Eureka, UT, a mining town — April 2012.  A story of the extractive industry and the lives of the people it affects.


An Afternoon on Antelope Island

Evening on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.

Blueness. Clouds, lying low and misty, blur boundaries.

Fading light, fading day.



All images © Karmen Smith


The existing Coal Hollow mine site. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Please see these links for background on this issue:

Save Bryce Canyon from Coal Mining


Adventure Journal

Governor Gary Herbert’s shady involvement

Following is the letter I wrote to Keith Rigtrup, Director of the Kanab BLM field office, one of the decisionmakers in the Alton Coal Mine proposal to expand onto public lands.

Mr. Rigtrup:

Please say “NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE” to this proposal! 

You have the keys to the Kingdom, so to speak.  The proposal to expand the Alton Coal Development onto public lands is a heavy-handed, short-term and extremely limited proposal that will benefit a mere handful of people.  These lands are public lands, meaning that everyone in this country can consider themselves a part-owner. 

The environmental study has shown the environmental and habitat damage that will occur.  You, as BLM director in this area, know that these are marginal lands.  These lands will NEVER, in our human lifetime, recover from the damage done by this strip coal mine.  This mine proposal is not the same as discussing roads and trails.   You know this!

If a private land owner decides that he can do this to his property, so be it.  It destroys the ecosystem, disrupts wildlife habitat, and destroys the natural beauty of the land but if the owner cares more about his $ intake, it is his right, and on his conscience.  These, however, are public lands.  You are the director, the manager, the steward of these lands and what lives in them. 

I am from southern Utah.  I grew up in Cannonville, in Bryce Valley.  I know these lands, know their beauty and their fragility.  I have extreme concerns for the impact on Bryce Canyon, and other areas westward from this proposed development.  My direct concern, however, is for the land itself.  It is unbelievable to me that anyone is even willing to consider this proposal knowing the destruction, disruption and lack of recoverability of these lands.   You know how long even tracks last in these soils.  How can you, knowing this, even consider this proposal?  Please, say NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE; please!

Please write and voice your opposition to this proposal.  There is a meeting tonight, December 7 at the Salt Lake City Library at 6:00 pm.  Please go if possible.  Please write:

  • Keith Rigtrup, Bureau of Land Management, Kanab Office:  UT_Kanab_Altoncoal@blm.gov
  • Juan Palma, Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Director:  Juan_Palma@blm.gov
  • Bob Abbey, Bureau of Land Management, National Director:   Director@blm.gov
  • Department of the Interior, Attn. Secretary Ken Salazar:  feedback@ios.doi.gov

Links to other contacts:

THIS is why I Oppose the Coal Mine near Bryce Canyon!

I previously published this post on The Green Man Wanderings.

Back to Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon cabin

The cabin I lived in

Why “Back” to Bryce? Because that is what I do. I keep going back to Bryce Canyon*. Unlike almost everyone else with whom I grew up in Bryce Valley during the 50s and 60s, I was born elsewhere, my mother returning to move in with my grandmother in Cannonville following my father’s death. While very young, I spent my days with my mother at her job as postmaster at the Bryce Canyon Lodge post office, either underfoot there or wandering around the Lodge, being looked after by her and all the lodge employees. Later we actually lived in a rented apartment in the park during the summers, going down the “dump” (the affectionate term for the road down to the valley) to tend the garden, take care of things at home, etc. My summers in Bryce Canyon were glorious, free and life-shaping. Now, I go back. It’s not the same, of course, I’ve changed. As a parent I brought my children, hoping that they too would have their own Bryce Canyon experience and each, in their own way, has done so.

Bryce Canyon ampitheater

Now I go back, not to recapture what I had, although the memories are wondrous, but to seek the peace and absorb the beauty. The canyon is still beautiful, the forest, with its pine-vanilla smell still whispers with the wind, the air almost sparkles with freshness. The blueness of the sky and sharp whiteness of the cloud against the white-pink-orange-red limestone reminds us that our world is one of kaleidoscope color, brilliant, subdued, ever-changing with the movement of sun and shadow.

Alone on the canyon rim

This canyon is a place of stillness. Its remoteness doesn’t lend well to the corporate tourist who travels according to a franchise-like itinerary. The buses still come, full to stuffed with those wanting to see in person what they’ve only seen in photo books, calendars or on Ken Burns’ PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea**. I’m glad they come. If even one accepts what the canyon has to offer, it is worth it. If just one of these many feels the spirit of the canyon and remembers throughout their life, telling others what they felt, it is worth the buses, the exhaust, the temporary crowds. The crowds eventually leave, moving on to the next destination and the stillness returns.

If you come to Bryce Canyon, spend some time alone. If you come with a busload of people, go off on your own, even if for just a few minutes. Go to a place where you no longer hear other people and listen. Listen to the birds, the wind, the random rock sliding down the eroded face of the canyon. Feel the breeze, smell the freshness and drink in the beauty. You too will be changed.


* Bryce Canyon National Park

**Ken Burns, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Governor Gary Herbert and the Hurricane Winds

For Herbert’s weather report click this link to KSL.com.  I guess he doesn’t think we have a long enough attention span to stay tuned for the weather.

Thank you Gary Herbert, Governor of Utah, for giving us this sweet weather report. Where have you been the last few days? Have we seen you out there in your shirt sleeves pulling trees off houses? Have we seen you helping people salvage their homes? No, like a good hobbit*, you give us a weather report in a warm, cozy fireside setting. Is there no money in it for you? I guess it’s not like the Bryce Canyon coal mine, redistricting, or public rights to the river. These people will need to spend their money fixing their houses instead of giving you campaign donations.

Utah, wake up! This man doesn’t deserve to be a Governor!

* My apologies to hobbit lovers; I chose that description for Herbert simply because Hobbits want to stay cozy, away from danger and trouble, and pretend that the “world” is a big bad place that they should avoid at all costs.