Lodge via the incomparable Bear Tooth highway. A cold front had come through several days before and clouds were still hanging low and cold over the peaks. For two days, in the second week in June, the just opened high mountain road was closed again for blowing snow and ice.

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Sudden drop from the top

I was in line waiting to use a Forest Service restroom when I asked a woman waiting in line with me if she had come from over the summit. With abundant animation she replied in the affirmative. “I am from Manitoba where it is so flat you can watch your dog run away from home for three days,” she said. “I know flat and let me tell you, this place is NOT flat! Add to that you can’t see twenty feet in the fog up there and I mean it when I tell you I need to use a rest room.” Continue reading

“Local input” sounds good if you say it fast

No sooner had the Bears Ears National Monument been proclaimed than local Utah politicians launched a concerted effort to undo it. Kirsten Allen and her gang at Torrey House Press have gone to great lengths to help support the making of the Monument and may indeed have played a role in its creation by the President Obama and the Department of the Interior. They created and published Red Rock Testimony and took hundreds of copies to Washington D.C. They simultaneously came out with Edge of Morning, a book of all Native voices in support of the Bears Ears. These are very nice people, why would they promote an outcome that local people don’t want? Continue reading