Walt Dabney

[Courtesy Photo] Public lands advocate Walt Dabney will give a presentation at the Moab Information Center, Thursday, June 10 at 5 p.m.

Event info

What: Free Lecture: “Public Lands: Where, Why and How”

When: Thursday, June 10 at 5 p.m.

Where: Outside the Moab Information Center (25 E. Center Street, Moab)

For more information, go to https://cnha.org/news-events

When Moab resident Walt Dabney hears talk of getting rid of federal control of public lands he recalls what it was like in his native Texas, where most land is privately owned and not accessible to the public for recreational use. In Utah, on the other hand, he can attach his mountain bike to the back of his car and be riding on area trails in 15 minutes.

“I use public lands all the time; I love them,” he said. “I know what it looks like when you don’t have them.”

Dabney will present his lecture on “Public Lands: Where, Why and How” on Thursday, June 10 at 5 p.m. at the Moab Information Center (25 E. Center Street, Moab).

“We’re excited to have another lecture,” after a yearlong hiatus due to the pandemic, said Sharon Kienzle, manager of Arches National Park bookstore and the Moab Information Center.

This year’s free lecture series will be held outside on the patio, between the MIC entrance and the parking lot.

“We’ve never done it outside before – Walt Dabney’s talk will be a test run,” Kienzle said.

Dabney has given this presentation in multiple states, including Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah to help people understand how public lands came about and what it would mean to lose them. In states where there are few public lands, opportunities to mountain bike, hike, fish, camp and hunt are limited.

Dabney worked for the National Park Service for 30 years, serving eight years as superintendent of the NPS Southeast Utah Group of parks. Plus, he directed the Texas State Park system for over 11 years.

He said he was inspired to put together this presentation in response to the idea – in some circles – of transferring Utah’s public lands from federal to state ownership.

“I tell the entire story of how we got to this and what we need to pay attention to in the future,” Dabney said. “If Utah had to pay (to manage the public lands) it would be a staggering amount of money.”

Fighting wildfires alone would cost more than Utah could afford, he noted.

“If you transferred the land to the state they’d soon have to sell it on the open market,” Dabney said. “The wealthy people would buy it up – and not to let you on it to do things you like to do.”

One of the many interesting facts you’ll learn in Dabney’s talk is the story of how national forests were set aside – something he said he learned while doing research for the presentation.

Dabney, who is retired, currently serves on the board of directors for Canyonlands Field Institute, Public Lands Solutions, and Canyonlands Natural History Association.

Two lectures are scheduled at the MIC for July: Park Ranger Robert Anderson will speak about the creation of Canyonlands National Park, July 8; and Jeff Moore will discuss the “vibration and lifecycle of natural arches” on July 22. Kienzle said she hopes to schedule presentations through October. The lecture series is popular with both locals and tourists, she said.

Sale proceeds from the MIC book and gift store support nearby public lands, including national parks, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Time for questions and discussion will follow the hour-long presentation.