Preserving the past and preventing the future
Other scientists were exploring the vast park, much of which is still "unexplored" (by modern scientists), and discovering and studying signs of past inhabitants, perhaps back thousands of years. Structures built into cliffs, wall-paintings, and even very old cowboy campgrounds. Again, the unstated implication was that these areas must be protected from tourists.
I have great respect for history, and tend to be inclined toward preservation. It's wondrous that ancient people built ingenious structures and had thriving societies in such an imposing and difficult surrounding. However, one gets the impression that these scientists would like to set aside most of the planet for use only by those studying the past.
Past societies seem to be more important to these scientists than current or recent societies. Of course, studying the past IS their interest, so they want it preserved for extensive study at their leisure.
On the other hand, suppose for a moment that these scientists were working at a time in the past... a time BETWEEN societies they're now studying... after the earliest known, but before the more recent societies. Their attitude at that point in time would have prevented the more recent societies from ever developing. It's very possible that what they're now studying and trying to preserve wouldn't have even occurred if their attitude had been present in the past.
If individuals moved into Canyonlands now, built structures and found a way to survive, they would be ousted and probably charged as criminals... for doing the same thing ancient societies did. Not only would they be violating a national park, but they would be accused of upsetting the ecology and obliterating the past.
Yet, that is exactly what the ancient societies did. They hacked into cliffs, built houses and granaries, and raised crops... no doubt tromping all over the environment in the process, smashing untold bacteria, slaughtering native species, and introducing all sorts of alien life into the ecology.
In the process, we know they wiped out wall-paintings by previous residents and replaced them with their own. Chances are good that they destroyed all signs of previous inhabitants... and may have done so by means of war. Simply put, those old societies made Canyonlands what it is today, and different than it was before they settled there.
What is it that makes those old societies so important that we should prevent any future change? Why should we gasp over what they achieved and then conclude that further achievement should be prevented? As for the effect of humans on the delicate, "self-contained" ecology of an area... why should the current ecology be maintained?
The same area has, and will, see enormous change without humans. The current ecology may well be extremely well balanced, with each part dependent on all other parts, but it is all temporary. No doubt that if one went back a thousand years to the Canyonland area of then, the ecology would have been delicate and balanced, but very different than it is now. Nature effects change continually... seas dry up, may become desert, the ground heaves in spectacular ways, and species come and go... and evolve to survive in the changed ecology. What is delicate and balanced today is so only because it evolved to that state to cope with natural change.
So... what is the point of preservation? It's impossible, to begin with. Change and destruction WILL occur, with or without humans, and preservation is often done in order to study past human presence. Why should humans forcibly try to prevent change, and preserve what is already present? That IS what preservation is about, after all... preserving the past... by preventing the future.
Will future scientists studying an area like Canyonlands be perplexed that there were societies living there for a very long time... until some time in the 20th century... and that after that humans disappeared from the area? Will the few cowboy encampments be the last sign of humans in that vast area? Will they decide that cowboys or cow herds were the end of humans there? Will they wonder about some great catastrophe that eliminated humans then? Will they search for some devastating plague that wiped out all inhabitants?
Those are questions that are often speculated about concerning ancient societies. What happened to them? They just vanished? I suggest to you another possibility, only partially in jest:
I suggest to you that just perhaps... those societies developed scientists and/or ecologists, similar to ours today, who marveled at the still-more-ancient societies they discovered... and convinced (or forced) the rest of their people to MOVE, and set aside the land for no more development... to preserve the past and eliminate human change from that point forward. The result, much later, would look just like that of the ancient vanished societies that puzzle us now. They preserved the past, eliminating all signs of themselves.