A new book, Red Rock Testimony: Three Generations of Writers Speak on Behalf of Utah’s Public Lands, hopes to influence the Obama administration and Congress as they make decisions about southern Utah’s public lands. Copies of the book have been delivered to the Obama administration, every member of Congress, and public lands managers at the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the United States Forest Service.
This issue was brought to the national spotlight in October 2015 when five southwestern Native nations proposed the creation of Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah. In May of this year, Native American tribes and their supporters rallied to oppose the Utah legislature’s move to denounce President Obama’s designation of the national monument. Public land arguments have been in the news since the Bundys’ takeover in Oregon and Representative Jason Chaffetz’s Public Land Initiative.
The book’s 34 contributors are writers from different backgrounds, races and generations who all agree on the spiritual, cultural and scientific importance of protecting the proposed Bears Ears National Monument. The book’s contributors include: Charles Wilkinson, the preeminent scholar of public lands and Indian law, Navajo Poet Laureate Luci Tapahonso, Utah’s first poet laureate David Lee, MacArthur Fellow Gary Paul Nabhan, writer-philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, former Utah state archaeologist Kevin Jones, millennial essayists Anne Terashima and Brooke Larsen, Ute Mountain Ute tribal councilwoman Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, former members of Congress Mark Udall and Karen Shepherd, bestselling essayists David Gessner and Lauret Savoy and recent Utah Bureau of Land Management Director Juan Palma
A website called redrockstories.org was also created as part of this project. The site encourages interactive submissions celebrating redrock country and promoting protection of public lands.
This is not the first time a testimonial work of literature has attempted to influence government decisions. In 1995, a work titled Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness influenced President Bill Clinton’s decision to proclaim Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument the following year.
A press release for the book stated, “These redrock writers have created a community chorus, a montage of hearfelt words that includes Native and Hispanic voices, warnings from elders and challenges from millenials, personal emotional journeys and lyrical nature writing. These pieces address historical context, natural history and archaeology, energy threats, faith, and politics. Together, they offer a remarkable case for restraint and respect in the incomparable redrock landscape of southern Utah.”