ARRWA Archives


  • 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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  • February 4th, 2015

    Redrock ValentineAll of us who love the redrock have a story about that time when we first experienced redrock wilderness.

    With Valentine’s Day coming up, we want to hear your story. That’s why we’re hosting our “Share Your Redrock Love Story” raffle on Facebook.

    To participate, simply post to SUWA’s Facebook page a 50-100 word story about how you discovered and fell in love with redrock wilderness. Not on Facebook? Just send us an email at valentines@suwa.org with your story and you’ll be entered to win!

    Where were you? When? Who were you with (if anyone)? What made you fall in love with canyon country?

    Add a photo to your story and you’ll get two entries.

    You could win some cool prizes including packs from Osprey and Cotopaxi, free kayak rentals from Canyon Voyages in Moab, or a guided hike of the Fiery Furnace.

    Entries are due by midnight mountain time, Saturday February 14th. Winners will be announced on Tuesday February 17th.

    Be sure to like us on Facebook to see the stories others are posting.

    So what’s your story?

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  • December 10th, 2014

    The beautiful Indian Creek area to the east of Canyonlands National Park is once again threatened by a proposed all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail. Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to deny San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct this unnecessary trail.

    On two previous occasions we’ve notified you of San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct a new ATV trail in the Indian Creek area. Based on overwhelming public opposition to the new trail, BLM has twice “revised” its Environmental Assessment (EA) by adding new alternative route alignments. Unfortunately, instead of taking the prudent path and choosing the “No Action” alternative, BLM continues trying to develop alternative alignments that will nevertheless result in the construction of a new ATV trail.

    Bridger Jack Messa.  Photo credit: Ecoflight

    Bridger Jack Mesa. Photo credit: EcoFlight

    In the latest EA, all of the alternative alignments for the ATV route will cross through lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics; will facilitate increased ATV use in areas bordering the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, such as Bridger Jack Mesa, Lavender Canyon, and Davis Canyon; and will result in increased user conflicts in an area that is primarily enjoyed by quiet recreationists such as rock climbers, hikers, and backpackers. The ATV trail could also adversely affect Indian Creek – a desert stream that supports a variety of wildlife species as it meanders through the redrock and high desert grasslands on its way to the Colorado River.

    The Indian Creek area, located on the east side of Canyonlands National Park and south of Moab, Utah, is famous for its dramatic and sheer Wingate Sandstone cliffs, and is an internationally-known and treasured rock climbing destination. Beyond the sheer walls, as Indian Creek continues its journey downstream towards Indian Creek Falls and its eventual confluence with the Colorado River, ATV users enjoy many miles of trails that provide for recreational adventures and exploration of the vast Canyonlands basin.

    Even though the BLM has designated more than 3,000 miles of motorized routes in San Juan County, including dozens of routes in and near the Indian Creek area, the county is requesting a right-of-way for yet another trail “which connects to ATV use occurring on designated routes in the Lockhart Basin area and . . . provide[s] a recreational opportunity for ATV enthusiasts by precluding use of OHVs [off-highway vehicles] which are wider than 65 inches.”

    The Indian Creek corridor is a world-class scenic and recreation destination and should be managed as such. There is absolutely no reason the BLM should relinquish its control over these spectacular public lands by granting a right-of-way to San Juan County for the construction of a new, superfluous ATV route. This is especially true given the hundreds of miles of motorized routes that already exist in the Canyonlands basin.

    There’s a reason the proposed ATV trail has raised concern from conservationists, quiet recreation user groups, and the National Park Service; the proposal simply does not make sense from any perspective other than through the lens of increasing ATV use in the Indian Creek area.  Increasing motorized use in a world-class scenic and recreation area, which also serves as the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, is a shortsighted management approach by BLM. As such, the agency should uphold its responsibility to all public land users by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    Please tell BLM, by December 18, 2014, to not grant a right-of-way for this unnecessary ATV route in the Indian Creek area by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    With your help, we can stem the tide of ATV abuse in redrock country and preserve the scenic and wilderness qualities of the Indian Creek area.

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  • October 24th, 2014
    UT-WhiteCanyon-FortknockerNarrows_ChrisCase(MediumRes)

    Fort Knocker Narrows, copyright Chris Case.

    San Juan County, which contains some of redrock country’s most magnificent treasures, is developing a wilderness proposal in response to Congressman Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative.

    Unfortunately, the three alternatives recently proposed by the San Juan County Lands Council fall far short of protecting some of the most outstanding wild lands in southern Utah. Even the best of the alternatives (Alternative C) would roll back currently existing protection for some lands.

    All alternatives ignored input of local residents, including the Dine Bikeyah proposal submitted by Utah Navajos who make up nearly half of the county’s residents.

