Nice photo of the Green River Canyon – suggested by one of our students…

Island In The Sky


Newspaper Stories

Hello All,

Students are starting to send in newspaper stories about happenings on the Colorado Plateau, along with their reflections on those stories. Very interesting material here! I am looking forward to the rest of the entries, which I will post when I get them (probably Monday).




“Moab U, Tar Sands, and Sustainability” – Canyon Country Zephyr, Jim Stiles:

This piece by Jim Stiles is a discussion on Moab’s future economic and environmental sustainability, and how several recent proposals to further develop the region and begin extracting tar sands in the nearby Book Cliffs fit into this sustainable vision. I have come to regard the community of Moab with a sense of mild amusement for its funky, eccentric atmosphere, though I am deeply concerned for its future. Moab has always been a town of great contradictions, as it has passed from being a sleepy Mormon cow-town to a booming nexus of uranium mining to an outdoor adventure mecca, with shades of all three eras still visible in its present culture. Interests from these three perspectives naturally clash over many issues, and as the community continues its rapid growth there will be tough decisions to make.

What path will Moab take in the future? From Stile’s article, it appears that there is significant weight behind the idea of a sustainable future for the region, which makes me a little more optimistic for Moab’s outlook. But again, the contradictions are disconcerting. How can a community concerned with preserving the landscape and natural resources of a place let pass a proposal for a dinosaur theme park directly across from the entrance road into Canyonlands National Park? Additionally, a satellite campus of Utah State would potentially add ten thousand more people to the town’s population. I find it hard to believe that Moab would be able to appropriately handle this kind of growth without compromising the state of its surrounding wildlands. At a certain point, the vision of sustainability has to address ways to limit future growth, not blindly endorse it. Dinosaur themeparks, rapidly expanding populations, encroachment into wild areas…I, for one, would hate for Moab to turn into another Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

2.      “Big change for Zion National Park’s slot canyon permits” – The Salt Lake Tribune, Erin Alberty:

This blog originally caught my attention because I have done some canyoneering over the past few years, although never in Zion. Part of the reason I have avoided Zion is that it is very difficult to get a permit for a spur-of-the-moment trip to descend a canyon. Zion has become one of the most popular canyoneering locations in the world, and because of this the Park Service has had to implement a canyoneering permit system to limit use. This was a necessary step, as without a permit system visitor safety could be compromised if too many people ended up bottlenecked in a canyon, and such high levels of visitation inevitably have an adverse impact on the health of the canyon ecosystem. Permits are in such high demand these days that in order to be insured of receiving a space, canyoneers need to apply for a permit three months before their proposed trip date. In the past, a portion of the permits were reserved for last minute trips on a first come first served basis. To acquire these permits, people would line up outside the backcountry office and wait all night for the visitor center to open the next morning so they could grab one of the few permits available for the day.

This is all changing now, as the blog points out, as these last minute permits will be issued via online registration, not on a walk-up basis. The demand for such a change came from public input last fall, and it is good that the Park Service responded accordingly to what sounds like fairly unanimous visitor support for an online system. As the author of the blog suggests, the only downside to this new permit process is that there will be no reward for visitors who really want a permit. For example, now it doesn’t matter if I want a last minute permit bad enough that I would be willing to camp out overnight in front of the backcountry office – I still have an equal chance of reserving a spot as someone sitting in an office in St. George who thinks he might want to go canyoneering over the weekend. Overall though, I think the new system will make things run more smoothly and will eliminate some of the hassle for both visitors and Zion rangers. This situation provides a good case study highlighting the ways in which federal agencies have to continually shape their management policies in order to adjust to higher visitation levels. The canyoneering permit system in Zion seems to be pretty well established and respected right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other national parks in Utah, such as Arches, adopt similar policies for specialized activities like canyoneering and climbing as recreational use continues to increase.


“A Q&A with former Colorado National Monument head Joan Anzelmo

This article interests me based on personal conflict with both enjoying outdoor recreation and staying skeptical to its place in the world of conservation.

Anzelmo discusses a precedent that would be set by allowing for this kind of corporate intervention (even collaboration) in the Department of the Interior. What value judgements surround her stance?…are they warranted, and do they represent broader views of the United States or only a desire of the few to keep our federal lands as ‘natural’ and undeveloped as possible?

“Wrestling with a destiny of dryness” (an essay rather than news story)

Moving to Denver from the Midwest is my first experience living in an ‘arid’ climate. I am fascinated with the Nation’s trend towards developing cities in the harshest and resource scarce climates (Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles). However, the story focuses on smaller homesteading and agriculture rather than discussing the rampantly growing urban metropolises of the SW. Still, the article questions counter-intuitive human settlement.

