December 2010

  • December 24th, 2010

    With your dogged determination and willingness to speak out for Utah wilderness, it was inevitable.  And yesterday, it finally happened . . . Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar released new wilderness guidance that has the potential to give needed protection to 6 million of acres of wilderness-quality lands in Utah.

    Upper Desolation Canyon
    Upper Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness is one area that needs protection. Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The new policy also reverses the much-maligned and illegal 2003 back-door agreement between former Utah governor Michael Leavitt and former Interior boss Gale Norton by which Norton renounced the BLM’s authority to manage public lands to protect their wilderness character.

    There is much to like about Interior’s policy.  It gives wilderness a rightful place as an equal among the range of other resources BLM must manage and protect, and it’s a critical first step towards ensuring the permanent protection of the last remaining wild lands in the West.

    But of course, the path to real wilderness protection is never that simple.  The new policy also has an escape hatch that allows the BLM to decide not to protect deserving lands if it decides that development is “appropriate.” That’s a loophole big enough to drive a drilling rig through, and the BLM will have to close that gap if this policy is to fix the wilderness mess that the BLM’s historically unbalanced policies have left us.  And the BLM would not designate new “wilderness study areas” under the policy – another shortcoming.

    There are other questions: the new policy will be applied in future land use planning and in project-level decision making, but how will wilderness character lands that were ignored in the BLM’s 2008 land use plans be protected?  That includes over 2 million acres of spectacular land in the heart of the red rock.

    The “No More Wilderness” debacle of 2003 was born in Utah, and leadership at Interior and the BLM must ensure that the injustices done here are remedied.  The new policy has the potential to do that, but the Utah BLM is famous for digging up reasons not to protect wilderness.

    There’s more work to be done.  Please thank Secretary Salazar for the new policy, but let him know that the BLM must live up to the policy’s full potential to protect the last remaining wild country in Utah.

    P.S. If lands that the BLM itself identified as eligible for wilderness protection in the 2008 land use plans were protected, 86% of the proposed oil and gas wells could still be drilled.


  • December 24th, 2010

    Headlines from yesterday's announcement by Interior Secretary Salazar:

    "It’s been too long in coming, but today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is repealing a sneak attack on millions of acres of pristine public lands in the West launched by his Bush administration predecessor Gale Norton."  Read more – The Wonk Room

    "For outdoor recreation Utah, this will be a good thing as possibly millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands will gain protection from development while still allowing gas and oil drilling on BLM lands that are appropriate for such activity. Looks like a win-win."  Read more –

    “'The new Wild Lands policy affirms the B.L.M.’s authorities under the law — and our responsibility to the American people — to protect the wilderness characteristics of the lands we oversee,' the bureau’s director, Bob Abbey, said in a statement."  Read more – The New York Times

    "In a news conference in Denver, Salazar said the Norton settlement was wrong and 'should never have happened.'"  Read more – Los Angeles Times

    "'Americans love the wild places where they hunt, fish, hike, and get away from it all, and they expect these lands to be protected wisely on their behalf,' Mr Salazar said in a statement."  Read more – BBC News

    "'For the last seven years, the BLM — which manages more land than any other federal agency — has not had a comprehensive national wilderness policy,' Salazar said."  Read more – Reuters

  • December 23rd, 2010

    Interior Secretary Salazar announces policy that would protect federal wild lands

    “'We were very pleased that the secretary recognized the importance of wilderness to all Americans,' said Heidi McIntosh, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. 'He set a very high standard that BLM will now have to implement.'

    SUWA had asked the administration to reject the Norton-Leavitt deal, and was happy with Salazar’s move but is waiting to see how the BLM applies it. In the past, McIntosh said, the agency has been too eager to rule out protection of wild lands."  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune

    More headlines:

    SUWA's Press Release

    Department of Interior Press Release

    The New York Times/Greenwire

    Deseret News

    The Associated Press/The Washington Post

    Wilderness creates outdoor recreation jobs

    "It’s hard to promote environmental ethics in a slack economy; inevitably, someone will use the phrase 'job-killer' to describe today’s announcement. The list of speakers at the conference seemed to suggest that Interior’s public relations department had prepared for that: On hand was not just Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey, but Peter Metcalf, the outspoken CEO of Black Diamond Outdoor Equipment, there to remind the audience that outdoor recreation creates jobs, too –more, in the long run, than oil and gas combined."  Read more – High Country News

    Five questions for SUWA's new Media Director

    "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."  Read more – Salt Lake City Weekly


  • December 23rd, 2010

    Reversal of Bush-era “No More Wilderness” Policy Applauded

    Secretary of Interior Salazar’s new wilderness guidance gives needed protection to millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands in the West.  The new policy is a critical step towards ensuring the permanent protection of the last remaining wild lands in the West.   Further, protecting these remarkable landscapes will not halt the development of oil, gas and other energy sources from BLM lands.  The vast majority of these lands will still be available for development even as we ensure the lasting protection of the West’s most magnificent wilderness-quality lands.

    “Secretary Salazar was absolutely right in recognizing the high value that American’s place on their wilderness lands.  He set the bar very high and now it is up to the BLM to live up to that standard.  The devil is in the details and we look forward to seeing those details,” said Heidi McIntosh, associate director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    “This is a long overdue step to protect amazing wilderness quality lands in Utah and across the west.  With this Order, Secretary Salazar is ensuring that the nation’s wilderness resource is on equal footing with other resources such as oil, gas and mining.  Utah’s wild places will be better off with this Order,” said Stephen Bloch, attorney and energy program director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    Read the full press release here:

  • December 22nd, 2010

    Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
    1.  Ask the BLM to protect wilderness-quality lands in Utah’s West Desert!
    2.  Help us thank departing redrock champion Sen. Russ Feingold.
    3.  The Santa Fe New Mexican is the latest paper to call for an end to “No More Wilderness.”
    4.  Get your new SUWA retro t-shirts while they last!

    Get engaged in the Cedar City planning process

    The far-flung lands west of Cedar City are some of the least traveled and most remote our spectacular state has to offer.  In the southern portion of Utah’s West Desert, this unique basin and range environment is defined by a series of north-south trending mountain ranges with abrupt front slopes and more gentle back slopes that rise out of arid basins to form one of the most diverse ecosystems in Utah.  One of the most noticeable attributes of these lands is the general absence of development and the “you can see forever” views across the islands of mountains and playas.

    San Francisco Mtns

    The San Francisco Mountains—a prime example of the wildness and solitude offered by the Basin and Range topography of the BLM’s Cedar City planning area.  Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    BLM’s Cedar City field office is beginning a planning process for a new Resource Management Plan, or RMP.  The RMP is a tremendously important document that will dictate how BLM manages the region’s public lands, resources, and activities for the next 15 to 20 years.  Decisions made in the RMP will include: identification and management of potential wilderness areas, wildlife habitat areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild and Scenic river segments; designation of off-road vehicle trails and use areas; identification of areas for oil, gas, other minerals, and renewable energy development; and identification of areas where deforestation and livestock grazing can occur.  BLM must consider the effects of its planning decisions on climate change, air quality, water quality and all the other public land resources.

    The Cedar City planning process offers unique challenges and opportunities for BLM.  For example, the area holds promise for all three of the major renewable energy sources—wind, solar, and geothermal—yet also has pristine wild lands worthy of protection.  The Cedar City region also faces intense threats from increasing and dispersed off-road vehicle recreation.  BLM must create a long-term plan that effectively and responsibly manages recreational activities, energy development and other uses, while preserving the lands worthy of wilderness protection, including the Paradise Mountains, Steamboat Mountain, the Wah Wah Mountains, the Mineral Mountains, and the Mountain Home Range.

    Please help BLM craft a strong RMP that protects these special areas by submitting your comments by December 27th.

    Help us thank a true Redrock champion

    It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to one of the Redrock’s greatest champions, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI).  Russ, as his colleagues refer to him, lost his race for a fourth term in the anti-Washington frenzy of the recent election.  Ironically, Russ is about as independent as they come in the Senate…but that’s a hard point to make in today’s electoral climate.

    RDF with book2 Hailing from the same state as legendary environmental figures Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson, promoting environmental issues seems a natural fit for Russ.  His involvement in federal wilderness issues began soon after a trip to southern Utah in 1999, when he founded the Senate Wilderness Caucus.  Through the caucus, Russ hoped to educate other Senators who might not know the important role Congress plays in the protection of our special places – a formidable goal for the Senate.

    Throughout his tenure in the Senate, Russ’ unwavering support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was manifested through actions taken to defend the land and gain protections – including playing an important role in the improvement of the Washington County bill that passed early last year.

    We bid Russ a fond farewell and wish him the best in his future endeavors – which we hope might include protecting wilderness.

    Please take a moment to write a short thank you note to Russ. Please email your notes to and our DC staff will print them out and hand deliver them to his office before the end of this Congress.

    Another Intermountain West paper speaks out against “No More Wilderness”

    At the end of November, the Santa Fe New Mexican joined two other Intermountain West newspapers, The Salt Lake Tribune and the Denver Post, in recently calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to end the Bush-era “No More Wilderness” policy.

    The secretary appears to be twiddling his thumbs while the worst of policies from Bush and from Salazar’s predecessor Gale Norton rolls merrily along,” says this most recent editorial, adding that Salazar “must clarify Interior Department policy to say, loud and clear, that whatever deal was cut with Utah is not — repeat not — department policy.”

    You can speak out against the “No More Wilderness” policy too — just send a message to Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration asking that they reject this egregious policy and begin protecting wilderness-quality lands once again.

    Get your SUWA retro t-shirt while supplies last!

    Looking ahead to the spring and warmer weather?  Our new SUWA retro t-shirts are the perfect addition to any redrock wilderness fan’s wardrobe.  Men’s styles are available in either white/blue or tan/black, while the women’s version is a fitted white/black tee.  All styles cost $20 each.  Quantities are limited, so get yours while they are still in stock!

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