ARRWA Archives


  • White Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.
    August 26th, 2015

    Recently, newspaper stories and rumors have swirled around both a potential national monument in San Juan County, Utah, and Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative. Let me try and cut through the clutter to give you an idea where things currently stand.

    First, the monument. A historic coalition of Native-American Tribes and Pueblos have come together to call for a Bears Ears National Monument or National Conservation Area in Utah. This proposal, which we fully support, encompasses 1.9 million acres of dense cultural artifacts, stunning redrock canyons and plateaus, and high-elevation forests. The tribal coalition recently met at Bears Ears with officials from the departments of Interior and Agriculture to discuss their proposal.

    Second, the Public Lands Initiative. As you are likely aware, more than two years ago Rep. Rob Bishop announced his Public Lands Initiative as an effort to resolve public lands issues in Eastern Utah. We were impressed by Rep. Bishop’s willingness to undertake this difficult task and, in turn, we brought good faith and substantial resources to the table. We jumped into time-consuming discussions and dialogue with the Utah congressional delegation and the local counties.

    However, the dialogue and effort has not been uniform. San Juan County, for example, has opted for a process that excludes participation from anyone outside the county. Despite the fact that the Public Lands Initiative has been around for more than two years, only this month did the county commissioners finally put forward their proposal. As you might guess, for a county that has chosen to avoid “external” dialogue, the proposal is terrible.

    White Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    San Juan County leaves out deserving landscapes for protection (Hatch Point and White Canyon, above, to name a few of many), it asks for more land dedicated to energy development than it does for conservation, and it asks that the President’s authority to set aside national monuments be removed. In an act of pure chutzpah, it demands that Recapture Canyon be turned over to the county. Remember, current commissioner Phil Lyman was convicted of trespass and conspiracy for leading an illegal off-road vehicle ride down Recapture Canyon (which is closed to vehicle use in that part of the canyon).

    San Juan County ignored the requests of the tribal coalition that it propose meaningful protection for the Bears Ears proposal. Ironically, it even ignored the majority of its own county respondents who asked for protections in this area (opens in PDF). And no surprise, it ignored our proposal (see comparison below).

    SanJuan_Blog_Map_Aug18_2015

    This is where the national monument and PLI paths collide. In a move that would fail to surprise even the casual Utah political observer, the Utah governor and congressional delegation have recently opposed the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. This opposition, though, is based on the potential for the Public Lands Initiative to resolve issues in San Juan County. Utah Governor Gary Herbert said that the Public Lands Initiative provides for “negotiation, compromise, and debate.” Unfortunately, those three factors have been completely absent from the discussion in San Juan County.

    It is worth reiterating that San Juan County completely excluded participation from anyone outside its boundaries. Allowing only 0.005 percent of the nation’s population to determine the future of our public lands (and, in reality, ignoring most of its citizens’ input at the same time) will not lead to a good outcome.

    We remain willing to engage in “negotiation, compromise, and debate.” It is the only way in which public lands issues will be fully resolved in San Juan County. We are anxiously awaiting details from Utah’s congressional delegation and governor as to how that will happen in San Juan County. Absent that, it is our fear that the Public Lands Initiative may become little more than an excuse to forestall a new national monument in Utah.

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  • copyright James Kay
    May 19th, 2015

    Great news! Today Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Alan Lowenthal joined forces to introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 1375/H.R. 2430) in Congress, the visionary legislation that would protect 9.2 million acres of Utah’s world-renowned public lands as wilderness.

    If they are your representatives, please thank them!

    A few weeks ago we asked you to contact your members of Congress to ask them to become original cosponsors of the Redrock bill, and you really came through! Joining Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lowenthal are 14 senators and 77 members of the House of Representatives. These members know that places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, Greater Cedar Mesa, and the San Rafael Swell are the birthright and heritage of all Americans and deserve permanent protection.

    The full list of cosponsors is here. If your representatives are on it, please thank them!

    copyright James Kay

    Behind the Rocks proposed wilderness, copyright James Kay

    Cosponsoring the legislation is a great start, but we’re going to need more help from members of Congress this year to try to advance protections and defend against attacks on Utah’s wild lands. Our friends in Congress need to hear from you in order to stand strong against the many extreme environmental initiatives we face.

    Contact your members today and let them know how much you appreciate them standing up for Utah’s wilderness!

    If your representative or senators are missing from the cosponsor list, ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Together we can save the Redrock. Thanks for all you do.

