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More than 5,200 off-road enthusiasts motored up State Street on Saturday. Their message: "Take Back Utah" keep the state's lands open for motorized travel and for use of its natural resources.
The parade ended with a rally at the state Capitol where Gov. Gary Herbert and others called for renewed vigor in the fight for access to wilderness lands.
For Joseph Colesanti, a transplant from New Jersey, it was his second year driving his bio-diesel-fueled jeep in the parade of mostly two- and four-wheeled recreational vehicles.
Dressed in a T-shirt with "Big brother is watching you" above President Barack Obama's face, Colesanti described himself as "anti-regime."
"George Bush wasn't a conservative," Colesanti said, "and I didn't vote for him, either."
Under the heat of the midday sun, Herbert applauded the crowd on the Statehouse lawn which had shrunk to about 500 for being the "squeaky wheel."
An ATV owner himself, Herbert said that the popularity of such recreational vehicles is on the rise while available land on which to ride them continues to shrink.
Almost two-thirds of the land in Utah is owned by the federal government. Herbert laid out three possible actions he and others could take to deal with that fact: legislation, litigation and negotiation.
"We have the ability to negotiate with the Department of the Interior," Herbert said. "I know it sounds crazy but we've had opportunities to work with the administration to find solutions."
At times, the rally resembled recent tea party events. House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara, took potshots at Washington, D.C., and Democrats.
"On every policy issue that has faced the Reid, Pelosi and Obama administration, there has been a choice between freedom and more government" Clark said. "And on every single issue, they have chosen the path of more government and less freedom."
Utah's 1st District Rep. Rob Bishop warned of federal efforts to buy more public lands for national monuments using the so-called antiquities act, which he said would enable officials to circumvent Congress.
"They're talking about trying to control land in great ecosystems," Bishop said. "I saw the map of their ecosystems it's the entire West."
Randy Parker, a cattle rancher and chief executive officer of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, took jabs at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and other "members of the left-wing environmental mafia."
"The radical environmentalists want to lock up Utah into nonuse designations like the Red Rock Wilderness bill," Parker said. "SUWA had to go to New York to get congressional support because they're so removed from Utah and the people of Utah."
Reached Saturday in Moab, Scott Groene, executive director for SUWA, said he was gazing at those redrocks as he spoke.
"There is a need to restore balance," Groene said. "A very small number of the users are here for motorized recreation and yet the Bush plans allocated the greater amount of this landscape to that use."
"Much of what you heard today," Groene said of the Take Back Utah Rally, "is the fear that balance will be restored."
Polls repeatedly show that most Utahns want to see large amounts of wilderness protected, Groene said, along with clean air and water for their children.
"It's difficult to see how that's radical," Groene said.
Jo Ann Stout, a member of the Carbon County Off-Highway Vehicle Association, rose at 3 a.m. to make the trip to Saturday's parade and rally.
Her 199-member group serves as a watchdog for access to wilderness trails, Stout said, and finds itself regularly at odds with SUWA's agenda.
"Being a steward of the land and protecting it is one thing, but it doesn't do any good closing it all off," she said. "That hurts everybody."
At Saturday's rally, Herriman resident Eric May waved a flag quoting a verse by Captain Moroni out of the Book of Mormon: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children."
"It's what we're fighting for today," May said, "the same thing."