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'Taking Back Utah' aims to make a point

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

On Saturday thousands of people will gather at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City to march, ride and drive to the Utah State Capitol to show their support for multiple use on federal and state lands. They will be there to make a point.

The point is that Utahns in general, no matter whether they live along the Wasatch Front or in the outer boundaries of the state care about the land, but also want to be able to use it.

Many organizations and politicians across this nation and particularly in metropolitan areas portray those that ride dirt bike and ATV's, those that graze their cattle and those that derive their living from the public lands in our state as villains. They make those of us who want to see the land from anything but a paved road out to be destructive, only out for our own gain and pleasure.

Sure there are those among us that don't care. Anyone who rides an ATV or uses a four wheel drive is appalled when they get to some out of the way spot and there is a water or beer bottle in the middle of nowhere. We also see places where off road vehicles have torn up part of the countryside, going off the trail or away from the designated route.

But the same can be said of a minority of all groups. Being a backpacker and camper, which many environmentalists seem to think is the ideal way to cover the back country, But while doing that I have found trash in camp sites, trees hacked down for firewood, spots evened out for tents where they shouldn't be doing it, human waste on the side of the trail unburied, etc. You name it and I have seen it. Just because someone is on foot doesn't mean they are more or less responsible. It has to do with education and policing of our own to take care of these kinds of problems.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that often those that use the land in the west are portrayed as a bunch of uneducated hicks. Yet so many of the people I know that use the land know more about the actual land they are using than anyone who comes from New York or San Francisco to tell us how to take care of it.

And when we speak out about the situation we are deemed right wing nuts by the media and environmental groups. There is that element within the movement to protect our rights to use public lands, but painting any group with a broad brush is a mistake. It is, however, expedient, and they love that.

One of the people that has been hit over the head a number of times in the media is Mike Noel, the state representative from Kane County. If you hear the clips on television of what he has said in the past about land use he can appear to be way out there. But I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with him a couple of times and he is much like you and me. The large media portrays him as some hick cattle rancher, yet the guy has advanced degrees from Berkley and Columbia. He is super intelligent. Now I would never say that I completely agree with everything he stands for, but then to be fair, I don't even agree with my wife on a lot of things either.

What we need as public land users is a fair hearing of our gripes and concerns. We need to be taken seriously and not dismissed as a bunch of rednecks, who only want to destroy the land. Destroying what we love is the last thing the vast majority of us want because we plan for it to be there for our kids, grandkids and beyond.

Attend that rally. Take your four wheeler, your jeep or pickup and carry your viewpoint right to the top of the hill in Salt Lake.

Believe me, legislators will be watching, and a nervous federal government certainly is.

If we don't speak up for ourselves, no one will.




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