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  • San Rafael Swell (Wedge), LeslieScopesAnderson(72dpi)
    May 7th, 2015

    Great news! Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Alan Lowenthal will soon reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in Congress, setting forth the vision for protecting 9.2 million acres of deserving public lands in Southern Utah—places like White Canyon, Desolation Canyon and the San Rafael Swell. You can help them make a splash by contacting your members of Congress and asking for their support!

    Ask your representatives to join Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lowenthal as a cosponsor!

    San Rafael Swell (Wedge), LeslieScopesAnderson(72dpi)

    San Rafael Swell, Leslie Scopes Anderson

    The Redrock bill is more important than ever. As we work with the delegation on a comprehensive lands bill in Eastern Utah, strong support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act underscores the importance of these lands for all Americans and sets the parameters for necessary protections in the state. We can save the redrock with help from you and our allies in Congress.

    Please contact your members of Congress today to ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!

    Contacting your members really works. Last Congress we had a record-setting 23 Senate cosponsors, and this year we hope to garner even more support. We have about a week to gather as many original cosponsors as we can—are you ready to help?

    Click here to send your message now.

    If you can, go the extra mile by making a phone call to your representative and senators to amplify your message. Dial the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and the switchboard operator will connect you with the office you request.

    Thank you!

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  • Desolation Canyon
    April 2nd, 2015

    Desolation Canyon and Lands Surrounding Dinosaur National Monument Could Lose Big in Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative

    While we await the release of Representative Rob Bishop’s proposal for the public lands of eastern Utah, we wanted to fill you in on recent developments in three Utah counties: Carbon, Daggett, and Uintah. Generally, we remain optimistic that this process could result in the best opportunity for land protection in Utah in decades. However, these three counties have put together proposals that are troubling. Utah’s wild landscapes could be the biggest losers, particularly the Desolation Canyon wilderness complex and the wild lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument. Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz—who are both driving this process—need to hear from you if these places are to be saved.

    First, Uintah County: ground zero for much of Utah’s energy production. Not surprisingly, the county has developed a proposal that is long on energy development and short on conservation. This means that the head of Desolation Canyon and the proposed wilderness surrounding Dinosaur National Monument (a place BLM is managing for conservation now) could be made available for oil and gas development. Such a result would sacrifice some of the few remaining wild lands in this heavily impacted county.

    Desolation Canyon

    Uintah County’s proposal would sacrifice the head of Desolation Canyon (above) to an Energy Zone. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Unfortunately, Carbon County has developed what may be an even worse plan. Just recently the county commission approved a development proposal for the county that would remove wilderness protections (i.e., wilderness study areas) for vast swaths of the Desolation Canyon complex. According to their vision, no float trip of Desolation Canyon would be complete without a symphony of oil and gas development played by scores of wells located on the immediate rim of the canyon. Ironically, the county actually proposed more land for protection in the 1990s than it does now. The county’s development proposal would result in a loss of more than half of the wilderness-quality land in its share of Desolation Canyon.

    Finally, Daggett County. You will remember that last October the conservation community announced a landmark agreement with Daggett County, Rep. Rob Bishop, and the State of Utah. This compromise would set aside over 100,000 acres of wilderness and national conservation areas in this county. Rep. Bishop committed that this widely touted agreement would be included in his pending legislation for his public lands initiative in eastern Utah. Unfortunately, Daggett County has now developed cold feet and has reneged on its promises. Apparently, talk is cheap. We remain hopeful that Rep. Bishop and the state will honor the agreement but the potential for backtracking is deeply troubling.

    In summary, Utah’s counties are seeking to suffocate Desolation Canyon—one of the nation’s largest remaining roadless areas—with oil and gas development and slice and dice currently-protected public lands around Dinosaur National Monument. Do not let the counties destroy these treasures—please take action today.

    >> If you live in Rep Bishop’s or Rep. Chaffetz’ district, click here to send comments electronically.

    >> If you live outside of those districts (in Utah or another state), click here to send your comments.

    Thank you!

     

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  • March 26th, 2015

    The 114th Congress is in full swing and our congressional champions – Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) – will soon introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA). They are gathering original cosponsors and need your help to demonstrate the widespread national support for protecting one of our last great wild landscapes.

    Help us get more ARRWA cosponsors!

    Utah’s public lands are increasingly under threat from oil and gas drilling, rampant off-road vehicle use and radical proposals to let states take over federal lands. It is more important than ever that Congress knows how crucial Utah’s stunning lands are to the American people.

    Trin Alcove, Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Tom Till.

    Trin Alcove, Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Tom Till.

    Last Congress, we had 99 cosponsors in the House and a record-breaking 24 cosponsors in the Senate. Let’s surpass both of those numbers this year. Contact your congressional representatives to show that support for protecting Utah wilderness is stronger than ever.

    Click here to ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

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