At times I feel at my wit’s end. Cars are honking. Texts are flying. Billboards are flashing. Homework forgotten. Refrigerator empty. Dishes dirty. I need solace for my soul. Wilderness provides it – even when I can’t visit it.
As American author Wallace Stegner wrote over 50 years ago, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
We don’t need to sacrifice our wild lands for a secure and prosperous energy future. Oil and gas companies have negotiated with environmentalists to find solutions that give the green light to drilling while protecting those places that are most treasured for recreation, solitude and wildlife.
I’d like to slide Stegner’s wilderness letter into President Obama’s bedside reading material. His soul needs nourishing. With wilderness in his heart, he would have the passion to preserve the natural legacy Presidents before him have built. We haven’t seen this passion yet.
Today, Obama’s Interior Department opened wilderness lands surrounding Utah’s spectacular Desolation Canyon to oil and gas exploration. What is now a wilderness experience for river floaters and hikers alike will be marred by the sights and sounds of drilling. The wild lands order issued by Interior Secretary Salazar in December 2010 has not consistently delivered protection on the ground.
Similar spectacular wilderness lands are being lost further north in Wyoming. Since February 2009, this administration has sold 61 leases totaling 93,800 acres within Citizen Proposed Wilderness in Wyoming. These areas include the stunning hoodoos of Adobe Town, declared a rare and uncommon area by the State of Wyoming. Let’s put our drill bits where they do the least damage and not in the places that nurture our souls.