I greatly appreciate Kerrie Bertwell’s recent letter to the editor. It was honest, and from the heart, and we need more of that. Like me, Kerrie was raised in Moab, and like me, is mortified to see what a wreck local (majority out-of-town transplant) government has made of it.
It didn’t happen overnight. In a decades-long process of eco-socialist osmosis, Moab City and Grand County governments have undergone a fundamental transformation wherein urban thinking and misguided “environment first” policies have overtaken the rural common sense that actually made Moab a great place to live, raise a family, and enjoy the blessings of God’s creation.
Built on ranching, farming, mining, oil and gas, filmmaking and tourism – pretty much in that order – Moab endured boom and bust economies for a century, and its natives; those with pioneer roots that sink down to Utah’s founding, stayed on. The key rural sensibilities that helped them survive recessions, the Great Depression, and mineral booms and ensuing busts, was diversification and flexibility.
For a century, sightseers have been drawn to the region for its singular desert beauty and geologic wonders. Nestled within those wonders were cattle and sheep ranches, gold, copper, uranium and potash mines, oil and gas operations, and lumber mills stocked with native trees. Tourism was the icing on the cake made of natural resources development. And the resulting diverse economy was big-boned and resilient.
Unfortunately, over the past 40 years or so, the urban transplant do-gooders have moved in, seen the “imbalance,” and decided to employ their big city wisdom to fix all that is wrong with Moab. Extractive industries, to them, were the Devil, despite the significant taxes they pay.
Public lands grazing, to them, was a plague on the land, and logging, to them, was the rape of Mother Earth. Canyon Country had to be put back into balance, and they could do it because they really, really care.
Let me offer an “Infinity War” analogy – no “Endgame” spoilers, I promise. Not unlike the urban transplant eco do-gooders, Thanos’ great virtue is that he really, really cares about the imbalance in the universe and possesses the will to correct it. It’s quite a chore, however, because at first he is only able to transform one world at a time – by killing half its population.
What a bother. He needs a more efficient path forward. When Thanos’ quest to amass all the power is complete and the time is right, he enacts his great plan for the universe and its groveling inhabitants. With a snap of his fingers, POOF! Balance is restored, and the universe goes on, unburdened of the beings who endlessly reproduce and exploit its resources.
So goes the Moab City Council. With a transplant majority from planets San Diego, Oakland, Boulder, Salt Lake City, and Amarillo, they have amassed all power through local elections. Because they are mostly urbanites armed with advanced educations, they, unlike the pitiful natives, can see the imbalance in the red rock universe.
And because they really, really care and possess the will to fix it, they go forth with haste in so doing. With a mere flip of an ordinance, POOF! Gone are evil plastic bags and “light pollution,” and too many buildings, and the hordes of people crowding the Moab universe. As Thanos used genocide to restore balance, the Moab City Council – amateurs in comparison to Thanos – only use ridiculous Boulderesque policies.
The residents of Moab must pay the price of imbalance by having its officials meddle in everything from what kind of bag carries their groceries, to how many lumens emanate from their businesses and abodes, to who can build what and where and when. Local government howls, “What are we going to do with all the tourists?” while continuing to brand Moab as a tourism-only (we’re keeping out those other dirty industries like ranching and mining because we really, really care about the environment) town.
Beyond Moab’s socialistic control-freak ordinances is an overarching economic imbalance, and, in the words of Kerrie Bertwell, local government has ruined that, too.
What Moab needs is to bring back its big-boned, diversified economy. Enough with the tourism, already. Moab needs good paying jobs for its year-round residents, especially those who want to raise their families here. Those jobs are not found in the tourism service industry. They’re found in oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture, logging included.
Thanos and the Moab City Council both take the wrong approach to correcting imbalance in the universe. Instead of trying to fix the situation by controlling personal behavior with bans on plastic bags and light, and restrictive building ordinances, they should try bringing in a little diversity by expanding Moab’s economic universe.
Haun lives in Moab.