Decisions regarding public lands should be made by Congress, and not through a “wish list,” developed by extreme environmental groups and out-of-state interests. Back in July, Moab resident Marc Thomas lectured Grand County chairman Lynn Jackson for condemning the Sierra Club’s non-collaborative approach to public lands. During Mr. Thomas’ lecture and delightful twist and misconceptions of public lands he is quoted as saying the abuse of the Antiquities Act is a process that “embraces multiple stakeholders.” Spoken like a true Chicagoan. A Greater Canyonlands National Monument would be done in the middle of the night to the detriment of Moab’s economy, ask Escalante.

Mr. Thomas also writes, “It’s worth noting that the greater Canyonlands region is owned by all Americans not just westerners, not just Utahans, and certainly not just Grand County officials.”

In 1763, King George III granted seven of the 13 original colonies claims to the western lands with their colonial charter. After revolting against the land-baron king and declaring independence in 1776, the colonies were forced to finance their independence with debt. In 1780, the states and their financiers were broke and fighting a war on their own soil against the greatest fighting force in the world. The Continental Congress stepped up and agreed to hold the western lands in “trust.” Congress, as trustee of the west, used this trust as collateral to pay the debt of the war. Congress specifically agreed to form these lands into distinct states and grant the newly formed western states the same rights of “sovereignty,” as the original states. When Utah was admitted to the union, the majority of the land was retained in federal ownership. Some of these lands were later reserved as national forests, national parks and other purposes. However, more than half of the federal lands within the state were retained in the public domain and made available for private uses.

For 200 years the federal government acknowledged this agreement to release the federally owned western lands to the states. Things changed in the mid 20th century. Members of Congress from the East and Midwest United States that once viewed economic growth in the West as good for the country as a whole, now viewed this growth as a threat. Extreme environmental groups emerged. Congress rallied behind these groups and produced the wilderness act of 1964. In 1976 congress passed the Federal Land Policy Management Act, (FLPMA) declaring it was the United States' new “policy to retain these lands in federal ownership.” The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was directed to manage the lands for multiple use and sustained yield. Utah, and other western states, were to be afforded a share of the revenues from production on federal lands, including oil, gas, mining, timber, grazing, recreation…etc. To offset the lost tax revenues from the newly claimed federal lands residing within the states borders, the feds offered to make a payment to the state, in lieu of taxes (PILT). PILT amounts to pennies on the dollar compared to the revenues that would be generated by the states without federal land ownership. We now pay taxes to the federal government that in turn pays us to not access the vast amount of opportunity on our lands. As you can see, the relationship between western states and public land management agencies has always been challenging. A complicated web of federal statutes, policy, and case law governs public lands. Now, the partnership is seriously eroded by the abuse of the Antiquities Act and the Wild Lands Order. Wilderness designation means more than simply leaving land undeveloped, it means prohibiting all structures and motorized access (including the placement and maintenance of water holes for wildlife.) I support the idea of designating appropriate lands as wilderness, but not at the expense of a local economy that’s health relies solely on it’s citizens access to public lands.

In Mr. Thomas’ home state of Illinois, the federal government retained and currently manages a whopping 1.21 percent of the lands residing in the state. Meanwhile back in Utah, our state has 66.5 percent of our lands being managed by unelected bureaucrats that are influenced by an emotional agenda (87 percent in Grand County). You mean to tell me that you moved to Moab, where you utilize our lands in your Jeep that consists of plastic and rubber components derived from and fueled by hydrocarbons, and you proceed to lecture the local people on land issues and promote policy that subsequently removes yourself and all of us from accessing the land? And you’re surprised that the “scary” western men like myself are frustrated with you?

How are we to build and sustain a healthy economy for our community if we succumb to people like this? We need these wolves in sheep’s clothing extreme environmentalists to respect and support humans and their access to prosperity and wellbeing.

SUWA superimposes oil derricks over the arches in photos and promotes a never-ending exaggeration of the impacts of mining and pitches this emotionally driven garbage to a group of trust funders on the east coast that inherited this trust, from wealthy ancestors that worked hard and pursued private enterprise. And I’m not afforded the same opportunity to pursue economic prosperity on my lands because my landscapes are more beautiful and more mineral rich than…Illinois? And even after I’m given no choice but to accept the policy of multiple use on the lands that rightfully belong to the state, some lawyer working for SUWA is going to take that away? Then the roads on these lands built by my forefathers to hunt, camp, hike, access opportunity and find solace are no longer accessible to me because of legislation authored by a Congressman who has never even flown over my state? If you slap a “Save Wild Utah” sticker on your Jeep or bicycle-hauler and tomorrow you find yourself shut out of your favorite recreation area because your own ignorance, you’ll receive no pity from me. If you block mining and energy infrastructure, you’re only hurting the people. We need these projects. The extraction industry will provide a great tax base for the county to invest in our recreation amenities. The extraction industry will provide good wages for working families that will in turn stimulate the economy. We need balance.

If you’re going to write about uranium mining poisoning the soil or oil drilling ruining the aquifers, present factual evidence or keep it to yourself. Don’t force me to live in a cave because of your speculative trash. . Without mining, we couldn’t purify our water, heat our homes, transport ourselves to our favorite recreation areas, and most importantly feed the world. I’m accused of being a poor land steward that sacrifices short-term gain for long-term pain. Moab hosted a world-class mining boom that improved the quality of life and built the schools, bridges and roads you now use for access to outdoor recreation. And still you came to enjoy our lands. We’re exploring for and mining potash, copper and hydrocarbons. And yet still you come, in droves. The economic surge of tourism in the '80s was great, and still is today. But the ideology that to succeed financially or environmentally, you need the whole place to yourself without off-highway-vehicle use and mineral exploration doesn’t work for us. This selfish and uncompromising behavior isn’t supported by the science or the facts surrounding the environment and the economy. Mineral extraction doesn’t harm the environment and is great for the economy, end of story.

Renewable energy is a broken promise delivered to you by the same folks that told you that we were ruining the planet…hmm coincidence?

Climate change is a non-linear process that involves temperature change and always will. The man-made climate-change theory is contrived from unproven scientific models and is speculative at best. But just for the sake of the argument, lets say theoretically we are 100 percent sure that man-made climate change exists. While U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have flat lined in the last 15 years, China's and India’s emissions are growing at a rapid rate. If we completely eliminated our fossil fuels industry tomorrow, (which would cause the economic destruction of the U.S.) our emissions would be quickly offset on the other side of the globe. Renewable energy isn’t going to save us and is a bottomless pit of investment. If these projects were commercially viable, the project owners could finance them on their own without asking the feds to play venture capitalist with my tax dollars and subsidize the meager amount of energy produced. Wind and solar power provide 1.3 percent of our energy demands domestically and most of these projects burn through their grants and stimulus checks before they can deliver energy to the grid. Even if commercially viable, alternative energy isn’t an avenue to energy independence. Why? Rare Earth Elements. China controls 98 percent of the market. REEs are in solar panels, wind turbines, rechargeable batteries, hybrid automobiles, biofuel catalysts…etc. So while you’re championing these means by which to create “clean,” independent energy, keep in mind that the extraction methods of REEs include negative environmental impacts that “green” industries hide. You’ve been lied to.

Our forefathers worked too hard to build this exceptional town in the midst of one of natures great beauties to lose it to the anti-human agendas and uninformed sheep. Logic is a discipline, and the current environment in greater Moab is downright disobedient.

Curtis Wells is a sixth-generation Moab resident and works in mineral exploration and mining technology. He is the president of the local Sagebrush Coalition.