August 2018 - Back to the Future

Aug 17, 2018

Bruce training his staff on the use of drones for conservation
Captain's Log Starship 1XE, Day 1 in the month August, Earth Calendar year 2018.
Back to the Future. Back to Escalante.
Well, the airport hasn't moved on the map and the ominous slots and boulders of Death Box Hollow sure look the same, but where is the airport?
It was back in the early 80s when I last landed there but not much changes in this remote part of Utah, so I guess it is just the smoke and early morning haze that makes me question the location. Back then there were organizational meetings forming SUWA, while their leaders were being hung in effigy. If that was not bad enough, rumors surfaced about my aircraft's fuel tank being sabotaged and sprinkled with sugar. (I spent 1.5 hours circling above the field to ensure it was not so.) Needless to say we all survived. SUWA has gone on to being one of the most respected and effective conservation organizations around today, and they have managed to secure protections for good portions of the red rock desert despite the rigid anti-conservation attitudes in all corners of their state.
Our flights were with hard-core desert rats, knowledgeable people who have lived on and loved this wild country for decades. Some are now local business owners, and everyone gathered to share their perspectives with the Guardian Newspaper who are doing a large piece on the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument under the Trump administration.
Fifty-Mile Mountain, GSENM
Trump's attack on the monument has significantly increased the threat of mining within the original boundaries with the re-filing of expired mineral claims and a mining company's acquisition of the Colt Mesa area for hard mineral extraction. The Department of Interior is focused on expediting the process of exploitation even while the legality of Trump's proclamation remains unresolved. DOI's management plan opens up 700,000 acres to mining, and plan to sell off 1,610 acres of public lands.
The flight was spectacular even with the muted shades of smoky gray, and the conversations in the cockpit were illuminating. Everything from newly proposed mining sites to the history of the Mormons settling the area was discussed. One explanation of why people in the area are so possessive of the surrounding lands was that G-d herself gave these promised lands to the Mormons. One scholar aboard likened it to Zionism, and hence a fierce defiance of federal intervention to protect any of these lands on a federal level. Enter the Sagebrush revolution and a conservative agenda to keeping the land free from any kind of restrictions whatsoever.
In this time it feels like we are stuck in a past where we are still fighting to save the monuments that we already fought so hard to create - we need to get back to the future! A future where the generations to come will get to experience truly wild places while getting a glimpse into the past in places like Escalante and Bears Ears.
Bruce Gordon