June 4, 2003- Consider these facts: Sixty-four percent of Utah is federal land. Seven federally recognized American Indian reservations are located in the Beehive State, set aside as permanent homelands for Navajo, Ute, Goshute and Paiute tribes. Utah is home to 12 national parks and monuments and 15 wilderness areas totaling 750,000 acres. With two of the largest rivers in the West-the Colorado and the Green, numerous remnants from ancient cultures, 3.5 million acres of wilderness study areas and 15 ski resorts on public lands, there is no shortage of conflict on how Utah lands should be used, protected and preserved.
University of Utah Political Science Professor Dan McCool, director of the U’s American West Center, believes social and environmental conflicts cannot be resolved without a fundamental understanding of what is at stake. McCool contends that comprehension comes through experiencing the land and the issues first-hand.
In an effort to enhance students’ ability to understand Utah’s-and the West’s- complex and often controversial social and environmental issues, this summer the Red Rock Institute, part of the U’s American West Center, will debut two three-week classes, which will delve into many of these challenges. The courses, which must be taken together, are Political Science 5500 (Public Lands Policy) and Political Science 5590 (American Indian Policy.) The courses, each three hours credit, will run from June 30 to July 20, and are open to faculty, undergraduate, graduate and non-matriculated students. Class size is limited to 30 participants, who, as part of the program, will also travel to some of Utah’s most scenic landscapes. Registration deadline is June 29, 2003. Cost of the program for both resident and non-resident students is resident tuition rate for six credit hours. (Approximately $970 for an upper division undergraduate student.)
Jennifer Robinson, research assistant in environmental policy for the American West Center, explains, “What differentiates our program from others is that it is one of a few University-affiliated projects in the country that offers college credit for the research.”
Red Rock Institute participants spend the first two weeks on the University of Utah campus listening to lectures and guest speakers. “The students spend the third week on a field trip, camping and hiking, in Southern Utah; but it is not a vacation or a guided tour. It is an academic experience. Each student is required to attend all meetings, take notes and be tested on course material. Participants also meet with officials from The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and representatives from environmental organizations,” Robinson notes.
According to McCool, the field trips also create opportunities for students to discuss important issues of land, culture, economics and politics among themselves. “This helps them gain perspective and gives them an opportunity to have shared learning experiences with students from other universities and diverse backgrounds,” says McCool.
The American West Center is a research unit at the University of Utah, affiliated with the College of Social and Behavioral Science. For more than 30 years it has worked to provide greater understanding of the history, development and environment of the American West.