Category Archives: Public Lands

“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

New West Microcosm

I have been promoted.

The other day I was compared to and quoted on the same page as Yvon Chouinard and Peter Metcalf. Chouinard has never heard of me and Metcalf might have to be reminded, but I will take it as my moment of greatness anyway. I guy now from Monticello, from Moab before that, and perhaps New Jersey originally, got worked up about a comment I made about not wanting a gravel pit in Torrey-Teasdale on a Facebook post of his and he dedicated an article on me (and Yvon and Peter) in a faux objective, compulsively contrarian piece. The unhappy guy refers to himself as a journalist and considered reporting about me his duty. So as not to seem too flattered by the attention, I admit he comes across more as a committed victim than he does as an objective journalist.

Superbowl Sunday hike.

The worst place in the world for a cow.

Continue reading

Why Torrey House Press

I was so smitten by the red rock canyons and high country of the central Colorado Plateau that in the late 1990’s I built a home there near Torrey, Utah.  With the house underway and drawn to the landscape around it, I went for day hike on nearby Boulder Mountain. I hoped to spend a little time writing near Meeks Lake which I anticipated would be a pristine natural alpine lake perched on 11,000 foot high Boulder top. On the way up the mountain I noticed there were a lot of cows and that the grass was hammered everywhere. I hiked around barbed wire fences and cattle guards, all on U.S. National Forest lands. I was surprised that there were always cows on both sides of the cattle guards and that livestock gates were always open. When I arrived at the lake I found it inundated by cows. It looked and smelled like a stockyard. Continue reading

New West microcosm series

I have started a blog series called “microcosm” over on my Agenda New West site. Agenda New West is about contrasting the Old West with the New, showcasing what the West was, how it got to where it is today, and what it is becoming. Most of all I want to envision what the West could be along the lines of Wallace Stegner’s notion of “a society to match the scenery.” Continue reading

Review: All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found
All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ALL THE WRONG PLACES is a hero’s journey and the story of the emergence of one of the best of the West’s new writers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Connors at an Association for the Study of Literature and Environment writer’s conference where he was a speaker. Dave Foreman was there too and the three of us had lunch along with my wife and publisher at Torrey House Press, Kirsten Allen. Kirsten ended up sitting with three men who had lost their brothers by their brother’s own hand. It was a moving experience for me, one I still feel and am grateful for. Continue reading

Red Rock Testimony

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Red Rock Testimony

Today in the New York Times, Timothy Egan posed the question, “Can Poets Save the Parks?” Nice concept! Terry Tempest Williams gets a plug for her new series on Parks callend “The Hour of Land” and Torrey House Press’s own Red Rock Testimony also gets mentioned and quoted from. Good job Kirsten Johanna Allen and Steve Trimble and all the contributors.

As luck would have it at this moment, Torrey House Press is laying low as the publisher AND we have a brand new website.  We did not mention Red Rock Testimony on the old site and the new site perhaps has yet to be crawled by the search engines. The new site does have a lovely banner piece talking about the Red Rock Testimonies project and mission.

Egan is right, there is nothing like a book to promote conservation. All the great conservation movements were preceded and inspired by literature. Will a Bears Ears National Monument be granted by President Obama? Will Torrey House Press play a part? Will poets again, indeed, save the land?

Where is best place for a gravel pit?

NIMBY, better yet, nowhere

(originally published in Agenda New West)

Red Rock gateway or “Gravel Pit Point?”

At the Bicknell Bottoms in Wayne County, southbound Utah Highway 24 turns west and passes through the Red Gate of the red rock Velvet Cliffs on the north and a toe of Boulder Mountain on the south. Here it enters the gorgeous Fremont River valley and the gateway communities to Capitol Reef National Park. I was at a gathering of friends and neighbors to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of the good man who built my home in the valley in Torrey. John came down from the city in the late 90’s to build my home, fell in love with the surroundings, and never left. Continue reading

Why a robust response to Bundys at Malheur is important

Equal justice under law

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U.S. Supreme Court

The immense damage I see to public lands in southern Utah caused by private livestock grazing motivated me to start Torrey House Press. The public would not put up with current land management practices if they knew about them and I want to get the word out in literature.  The land practices are absurd, and I will get to that, but what concerns me even more about the Bundys taking siege to the public buildings at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is how it makes a mockery of the American principle of equal justice under law. Continue reading

Napa and Point Reyes

Kirsten and drove the A6 to Truckee and then on to Napa and Pt. Reyes leaving Saturday March 28 and back to Salt Lake the next Friday. Kirsten was meeting with our latest author, Sasha Paulsen for an editing session on Dancing on the Spider’s Web. Now back in SLC I notice that I did not take many photos and did not take any notes. Thinking about it I decided to combine this blog with my previous entries from THP Green Adventures and change the site title here to Notes and Shots. I will use it both as a travel and conservation journal in the  blog and a place to keep my best photos in the galleries.  That way I can feel more free to take notes and shots without thinking they need to be interesting and good enough for National Geographic.  Even though I will make the site available to the public I think of the audience as my kids, Kristen and Nick, my uncle, Ted Kehl, and maybe my grand-kids some day. Hi guys.

View from our room

View of tidal Napa River from our room

Truckee was conspicuous with the absence of snow. No shots, but resorts that look like they should be closed with mostly dirt showing still have skiers working their way down presumably man made snow ribbons.  California’s Gov. Brown ordered mandatory water use reductions for the first time in the state’s history while we were there. Residents are required to cut back, but big farms, which use 80% of the water, are only required to write reports — but that may be another blog.

In Napa we continued with my suggestion that Kirsten find us nice places to stay and not tell me what they cost. Works in the short run, time will tell about the finances. We had dinner that night with Sasha and her adult daughter Ariel at an equally elegant place nearby. The food in Marin county is nonstop amazing. I was thinking that I would throttle back while away from the fridge, but not-so-much.

On Monday we met up  in Petaluma with Lise Soloman, our Torrey House Consortium sales rep with Karel/Dutton Group, and drove up to Sebastopol to have lunch with Sheryl Cotleur, the adult book buyer for Copperfield’s Books. Both women are a forces in books sales. Lise is credited by author Paul Harding as the impetus behind his winning a Pulitzer for his debut novel Tinkers. Tinkers was published by a sister publisher at Consortium, Bellevue Literary Press.  Kirsten and I always say the best thing about publishing is the people and with women like these two out there we will keep saying it. At one point during lunch I told Sheryl about how our author Mary Sojourner feels no hope about the West and conservation. Mary gave that response when asked about Stegner’s phrase, “The geography of hope.” I told Sheryl how Mary thinks writing about nature and the West is dead and wondered if she agreed. Sheryl sat back and said she “100 percent” did not agree. She encouraged us to keep going and started telling us we needed to meet Steve Costa and Kate Levinson, owners of Pt. Reyes Books and asked if we had ever been there. In fact, that is where we were going next anyway.

Our B&B in Pt. Reyes

Our B&B in Pt. Reyes

Kirsten had already made another excellent arrangement at a B&B in the small town of Inverness in Pt. Reyes. We poked our heads in the bookstore but Steve and Kate were out. Fabulously, Sheryl and Lise had forewarned them we were heading their way. Kirsten left a card at the bookstore and Steve and Kate got back to her asking us to please come by. When we showed up the next day they interrupted some poor sales rep’s pitch to say hello, suggested that we should have dinner together, and even insisted that we should do so at their home and stay with them. There goes those great publishing people again. The Bailey in me was appalled at the imposition, but of course it all turned out great. I hope somehow we can return the favor with a stay in Torrey.

At dinner with Kate and Steve we asked them a lot of questions about their biannual conference. It seemed natural that Terry Tempest Williams had been involved in the area for some time including with the conference.  The most recent called The 2015 Geography of Hope Conference after Wallace Stegner’s phrase in his Wilderness Letter — major sections of which were read at Kirsten’s and my wedding.  Kate and Steve were our kind of nice, smart people but way, way ahead of us in the world of connections and conferences. Kate encouraged us to stay regional if we try a conference and perhaps to consider starting with just the LDS enviro authors we are interested in supporting.

K's smart phone shot of Shell Beach

K’s smart phone shot of Shell Beach

Point Reyes was astonishing. On the last morning, April 2, a day before my brother’s would be birthday, at sunrise on Shell Beach near Steven and Kate’s place I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the loss of Mike. Mike, the world is beautiful, it is worth protecting, and I wish you were here to help.

The Elephant in the Room is a Cow — Grazing Impacts on So. Utah Forests

 

Bull in the china closet

Bull in the china closet

My wife and I are both sixth generation Utahns. We own homes in both Salt Lake and Wayne counties. We were married in the Capitol Reef National Park outdoor amphitheater in 2010. Together we cherish the natural landscape of Utah, our pretty, great state. Except for one thing. We have become sensitized to the damage done by livestock grazing on public lands. Our pioneer ancestors worked hard to survive in the arid country they were charged with settling, and we admire the determination and pluck it required. But public lands ranching doesn’t make sense anymore, and the more we learn about what our forests could be, the more we see the degradation–and absence–of plant communities and wildlife habitat. There is hardly anywhere we can go outside of the wilderness areas of the Wasatch where we don’t see it. This bothers us so much we started a publishing company in part to shed more light on public land mismanagement. We also volunteered with Mary O’Brien and the Grand Canyon Trust to do grazing damage assessment and now serve on the board of directors of Wild Utah Project with Allison Jones.

I borrowed the elephant part of the title to this blog piece from our neighbor in Torrey, Chip Ward, from something he said in a recent Tom’s Dispatch post about beaver habitat destruction by ranchers. Kirsten and I feel that if there is one simple, single thing that would most improve the natural landscape of Utah it would be the cessation of public land livestock grazing. It is everywhere yet its economic benefits are miniscule and for only a very few. Currently, 97% of the Dixie, Fishlake, and Manti-La Sal National Forests in southern Utah are actively grazed by livestock. But only one percent of Utah’s gross domestic product, or economic output, is agriculture, and only a small sliver of that is from public land grazing. Yet that one percent of economic production uses 82 percent of Utah’s water and almost all of the public land. Predators such as wolves, key to ecologic balance, have been eliminated. Others like coyotes, and now even crows, are hunted down by the state. Beavers have been virtually outlawed in Garfield County, just south of Wayne. Aspen, willow, and cottonwood growth have been stunted by livestock browsing.  The problem is conceptually easy to fix, but it goes largely ignored. When it isn’t ignored, reform is blocked by tiny but powerful special interest groups. In the West, the iconic cowboy and his cow remain mythical and sacred. Like the king with no clothes, the public land is exposed and much the worse for it.

Over the last four or five years we have gathered photos illustrating both the damage from livestock grazing and what the forests could be when protected from grazing. Clicking any of the photos in the gallery below will take you to a slide show where more detailed captions are available. Perhaps many of the pictures need no caption to tell the story. We often photograph “exclosures,” areas fenced off to keep livestock out in order to assess grazing impacts. Virtually all of the exclosures we find are routinely violated by the ranchers — which makes sense since it makes them look bad. Cows are also supposed to be herded away from riparian areas, but in all our forest travels we have only seen the one cowboy pictured below.

The Southern Utah Forest Service is instituting a grazing assessment and inviting comments (send emails to “grazingassessment@fs.fed.us”) and concerns. We hope they take this chance to begin to run the forests as other than a subsidized ranch.