January 2011


  • January 31st, 2011

    Proposed wilderness in the Book Cliffs and Desolation Canyon threatened

    “’For people who take the time to explore it, it’s quite a remarkable landscape,’ said Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance attorney Steve Bloch, noting he once spent the night with a stuck vehicle while exploring the East Tavaputs Plateau with friends. SUWA opposes intense energy development in the plateau’s remote areas and is especially interested in preserving Desolation Canyon, which includes an 89,000-acre roadless area, which the BLM so far has declined to protect for wilderness characteristics. The area is important to rafters, Bloch said, and offers archaeological wonders to those who get out of their boats and hike up side canyons.”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune

    More balanced public land measures labeled as a ‘War on The West’ by critics

    “The rhetoric will be hot, but let’s hope Salazar and the administration resist the bullying. They need to send a strong message: Most Westerners see the War on the West for the trumped up media sound bite that it is. We just want our public resources — including wildlife and wilderness — managed with care.”  Read more – Summit Daily

    Believe it or not: A cleaner environment is good for the economy too

    “No one can make a credible case that the EPA does not care about American jobs. A cleaner environment is good for our health and our economy. What the EPA does appear to care about is enforcing the law of the land, which requires the BLM to consider all environmental impacts and maximize the benefits while minimizing the harms. We fully support EPA’s actions to protect our public lands, wildlife, and the health of nearby communities.”  Read more – Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog

    Wilderness groups continue efforts to intervene in oil and gas lease lawsuit

    “‘Those who speak for wildlife and wild places should have a seat at the table when industry is asking the courts for the right to develop public lands,’ said Robin Cooley, the lead attorney for Earthjustice, the law firm representing the groups. In Utah, places under contention for potential drilling include the San Rafael Desert, which the groups say are home to a ‘treasure trove of fragile archaeological resources,’ that includes rock art, ruins and artifacts.”  Read more – Deseret News

    Same old ‘no more wilderness’ rhetoric

    “Iron County commissioners say their area has enough wilderness. And they want the planning commission to amend the county’s general plan to reflect their opposition to any new policies that restrict development of resources in the county under the label of wild spaces.”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune


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  • January 28th, 2011

    January 2011

    Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
    1.  Tell the BLM to not legitimize an illegal ORV trail in Recapture Canyon.
    2.  Protecting wild lands is widely praised.
    3.  Members of Congress defend the “Wild Lands” policy.
    4.  Court decision issued for Monument R.S.2477 dispute.
    5.  See a “Wild Utah” presentation in the Midwest this February.
    6.  Get a tax break for donating from your IRA.


    Tell the BLM to protect Recapture Canyon

    Recapture Canyon’s cool, flowing stream provides year-round water, lush vegetation, and a haven for wildlife.  This idyllic setting was likely the reason that nearly 2,000 years ago, Ancestral Puebloans begin inhabiting Recapture Canyon.  These agrarian communities thrived in Recapture for more than 1,000 years.  Remarkable remnants of their culture have been preserved through the years along the stream banks and benches in this quiet canyon in southeastern Utah.  The silence was broken in 2005, when a 20-mile illegal off-road vehicle (ORV) trail was constructed in Recapture, damaging several of these ancient sites, and increasing the potential for future damages.

    An ancient structural site in Recapture Canyon.  Photo © Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    Last week, a Federal Magistrate levied fines, totaling $35,000 on two Blanding men who were charged with damaging federal property when they illegally constructed the ORV trail.  After conducting the investigation, filing charges and ultimately prevailing in the criminal case, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will surely keep the illegal trail closed to ORV use, right?   Well . . . not if San Juan County, UT gets its way.

