Tea parties. Health care town halls. “Energy Citizen” rallies.
The rest of the country has seen these (or will) to one degree or another, but nearly two weeks ago some Utahns who are fed up with federal government control of their lands (67 percent) staged a protest in Salt Lake City. The local media covered it, but most of the rest of us missed it. And the Deseret News wrote a pretty good lede:
Stretching to both sides of the street, thousands marched up State Street to the Capitol on Saturday hoping for one thing: their American rights.
Farmers, hunters and all types of outdoor enthusiasts upset over the continued closure of forests and other lands gathered on the steps and lawn of the Capitol with resolve etched across their faces.
“If you want to see what it’s like to live in a socialist regime, go to southern Utah,” said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who organized the Take Back Utah 2009 march and rally. “The federal government controls everything.”
When have you ever heard a major newspaper describe property use advocates as people who pursue “their American rights?”
Noel, who worked for nearly 20 years for the [Bureau of Land Management] as a lands specialist before quitting in disgust when the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established by then-President Bill Clinton, said he hoped the event would energize Utahns who might not have time to backpack into scenic parts of the state for two weeks but want to access public lands.
“This is more than about recreation, it’s about farming and mining and keeping revenues generated by the lands of Utah,” Noel said. “This is a beginning. We have got to be extreme in the way we take back these public lands.”
The demonstration was a reaction to the excessive favor the courts and BLM have given to groups like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (empowered by a Swiss billionaire and shrouded in its own controversies), Earth First!, and other environmental activists, who believe any human use or enjoyment of the land is a blight. The extremists said the demonstrators have “selfish motives,” as though their motives of denying affordable resources and good employment for less difficult living are unselfish, all to benefit soulless creatures, rocks and dirt. I’m sure the animals and the creek pebbles appreciate the gesture.
Brand new Governor Gary Herbert, who replaced the departing Jon Huntsman Jr. (ambassador to China), explains further: