I'm hiking the Hayduke Trail. It's been two years since I last spent more than week in the wild, and as expected the itch has returned. And with our current political climate and the relentless attacks on our public lands, it feels more pressing now than ever to hike 800 miles through Southern Utah before the bulldozers roll in.
This region is the bullseye of a major attack on our public lands. In December 2017, D. Trump signed an executive order drastically reducing the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. The order removed protections from over two million acres of land and butchered the monuments into smaller, disjointed units. Whether the President actually has the authority to remove monument protections (or whether that power lies solely to Congress) is currently under debate in our legal system. But despite all that is uncertain, the land is already threatened.
In June, a Canadian mining company announced plans to reopen the Colt Mesa mine. This mine goes directly through part of the Hayduke. It's just outside the boundaries of Capitol Reef National Park, along a popular alternate to the town of Escalante, and though it's not one I'll be taking, I don't think any of us wants to hike through a field of bulldozers cutting through our beloved canyon country.
But this fight isn't about how it inconveniences us as hikers. This fight is about keeping wild places alive. It's about how damaging natural resources extraction can be, and whether any of it is worthwhile in the long run. Did you know that any damage done to this area will need to be cleaned up and remediated, and that the cost of such operations won't fall to the Canadian company who made the mess in the first place, but to us? That's right—the American taxpayers will bear the burden.
Anyway. Plenty has been written about this issue, and I'll share some resources below. I'm sure you're wondering What the heck is the Hayduke, and I'll answer that in the next post.
Excellent map of the boundary reductions, with layers showing the locations of coal, oil, and gas deposits.
Is it a coincidence those new boundaries just happen to exclude all that coal, oil, and gas? I think not.