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Where the Wild Lands Are

SAMSUNGI’m giving my feet a chance to recover. After a week in New York visiting friends, meeting with media, and walking as much as time and rain allowed, and THEN hiking 20 miles in a day and a half at Bryce Canyon with my son, Matt, I’m putting my feet up and thinking about wild lands while looking out the windows in Torrey. These last two months have offered a lot to ponder: Cliven Bundy and his militias defending his 20 years as a law-breaker, Bundy’s son riling up a crowd to trash Recapture Canyon on off road vehicles, the Garfield County Commission passing a resolution declaring the cowboy a cultural resource. There appears no reverence for wildness among those who call themselves locals, which I think means having at least five generations living and extracting resources in the same area. Of course, it’s not a new story, this insistence on the cowboy myth, this denial of destruction by hoof and road, and neither is the effort to recognize and reverse the normalized degradation of the last open spaces in America. Decades ago, Wallace Stegner, the dean of Western letters, declared that “the West is politically reactionary and exploitative: admit it. The West as a whole is guilty of inexplicable crimes against the land: admit that, too.”

It’s tremendous to live in the West, to hike spectacular mountains and deserts, drive miles on back roads without passing another car, explore the past and present cultures that have been shaped by wild lands. It’s also damn discouraging to have state legislatures handing laws and tax dollars to wolf killers and extractors of all kinds, who are unwilling to bear their own production costs. Manifest destiny is no longer a societal value, and we know that sage steppes and riparian areas cannot withstand the pressure of miners, drillers, and grazers. But policy and practice lag far, far behind society’s current understanding and values. So, at Torrey House Press, we publish books that tell the stories about land issues and the wonders of wilderness, and Mark and I serve on the board at Wild Utah Project. And to keep myself feeling I have a handle on something real, I’m on a continual quest for truth as demonstrated through science–you know: research, data, evidence. As long as successful publishing and wild lands conservation remain elusive goals, you can find me thinking about books and wilderness and doing small research projects on this and that, and writing about it all here. Happy reads & happy trails!

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