|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
BRANT CALKIN Who dresses like a Deseret Industries clothes rack? Was threatened by the Manson Family? Fi ixed Ed Abbey's truck? And saved more Red Rock than anyone else alive? By Scott Groene Brant Calkin is the best damn environmentalist that ever worked on the Colorado Politicians, Bureaucrats and Enviros Plateau, and he's done more to protect southern Utah wilderness than anyone alive or dead. As Brant explains, “environmentalists tend to believe in the fairness of governmental He created the strategy for saving the canyon country that's been followed successfully for __ process too readily. Nobody likes to go to court, it’s expensive, so we tend to just hang on the past decade, set the tone for the wilderness debate, was mentor to a slew of activists, and built the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. And he did it with a quiet humility, integrity, and basic decency towards both his opponents and friends. to our high school civics training too long. For a while, at least, SUWA was probably the most litiginous outfit in the country.” And Calkin says it worked: “the record on appeals _and lawsuits bears out the contention that the BLM was like having Dracula in charge of the blood bank.” Calkin's outspokenness applies to the current administration as well. “And Babbitt [the SUWA's beginnings: In 1987, after Brant finished a thousand mile kayak paddle with Susan Tixierdown the coast of Baja, he learned from his messages that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance current Secretary of the Interior] hasn‘t been much better than the others. For the first two _years of this administration, when Congress was of the same party, he fiddled away many opportunities to start some reforms and refused to start others.” Brant adds “when needed an executive director. He traveled to Salt Lake City for an interview two days later, | Congress changed hands, he had a vertebrectomy. It is never easy to be Secretary of the and moved to Utah to take the job that week. We should all be grateful. Interior, and it’s even tougher when Congress is in the hands of another party, but Babbitt Brant took a fiery and dedicated, but relatively insignificant group and built it into a force that, along with an amazing grass roots network, would stop an anti-wilderness bill supported by a united congressional delegation, change the way BLM managed public lands, and win important concessions from a reluctant Democratic administration. SUWA wasn't much back then: 1300 members, an unbalanced check book with littlein has been sleepwalking in some kind of Alice in Wonderland setting.” As he puts it (if you it, and a Rolodex that ignored the alphabet. It did have the tradition of not being intimidated, a remarkable trait given not a single other public lands environmental group ever get a chance, buy this teetotaler a cup of coffee and enjoy his analogies), “Babbitt adopted a routine where he drops into a controversy as if by parachute, declares peace, not has survived in southern Utah either before or since. Hostility did not faze Brant: the | even victory, and then levitates up, up, and away.” He believes “the recently announced Manson family (yes that Manson family) once threatened him over his efforts to save the _re-inventory of Utah BLM wilderness lands was a good thing, but could have come literally Redwoods in California. Brant took a fiery and dedicated, but relatively insignificant group _ years ago and would have strengthened the hands of good people in BLM, citizen groups and built it into a force that, along with an amazing grass roots network, would stop an __—and others.” He remembers that “[former Interior Secretary James] Watt used his office anti-wilderness bill supported by a united congressional delegation (a first), change the way _ aS a bully pulpit and rallied the bad guys and gave them hope. Right now, if Babbitt were the BLM managed public lands, and win important concessions froma reluctant democratic | to be re-nominated, I don’t think environmentalists would even show up for the administration. confirmation.” Brant had a long history of environmental activism before SUWA. It started when Dave Brower came to Sante Fe in the 60’s to speak about plans to build dams Brant says of his long career, “I'm constantly reminded that politicians and bureaucrats in the Grand _are transients in these fights. I can’t count the number of Secretaries of the Interior, Canyon. As Brant puts it, “I'd never actually been there, but it seemed like a bad idea,and _— Presidents, BLM directors, county commissioners, US house and senate members, I got into the dam fight.” Then Ed Wayburn came to Santa Fe and told about the fight to | save redwoods. “I had never seen any, but saving them seemed a good idea, so I got involved in that, too” explains Calkin. and newspaper reporters that have come and gone sinceI started working on BLM wilderness. Our side’s citizens tend to be enduring and so do the antis. The “friends” we’ve had in various positions don’t stay there as long as staff and dedicated volunteers, and they don’t From there it was a seemingly endless series of fights on power plants, predator _ tend to be the advocates we think they should be unless we push them...hard!” control, air and water pollution, urban sprawl, mountain lion protection, and wilderness I was fortunate to be that first lawyer Brant hired, and I doubt anyone ever had more designation. In the early 70’s Brant began bombing around the southwest as an organizer for the Sierra Club, sleeping in the back of a Citroen station wagon with an empty pistol holder on the dash as a deterrent. He served as the Sierra Club National President. fun than working for Brant and Susan Tixier when Associate Director (although no one actually used they were SUWA's titles back then). As Director and Brant puts it, — running SUWA was like “managing a volcano.” He turned He approved sending legal pleadings to a snooty law firm on orange colored paper to down a D.C. job with Congressman Bill Richards (who called Brant “a burr headed hippie”) because he had more pressing business: roofing his house. He was the Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Natural Resources until he resigned in protest. Somehow he fit in hiking 1800 miles below the rim of the Grand Canyon (he reports Brower was right—it was worth saving). He ran for New Mexico Public Lands Commissioner, and lost, but not without flipping his plane while taxiing down the highway leading into Shiprock _ celebrate Halloween. He constantly invited his staff to attend meetings when others forgot to do so. As a result, SUWA staff were regularly tossed from meetings- Ken Rait _ practically made a career out it. On Brant's urging I ended up surprising the hell out of _ then Secretary of the Interior Manual Lujan at the Halls Crossing airport witha hand shake _ that lasted until we had a chance to discuss some issues (Lujan had been dodging the _enviros and tried to escape my grip like a flopping trout while the tv cameras rolled). New Mexico. When Brant started with SUWA, the organization was submitting great responses to environmental impact statements, participating in processes, and generally being good. All of this to no effect. SUWA's only victories had come through appeals and lawsuits. So Brant hired SUWA’s first in-house lawyer, a legal tradition that continues today (currently, four SUWA staff have law degrees). Brant established three goals for SUWA. Nationalize the Utah wilderness issue, build | the membership of the organization, and defend the land until you pass wilderness bill. _It's a strategy that has served Utah wilderness well for over a decade. When things seemed tough, Brant adopted the attitude of “the poor bastards have us surrounded."