Wasatch Mountains Cascade Peak, 2018
In 2017 I spent several months living in a primitive cabin tucked between the Wasatch State Park and what is now the Bonanza Flats Conservation Area. My daily interactions were with turkey, elk, two moose, a family of golden eagles, and a chipmunk who would perch in a window of the cabin and, I imagined, comment on the progress of my drawings.
In the evening I would walk through an old aspen grove out to an overlook and watch the day end. The southernmost ledge of the rocky peninsula offered a long view south, over the varied terrain of the Wasatch Mountain Range’s back side, known locally as the Wasatch Back. The endpoint of the view is a relatively unknown peak in the Southern Wasatch known as Cascade Mountain, a grand form at 10,908 ft.
This view covers 20 miles as the crow flies and lines up along several protected wilderness areas that will remain undeveloped into perpetuity. It is the result of a key principle of land conservation: to link preserved acreages together to create networks rather than islands of wilderness. The Uinta National Forest, where Cascade Mountain resides, is the most distant area shown in the drawing. The middle and foreground ramble through the Timpanogos Wilderness Area and Wasatch State Park. Sections of Wasatch National Park offer several visual outings here as well. If the viewpoint were turned 180 degrees, you would see the most recent addition to this linked system, Bonanza Flats, acquired from a developer in 2017 by multiple partners including Park City Municipal and Utah Open Lands.
I point this out in recognition of the foresight and effort of those people who work to create conservation easements and public lands like these, and because I was impressed upon learning about the importance of linking land. Several species of animal residing in this terrain, like the Great Horned and Flammulated Owls, have populations in steep decline due to habitat encroachment elsewhere.
The human population is growing quickly in Utah, which the most recent census ranked as the fourth fastest growing state in the nation. In light of this rapid growth, it is urgent to act now to preserve these unique wilderness areas. However, Utah public lands were instead reduced in 2018 by a stunning 2 million acres. The Presidential decision to cut Bears Ears National Monument by 1.1 million acres and The Grand Staircase Escalante Monument by 800,000 is a massive loss. I urge us all to take the long view regarding land conservation, and to act now to preserve wilderness areas permanently.
In these landscapes I strive to create a sense of place particular to the American West that suggests the long tradition of soul seeking in the great hypnotic expanses of light and land. The drawing might summon an intuitive intimacy with the natural environment and impart a feeling of recognition, even for a place unknown. The scale and depth of field are important in order to invite the viewer’s eye on the journey, to explore and route-find through the native terrain. The Uinta National Forest was established in 1897, Wasatch National Forest in 1906 Wasatch Mountain State Park in 1961, and the Timpanogos Wilderness Area in 1984. As our population continues to grow into the 21st Century, the ongoing dedication of conservation easements, and maintenance of those already established, may inspire the 22nd Century American’s to take this long view as well.