Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, 2016
When I first visited this area with friends in 2014, I was instantly enchanted. Its diversity of colorful soils and sculptural buttes captured my imagination like few places I’d ever known, and I have since returned at least half a dozen times to continue exploring its many fascinating heights, nooks, and crannies. It was a great thrill this Halloween to have the company of some Photo Cascadia teammates for yet another visit. Their exuberance at experiencing the area for the first time made me feel it all over again myself, and I was thoroughly amused to hear them gush about its uniqueness and to see them getting lured deeper into its folds, consumed with curiosity.
Such excitement about a location is a great feeling. When a location provides that sense of awe and connection, it becomes hallowed ground; we care about it more, we respect it more, and we want to protect it. That result alone makes it worthwhile to revisit locations many times, to grow the sense of relationship, making us better able to communicate what is worth celebrating and protecting.
This area is now in danger of losing some or all of its protection as a national monument because of its coal reserves. A Utah congressman is advocating for a dismantling of the designations that protect Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. If you would like to learn more about this disturbing development, you can stay informed through the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.