How will we backtrack out of the inevitable resource disasters of this century? It seems unlikely that built urban spaces will be abandon at this point, so the better question is who will be displaced or disadvantaged because of the costly infrastructure and pipelines that will ultimately be built?

Regarding both pieces of writing:

Since the climate is so tough on the Plateau and conserving precious natural resources is an important value to me, then what purpose do I have at all in these places? Can educational purposes solely justify my presence?

Also from HCN: 
“Island in the Sky: Clouds filling the Green River Canyon, UT”


 1: Drilling could double in Eastern Utah

2: Shell produces 1,700 barrels of oil from Piceance shale
Both articles I selected were about drilling and mining in the southwest. The first article really struck me because it highlights the moral conflicts we face with the human-nature relationship. In the downturn of the US economy, job creation is vital if we want to restart the economic flow. However, a lot of job creation is short term and completely neglects the fact that the environment is facing a much graver fate than the economy is facing. Many energy companies are trying to portray an image of innocence as they claim to be supporting safe, green methods of extraction as well as creating jobs. Personally, I do not think job creation in the mining industry is not the way forward, because we can create the same amount of jobs (if not more) in the research and renewable energy industry that result in an economic boost with minimal impact on the environment.

“Water” We Gonna Do? Political Deadlock & the West’s Coming Mega-Drought… Kathleene Parker

The water dilemma is very scary. The scariest part about it is that we will not only experience it in our lifetimes, but probably by the end of this decade. Last semester I was following the sale of Mountain Water and Park Water to the multi-international corporate giant The Carlyle Group, and was the first time that I realized how important water is going to be in the coming years. There was a lot of resistance to the sale in Missoula against the privatization of Missoula’s water, unfortunately the city of Missoula got into a legal dispute with the owner of Mnt. Water back in the 80’s and I’m under the impression that was why he refused to sell to the city. Plus Missoula simply couldn’t compete with the Carlyle Group. Anyway, I realized that the race to control water rights has begun.. and big companies like the Carlyle Group know how valuable it will become in the future. Especially throughout the southwest where there really isn’t even enough water for current populations right now, let alone in 20 years when populations are predicted to double.

Kathleene Parker mentions several times the obsession with “growth” that the American government and congress can’t seem to get away from. A look from outside the box makes our political and economic incentives look absolutely insane as “growth” continues to trump environmental, education, health-care, and infrastructure; which all create the foundations for long-term economic well-being and it’s ability to adapt to change.


State Engineer Reaffirms Decision to Allow River Water For Nuclear Plant….by Lisa J. Church 

I thought this short article was location appropriate; a nuclear power plant is in the works about 5 miles out from Green River, UT. It was a quick article, though gave me  insight on this nuclear power plant project I had not known about before. The article mostly focused on the financial and political disputes on the water rights that the nuclear project would need to obtain to keep the reactors cooled. I don’t know much about nuclear power, I do know that they are extremely dangerous however. As we have just recently seen in Japan. Also, I’m not sure what the guys behind this project are really thinking anyway. I mean, a nuclear power plant in the desert? I’m just guessing but I imagine a nuclear reactor requires a LOT of water to keep it cooled, and apparently the USDA recently declared the Moab area in stage one drought, and the Green River area is stage two. It just seems a little absurd.


The article above hit home for me. I grew up in Williston, North Dakota which is in the heart of the currently booming Bakken oil formation. I have personally seen the toll oil production has taken on the beautiful countryside of western North Dakota, and it saddens me to think of similar destruction taking place in Utah.

This article opened my eyes to the extreme control the state government has over it’s citizens.


Mormon Leaders Warn Members to Heed Rules on Proxy Baptisms – The Salt Lake Tribune 

I found this article interesting because it speaks of a ritual that I have never encountered before: Proxy Baptism.

in LDS culture, it is possible for someone to who is alive, and a part of the church to be baptized on behalf of

someone who is already dead.  I get very excited about all the things people and their respective cultures practice.

I also found this Q&A article with more information about Proxy Baptisms.

Q&A About Mormon Baptisms for the Dead

Souvenir or Sacred Artifact? – High Country News

This article from 2005 is about returning artifacts to the native populations in Arizona.  This is something encountered quite frequently within the whole of North American Anthropology.  I think that it is very important that findings – especially human remains – are returned to their respective tribes.