For several years, a coalition of environmental groups, outdoor recreation organizations and Utah politicians, including Rep. John Curtis and former Sen. Orrin Hatch, worked out a historic land protection agreement that even hardcore environmentalists praised. The Emery County Bill became known as the Dingell Natural Resources Act and designated over 600,000 acres of land in Emery County as official wilderness.
It was a big win for nature and for humans who love nature. In a Salt Lake Tribune commentary recently, Tim Glenn beautifully described the experience of floating through Labyrinth Canyon with his family. We all know the priceless values that come from true wilderness: quiet, solitude, drilling, profit for a privileged few, right?
But before the wilderness legislation was finalized, a helium extraction company from Denver, with help from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and a few officials at the Bureau of Land Management, acquired rights to land inside the newly designated Wilderness Area, close to Labyrinth Canyon. The company’s drill rigs would be placed on SITLA land and would suck helium from under the actual wilderness area.
We might hope that the Biden administration will rescind this lease. But we can’t count on them to do this without pressure from people who care about places like Labyrinth Canyon.
Biden has already appointed an oil-money soaked politician and a chemical industry insider to key positions. Noam Chomsky said that Joe Biden is an empty vessel, and he needs to be compelled to make the proper choices.
Let’s make sure that President-elect Biden does the right thing. Tune in to your local environmental group to find out what you can do to help protect Labyrinth Canyon.
Harry Holland, Castle Valley