ARRWA Archives


  • 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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  • March 19th, 2015

    This past Tuesday, the off-road vehicle and anti-wilderness crowd turned out in force at a public hearing that the Grand County Council held regarding its recommendations for the Bishop Public Lands Initiative.

    The aim of the boisterous crowd was to intimidate the council into backing down on their recommendations to protect public lands in Grand County.

    Don’t let them succeed. The Grand County Council is accepting public comments on its proposal through next Wednesday, March 25th at council@grandcountyutah.net.

    These comments will be a matter of public record, so even if you’ve written the council before on this matter, we need you to act again.

    Please write a personal email to the council, thanking its members for:

    • The work they’ve done so far to achieve balance.
    • Protecting wilderness in the Book Cliffs and the eastern portion of the county (from Westwater to Beaver Creek), as well as in Mill Creek, Negro Bill, and Behind the Rocks.
    • Stopping the Book Cliffs Highway.
    • Saying “no” to an Antiquities Act exemption in Grand County.
    • Protecting the watershed and Colorado River Corridor with a National Conservation Area.

    But also politely urge them to take the next steps by:

    • Recommending true wilderness in Labyrinth Canyon;
    • Closing 71 miles of Class D routes in the Big Triangle-Beaver Creek proposed wilderness.

    Please email the council today at council@grandcountyutah.net.

    It’s also of critical importance that the public hears from you. Please send a version of your comments as Letters to the Editor at both the Moab Times-Independent and the Moab Sun News:

    editor@moabtimes.com
    editor@moabsunnews.com

    Don’t let a small vocal minority intimidate the council into backing down on protecting our public lands. Please, take action today.

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  • March 11th, 2015

    This Monday, March 16th, the Grand County Council in Moab, Utah is going to be putting the finishing touches on its recommendations to Representative Rob Bishop as part of the “Public Lands Initiative” bill.

    What they decide is going to have a direct impact on what Moab is like in the years to come.

    The Grand County Council needs to hear directly from people like you who love and visit Moab. Tell them that Moab — and Labyrinth Canyon in particular — needs true wilderness protection and that quiet places need to be protected now and for future generations.

    Labyrinth_rivermap

     

    Here’s what the Grand County Council should do on Monday:

    • Designate Labyrinth Canyon as true wilderness. At last week’s Council meeting, the Council recommended no wilderness for Labyrinth — despite it being one of the crown jewels of wilderness in the American West. The Council should designate as wilderness all areas it is proposing as “No Surface Occupancy.”
    • Keep the river corridor in Labyrinth quiet by closing three ATV and jeep trails that run down to the river: Hey Joe, Hell Roaring, and “Dead Cow/The Tubes” in addition to Ten Mile Wash. River rafters in Labyrinth shouldn’t have to listen to the whine of motorcycles along the banks of the Green River!
    • Close infrequently used routes in all proposed wilderness in Grand County, especially in the Westwater-Beaver Creek wilderness. The Council has already recommended protecting these areas as wilderness, but they need to close routes within the boundaries. There should be places where locals and visitors can find quiet and get away from roads and the sounds of ATVs!
    • Designate wilderness in the La Sal Mountains. Every other county in the PLI process has recommended new Forest Service Wilderness, but the Grand County Council has recommended zero. The Council should recommended protecting the mountains that form our watershed.
    • Protect the Arches view shed by expanding the proposed National Conservation Area (NCA) 4 miles east of Arches National Park.
    • Designate the Fisher Towers and Mary Jane areas with the proposed NCA to be managed as roadless areas, following the Daggett County model and as already approved by our Congressional delegation.

    Please, take just a moment to email the entire Council at council@grandcountyutah.net.

    The ORV lobby is already bombarding the Council with emails from around the region. The Council needs to hear from visitors like you that they need to create some balance by closing routes and protecting the quiet areas of Moab!

    When it comes to your experience in Grand County and the Moab area, this may be the most important email you ever write. Please, take just a minute to email the council today.

    Thank you for taking action.

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  • February 5th, 2015

    The Utah congressional delegation has announced it will release a draft lands bill on March 27th as part of the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). The PLI refers to discussions Representative Bishop initiated several years ago with the goal of resolving public land issues in eastern Utah, including designating wilderness and settling the State of Utah’s massive RS 2477 litigation. More than 6 million acres of wilderness are at stake, from Brown’s Park in the north down to Cedar Mesa in the south.

    SUWA staff have traveled and spent considerable time in discussions trying to reach agreement with the delegation and counties, and we have appreciated open communications with the Utah congressional staff.

    To date, there has been only one agreement reached between the delegation, the governor, wilderness advocates (including SUWA), and county officials. This agreement, affecting Daggett County in northeast Utah, was a net conservation gain and a landmark moment. It was announced in a ceremony at the state capitol last November, and we were proud to participate with Representative Bishop and Governor Herbert.

    We hope to reach more such landmark agreements. We are in ongoing discussions with Uintah County, where much of the public land has been impacted by oil and gas development, but there remain critical wilderness landscapes such as Upper Desolation Canyon and the Bitter Creek complex that must be protected. We are also working with Summit County and are nearing an agreement that would expand the High Uintas Wilderness Area.

    However, to date, there have been no Daggett County-type discussions in Emery, Grand, or San Juan counties — counties that include Desolation Canyon, the San Rafael Swell, Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Valley of the Gods, and some of the most spectacular wild landscapes on the planet. Carbon and Wayne counties dropped out of the process early on, and meaningful discussions have not taken place in either.

    We remain ready and willing to continue dialogue with the delegation and governor in order to protect the redrock, although we’re a bit surprised that discussions are being short cut. We’ll let you know as soon as we receive a copy of the new proposal — like you, we’re very curious to see what the Utah delegation proposes. So stay tuned for March 27th.

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