National Geographic : 1980 Dec
remain doubtful that such projects and envi ronmental quality can coexist. One snowy morning in Salt Lake City I called on Dr. Joan Coles, a member of the Si erra Club's Energy Committee and a clinical psychologist for the Salt Lake Community Mental Health Center. "I've had my life threatened at Escalante for saying the things I'm telling you now," she declared. "But I'm tired of the attitude of so many local people that they have disposi tion power over national treasures like parks because they have the luck to live nearby. "The trouble with these little towns," she went on, "is that they lack the ordinary en trepreneurship that would create a reason able number of jobs. Small industry might be happy to locate in places like Escalante or Kanab. Utah labor is renowned for industri ousness and dependability. But Escalante needs a few dozen jobs, and what does it do? It wants to develop Kaiparowits." Like many others I talked with, Dr. Coles cited Rock Springs and Gillette, Wyoming, as paradigms of what can happen when growth outstrips planning: jerry-built boomtowns with transient populations and increased crime and alcoholism. "Sooner or later," she concluded, "these communities are going to have to adjust their populations to the carrying capacity of the land. It can be done now, or 50 years from now when the coal or whatever is all gone. I don't think anybody owes a town a lease on life in perpetuity. Our own West is full of ghost towns." If Dr. Coles had expressed these thoughts at the Kane County courthouse in Kanab the day I dropped in to talk with local officials, there might have been an uproar. One young man in particular was fuming. "Just look at this," he challenged me, dropping a foot-thick pile of papers on the table with a bang. "Wilderness studies, environmental-impact statements, master plans, lease filings. Documents, documents, documents. The feds inundate us at the local level with more data than we can handle. "Wilderness!" He almost spat out the word. "We don't want one acre of it in Kane County. It's not just what would be locked up in the wilderness areas themselves. If BLM gets a wilderness area, the EPA won't letyou do a thing within a hundred miles of it because that might affect the air quality. "It's the same with the parks. The federal government owns 85 percent of the land in Kane County. We have 16 percent unem ployment and no industry. There are thou sands of mineral claims-uranium, gold, silver, manganese, copper, lead, gypsum. There are oil, gas, and coal leases. If they'd let us develop some of our resources, we'd be in business. There's enough land here to have beauty and development. We don't see that we should be giving everything in the country to preservationists and extremists!" Here, in one outburst, surfaced some of the antagonisms that rend southern Utah today. Minerals versus parks. Development versus preservation. Us versus Them. How are "us" and "them" defined in the minds of southern Utahans? More or less as Water equals life in a parchedland where branding boys stir dust on a ranch near Orderville, Utah (right). Under a rainless sky near Kanab, third-generationrancher Sylvan Johnson (left) fears that the coal slurry pipelines will deplete his water. "Hellawmighty," he asks, "what can I do against Utah International?"