"Are you going to make any New Years resolutions?" I asked Uncle Spud as we sat by the fire, washing down leftover fruitcake with Maalox and milk.
"Sure," the Spudster answered. "I make resolutions every year. The only problem is, I'm about 40 years behind on some of my resolutions. Any resolutions for 2011 will have to go to the bottom of my list."
"How does a person get 40 years behind on New Years resolutions?" I asked.
"I've never made a New Years resolution I didn't keep," Spud insisted. "So some of the tough ones, if they ain't workin' out, I just pass them on to next year, or the year after that."
"Sounds like cheating to me."
"Not at all," Spud burped. "A promise isn't broken until it's never done."
"Sounds like the title to a bad country western song," I laughed. "So tell me, O mighty King of Procrastinators, what resolution is at the top of your 40 year list?"
"This year I've got to turn my pet rock loose," Uncle Spud said. "I made a resolution to do that a long time ago. I've just never got it done yet."
"You've got a pet rock?"
"Pet rocks were a big thing back in the 1970s," he said. "Everybody had one. Mine is a cute little fellow. His name is Igneous. Sometimes I call him Iggy."
"Sounds like you've become emotionally attached," I yawned.
"Yeah, and that's the problem," Spud admitted. "He's been a rock star in our family since 1964."
"So why do you want to turn him loose?"
"At heart, Igneous is a rolling stone. I've got to set him free so he can go 'find himself' out there on the desert somewhere."
"I thought you found him years ago."
"I did," Spud said. "But now he wants to find himself. You've got to understand the rolling stone mindset."
"You're probably too late to return old Igneous to the land of his birth," I said sadly. "Most of the Utah desert will soon be off limits to people like us. Did you hear about the latest land grab from the Obama administration?"
"No," Spud said. "What's this all about?"
"During the Christmas holiday, when they thought no one would be paying attention, Interior secretary Ken Salazar announced that he is giving the BLM authority to designate huge tracts of Utah public lands as 'Wild Lands.' It's a new classification that allows special protection. Any public land the BLM deems to have wilderness characteristics can be so designated. This could affect six million acres of Utah not already locked up as national parks and monuments. We currently have 3.2 million acres designated as wilderness study areas and the BLM has identified another 2.6 million acres that might qualify under this new classification.
"How do wild lands differ from wilderness?" Spud asked.
"We don't know yet. But judging from the way wilderness study areas have been managed in the past, we can assume public access will be severely restricted. We can also expect a freeze on any type of development, including oil and mineral exploration."
"That'll be hard on the economy," Spud winced. "We need the jobs and America needs the fossil fuels."
"Worse than that, this action is a direct violation of an agreement made in 2003 between Utah's governor and secretary of the interior Gale Norton. After the Grand Staircase Escalante was forced on us in the dark of night, the feds pledged in writing they wouldn't do this sort of thing again without the consent of the governor and Utah congressional delegation. Obviously, they lied. Governor Herbert, our congressmen and senators are outraged. This is a political payoff to the wilderness lobby, pure and simple. People without honor are running our federal government. We can't trust them."
"Maybe I'll keep my pet rock after all," Spud concluded. "I'll keep it as a reminder of how things used to be, when I could enjoy our public lands without all the No Trespassing signs, swat-suited BLM rangers and sneering nature Nazis.
"Political influence is all that matters nowadays. If you feel the way we do, call your senators and congressman, march with the Tea Party and join the Utah Shared Access Alliance. It's time to stand up and be counted."