    Please tell the BLM to do the right thing and maintain the existing closure order to protect the irreplaceable cultural artifacts in Recapture Canyon by either sending an email to Utah BLM Director Juan Palma using our action center, or by writing to him at:

    Juan Palma, State Director
    BLM, Utah State Office
    P.O. Box 45155
    Salt Lake City, UT 84145

    Diverse constituencies praise Secretary Salazar’s “Wild Lands” policy…

    At the end of 2010, Interior Secretary restored the BLM’s authority to protect wilderness-quality lands, and many people have had a lot to say about it.  Although anti-wilderness groups and some western lawmakers have criticized and spread misconceptions about the new “Wild Lands” policy, diverse constituencies have praised Secretary Salazar and defended the policy as simply restoring an authority that existed prior to 2003.  Major newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune, the New York Times, and the Denver Post, editorialized in support of Salazar’s move.  Peter Metcalf (CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.) and SUWA’s own Heidi McIntosh were among many who stood up for protecting wild lands in Utah and throughout the West.  Posts on a Republican blog, on the New West website, and by SUWA board member Tom Kenworthy also supported the new policy.  Utah wilderness activists throughout the country wrote letters-to-the-editor in support of the policy, including residents of Vernal, UT.

    For a full round up of all the news on this issue and other redrock related stories, check out the Utah Wilderness News posts on our blog.

    …including members of Congress!

    Last week, 47 members of Congress, led by House Natural Resources Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA), sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar commending him for restoring the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) authority to protect wilderness-quality landscapes throughout the West. In the letter, these Representatives also spoke out against criticism of Salazar’s “Wild Lands” policy, saying “Such criticism is based on a misunderstanding of the Order and a misunderstanding of wilderness.”

    To see if your Representative joined Rep. Markey in defense of wilderness, click here to view a list of signers.

    If you live in Rep. Markey’s district (Massachusetts District 7), please thank him for his leadership.

    Now the BLM must step up to the plate & protect Grand Staircase

    On January 11, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in a case brought by SUWA and The Wilderness Society that challenged Kane County’s attempt to undermine federal land management of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  In a fairly technical ruling, the court held that conservationists were simply not the right parties to bring the suit because the interests they sought to protect, in the court’s view, belonged to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Monument.

    According to Heidi McIntosh, co-counsel on the case, “the court’s ruling does not in any way validate the County’s decision to take the law into its own hands by removing BLM’s ORV closure signs on federal lands, nor did it rule that any of the county’s R.S. 2477 road claims were valid.  In fact, the routes at the core of the issue are primitive and remote, with little if any use.  They do not go to schools, grocery stores or other public destinations, as some have argued. And in the end, not much has changed for the county as a result of this ruling.”

    Read the full press release on our blog.

    See our “Wild Utah” presentation this February!

    This February, see our “Wild Utah: America’s Redrock Wilderness” multimedia presentation in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.  See the full winter/spring schedule on our website.

    To host a slideshow or to recommend a hosting organization or venue, please contact:

    In the East: Jackie Feinberg, jackie@suwa.org

    In the Midwest: Clayton Daughenbaugh, clayton@suwa.org

    In the West: Terri Martin, terri@suwa.org

    A tax break for protecting wild Utah

    Redrock supporters over 70.5 years old have an opportunity to make charitable gifts to SUWA from an Individual Retirement Account, and it won’t count as taxable income.  This opportunity expires January 31, 2011, so contact your IRA custodian before then.  Please consider this unique opportunity to support the fight to protect our wild heritage.  Thank you for your ongoing support!

    Questions? Please contact Scott Braden, Associate Director, at (801) 428-3970 or email at braden@suwa.org.

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  • January 26th, 2011

    Ancient structural site2 Recapture Canyon’s cool, flowing stream provides year-round water, lush vegetation, and a haven for wildlife.  This idyllic setting was likely the reason that nearly 2000 years ago, Ancestral Puebloans begin inhabiting Recapture Canyon.  These agrarian communities thrived in Recapture for more than 1000 years.  Remarkable remnants of their culture, such as the ancient structural site at left, have been preserved through the years along the stream banks and benches in this quiet canyon in southeastern Utah.  The silence was broken in 2005, when a 20-mile illegal off-road vehicle (ORV) trail was constructed in Recapture, damaging several of these ancient sites, and increasing the potential for future damages.

    Last week, a Federal Magistrate levied fines, totaling $35,000 on two Blanding men who were charged with damaging federal property when they illegally constructed the ORV trail.  After conducting the investigation, filing charges and ultimately prevailing in the criminal case, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will surely keep the illegal trail closed to ORV use, right?  Well . . . not if San Juan County, UT gets its way.

