Faith and the Land:
A Call for Wilderness Stewardship

Is the future of Utah's wild lands important to you?

Do you ever turn to Utah’s wild landscapes for spiritual inspiration, renewal or insight?

You are one of many.  Native Americans have found the land to be a source of spiritual sustenance for millennia.  Central figures in organized religions worldwide have had core mystical experiences in wild places.  The list includes Buddha, Mohamed, Moses, and Jesus.

Why do people of faith need to speak on behalf of wilderness?
Support for the protection of Utah’s wild lands is too often portrayed as coming only from “outsiders,” “extremists” of “secularists” who do not represent mainstream concerns and values.  Similarly, designating lands as “wilderness” is too often characterized as “locking up” Utah’s lands from public use and enjoyment.  People of faith can help show that individuals from all walks of life, including people from a wide array of religious and spiritual traditions, care deeply about the future of Utah’s wild places and want to see them protected.

A first step: creating an interfaith statement
United by belief in the spiritual value of wilderness, Utahns from diverse religious traditions came together to create an interfaith statement in 2009 about the spiritual importance of Utah’s wild lands and the need for action to protect these special places. 

The interfaith statement calls on Utah’s elected leaders to recognize that Utah’s wild lands are places of profound spiritual inspiration, renewal, connection and nourishment and to act now to ensure their protection.  It also invites other faith communities to join the call for protective stewardship of Utah’s wild places.

The interfaith statement was distilled from dialogues held in Utah within the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Islamic, Jewish, Latter-day Saint, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ faith communities.  Members of each community met to think and talk together in response to two questions:  How are Utah’s wild places important to you spiritually?  How does your faith tradition call on you to caretake the natural world, including wild lands?  More than 230 people took part.  Participants discovered that, though their religious practices may vary, they stood on common ground in respect for creation and the natural world.

The interfaith statement played an important role in making the historical  2009 hearing on America's Red Rock Wilderness Act a success.  Prior to the hearing, a representative from the Utah faith groups traveled to Washington, DC to share the interfaith statement -- and its call for stewardship of Utah's wild lands -- with members of the House Natural Resources Committee.  Meanwhile, back in Utah, faith representatives met with the offices of Senator Hatch, Representative Rob Bishop and Representative Chaffetz. 

 In 2010, members of 11 different faith traditions gathered in the rotunda of Utah’s Capitol to call on Utah lawmakers to recognize the spiritual importance of Utah’s wilderness heritage and to support meaningful protection for Utah’s remaining wild lands.  Reinforcing the speakers’ call for wilderness stewardship was an impressive exhibit of 24 posters featuring over 250 handwritten personal statements from members of 11 different faith traditions and one interfaith group.  The historic event – covered by an impressive array of media sources – sent a powerful message:  Utah’s wild lands are places of profound spiritual importance to people from all walks of life in Utah and deserve meaningful protection.

The posters were created at Wilderness Stewardship Days events held at numerous communities of faith around Utah this fall and winter.  Members of each community were invited to help create a poster showcasing support for wilderness protection by writing a personal statement on a picture postcard about why wilderness is important to them spiritually.

Action Taken across the Nation
In addition to these events in Utah, an impressive number of faith communities and organizations across the country have also joined the call for wilderness stewardship.  Inspired by local members whose hearts have been touched by time spent in the wild, these congregations and organizations have held events educating their members and sponsored letters to Congress calling for the protection of Utah’s red rock wild lands.

How can you participate?
People of faith have the potential to be a very powerful and influential voice for the protective stewardship of Utah’s red rock wilderness.  If you would like to help engage your community in conversation and action about wilderness stewardship, or join with people from other faith traditions as a voice for wild land protection, please contact us!

Contacts:

Terri Martin
Western Regional Organizer
terri@suwa.org
(801) 236-3778
Clayton Daughenbaugh
Midwest Regional Organizer
clayton@suwa.org
(708) 795-0514

 

 

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Faith and the Land 
on KUED's Utah Now

 

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