Posted on | May 14, 2014 | No Comments
Cecil Garland, the Utah rancher whose name is synonymous with wilderness preservation throughout the Great Basin and in Montana, died Sunday of pneumonia according to an obituary issued through the Great Basin Water Network. Garland, 88, was born in Ohio and raised in Appalachia. On leaving the Air Force after World War II, he hitched to Southern Nevada where he spent a decade dealing cards in a Las Vegas casino. As the Rat Pack-era began in the 1950s, Garland and his wife, Barbara Heavin, moved to Lincoln, Montana, where they opened a general store. It was in Lewis and Clark County where the East Coast Garland earned Western stripes by leading the fight against logging in the Scapegoat Wilderness, nearly a quarter million acres that straddle the Continental Divide and, no small thanks to Garland, are now protected.
After a divorce from Heavin, in 1973 Garland moved to a remote stretch of Snake Valley, Utah, near the Pony Express trail running alongside Goshute land between Ely and Wendover, Nevada. Here he met his second wife, school teacher Annette Hardy, with whom he ran a cattle operation on land dependent entirely on winter snowmelt from the local ranges and fossil water lying beneath the Great Basin Desert. Where there was water in the desert, there was conflict. Almost immediately Garland was embroiled in a fight against the Cold War-era MX Missile project, which he reckoned would use too much water.
Respite was brief after MX was abandoned by the Reagan administration. In 1989, a booming Las Vegas moved on Snake Valley’s groundwater to serve a proposed 300-mile-long pipeline. Last year Garland’s quarter century fight to protect his valley’s aquifer from Las Vegas ended with Utah Governor Gary Herbert withdrawing from a controversial water-sharing agreement with Nevada.
Garland, September 7, 1925–May 11, 2014, is survived by his wife Annette; sisters Kathleen and Anne; brother Jimmy; daughters Cecilia, Teresa, Becky and Bertha Mae and their extended family. A memorial is planned in Callao, Utah, on the weekend of September 6, 2014. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations go to the Montana Wilderness Association and/or the Great Basin Water Network.