As the 50th Anniversary of Canyonlands National Park approaches later this 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 last in a series of five short films) highlights students from the University of Utah who spent a semester studying an increasing body of research that shows how spending time in nature enhances a person's high level cognitive functioning, creative problem solving and sense of well-being.
The students then took a trip to Greater Canyonlands to experience wild nature first hand and make their own empirical observations.
"I know for myself I have dealt with things like anxiety and depression in my own life," reflects one student, "and being out in wide open spaces has played a big part in affecting how I can sort of live with that sort of thing. It really helps me get back to a good place in myself."
After viewing the oil and gas drilling that is encroaching on Greater Canyonlands, the students also reflect on the future.
"I actually voted for Obama and that whole change platform is good so I'd like to see some change in how we treat this land and how we are trying to protect it from oil and natural gas -- which currently we're not from what I’ve seen," notes one student. "It's pretty weird how on the drive to a national park you can see pipelines and burning natural gas and oil exploration rigs."
"If Obama could actually step up and try to protect these places that are irreplaceable that would be really valuable," he concludes.