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I know a lot of Helenans vacation in southern Utah, mostly in the spring and fall. I just returned from 105-degree Bluff, Utah. Visiting the desert in July is an acquired taste. Cabin fever afflicts Montanans in the heart of winter. In Bluff the opposite happens. Indoor conditioned air is a matter of survival.

Though I live in Helena, I have a huge stake in the future of Bluff. United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell held a pivotal hearing over the fate of 2 million acres of public lands last Saturday. About 1,500 of us flocked to the tiny community shed in the center of this town of 200 hardy desert dwellers. About half wanted President Obama to designate a 1.9 million acre Bears Ears a national monument. The other half rejects the idea in favor of a Utah congressman's proposal that effectively guts existing protections. Luckily, the heat and numerous law enforcement personnel passing out bottles of chilled water largely lulled the passionate crowd into a stupor of submission to opposing positions. 

I certainly favor the Bears Ears Monument. I don't think anyone attending that meeting favored destruction of the fabulous desert canyons in southeast Utah. Calls for extractive industry are largely political. There is very little to mine or drill. Many have already tried and lost. But there is gold in the form of tourism. A few years after the Bears Ears Monument becomes law, the residents, on their way to the bank, will wonder why it didn't happen sooner.

Mark Meloy

Helena

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