    Pot shards After the illegal trail was built, San Juan County requested that the BLM essentially legitimize the illegally constructed trail and grant a right-of-way to the county for the ATV trail.  To its credit, and before issuing a right-of-way to the county, the BLM had a cultural resource survey conducted along the illegal trail.  The survey reported that the illegal trail crosses directly through numerous ancient cultural sites (see pot shards found on the ATV trail at right).  ATVs using this trail would run over archaeological sites that are considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

    After the illicit construction, the BLM eventually closed the illegal trail to motor vehicle use to protect the archaeological sites from further damage and vandalism.  The Hopi Tribe has requested that the BLM make the closure permanent due to the sensitive nature of the cultural resources in the canyon.

    The BLM should stay the course and protect the natural and cultural resources in Recapture Canyon.  Giving in to San Juan County’s pressure for a right-of-way for the illegal trail would be a contradiction of the BLM’s legal duties, and would send a conflicting message:  On the one hand, the BLM will seek criminal penalties and fines for persons who illegally construct trails on public lands, while on the other hand, the agency will reward the illegal action by giving the illegal trail to the county for ORV use.

    There is no shortage of ORV trails in San Juan County — ORV enthusiasts can enjoy over 5,000 miles (!) of ORV routes and trails on BLM lands, with even more trails on U.S. Forest Service lands.  Thus, the BLM should do the right thing and maintain the existing closure order to protect the irreplaceable cultural artifacts in Recapture Canyon.

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  • January 24th, 2011

    47 members of Congress defend “Wild Lands” policy

    “In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar this week, Democrats led by House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Edward Markey (D-Mass.) say the wild lands’ policy restores balance to public lands management that was missing in the Bush era.”  Read more – The Hill’s Energy & Environment Blog

    Creating an illegal ATV trail in Recapture Canyon has its costs: $35,000

    “Brown and Felstead admitted in court Friday that they used picks, shovels and other tools to construct the trail through the canyon east of Blanding.”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune

    Is there potential for compromise in Kane County?

    “‘I think the RS 2477 issue is really a stand-in for every other federal public-land issue,’ says Heidi McIntosh, associate director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which has battled Kane County in court over roads issues. ‘It’s not really about roads, and it’s not really about transportation, because the RS 2477s that are controversial are the dirt two-tracks and trails that are dangerous to drive and lead nowhere.’”  Read more – High Country News

    Related essay: A dark moment, a glimmer of light

    BLM holds strong amid critics’ jeers

    “McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, which lobbied hard to promote the new policy, said Interior is doing the right thing by pushing forward with the plan.  ‘I know that Bob Abbey and Interior will stick to this because they’re right,’ McIntosh said. ‘And they have a lot of support.’”  Read more – Greenwire/NYTimes


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  • January 21st, 2011

    Rolling back environmental policies would be a grievous mistake for the country

    On another front, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee has spoken out against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s order to the Bureau of Land Management to move ahead to protect lands with wilderness qualities. The mandate overturns a deal made by former Gov. Mike Leavitt and former Interior Secretary Gail Norton to stop the BLM from doing its lawful duty to preserve Utah land treasures. Lee wants a return to the ‘no more wilderness’ policy that opened Utah’s scenic and culturally sensitive lands to rampant all-terrain-vehicle use and oil and gas drilling. A backward march to that era would be a mistake.”  Editorial – The Salt Lake Tribune

    ‘Wild Lands’ policy restores authority to the BLM that was removed in 2003

    “The Wild Lands order eloquently declares that, ‘Many of America’s most treasured landscapes include public lands with wilderness characteristics that provide visitors with rare opportunities for solitude and personal reflection.’”  Blog – High Country News

    Wilderness advocates size up a changed political landscape

    “Said Groene, ‘I think we’re seeing balance restored in Utah. We had those days where the oil and gas industry was calling the shots, and this administration is trying to restore balance.’”  Read more – The Daily Sentinel

    Oil shale development threatens western water supply and way of life

    “My ranch and the livelihoods of countless ranchers, farmers and rural communities here are dependent on these questions being fully answered and understood as we consider additional development in the West. One thing is clear: we cannot survive without a clean water supply.”  Commentary – The Huffington Post


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