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

WASHINGTON, D.C.

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.