By Aja Two Crows
Participant in Sophomore College 2018: Fighting Over Our Common Heritage– Public Lands in the West
September 16, 2018: Goblin Valley State Park, Utah — After an early morning, we made our way to Goblin Valley. Professor Thompson had shown us pictures, told us that Galaxy Quest was filmed there, and mentioned a couple times that it was one of his favorite spots. Frankly, after seeing the pictures, I was not that impressed. It was just a bunch of rocks in a little valley. I remember thinking, “I mean, I guess they look like Goblins, but I don’t get the hype.”
We made our way there and I fell asleep watching the mountains roll by. When I woke up, I still didn’t get it. All I could see of the valley was the back cliffs that just looked a little wrinkled from a distance. But then I started walking down the steps into the valley. Rocks that once looked like pebbles were enormous in real life. They looked like giant orange stone mushrooms, like we had come upon an ancient mummified forest. Barely anyone in sight and a constant hum of “woah, oh my god,” and “I think we are on an alien planet.” It was the oddest place I have ever been.
But one thing caught my attention in particular. As we looked out at the unfamiliar landscape, one person said they were glad it wasn’t a national park. They were glad that Goblin Valley is a state park, because fewer people know about it and it can feel much more like it’s ours. Of course, it felt good to know that we learned from our trip and could now differentiate between attending a state and national park, but it felt odd to see and feel the possessiveness that grips many smaller Utah communities.
Throughout this trip, I have personally dismissed a lot of this possessiveness as selfish, localist, and a little racist. Though I believe those problems do fuel the behaviors of these small communities, I think I understand them more now. I can empathize with that feeling, and see that it is not just maliciousness, but love that makes communities possessive. My experience with my friends shows me how complicated these issues are. Here we were, a group of kids who had never been to Goblin Valley, and we felt like we had some right to it. We believed that it is better hidden and only to be shared by those who find it, like us.
Today really illustrated to me that controversy and fights over public lands on the ground are not between just a fight between greedy groups and conservationists. In rural communities like Bluff, Monticello, Kanab, and Blanding, these fights are between groups that love the land. So many of the people we met with talked about the land with such reverence, respect and care and that was from both sides.
After today, I really do think that these communities are made up of people who are fighting for what makes the land special to them.
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