This is dangerous territory to write a column on the touchy subject of how the federal government holds the cards in a county whose percentage of federally managed property is over 90 percent, and in a state whose portion of public lands is close to that number.
Tensions that are the result of government control in lands and communities that were built on the backs of private enterprise and survival are not eased by these actions. I am so tired of the blame game, by the sectors who want to fault only the tea-baggers on the far right or the liberals on the left. Most of us grew up learning how to get along with others, knowing full well that it takes two to tango.
If there is anything positive to come out of this mess, it’s a hope that government might some day respect the parameters of a budget, just as private enterprise (at least businesses that don’t operate with subsidies) must do. It’s simply not OK to have these huge debts and deficit. People across the board are feeling the consequences of when the funding runs out, and hopefully they are a bit more thankful that it is the public tax money that allows it all to happen in the first place.
Campgrounds that are largely self-service are shut down. The self-touring Arches National Park and others like it are closed. We are a population of people who “just do it,” but government control on many levels is preventing us from doing so. And I understand why. Few people will pack out their toilet waste and trash even when campgrounds require it. Most people will stay on the trail when there isn’t a hawking ranger around to police the area, but there are a few who don’t. Most of these furloughed workers will get back pay for days they didn’t work. This is a vacation for some and I resent that. Yes, I know it’s not their fault, but ultimately it’s the public and not the public workers who are penalized.
I am angry. We could have handled this differently in rural Utah. We are a community and a nation of solution-makers and volunteers. These shutdown days have made me more greatly appreciate other aspects of the Moab area: the state-run parks and recreation areas, privately organized special events such as Plein Air Moab and the upcoming half marathon, and multiple-use public lands that don’t have as many gates to lock as do the national parks.
But by the grace of God the sun will come up each morning, glinting off the sides of towering cliffs that are still in the view of a public that wants to see them. The Colorado River corridor, Dead Horse Point, Fisher Towers, the La Sal Loop Road, Newspaper Rock, Corona and Wilson arches are among the myriad reasons we call this home, and the myriad reasons people should still visit Moab even when the public parks and campgrounds won’t let them in.