    Even the best of the alternatives (Alternative C):

    • Fails to provide protection for spectacular areas proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. All or portions of places like Nokai Dome, White Canyon, Upper Red Canyon, Fort Knocker Canyon, and Hart’s Point were left on the chopping block.
    • Perpetuates off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse by codifying BLM’s Bush-era ORV route designations even though a Utah federal court judge set aside a nearly identical travel plan for failure to comply with requirements to protect cultural sites, riparian areas and other natural resources. It’s just a matter of time before the court overturns the BLM’s Monticello and Moab travel plans in San Juan County.
    • Amplifies the impacts of ORV use by adding even more routes in wilderness areas on top of the thousands of miles of routes designated in the BLM’s seriously flawed travel plans. Thus, even lands proposed for protection will be crisscrossed with ORV routes.
    • Significantly overstates the total amount of acreage protected by double-counting the wilderness lands and National Park Service lands that are included in the National Conservation Area boundaries.

    Significant areas in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act were left out of all the alternatives, and areas included were compromised with ORV routes.

    San Juan County’s ultimate proposal to Rep. Bishop should protect the remaining wilderness in San Juan County, and with your help we will work toward that goal.

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  • October 22nd, 2014
    Portions of Red Canyon will soon become part of the Lower Flaming Gorge Wilderness under the Daggett County conservation agreement, and this stretch of the Green River will receive a new Wild and Scenic River designation.

    Portions of Red Canyon (above) will soon become part of the Lower Flaming Gorge Wilderness under the Daggett County conservation agreement, and this stretch of the Green River will receive a new Wild and Scenic River designation.

    SUWA is pleased to announce that we, along with our conservation partners, have reached an agreement with Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) on land conservation in Daggett County. In short, it should result in the protection of many worthy, remarkable lands in northeastern Utah.

    None of this would have been possible without thirty years of tireless effort by activists, supporters, and staff to protect the redrock. It is because for many years our supporters across the country—in places like Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey—have brought cosponsors to America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act that we are here. It is because activists in Utah and nationwide are pushing for Greater Canyonlands National Monument that we are here. It is because people fought in the ‘80s and ‘90s to stop bad wilderness bills that we are here. This is an outgrowth of the work of thousands of unsung heroes. Many thanks to all of you who have helped to bring this day about.

    Also, we owe our conservation partners a debt of gratitude for their help in reaching this agreement. We were joined in this effort by the Grand Canyon Trust, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

    A little background. Last year, Rep. Bishop announced that he would pursue a sort of grand bargain to address public land issues in eastern Utah; he asked rural counties to come forward with proposals for public lands within their boundaries. One of the first to volunteer was Daggett County.

    Daggett County, nestled in the northeast corner of the state, shares a border with Wyoming and Colorado. It is Utah’s least populous county and contains remarkable wildlands. These run the gamut from the redrock-topped Diamond Breaks; to the beautiful Red Canyon, formed by the Green River; to the snowy peaks of the Uinta Mountains, Utah’s highest range.

    Daggett County’s initial proposal for the area was low on wilderness. However, SUWA staff worked for months to change that. In particular, our eyes and ears on the ground, Ray Bloxham, distinguished himself once again as the most knowledgeable field expert on BLM issues. His expertise did much to persuade the county to accept wilderness.

    Our agreement highlights 33,254 acres of BLM as wilderness. This includes our Lower Flaming Gorge, Dead Horse Pass, and Diamond Breaks units. North of the Green River, our Goslin Mountain, Home Mountain, and O-Wi-Yu-Kuts areas will be protected as part of a 31,000-acre conservation area with wilderness-like protections. Utah’s largest existing wilderness area, the High Uintas, will be expanded by nearly 50,000 acres in the county. The cherry on top is the protection of fourteen miles of the Green River as part of the Wild and Scenic River System.

    Naturally, this deal involves more than wilderness. Part of this agreement will include a federal/state land exchange that will remove the threat of development in conservation areas while allowing development in more appropriate areas (in actuality, the centerpiece is the state acquisition of an existing natural gas storage facility on federal land that is already in operation). The agreement also resolves R.S. 2477 claims in the county: the state and county will get recognition for many of their claims but they must abandon all claims that conflict with wilderness and conservation lands. The county will receive federal acreage adjacent to the town of Dutch John for a shooting range and landfill.

    Although the acreage figures are small here when compared to many other counties in the state, the impact is huge. This agreement will protect the lion’s share of lands proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in this region and, hopefully, it lays the groundwork for substantial protection moving forward. Rep. Bishop will now move his Public Lands Initiative to the next county, using this agreement as a model.

    >> Read our press release

    >> View a map of lands in the Daggett County conservation agreement

    >> Read details of the conservation agreement

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