As the 50th Anniversary of Canyonlands National Park approaches next month, Utahans and others across the country who love the area are pushing for President Obama to declare the 1.8 million acres of public lands surrounding the park as a new Greater Canyonlands National Monument.
The area is a haven for recreationists -- from river rafters to climbers to jeepers -- but it is under increasing pressure from oil and gas development, potash mining, and even tar sands strip mining. Such industrialization in the heart of Utah's recreation economy -- not to mention at the center of the Colorado River watershed, which provides water for more than 30 million Americans -- would forever mar this still-wild landscape. (Not a single power line traverses the proposed monument area.)
The following short video (the 4th in a series of five short films created by young people on the importance of protecting Greater Canyonlands), features students from Colorado College on an "annual pilgrimage" to Greater Canyonlands as they grapple with the questions "How can we protect this awe-inspiring place for the future? How can we advocate for such natural beauty? How can we become stewards?"
In an effort to give back to the land, they spend four days building a new trail to minimize human-caused erosion in a popular climbing area.
But after viewing oil and gas drilling that is encroaching on the area, and learning about the threat of tar sands development from local residents, they conclude that larger actions are needed to protect the area for the future.
"What the group found was that regardless how it happens, local Utahns, conservationists, and members of the outdoor recreation industry all basically want the same future for Greater Canyonlands," concludes one student, "one that acknowledges and protects the inherent value of this amazing natural space."