Wayne Y. Hoskisson is executive director of Red Rock Forests. He is a great-great-grandson of Brigham Young and lives among the red rocks of southeastern Utah.
Monday, 10 Sep 2001
This is an unusual Monday morning for me. Ordinarily, I would walk an eighth of a mile to my office in Moab, Utah, and busy myself with routine tasks like looking at the mail, checking the answering machine, and checking my email, then establishing priorities for the week.
Officially, I am on vacation. I left home Friday afternoon to travel to Washington, D.C. Within 50 miles of home, my truck started making a noise like a lawnmower. None of this surprised me too much, since the truck is a 1973 Ford V-8 pickup. Not a great vehicle for a conscientious environmentalist to own — but the truck once belonged to Edward Abbey. We got it after my wife made a large contribution to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. If we had paid top Blue Book for the truck, it would have cost $550, a sum much better suited to an environmentalist’s income. The truck suits me well, since Red Rock Forests advocates for forest protection on two mountain ranges in southeastern Utah. Often, I am lucky to spend a few days driving the dirt roads in these mostly wild mountains.
Back in Moab, I looked for a shuttle service to get me from Moab to Salt Lake City. At 8 p.m., I managed to book reservations online for a shuttle leaving town at 7:30 in the morning. The next morning, I dutifully showed up at the usual meeting spot for the shuttle. The driver actually knew I had a reservation. This was the first time I had such a concrete result from using the web. I take all this as typical incidents in the life of an environmentalist. Beat up, old truck breaks down. World Wide Web actually works. I just hope the balance stays on such an equalizing trend.
I left Salt Lake City at midnight on Saturday, arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 8:30 the next morning, and took the shuttle to the Amtrak station. The train to Washington, D.C., was over 30 minutes late. Finally, I arrived at the metro station around 10:15. I walked the half mile to where I should have been in a training session since 9 a.m. Because I choose to live and work in a small town in southeastern Utah, I accept this trek as the price I pay to get to the city I believe is the most politically powerful place in the history of earth. During all this travel, I am reading grazing assessments and writing comments on those assessments. I am finally getting around to finishing reading Debra Donahue’s The Western Range Revisited. I am writing articles for the next issue of the Red Rock Forests newsletter. I am loving every minute of this job.
Tamaryn Gladden (a volunteer from Connecticut) and I just completed our first visit. I am always impressed by the quality of the people I find working in the congressional offices. This representative’s office had no obligation to meet with us. Neither Tamaryn nor I are constituents for this representative. Nevertheless, a busy legislative aide gave us a few minutes to talk about Utah wilderness, about America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Did we convince the aide that his boss should cosponsor our wilderness proposal? I don’t think so. Maybe we moved the office just a little. But we also work to educate congessional offices about the dangers of poorly conceived and poorly written wilderness bills. We make sure that the offices know about any pending or probable bills that would undermine wilderness protection for deserving lands throughout Utah.
Red Rock Forests grew out of this Utah wilderness movement. We focus on the national forests that serve as the headwaters for much of our incredible Red Rock Wilderness — places like Grand Gulch, Cedar Mesa, White Canyon, Dark Canyon, Mary Jane Canyon, Canyonlands Basin, and Negro Bill Canyon. From a wild ponderosa forest growing on white Navajo sandstone slickrock at 9,000 feet, I can see hundreds of miles of buttes and deep canyons. Every day, I try to do my best to protect this place.
I wish I had more time to describe the training and the mechanics of a visit to a congressional office. We really learned the simplest of basics. Be honest. Don’t bluff. Make personal contact. Ask the congressperson to support our cause. Gather information. Collecting information from the congessional offices is just as important as anything we have to say.
One thing I always remember: No matter how unfeeling I think the government may be, no matter how cynical I might get about the integrity of our elected officials, there is no place on Earth where an ordinary citizen from a remote rural town can talk to members of the national legislature and expect to actually accomplish something. No matter what we may feel from time to time, our government is the most honest government ever to wield this much power on Earth.
