Paul Rolly: Stewart saving Utah’s scenic wonders — at least in photos

By PAUL ROLLY

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: August 6, 2014 03:46PM
Updated: August 6, 2014 03:48PM
image
Paul Rolly

Freshman Rep. Chris Stewart is so proud of Utah’s natural beauty that he placed a photo of its spectacular scenery on his congressional website.

The area Stewart shows off will remain pristine because it lies within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is protected due to then-President Bill Clinton’s application of the Antiquities Act.

While Stewart is proud to display the protected site for all to see, he voted recently to undo the process that would protect similar American treasures.

Each Utah congressman, including Stewart, voted for Utah Rep. Rob Bishop’s bill, which would require an administrative review before a president could designate a national monument through the Antiquities Act.

Theodore Roosevelt’s great-grandson said enacting the bill into law would “turn America’s cultural and natural legacy upside down — taking us from a country that seeks protection for its iconic scenery and historical heritage to one that creates obstacles to preserving these incredible places.”

But at least the picture on Stewart’s website can be preserved.

More preservation, Utah style? • The Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation, including Stewart, fiercely oppose the request from 14 liberal U.S. senators that President Barack Obama create a 1.8 million-acre Greater Canyonlands National Monument in southeastern Utah to protect that area’s redrock mesas, ancient cliff dwellings and one haunting site that’s 12,000 years old.

Outsiders should not determine the future of Utah’s land use, these GOP representatives maintain.

So, perhaps, Stewart can just preserve that beautiful area with another picture on his website.

Speaking of Stewart • He recently sent a mailer to constituents in his 2nd Congressional District, a full color “survey” purporting to gauge the opinions of those he represents, but having all the earmarks of a typical campaign flier.

The headline: “It’s time for a new outlook for America. Congressman Chris Stewart has a simple solution to our debt problem: STOP WASTEFUL SPENDING.”

The irony: In tiny print at the top were the words, “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.”

State stewardship • The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I stayed at Bryce Canyon National Park recently and, while there, read an interesting history of the park relevant to the current debate about whether Utah and other Western states should take control of federal lands within their boundaries because, as the argument goes, the states can manage them better.

Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, responded to concerns that the fragile features of Bryce Canyon were being irrevocably damaged by overgrazing, logging and unregulated visitation. He proposed it be protected by being made into a state park in 1921.

He met with Gov. Charles Maybe and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature. A state commission was created to set up a state park system and make Bryce Utah’s first state park.

Then? Nothing.

Mather waited for three years for the Legislature and governor to act while abuse of the canyon continued. He couldn’t wait any longer and persuaded President Warren G. Harding to declare Bryce Canyon a national monument in 1923.

Can you imagine the outcry of presidential overreach from some state legislators had that occurred today?

Bryce, saved from the devastation that was being caused before the presidential declaration, remained a monument until 1928, when Congress turned it into a national park.

prolly@sltrib.com