By Joshua Houdek
Arches, Canyonlands, Zion National Parks . . . Located in America’s spectacular red rock country in southern Utah, these iconic national treasures attract Minnesotans, along with visitors from across the country and around the world. But did you know that just outside these national parks lie more than nine million acres of pristine federal lands? This unique wild landscape is dominated by towering buttes, red sandstone plateaus and deep slickrock canyons. No road or power line fully traverses this rugged territory. Like Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, utter silence and the darkest and most brilliant of night skies reign.
Unfortunately America’s red rock country at great risk from oil and gas drilling, mining, and rampant abuse by off-road-vehicles, which destroy vegetation and leave scars that can last for a generation in the fragile desert ecosystem.
Just like Minnesota’s Boundary Waters was established, an act of Congress is required to permanently protect these threatened federal lands. The red rock country is the largest network of undesignated wilderness remaining in the lower 48 states.
The Sierra Club is proud to announce that on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, Senator Franken became the 22nd U.S. Senator to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act – a bill that would permanently protect over nine million acres of some of the most unique wildlands on Earth.
Senator Franken’s support is the result of a grassroots effort led by the Sierra Club North Star Chapter along with many strong allies such as the Minnesota Friends for Utah Wilderness, Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
We commend Senator Franken for renewing the Minnesota tradition of support in the Senate. He fills a void left by former Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton, and joins Representatives Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz of the Minnesota congressional delegation supporting this landmark legislation.
Hats off to everyone who worked on this achievement – there are many.
And a hearty welcome to Senator Al Franken as he joins the red rock wilderness team. Please take 60 seconds to call Senator Franken at 202-224-5641 and leave a simple message thanking him for cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Then let me know you called. Thank you!
To learn more, get involved, or bring a fascinating slideshow to your local group or organization, please contact Joshua Houdek at 612-659-9124.
Joshua is the North Star Chapter’s Land Use and Transportation Program Manager. The red rock country was his outdoor classroom while directing an outdoor program at a small college in western Colorado. Upon returning to Minnesota, he helped found Minnesota Friends for Utah Wilderness.