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Climbing Accident

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Medical Doctor Garon Coriz died at age 33 in a climbing accident. He was a Bears Ears National and Grand Staircase-Escalante Nat’l Monuments Redrock Wilderness activist. An article from the Albuquerque Journal on July 16, 2019 provides more about his legacy for a healthy, sustainable future for wilderness and people. 

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a United States national monument that originally designated 1,880,461 acres of protected land in southern Utah in 1996. The monument’s size was later reduced by a succeeding presidential proclamation in 2017. Photo by Bureau of Land Management.

It is hard to lose anyone to accidental death and is very hard to lose others with common cause as we struggle to provide a healthy, sustainable future for those to come after us. My program Wilderness–Unique Treasure has been presented since 1975. It remains one of my most popular programs. It touches the hearts of people and exposes the heart of wilderness in a manner that joins human heart with wilderness heart. It focuses on protection of Grand Staircase Wilderness. Hopefully it has drawn others to action. Bears Ears is in the region.

I participated in Wilderness Week to meet with legislators in Washington D.C. and found it too unpleasant to repeat. I continue to advocate by taking action following Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance phone conference calls. My actions are dwarfed by the efforts of Garon. We should each do what we can and look to Garon as a shining model advocating for future generations. Continue his efforts as best you can.

Surviving to advocate the principles he supported provides purpose to protect our children’s future. 

Time in the wild gives me purpose and is medicine equal to chemo that has allowed my survival greatly beyond the expected. Treatments and wild exploratory allowed me to exceed the mean survival of 7 to 8 years and I am working to survive year 22. I am among the longest surviving with this cancer (multiple myeloma). Chemo causes me to become easily confused and physically exhausted quickly. I hope to survive to write nature niches. 

A couple weeks ago I was traversing a wild area with friends and took a detour to explore independently. I became disoriented and “lost.” I did not consider myself lost. I could determine directions and move toward our vehicles. The terminal cancer causes brittle bones, and I have 10 previous healed fractures. 

I knew my friends would call search and rescue when I did not return to our vehicles on time because of my general health and potential for broken bones. I could reason my way out but stupidly had left my compass in a vehicle as well as the cell phone that might not have worked anyway. A compass was not essential but it would have hastened my departure. Eventually, I navigated to a trail and followed it for a safe return. Search and rescue arrived as I approached the road. One person from the area was already searching for me on horseback. 

The point is, we are all at risk when entering wilderness and our significance is no greater than wild inhabitants whether they be bear or ant. We forego the security of civilization and become part of wilderness when we cross the line where humans stop exerting control to allow nature niches to function with natural processes. It is a joy and an essential component for protecting wilderness to leave it beyond our manipulation. Many prefer hunting in protected wilderness areas free from mechanized development.

I was moved by paragraphs Goran wrote in 2018. Request them by e-mailing me. Other tributes were great but his words were wonderful. Like others, I am saddened by the loss of one I never met but one who shared a common cause. Continue our most important work to protect wilderness for recreation, science, and wild inhabitants that have a right to share Earth and survive. Our children’s children need protected wilderness. 

Unknowns remain in wilderness. I presented a scientific paper at the U of California-Davis in early July on a new species I discovered that lives in the Grand Staircase and discussed other unique species from the ecosystem. The national monument was set aside by a president in the 1990s and it has the legal authority limited to the US Congress to leave it a monument, make it a national park that has the same protections, expand it, reduce its size, or eliminate it. The current president illegally used dictatorial power to bypass Congress’ legal responsibility. The issue is in the courts. I hope Grand Staircase NM is restored.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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