BLM Letter

1 page typescript, Provo, Ut., May 7, 1986

May 7, 1986

I moved to Utah from California many years ago expressly because I had found the last authentic habitable wilderness in the temperate zone, i.e. in the entire world within reach of pleasant dwelling-places.  The rest of the world has already become overrun or uninhabitable by nature.  So what we have here and here alone is the RAREST commodity in the world, and its rarity can only increase with the passing of time.  It is that ultimate blessing, a thing good and desirable in itself, not merely something that can be converted into cash.  When it is goes not only the world but our own immediate environment, for which we are responsible, will be a bleaker and poorer one.

I remember how the various boosters’ clubs of Santa Clara years ago enthusiastically agitated for an increase of population and industry as the great goal of existence, until they suddenly discovered and bitterly regretted the loss of the natural beauty of their valley and the nearby wilderness that had been the charm of Santa Clara.

Meanwhile, simply to know that it is there, a unique feature of America and America alone (how eagerly the auto companies exploit its wild beauty in their commercials!) is a strength and a consolation- this last region of the earth that remains congenial to humans and as pure as God made it.  The mere thought of it rests and reassures the mind between visits, and the actual sight of it is invariable exhilarating and restorative.  While my eight children grew up we frequently visited what was then an even wilder world (today you must make reservations everywhere—that is how the ante is rising!); this gave them a sense of well-being and faith in a good world, a love of their land, that they still have, and that is widely missing in the present-day youth who must escape from the drabness and boredom and monotony of urban and suburban life by-taking to drugs for their thrills.  The proliferation of campers and RVs in the land is testimony enough to the increasing yearning people everywhere are feeling for the healthiest of all forms of escape, and what is getting to be the hardest to find thanks to the relentless commercialism which spreads its blight everywhere.  Industrialization and pollution are inseparable, and the knowledge of an unpolluted area has almost become a dream—“There shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth.”

I have traveled in the Four Corners country and over wide parts of the Southwest with the late Spencer W. Kimball, who wrote on the occasion of the Bicentennial; speaking of that part of the world, “I would sometime ask myself, ‘If you were going to create a world, what would it be like?  Now with a little thought the answer seems so natural: ‘Just like this one’…this is a marvelous earth on which we find ourselves….when I pass though the lovely countryside…I compare these beauties with many of the dark and miserable practices of man; and I have a feeling that the good earth can hardly bear our presence upon it.”  He points out what he calls “the intolerable pollution of our surroundings,” by the natural or rather traditional urge to turn everything into a quick buck.  The idea that everything in the West is up for grabs was one which Brigham Young found particularly offensive.  The idea that people should actually clamor for a decade or so of boom-town construction at the price of rendering the land uninhabitable for 10,000 years to come seems perfectly insane, yet it is an example of how far things can go when greed becomes the motive.

The idea of TOTAL wilderness seems extreme, but when one views the desolation of the strip-mining of certain Indians lands, or the vast pollutions of the air that Sen. Barry Goldwater so deplores one begins to have forebodings of what a REAL wilderness is like and if one would know the meaning of real savagery let him visit the asphalt jungles of our city streets.


Hugh Nibley

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