Summarized by Eric Bunker
New grass-roots group gets support from Mormons (Rural group gains clout in Utah)
Deseret News 30Sep99 D2
By Lucinda Dillon: Deseret News staff writer
CEDAR CITY, UTAH -- Bro. Lloyd Mecham a lifelong church member, church leader
and retired principal, is leading the charge of a group of activists
affiliated with, People for the USA, a growing grassroots organization based
in Pueblo, Colorado. PFUSA is exerting notable political pressure in the
Beehive State on public lands issues. Now there are 2,000 members in Utah.
Chapters have sprouted in Kanab, Boulder, Escalante, Tropic, Panguitch,
Cedar City, St. George/Hurricane, Mt. Pleasant, Antimony, Salt Lake City,
Vernal, Duchesne, Nephi and Roosevelt. This has been a big summer for
The organization has gained significant strength since President Clinton
designated a significant chunk of Southern Utah as the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument. PFUSA has tripled its statewide
membership in eight months, and is organizing rural Utahns like never
before. Leaders in Uintah County organized a massive write-in campaign to
the Bureau of Land Management, and the group has activated hundreds of
members to show up at county commission meetings, rallies and political
gatherings during the last few months, often in long vehicle caravans.
To these locals, the monument and interjection from federal employees who
manage the land means the end to a way of life. They are saying that roads
they have used for ranching and recreation are now protected in the monument
area and may be closed. They additionally claim that power plants and coals
mines that would have brought lucrative jobs and economy to the area were
scared away by the monument designation along with other riches in gas,
minerals and other resources that could have benefited their community's
pocketbook are forever trapped in the ground within monument borders. They
also say that BLM and environmental regulations have stymied the movie and
film industry, which once flourished in the area.
"We feel the rights to live in this valley and raise our families are being
attacked, and these special interest groups would like nothing more than to
have this valley empty," said Rick Crawford, who runs a PFUSA chapter in
Utah efforts recently were the spotlight of the PFUSA's national newsletter.
"In Utah, where Green activists have centered their national fight to lock
up millions of public lands as 'wilderness,' the PFUSA campaign is taking
off like a rocket."
"It has just boomed," said Sylvia Allen, PFUSA field director for the
southwestern states. "We are able to show people that rather than just
being frustrated, they can come together . . . be politically active and let
their voices be heard."
In rural Utah, the organization already has established a name for itself.
"They have made an impact," said Rep. Tom Hatch, R-Panguitch, whose
constituents are at the heart of conflict
"Utah is a top priority for us," said PFUSA communications director Joe
Snyder from the group's Pueblo office. He said that members are encouraged
to be educated, to show up wherever decisions are being made and to work
within the established structure for change. It is inappropriate for Utah
residents, no matter how frustrated, to demonstrate an "our guns are
blazing" attitude, he said. "We wince at that kind of thing. That's a sure
way to lose support."
In their demonstrations, the group is minding their manners, keeping signs
and placards on the ground, staying behind the boundaries, with no yelling