Watchdogs of the New West. Like many other Utahns, I enjoy exploring wilderness that’s totally new to me. I love trying new trails, canyons, and climbs. But, to be honest, my favorite part of living in the beautiful, arid West is that I can come back to the same places again and again. Every time I return to a particular ravine or butte, especially the ones that are overlooked by the guidebooks and national monument designations, I see something new, I get to know the rock just a bit deeper, and my sense of wonder grows.


However, all too often the ‘new’ thing that I see when I return to a place is destruction, vandalism, garbage. It’s most clear to me when I travel back to the Tavaputs plateau each summer and see the expansion of the tar sands mine, the quick ascension of new oil derricks, and the new mining equipment crushing native vegetation. But it’s everywhere, which is why Conservation Lands Foundation’s (CLF) new app is a must have for outdoors people, river runners, and conservationists.

Sacred Datura San Juan

The totally free app is called TerraTruth. The idea is simple: because so much protected public land is being destroyed by careless and sometimes even willful miscreants, everyday folks need to be able to monitor the damage and pass it along to people who can do something about it. There simply aren’t enough BLM agents (and, in fact, there are likely to be less and less under Zinke’s austerity plans), DNR employees, or other public servants to keep track of what’s happening at the 36 million acres of public land that this app covers, and that many Holiday River Trips run through.


That 36 million acres is the “National Conservation Lands” that CLF works to keep wild and pristine. It includes 27 National Monuments, 22 National Conservation Areas and other similar designations, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails. 


Getting our bearings Cataract CanyonSo, if I wanted to document an incident at the Tavaputs Plateau, my first task as a ‘citizen watchdog’ (actually, let’s do away with that term because protecting the earth has nothing to do with citizenship. How about ‘resident watchdog’?) is to see what land I am on. That’s not always such an easy task in Utah, where little squares of SITLA land are hole punched out of the landscape and sold off to the highest bidder. But, consulting my handy map, I can see that the campsites I usually frequent are, indeed on BLM land. So, I start up the app.


From here, It’s very straightforward: I set my location manually or using the GPS, and I take a photo. The photo is then sent directly to Conservation Lands Foundation.  This information can be quite useful in efforts to alert authorities to the destruction shown. Perhaps if enough people send in data they can release a report about the ongoing degradation of protected lands. At the very least it will be stored somewhere so that proof of ruination over time can be established for standing in court or legal challenges.


This is one small step towards noticing and acting against the way the earth is being tampered with and destroyed. And seriously, it’s super easy to use and free. So download it now before your next trip!


Writer Easton SmithEaston Smith is a Local Wasatch Front resident and writer.   He spends his time community organizing, rock-climbing, and playin’ some mean banjo.