Thank you for the opportunity to testify. As mayor of Springdale, gateway to Zion National Park, I speak for a community which stands on the edge of the wilderness. We also stand on the edge of this issue, because from our perspective, wilderness has tremendous value, and I can only wonder why anyone would want to drive a stake into the heart of this incomparable land.
Throughout this process, Springdale has asked our congressional delegation to be conservative and responsible and protect Utah’s wilderness. If we were heard, the bill they have put together does not reflect it. Today I speak in opposition to S. 884, which ignores the will of the people and injures the state of Utah. Instead, I urge support of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 1500, which, for the benefit of our citizens, protects 5.7 million acres of our most precious natural resource.
Springdale supports wilderness because wilderness supports us. Three million tourists come there annually for the unspoiled scenery, the wildlife, the clean air and water. Each year, backcountry hiking and primitive recreational activities increase.
My little town has 250 hotel rooms, soon to become 500, and then 600. We have a giant-screen Cinemax theater, a wildlife museum, galleries, bookstores and gift shops expanding each year, and restaurants filled to overflowing–all this in a little town at the edge of the wilderness, on the edge of this issue.
Wilderness is the goose which gives us these golden eggs. Harm that wilderness–kill that goose–and we lose forever our golden eggs.
From our perspective, this is not the wilderness of the 19th century, something to be cut down in order to survive in a limited local economy. This is the wilderness of the 21st century, of a global economy, and as Utah rushes down the information highway, we will need quiet places to rest–and to breathe.
So will the rest of the world, and they will come to Utah to do so. Utah will begin the 21st century with flags unfurled–the 2002 Olympics!–the eyes of the world will be upon us–what image will they see: transmission lines, dried-up river beds, and scarred hills? The effect of that image begins now and will continue for years after the Olympic snows have melted. Utah will attract more tourism and recruit more high-tech companies with our unique red rock wilderness than with gas pipelines and grey slabs of concrete.
But, valuable as it is, the color of money pales before the importance of our community values, our quality of life, our families. I am concerned about the effect of S. 884 on those values. How can we teach our children respect for their cultural heritage if we do not preserve the archaeological sites of our predecessors? How can we teach them to respect each other unless we respect the sensitive species living on critical habitat now managed as wilderness? How can we even expect them to clean their own rooms if we do not keep clean our own environment?
I believe there are three tests for a Utah wilderness bill:
- Is it good for Utah? S. 884 diminishes the very qualities that make Utah a great state, while America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act strengthens our quality of life, our economy, our image, and our community values.
- Is the bill in the national interest? How does it benefit American taxpayers to pave, dam or drown their own pristine land? S. 884 impairs the interests of American citizens, while America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act insures their public trust.
- Does the bill have popular support? S. 884 clearly does not. Poll after poll has demonstrated that Utahns support more wilderness. In the Deseret News’ latest poll, the largest block, as well as two-thirds of the comment received by the Governor’s office, support 5.7 million acres.This groundswell of popular and passionate opinion has been ignored. Certainly a majority of Americans will also oppose the trampling of their rights and their land, and will favor protection of Utah’s national treasures.
S. 884 fails all three tests. So–why vote for this bill, which takes a chainsaw to public values as loudly as it bulldozes public land?
Please do the right, responsible, and prudent thing for Utah, for America, for this valuable and vulnerable land, and pass the only true wilderness bill before congress, the citizens proposal, H.R. 1500, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
Phillip K. Bimstein
Mayor, Town of Springdale