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Letter to the Editor: Monument for Future’s Sake

By NEAL P. BUSK Richfield

It was with a sense of sadness that I read of the defeat of the non-binding initiative for the establishment of the San Rafael Western Monument and the defeat of Commissioner Johnson, an advocate for the monument. Even with Governor Leavitt and Representative Cannon backing the proposal after much effort in working out compromises, the monument was still defeated. During the last two weeks I have had the opportunity of driving on I-70 to Colorado and also taking Amtrack from Denver to Green River as well as driving to Goblin Valley and Capitol Reef National Park. What beautiful wild country!
My grandfather, E. P. Pectol, and my grandmother’s brother, Joseph S. Hickman, spent much of their lives getting Capitol Reef (Wayne Wonderland) established as a small national monument. They are acknowledged as the “Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park.” Through their efforts, a wonderful legacy was left to their family and the nation. It required courage, a vision of the future, and a lot of work not only by them but also by many other people who caught the vision and helped. Since the monument was established in1937, it has been enlarged by Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, and Nixon and made into a national park
Not all people shared their vision. After eight years in the Utah State Legislature, Pectol was defeated in the election of 1938. The land issues that defeated him are basically the same land issues that defeated the San Rafael initiative. But the park was established, which was and is the important thing. I doubt many people would argue today that the best use for the Capitol Reef lands is not as a park. But in 1937, Capitol Reef was even more isolated than it is today. The population of Utah and the nation was much smaller than today. Many people could not understand why it was necessary to protect that remote piece of land for the future.
And just like Capitol Reef of 1937, it is difficult at times to see the value of an Escalante Grand Staircase Monument or a San Rafael Monument. Perhaps in 2002 such monuments are not a pressing necessity. But what about in 2050 or 2100? What kind of Utah will be important to our posterity? Every year when our family holds the Pectol-Hickman reunion in the wonderful little town of Torrey, there is a sense of pride that our ancestors had the vision to establish Capitol Reef National Park and to preserve the land for the whole nation and world to see and enjoy. Pectol and Hickman asked themselves,”What will be the best use of this land in the future?” I only hope that the people who voted against the San Rafael initiative will ask themselves the same question and reconsider their vision and priorities. My grandfather found that it was difficult to go against the prevailing values and priorities of his day and lost his election for a fifth term. He fought hard and lost the election, but in the long run, he won. His beloved Wayne Wonderland became Capitol Reef National Park.
May the political leaders of Emery County, Utah, and the nation have the same courage and vision. After all, the land is not “owned” by Emery County, Utah, or even the federal government. It is “owned” by none of us and all of us at the same time. It is “owned” by the world and our posterity. The question is: What is the best use of the land now and in 2100? I think Grandpa Pectol had the right answer. I also think Commissioner Johnson, Governor Leavitt, Representative Cannon and many other supporters of the initiative had the right answer. May they have the courage to continue to fight for their convictions against some prevailing social and political values and pressures.

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