September 2014

Save Our Canyons

At our July meeting, Alex Schmidt, one of only two full-time employees at Save Our Canyons ( spoke to us about their work. Almost everyone else in the organization who is “dedicated to protecting the beauty and wildness of Wasatch canyons, mountains and foothills” are volunteer activists.

Alex’s main focus in his talk to us was that “There is ONLY ONE Wasatch. It does not belong to the Utah ski industry. It belongs to all of us.”

Remember “Ski Interconnect”? Thought it was laid to rest? Oh no, it’s been dragged out of the crypt of horrible proposals and re-named “One Wasatch”. Under the plan, all seven Wasatch ski resorts will be connected with enhanced transportation and 100 interconnecting ski lifts making 18,000 acres of skiing available.

Ski area expansion on public land is prohibited by the Forest Service’s Resource Management Plan, but Ski Utah (organization of all seven resorts) is hoping to align all the interconnecting lifts on private land. Building these lifts and creating rights-of-way to service them will “disrupt the watershed and audio/visual beauty of these mountains as well as create islands of wildlife habitat” which would be threatening for animals with large ranging areas.

Alex also talked to us about the Save Our Canyons partnership with the US Forest Service and Salt Lake City to conduct The Central Wasatch Visitors Study; a year-long four-season survey facilitated by a neutral third party. The study seeks to collect invaluable information about who uses the canyons and why. Decision-makers will use the data collected to inform and guide management of the Wasatch and protect the watershed.

There are many ways to help Save Our Canyons and make their great work go on. Berlin knows them all.

Thanks to Alex for coming to our meeting to let us know so much about the awesome canyons that surround us.

—Lauren Florence, MD

President’s Report

It has been a really busy summer for me this year. Lots of projects to do, (more on the list than ever got done) and there were a fair number of relatives in town for visits. It was great to see people you haven’t seen for years, but being host and travel guides is exhausting.

Most recently our August BBQ went well with around thirty five in attendance. The day turned out to be perfect, not to hot or cold. We set up our canopy to let people see it and put it to use. Like I always say, “Good food, good people and good conversation make for an enjoyable evening.

I watch a fair number of videos on the internet. Mostly science and free thought stuff with people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the like. Recently I’ve noticed some comments about the fact that many of the famous scientists of the past and the present were and are also religious. Some comments suggest that it is their faith that somehow inspires them to achieve. Some wonder how, after making discoveries or doing research that they don’t lose their faith. And some would say that many, in the past, presented a religious countenance to stay out of trouble with the powerful religions of the times.

I suspect that all the scenarios have happened. I am sure that there are and have been those who have prayed, even about their work, who go on to do good science in various fields. I’m sure some put on a religious face to avoid problems. I also suspect that a number of those who are known for their “science” that are also known to be religious, have a kind of duality, in that they can separate the two quite easily. I would use as an example, a person well known for his work and also that he was a friar in a religious order, Gregor Mendel. It is acknowledged that he started the modern science of genetics with his studies of hybridization. But also, in his days, and much of history, being in a religious order or the like made it so you could get educated for free as Mendel availed himself of.

Simply put, I think there are many who can, “do science,” and then put it away while doing other things in their lives. Isaac Newton while inventing Calculus wasn’t looking for answers in the bible, even though he was known as a religious man.

In a video lecture, Neil Degrasse-Tyson makes the point that we in the science world have to acknowledge that many if not most of the great scientists of the past were also religious.

Well enough about that.

I’m not quite sure where to put myself politically. It has evolved over the years, but I haven’t voted for a republican for a long time. Yet my feelings or positions on issues are not exclusively liberal. An example might be my support for the Second Amendment. But in that regard I think regulations should be far stricter than they are. For instance, a person wishing to obtain a concealed carry permit should be required to pass a written test, be able to take the weapon of their choice and safely assemble it, load it, fire it, unload and put away the weapon. That is not required in Utah at present.

But this brings me to an area where I struggle. I have always been against laws, most laws that ban “things,” or substances. Inanimate objects if you will. I’ve always felt that the thing that should be outlawed is what a person does with an inanimate object. The gun, the axe, the knife, the car, don’t commit crimes, people commit crimes. So I don’t like to ban or outlaw anything.

On the other hand, when you see how much harm some thing or substance does to humans you wonder why it isn’t strictly banned. Tobacco is one of those substances that deserve banning. When you look at mortality statistics, it makes you shake your head and ask, “Why is, a product that is essentially a poison that kills often slowly and painfully and that puts great strain on the health industry, not banned.”

Tobacco killed my father, at least three or four of my uncles and step-uncles and aunts. One of our Board members died several years back from smoking…need I go on.

Yet I don’t really want to ban it. I still smoke a few cigars a year when weather is good outside. I also buy chewing tobacco. While none of it goes anywhere near my mouth, I make a sun tea out of it and use it as a natural insecticide. Go figure.

Anyway, I hope to see you soon, perhaps on September 11 for our first speaker of the fall season.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU