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Canyonlands
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is, indeed, a strong argument for designating 1.4 million acres of federal land around Canyonlands National Park in southwest Utah as a national monument. The fragile beauty of the area is, as claimed, threatened by everything from irresponsible off-road vehicle traffic to possible mining and drilling activity.

But it would be needlessly provocative of President Obama to heed Tuesday's call from the Outdoor Industry Association and exercise his unilateral power to so designate such a large swash of Utah.

Both the moral and economic cases for preservation are well stated by the OIA and its many allies, many of them Utah-based. The eternal cash flow from outdoor recreation stands to do much more good for the state than the boom-and-bust fossil fuel economy.

Still, the case for such a significant action should be made and weighed, with extensive public input, if for no other reason than to avoid handing a powerful political talking point to Utah's burbling secessionist movement.

Back in 1996, as he was seeking environmentalist votes, the about-to-be re-elected President Bill Clinton surprised everybody by designating the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. That is a memory that still smarts with many Utah leaders.

And it is one of the sparks behind the measure, passed in the last session of the Utah Legislature, demanding that Washington cede some 30 million acres of federal land so that it can be sold, mined, drilled or otherwise turned to the short-term economic benefit of the state and its tax base.

Such a giant land grab has no chance of becoming reality. That territory belongs, by law and by right, to all of the American people. And no Congress will give that up.

The promise of some Utah lawmakers, supported by Gov. Gary Herbert and sadly championed by Attorney General-elect John Swallow, to pursue such folly will only cost our taxpayers money and our state much of its credibility.

A better alternative to this spiraling exchange of legal body blows exists. It is the example of the Washington County Land Bill, which brought everyone to the table and worked out an admirable compromise for the preservation and development of territory around St. George.

Of course, the two major facilitators of that deal were then-Sen. Bob Bennett, who was ousted in the next election, and Rep. Jim Matheson, who was nearly beaten last week.

Sadly, deliberation and compromise are not always rewarded in Utah politics. All the more reason why Obama, safely re-elected without Utah's help, should seek both.

Give everyone a voice in the matter
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