Wallace Stegner served on the board of the Sierra Club and on the governing council of The Wilderness Society. I think he’d feel comfortable with the sentiments I expressed in this Letter to the Editor, published today in the Salt Lake Tribune. The comments on the letter form a mini-forum on both Stegner’s work and on living as an outsider in Utah.
What better birthday present for Wallace Stegner — whose centennial we celebrate on Feb. 18 — than to pass the Omnibus Public Land Act of 2009 that includes the Washington County wilderness bill?
Stegner was our model citizen/writer. Not just a novelist living inside his head. Not just an outraged environmentalist ranting from the sidelines of society. But a fully engaged citizen, rooted in place and community. This remarkable sense of connectedness with both land and people is why we still revere the man and return to his writing for guidance.
As a citizen, he would appreciate the years of negotiation and compromise that led to the Washington County bill. He would applaud the dialogue that brought every passion to the table.
Stegner called the West “the geography of hope.” And then, in his 80s, after decades of conservation battles, doubt crept in. He feared “the native home of hope” wasn’t going to deliver, that we are incapable of building “a society to match this scenery.”
Let’s prove him wrong. As a tribute to our great Utah writer on what would have been his 100th birthday, I ask Utah’s congressmen to take the lead in passing this vast — and good — public lands bill.
Salt Lake City