A year ago, Mark Meloy told me about his dream of starting an
organization committed to the appreciation and preservation of Cedar Mesa. It
turns out that with Senator Bennett’s announcement of a process to resolve
public lands issues—including Cedar Mesa—in
When I arrived at the
Check this new Cedar Mesa Friends website to get a sense of what
happened on Saturday: http://www.cedarmesafriends.org/index.html.
Here are some of my thoughts:
Vaughan Hadenfelt, backcountry guide and owner with his wife, Marcia of Far Out Expeditions in Bluff, began the event with a story and an array of slides of what he’s seen during his two decades of wandering Cedar Mesa’s deepest recesses. Scenes of canyons, ruins, and artifacts he’s discovered had the audience in near constant ecstasy. He ended with a sunset scene with a halo miraculously perched atop a distant butte. His story of discovering ‘perfect kiva’ did what good stories are supposed to do: guide listeners deeper into their own reason and meaning.
Bill Lipe, the wise archeologist working with
Bill touched on Cedar Mesa’s value to the entire world of
archeology--something he and his
A panel discussion took up the remainder of the afternoon. Ted Wilson, former SUWA board member and now head of Governor Herbert’s Balanced Resource Council, was first. He referred to Senator Bennett’s process and talked about his recent involvement. A few of us expressed our concerns over the fact that all the stakeholders don’t seem to have played a role—the oil and gas people, for example. We expressed our concern over the fact that to date, none of the promised field trips have been scheduled (Ted said that there will be field trips) and that the County has been reticent in not being specific about their priorities in the way that other participants have been.
Mark Maryboy, former San Juan County Commissioner was next. He spoke eloquently about the needs of the Navajo people to gather medicinal plants and cut firewood. And how Brad Shafer, Bennett’s aid, had visited different sites with Navajo elders.
I spoke next—generally about the process, but more about the future—a time when places that are quiet will be highly valued as our society gets louder and louder. I talked about the possibility that early people were able to thrive on Cedar Mesa for thousands of years because they were able to “hear themselves think” –something that is becoming nearly impossible today.
“Rather than saving Cedar Mesa, we should talk about how it will die and how to reincarnate it.” This was the somewhat gloomy but perhaps realistic message from Winston Hurst, the archeologist who grew up in Blanding. A self-proclaimed “glass three-fourths empty kind of guy”, Hurst went on to explain how we need to be careful because in his experience most efforts to save a place end up doing more harm than good. He spoke of how the area has been changed simply by the numbers of people who now visit.
Brian Quigley from the BLM told a great story about his first experience in the canyons of Cedar Mesa. He and his friend were backpacking and didn’t know where they were or where they were going when they walked around a corner and stood facing Moonhouse Ruin. Then he talked about visitor user days, overnight use versus day use, and the permit process.
Ronnie Egan of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness spoke about that fact that wilderness doesn’t mean locking an area up….that she and many of her aging friends love getting out in Cedar Mesa and that there are and will always be hundreds of miles of legal roads in the area that will always allow access. She spoke about traditional uses, and their need to continue but in a sustainable way.
What are the values that Cedar Mesa needs to be managed for? Bill Lipe asked this question, and pointed out the difficulty we all face with so many different values and stakeholders who are passionate about this place.
The audience asked many good questions, made important comments, and then it was time for the potluck dinner. The people living in Bluff can really cook. It was one of the best potlucks I’ve ever been to. There was a giant cake, great salads, and Joe Pachek brought stew he made from the heart of an elk he killed last fall. We finished with a reception at the new Cloudwatcher Gallery where all the world’s problems were temporarily solved and for two hours, everything seemed just right.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Mark Meloy does with all the good
energy that was created that day. We’ll keep you posted.
SUWA Field Advocate