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Home / Articles / Opinion / 5 Spot /  Mathew Gross, SUWA’s new media director
5 Spot

Mathew Gross, SUWA’s new media director

By Rachel Piper
Posted // December 22,2010 - The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance recently launched a massive media campaign and a new Website ( to spread the message of wilderness protection. SUWA’s new media director, Mathew Gross, talked to City Weekly about the SUWA’s efforts and Utah’s wilderness.

Why is SUWA’s media campaign necessary?
The attitude toward wilderness has shifted, just as the economy has shifted. As tourism becomes a bigger part of the Utah economy, it’s hard to miss the fact that people come from all over the world to see the landscape of Utah. There’s recognition that protecting that makes economic sense, and sense for our children and future generations. The idea for the media campaign was, how do we accelerate that shift? How do we reach out to the majority of Utahns who haven’t given wilderness much thought and get them thinking about wilderness and its value to Utah’s heritage and what makes Utah a special place to live?

But how can people appreciate the land if they can’t use it?
That’s one of the big misunderstandings. Most of Utah’s wilderness is accessible, and a lot of people are using it. If you drive through the Valley of the Gods, you’re driving right next to, and looking at, a wilderness study area. The idea that these lands are untouchable doesn’t really hold true. Certainly, motorized access is limited, but people drive to the trailhead and hike. I think there is an understanding that some lands need to be protected for people to hike and hunt and fish. When you look at the amount of roads in Utah, on BLM land, there are 17,000 miles of roads. Almost all public lands are accessible, and part the goal of the campaign is to clarify that wilderness land is accessible to people.

Are you trying to convert the ATV-lovin’ SUWA haters?
We’re trying to reach out to the middle ground and people who support a balanced approach to wilderness, and people who aren’t familiar with the issue and don’t necessarily know what we’re talking about when we talk about wilderness. A great number of people haven’t thought about wilderness as a politicized issue. It is a politicized issue, but I think for mom and dad sitting at the dinner table, they maybe haven’t really thought about what is wilderness and what should be protected. This campaign was designed to get that conversation going.

Did SUWA’s donors support hiring a new position?
The response from our membership has been very positive. They’ve said that they’ve been waiting for something like this, to make that effort to reach out beyond just environmental activists, but to the general public. That’s something that most organizations do—simply talking to activists or people who already support your cause. There’s a lot of excitement that we’re making an effort and making an investment to reach out to people who might not consider themselves wilderness activists and speak to them about why they might support wilderness and why wilderness is beneficial to Utah in the long run. There’s a sense among our membership that that’s important.

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Posted // December 23,2010 at 08:02

Congratulations to Matt and SUWA! For too long the opponents of wilderness have spread the idea that wilderness had to be remote and inaccessible. That idea went out of fashion 50 years ago. Many wilderness areas already designated by Congress are bordered by roads. Many of us enjoy wilderness by sightseeing on roads in national parks such as Zion, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain. (Yes, all three already got their wilderness designations approved by Congress.) Wilderness status is the most secure protection we can give to our federal lands.


Posted // December 24,2010 at 08:00 - What I'm not hearing from SUWA critics is any credible, detailed reporting on exactly what SUWA is doing that's so manipulative, so dishonest and so dastardly. Just because "they ain't from Utah" isn't a good reason. If 40-year old Sagebrush Rebellion talking points and anti-government rhetoric is all you have, you have nothing. There are those of us without the legal and corporate-backed resources to fight for wildland preservation who have to rely on voices and power from outside the state to combat the decades-old nonsense that wilderness designation curtails job growth. Or that you really can't survive without more OHV trials where it's pretty and you aren't physically fit enough to get there without an internal combustion engine barking and smoking and stirring up clouds of dirt and dust. At least one misguided poster admits, in his final paragraph, that it's really an entitled numbers game: We have 100,000 OHV's in Utah and only 17,000 miles of road. And to his way of thinking, apparently, we are short 73,000 miles of OHV trails. Makes perfect sense to a recreator. Perhaps each OHV owner could sponsor one mile of trail for maintenance and regulated use.


Posted // December 23,2010 at 08:49 - George (Alderson, I assume), SUWA first needs to prove that wilderness quality public land in Utah even NEEDS protection! (Which it doesn't)


Posted // December 23,2010 at 08:27 - So why does SUWA still use that as there whole premise George?


Posted // December 22,2010 at 17:26

Ya I saw the onslaught of media coverage on the local TV channels, Mathew Gross is right, He has people talking about it but its not what he wants to hear. And he doesn't want to hear any thing that has to do with compromise, its block the BLM with frivolous law suits to lock out my access to public land.

Every year I am out on NPLD cleaning and repairing damage to wilderness by the public, AND WHERE IS organized group to give support, Why??? because they dont have an organized local group. The out of state members hide behind their attorneys to file more frivolous law suits to block more wilderness from the puplic.


Posted // December 22,2010 at 15:56

"...and people who aren’t familiar with the issue and don’t necessarily know what we’re talking about when we talk about wilderness..."

They are trying to reach out to those people, because they know those are the only people they can get on their side. Virtually everyone that knows what wilderness is, oppose it. And SUWA knows it. That's why they are trying to reach out to, and deceive, the uninformed public.

Very typical!


Posted // December 22,2010 at 15:11

whoo hoo 9 full time employees now spreading lies. the stench is so thick that even the democrats cant stand to be around them.

So SUWA conducts polls by asking questions like to you think that destoying land is bad?

Of course people are going to say yes, what SUWA Doesnt ask is do you think we should shut everyone out of the outdoors so that in 5 generations they can fly over it and see the majesticness that those wonderful SUWA people 500 years ago were able to preserve.

SUWA you can go jump off a cliff cause you have nobody in the state of Utah to support you. just your liberal junkies in Canada who have never been here.



Posted // December 22,2010 at 15:01

People do come from all over, but not to SEE the landscape of Utah, to ENJOY the landscape of Utah by skiing, mountain biking, hunting, etc… Gross’s comment was obviously a Freudian slip, because if he and his attorney infested organization get their way, that’s the ONLY thing you and I will be allowed to do with the awesome Utah landscape, see it but don’t touch it!

There are so many lies and half truths in that interview that it’s scary. SUWA has simply hired a PR guy to talk “compromise” and “middle ground” to the public while they continue to pursue complete closure of as much public land as possible behind closed doors. Don’t believe a word of it.