Brett Roper column mug

Brett Roper

The celebration of Thanksgiving has long signified a successful growing season and the health of the people that grew and harvested those crops. Thanksgiving in the United States can be traced back to the sharing of food between Native Americans and transplanted European Americans at Plymouth Colony in 1621. From that time on this holiday was a consistent practice of settlers in many regions of this country but did not become a proclaimed national holiday until Abraham Lincoln did so in 1863. Our 16th president chose that time to set aside a day to not only represent a successful harvest season but to provide a break from the three and a half year old Civil War to share a meal with friends and family.

Thanksgiving continues to be a wonderful time to celebrate the productiveness of this country. In much of the Northern Rocky Mountain region, however, we are well past the growing season. For this holiday dinner there are some who freeze or can fruits and vegetables but most people simply take a trip to the stores which are flush with signs of a prosperous United States. Hunting still plays a role in putting food on some tables, but usually not at Thanksgiving. Given both Idaho and Utah now have fall turkey seasons, wild turkeys may become a more common dinner fare in the future. In my distant past as a Utah State University student a goose was once substituted for the main course of this meal, but that was due to budget, not choice. Most deer, elk and other big game seasons are finished but seasons for pheasant and waterfowl are still open. Regardless of whether you hunt or hike, the best activity over the long holiday weekend isn’t Black Friday but the opportunity to get out in the field for a long walk.

This year Thanksgiving coincided with what seemed to be an extended election season. Many of these races were tight and some were controversial. But regardless of what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it was nice to see these races settled in a civil manner. Once Congress reconvenes they still need to fund most of the federal land management organizations such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. With a little luck they may even pass the Land and Water Conservation Fund which partly funds many regional projects such as the construction of the Bonneville Trail. Hopefully the holiday season will make the passing of these bills easier, but I doubt it.

Several land management issues are getting coverage this fall. The first is the adoption of a new management plan for what was formally known and Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante Monuments. The release of these new plans are controversial and they provide new management direction for these areas even as the legality of the actions taken to reduce the size of these monuments move through the courts.

The second is an upcoming proposal by the State of Utah to modify the Forest Service Roadless Rule. This process has already taken place in Colorado and Idaho and the outcomes were generally positive in those states. The best way to insure this happens in Utah is to comment on the process when the opportunity presents itself. Issues related to monuments and roadless areas will likely always be difficult to address as they must balance the needs of the people that live close to the public lands in question with the desires of people that live at a great distance away. It making these decisions, it is important to remember that both groups are the owners of these lands.

The reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving has stayed the same for nearly 400 years. The concerns of this time of year for most of us are no longer focused on survival. The United States produces enough food to feed people in this and other countries. Hunting is still an important endeavor, but is not the primary method of putting food on the table. There are many important discussions regarding the regulations of the outdoors and how public lands should be managed, but they are arguments that address quality of life. We should all be thankful to live in a county where such discussions are possible.

{span style=”font-family: tahoma, arial, helvetica, sans-serif;”}{span style=”font-size: 12px;”}Brett Roper is a fisheries biologist for the Forest Service. When not working or with his family you are likely to run into him anywhere — as long as it is outdoors. He can be contacted at{/span}{/span}

Brett Roper is a fisheries biologist for the Forest Service. When not working or with his family you are likely to run into him anywhere — as long as it is outdoors. He can be contacted at