Tuesday, 11 Sep 2001
I am sorry to have to file this diary entry. This is not environmental news.
The nation’s capital closed its doors this morning. Tamaryn Gladden and I had just entered the Hart Senate Office Building when people started streaming from the offices and down the stairs. Earlier, the World Trade Center had been attacked. Now we were told there has been an explosion at the Pentagon and “something” on the Mall. Shortly after we entered the office we intended to visit, an official evacuation was ordered. Outside, thousands of people milled around the office building. We crossed over Constitution Avenue to the Capitol grounds. Capitol Hill police were ushering people away from the building.
Soon we heard the news that the Pentagon had been attacked. All government office buildings were being evacuated. Cars and black SUVs with sirens raced down the street, pouring out of strange, tucked-away parking spots.
Billowing gray clouds are rising from the southwest.
Yesterday, I thought of this city as the most powerful place in the history of the Earth. Today, this seat of power closed down in response to some unknown terrorists.
This tragedy stopped all our activities. I intended to write about a congressional office visit, but I cannot think about that right now. All 30 of us volunteers huddle around the television trying to follow the events of this morning. The Metro shut down. Telephone lines are tied up. Cell phones don’t work, as too many people try to use them all at once. We have been told airline flights have all been cancelled.
I cannot fathom what significance this will have for the United States.
Thursday, 13 Sep 2001
Something is going on around the Capitol right now. Helicopters started cruising late this afternoon. When I left the Wayburn Wilderness House (just northwest of the Capitol) to return to a friend’s home on the far side of Capitol Hill, I saw thousands of people on the grounds surrounding the Dirksen Senate Office Building and on the grounds east of the Capitol. Police cruisers constantly streamed by. Earlier, someone said the Capitol had been evacuated. The thousands of people standing around the grounds made this rumor seem evident.
Police have been at every intersection since Tuesday, usually pairs of them with backup in cars, vans, or SUVs parked nearby. The tunnel and subway between the Senate office buildings and the Capitol is closed to the public. I think the tunnel from the House office buildings is also closed. The public gallery for both houses of Congress is closed, I was told by my representative’s office.
Tuesday night and Wednesday night police barricades and vehicles blocked traffic for a block around the Capitol building. Flares burned before some of the barricades. I never expected an American city to look like th
is. I picture this as the way martial law might look, with strange, smoky lighting and heavily armed and uniformed men controlling all traffic.
Tuesday night, the police prohibited even foot traffic within a block of the Capitol. But, by Wednesday, we were permitted to walk about freely.
Yesterday morning and today, the white ashes of flares mark all the intersections like misplaced and scribbled pedestrian crosswalk markings. But the police opened Constitution and Independence Avenues to vehicle traffic.
The sound of sirens comes from Capitol Hill in a constant stream. Dark SUVs with heavily armed police cruise the area. The National Guard patrol the streets farther from the Capitol. Forest-camouflage humvees roam the streets.
About 35 activists attended a party at a small restaurant named Casa Juanitas. This became a tradition several years ago. Just 150 feet up the street from the restaurant sat one of those humvees. Even with them so near, someone set fire to a collection box for shoes and clothes on the sidewalk outside of a church next door.
Yesterday, I made a few more visits to congressional offices. I was scheduled to meet with one representative rather than office staff, but he was called away to attend the briefing by Attorney General Ashcroft. The few visits I did manage to make with congressional staff all felt disjointed, and the staff seemed distracted. I felt distracted. I was not sure it was even appropriate to continue with our congessional visits. I called to make sure the offices still expected — or wanted — to continue doing the everyday business of running the country. We used a very soft message Wednesday and today. Everyone is feeling the horror and strange meaning for our future when our government and our airways can be shut down by the actions of a few people. Under the circumstances, I sense a kind of nobility and bravery in continuing the work of governing and refusing to be broken in spirit by acts of terrorism. Always, after a few days of “working the Hill,” I feel true respect for the men and women who work here. The offices always remain professional and courteous. I am reminded of what Brandt Calkin says: “Our opponents are not our enemies.” These events show America has real enemies, and we do not need to look for enemies among us.
