Thursday, June 25, 2015

A fat check 

A fat check is what Utah legislator Mike Noel has promised San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, to help pay his legal fees (and perhaps even his fines) following his conviction on federal conspiracy charges in connection with his leading an ATV protest ride through Recapture Canyon.  A canyon full of remarkable archaeological sites, the kind of place that in any other state would likely be revered and named a National Park, Recapture Canyon is apparently a place San Juan County officials think should be a playground for motorheads.

And Utah's Governor, Gary Herbert, agrees.  He has pitched $10,000 from his campaign funds into Lyman's charity bucket.  Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox tossed in $1,000, adding "We are proud to support one of our own."

Our own what?  Is he advocating willful violation of federal law?  Is he advocating motorized recreation over protection of priceless archaeological treasures?  What are these people saying, and what does it portend for the future?

Utah demonstrated its contempt for Native American heritage and historic preservation when it fired its state archaeologist four years ago.  Its leaders have now clearly shown that they consider Lyman's violation of federal law to be "fulfilling his duties" as a county commissioner (Mike Noel quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, 6/25/15).

This kind of talk from people elected to make and uphold laws--talk of resisting federal authority--might be seen as honorable, courageous, and admirable by some, but resisting federal authority so people can ride their little toys and endanger millennia-old archaeological sites, sites already evaluated by the State of Utah and the US government as eligible for the National register of Historic Places, is sad.  It's no more than pathetic pandering to big-money exploitation.

Should we ride our ATVs through a pioneer cemetery, or a museum?  Should we sacrifice significant natural and cultural resources for a motorized playground?  Should no places be set aside for protection?  Apparently Governor Herbert and Lieutenant Governor Cox value four-wheeling over heritage, and that is a very short-sighted, self-centered view.  Those Anasazi sites are not the heritage of Herbert, Cox and Noel, all of european heritage, christian beliefs.  They clearly do not care about the heritage of the Native Americans, any more than the ISIS thugs who wantonly destroy the heritage of those they consider to be "others."

Well, Native heritage and its cultural resources are clearly "other" than the heritage Utah values.  And so are natural resources, unless they can be extracted and sold.

The precedent has been set.  Utah hates the federal government and will protect those who violate federal resource protection law and policy.  When will the next act of "protest" take place?  Who will be emboldened by the Governor's foolishness?  I suspect things will get worse before they get better.

See my novel A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB, which is concerned with related issues.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB; Land use protests

A QUICK TRIP TO MOAB, a novel by Kevin T. Jones; published serially beginning June 21, 2015 on Medium:

The story begins tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, when a protest against the federal government's closing of an area to off-road travel gets out of hand.  Stan Watson is driving from Salt Lake City to Moab to pick up a painting and visit a friend, when he is caught up in violence that has spun off from the protest, and is threatening average citizens.

It is not too far-fetched to think that something like this could happen.  The protest that arose when Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cows were to be taken for non-payment of his grazing fees is an example.  Hundreds rallied to his side, including many who seemed to be there just for the excitement.    Anti-government sentiments are rampant in some quarters, and there appear to be many who are ready to take action, to engage what they fear is government over-reach.

Two who showed up in support of Bundy, but who were sent away for being too extreme, later went to Las Vegas and gunned down two policemen as they ate breakfast.  It's a testament to the Bundy camp that they spotted the problematic volunteers, but it is also a reminder that any sort of civil disobedience or protest has the potential to attract extreme actors.   The Bundy group accepted and encouraged firearm-brandishing participants, which amplified the potential for something to go wrong, and with protesters aiming assault-style weapons toward federal agents, it is very fortunate that violence did not erupt.

Even peace marches, with flower-carrying, love-song singing barefoot marchers seem to attract some who are there for the thrill, the excitement, the ability to blend in to a crowd, and possibly participate in mayhem.  Once the first rock is thrown through a storefront window, other crazies join in, and soon, it is not a peace march, but a riot.

And with protesters carrying AR-15 rifles, the possibility that something could go awry is increased.  And when things involving firearms go awry, they really go.

The anti-government off-road-no more wilderness-give the lands back to the state kind of protesters may also have deeper animosity toward the federal government.  They likely tend toward fundamentalist, Tea-Party and Libertarian philosophies, support and exercise the right to bear and carry firearms, and may have considerable support in local, regional, and even state-level law enforcement and legislative arenas.

Could one of these protests go bad?  Could violence erupt?  Or is the question more likely to be when will things go bad?  How bad will they get?  Will the government back down?  For how long?  Does the fact that most of the protesters are white and fly American flags protect them?  What are the long-term consequences for resource protection?