Category Archives: Value of Wilderness

Have you noticed that it is almost always hazy?

I was at a star gazing party in southern Utah recently and met a businessman my age as he showed me around his telescope setup.  As we got to know each other it turned out this guy, who seemed otherwise a lot like me, was a climate change denier.  He told me his reasons and I listened.  He was pretty sure of himself.  The only notion that seemed to set him back was the observation that the air around Capitol Reef National Park, air that used to be so clear there were view point signs touting it (150 miles visibility used to be), is now almost always hazy.  He had noticed that too.  Here, William Anderson, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes in southeastern Nevada, talks about the external cost of air pollution and benefits of clean air, that is the externalities that don’t show up on a balance sheet or income statement but are real none the less, in this concise entry from Writers on the Range. . .more>>

Value of wilderness debate: Wilderness wins 9:1

I found this debate in The Economist to be a terrific, brainy way to get a review of how we got to where we are today on our sense of the value of wilderness.  The best points I thought were made by “featured guest” contributors that centered on the relatively poor results environmentalists achieve when they take a no compromise position.    Michael Shellenberger & Ted Nordhaus make the lucid point that,

Ignoring those questions (of how to manage development), and engaging in romantic visions that such a world can be sustained through small-is-beautiful projects, imperils the effort to produce a beautiful and healthy planet more than any corporation or government.

It is surprising to me that readers of  The Economist would be so profoundly in favor of the notion that:

This house believes that untouched wildernesses have a value beyond the resources and other utility that can be extracted from them.

. . . more>>

Rob Bishop is flunking economics.

Utah Representative Rob Bishop has brought out Southern Utah University professor Ryan Yonk, to give testimony to the Public Lands Subcommittee about his recently issued paper, a paper without peer review, asserting wilderness and protective designations for federal lands have a negative economic impact on local communities.  No wonder right wing climate change deniers like Bishop feel like academia can be bought.  Just as when Bishop towed Escalante Mayor Jerry Taylor before Congress to testify against national monuments and Taylor received serious backlash from his own chamber of commerce when he got back to Escalante, Yonk is getting backlash.  Headwater Economics and  Republican Jim DiPeso of thedailygreen.com and the policy director for Republicans for Environmental Protection reply.  . . . more>>

The Wisdom of Wilderness

According to The Christian Science Monitor in a reader recommendation, psychiatrist, contemplative theologian, counselor, teacher, writer, and Shalem Institute fellow Gerald G. May wrote his last book, The Wisdom of Wilderness, as he was dying. We journey with him into the wilderness, which he says is “not just a place; [but] also a state of being.” He guides us to what is natural and wild in our own lives – and to the healing grace of nature. Sounds good, I haven’t read it yet, if anyone does, please let us know your thoughts.

More Republican assault on our wild land heritage.

The right-wing notion that the environment is the enemy has come around blindingly fast.  The notion doesn’t make enough sense to stand on its own.  Rather, it is being PR packaged by big industry special interest in a form of pernicious cronyism.  Here, the Grand Canyon Trust reports that a group of  Republican lawmakers, including Senator McCain, is introducing legislation to stop the Obama administration from blocking new mining claims around the Grand Canyon.  There won’t be many Americans who think that the Grand Canyon is a good place to mine.  What are these cowboys thinking? . . . more>>

They are dry in the mouth too.

Just like the Colorado River does not make it to the Colorado River Delta and on to the sea, Australia’s largest river, the Murray-Darling is dry in the mouth.  A 10 year drought there has made for necessary changes.  Brad Udall, director of the Western Water Assessment in Colorado, spent four months in Australia working with its Department of Water.  Cally Carswell of High Country News explores with Udall what happens when the door is opened and more than special interests and lawyers are allowed in the room to talk about solutions.   Udall says, “For 150 years, we’ve had three kinds of people in the room talking about water: we’ve had water users, we’ve had attorneys and we’ve had engineers. And for the most part, the public, economists and scientists have not been a part of this dialogue. In Australia, they don’t even let attorneys in the room — at least according to one gentlemen down there — when it comes to water. And they talk in these very holistic (terms): what’s good for our economy, what’s good for our social systems, what’s good for the environment — they have those three perspectives. It’s not just driven by the legal system, which is usually almost always the case here in Colorado.”    . . . more>>

Starry night enthusiast and his camera

The Colorado Plateau has some of the most light pollution free dark skies in the continental U.S.  On a dark Plateau night, the Milky Way casts a shadow.  Dark nights may not feel intuitively like a resource worth protecting, but on this blog by Jaymi Heimbuch of treehugger.com, youthful photographer Ben Canales captures some of the grandeur and wonder of a dark, starry night with his camera.  In a (somewhat long winded) attached video he even will show you how.  . . . more>>

Only one stream in Utah is wild and scenic?

Above all Utah is a wild and scenic place.  Yet only one segment of one river in the state has been granted protection.  There may be hope. Segments of nine rivers and streams in southwest Utah have been deemed eligible by the Bureau of Land Management for possible protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, said getting rivers or sections of streams designated as wild and scenic is difficult because of the required congressional approval. Frankel said his group has been identifying rivers for designation throughout Utah, but a congressional sponsor is needed and no one has shown much passion.  Why the lack of concern?  . . . more>>

What if your “way of life” is destructive?

The main argument for grazing cows on public land in the West is that it is and has been a “way of life.”  Even the ranchers admit it is not economic.  The rugged cowboy is a favorite modern day icon for the West and we all often feel a fondness for the idea he is still out there.  Until you see a creek or meadow after the cows have been through.  Here’s an article in the Los Angeles Times where allotments are being rested from cows, and allowed to recover.  Will the National Forest Service make the right decision to keep the cows our, save a landscape and a rare trout species, or will “way of life” prevail?  . . . more>>

Soren Jespersen answers the extractors about jobs

Kirsten and I had dinner with Soren and his wife Kristen while we were in Steamboat Springs last week.  Soren is the son of my old Wasatch Advisors partner, Roy Jespersen, and it was good to catch up with Soren and find out what he was working on for The Wilderness Society.  I was disappointed to learn that public land grazing is considered a third rail by The Wilderness Society, but encouraged about the work they were doing, along with ranchers, on protecting land that ought not to be drilled and mined.  Soren published this about Salazar’s visit to the West recently.  . . . more>>