Keith Hammond, a friend of mine who works for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, heard that a friend who works in the World Trade Center towers is missing. All day he has been looking for some kind of news. Horrific tragedies like these terrorist attacks always get personal. The terror spreads as news of family or friends reaches further and further into our communities.
Thousands of people remain stranded in Washington. The hotels in some areas slowly empty out so that rooms are available. My Wednesday evening plane reservations through Delta Airlines disappeared as Delta completely shut down air service. Even now, I am having difficulty getting a flight home from Washington. Washington International remains completely closed down. We are told Dulles International will open primarily to let out flights that were originally delayed. I finally made reservations for a flight from Baltimore/Washington International. I like this choice. Mass transit makes getting into Washington, D.C., very easy and convenient from Baltimore. Flights that were supposed to leave Washington today never left. Tomorrow, confusion will probably continue to rule and none of us is certain we will be able to get home.
This afternoon, someone in the Wayburn Wilderness House said she had heard that the Metro was shut down. When I left for my friend’s home I went up to Union Station. People were streaming into the station, but I could not tell if it was to get onto the Metro or onto the commuter rail. Rumors run rampant. Someone said they had heard that there might be a curfew imposed on Washington.
Now at 8:30 p.m., the crowds are gone from the Capitol grounds. The sirens have finally stopped — or at least no longer wail constantly.
Friday, 14 Sep 2001
Last night, quiet came once again to Capitol Hill. The barricaded area extended south for a couple of blocks beyond the House office buildings. But the barricades seemed to be down on the north sided by the Senate office buildings.
Two of us went out to the Roosevelt Memorial. The FDR Memorial is relatively new. The monument stretches along the Potomac tidal basin in a series of waterfalls over granite walls quarried from across the country. The memorial struck me as particularly valuable last night. Across one rock face was engraved FDR’s memorable quotes: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and the remarkable quote that ends with, “I hate war.”
We were able to move with ease around Capitol Hill during the night, with the exception of the area surrounding the Capitol building and the House office buildings. Again, the red flares glared at the intersections closed to traffic. Capitol Hill Police stand guard at every intersection.
Capitol Hill feels like a nice, homelike neighborhood. There are small stores, neighborhood diners, cleaners, pharmacies, and people on the sidewalk. Never have I felt threatened or uncomfortable strolling the streets east of the Capitol building. The contrast of flares and barricades this year with experiences from previous trips strikes an especially discordant feeling in me. It is hard to rectify the night images of this week with all my previous images.
Lots of activists are stuck here in Washington. The Alaska Wilderness League brought in a large number of volunteers to speak for the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The Utah Wilderness Coaliton brought 30 volunteers, half from Utah and half from around the country. More were here to speak for a balance of energy needs and conservation needs. Probably close to 150 citizen-volunteers were here to speak for some conservation need. Slowly, most are finding ways out of Washington to their homes. For many, this is a reunion of old friends from around the country.
We have heard many strange reactions to the terrorist attacks, but the strangest comes from Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reported the following concerning Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska):
Young warned against rushing to the conclusion that Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible. There’s some possibility, he said, that the attacks are linked to the protests against the World Trade Organization, another of which is scheduled for later this month in Washington, D.C. “If you watched what happened (at past protests) in Genoa, in Italy, and even in Seattle, there’s some expertise in that field,” Young said. “I’m not sure they’re that dedicated but ecoterrorists — which are really based in Seattle — there’s a strong possibility that could be one of the groups.”
Soon, I will be leaving Washington, D.C., for my home in Utah. Getting back to a quiet corner of southeastern Utah will be a huge relief. I hope all those touched by this tragic week will heal and find the will to pursue their inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.