Stay informed about Utah wilderness
Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
Stay informed about Utah wilderness
Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
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*Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Earlier this month, 24 activists with the Utah Wilderness Coalition (UWC) convened in Washington, DC to meet with congressional offices and discuss Rep. Rob Bishop’s draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI), the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) Expansion Bill, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA), and the importance of protecting Utah’s extraordinary wilderness-quality lands. Activists from Utah and around the country stormed the Hill in teams of twos and threes, meeting with 120 offices in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Wilderness Week activists first learn the nuts and bolts of lobbying, how to talk with Congress and Hill staff, the inter-connectivity of all of the legislation that affects Utah’s wilderness-quality lands, “who’s who” on Capitol Hill, and the past actions of members of Congress. The day-long training was hosted by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, comprised of representatives of SUWA, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It can be an exhaustive cram session, but it was clear to us from the performance of our activists in their meetings that they were star pupils and had paid attention in class!
Congress was extremely busy during this year’s Wilderness Week, and the timing for the meetings was excellent. Appropriations season was in full swing and Utah Representative Chris Stewart’s UTTR Expansion Bill had a markup, which meant many of the activists were able to attend, wearing their yellow “Protect Wild Utah” pins, which Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, certainly noticed from his front and center seat on the dais. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), the sponsor of the Red Rock Bill in the House, as well as Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) asked some very pointed questions which showed the activists that there are many members of Congress who care about Utah’s wild lands. Several of our activists were able to catch up with Lowenthal after the hearing to thank him and pose for a photo op.
The Utah Wilderness Coalition is so grateful to all 24 Wilderness Week participants for joining us in DC for this important week of lobbying. It’s because of these people, and supporters like you, that we are able to continue working to #ProtectWildUtah!
Are you interested in joining SUWA and the UWC for future lobbying events? Would you like to hold an in-district meeting with your representatives? If so, email your regional organizer for more information on how you can get involved.
Dave Pacheco – Utah
Terri Martin – Utah and Western US
Clayton Daughenbaugh – Midwest
Travis Hammill – Eastern US
On Tuesday, March 15, a group of students from campuses along the Wasatch Front gathered at the Utah State Capitol in united opposition to Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), and to show support for a Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by a historic coalition of Native American Tribes. After speaking to the media, they delivered a letter to Governor Gary Herbert outlining their concerns.
“We are the generation that will inherit the problems that come from the short-sighted, profit-driven decision making by our elected officials,” said Karsyn Ansari, a recent graduate from the University of Utah Environmental Studies program. “We are here today to fight for our right and the right of future generations to experience redrock wilderness.”
Jared Meek of Brigham Young University said “Many students have been paying attention to the PLI process and to put it lightly we are not pleased with the current proposal.”
The students expressed deep concern about the ability of their generation (and future generations) to enjoy Utah’s fabled redrock country as it is, and to meet it on its own terms, not on terms set forth by fossil fuel developers favored by Mr. Bishop’s proposal.
Students vow to continue their campaign against the Public Lands Initiative, and to stay involved in the public process, since Utah political leaders did not give them a voice when the legislation was being drafted. They explained how Mr. Bishop’s process was heavily weighted in favor of rural county commissioners to the exclusion of Utah’s majority population of urban dwellers, themselves included.
Add your voice! There’s still time to comment on the draft Public Lands Initiative. If you haven’t yet done so, please click here to submit your comments.
Thanks largely to fossil fuel development and consumption and the changes they are bringing to the planet’s climate, Utah – and particularly Utah’s canyon country – is predicted to be hotter and drier than ever. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Southwest, including Utah, will be ground zero for some of climate change’s most significant impacts in North America.
SUWA has long championed protecting America’s redrock wilderness – more than 9 million acres of outstanding BLM-managed public lands in Utah – from fossil fuel leasing and development ranging from oil, gas and coal to oil shale and tar sands. In fact, SUWA was working to “Keep It in the Ground” long before this concept had a hashtag, a Facebook page, or even a World Wide Web to promote it.
Our work to limit fossil fuel leasing and development is consistent with SUWA’s mission to protect Utah’s wildest places for current and future generations to enjoy. It has the added benefit of helping maintain the many ecological and climate-buffering functions provided by wild public lands. This work has perhaps never been more relevant than in today’s rapidly changing world.
No time to lose
Recent news headlines on climate change have been particularly dire: “hottest year in historical record,” “2015 was hottest year on record, by a stunning margin” and “Utah’s third warmest year.” The dramatic changes we are seeing in the Earth’s climate appear to be happening in a “nonlinear” fashion, meaning that the changes are happening faster and with more disastrous effects than were previously predicted.
Fortunately, the Obama administration is taking a series of wide ranging, if overdue, steps to tackle these issues. Most recently, the Interior Department issued a moratorium on new coal leasing for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands and released proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. These are significant steps towards reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuels — but more work needs to be done!
We believe one of the next logical steps is to extend the administration’s coal leasing moratorium to new oil and gas leasing on BLM and Forest Service managed lands. Such a moratorium would allow the administration to make the same clear-eyed assessment about whether its current oil and gas leasing program is consistent with the steps our country must take to address climate change.
Because Utah, like all western states, has millions of federal lands already under lease, but not in production, such a moratorium would not solve all of our problems. Like the coal moratorium, production from and development of existing leases would not be limited by such an action. SUWA will continue to keep a watchful eye on those potential projects.
And because the impacts of leasing, developing and burning fossil fuels affect Utah’s redrock wilderness even if they take place outside of the wilderness proposal, you can expect to see us taking a more active role in working to defeat these proposals no matter where they occur.
The confluence between “Keeping It in the Ground” and protecting America’s redrock wilderness is a topic we plan to explore further in a series of blog posts over the coming months, so please stay tuned.
On March 2nd, over 600 Utahns poured into a “Citizens’ Hearing” in Salt Lake City on Utah Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), packing a huge auditorium, lining the walls, and standing shoulder to shoulder a dozen deep in the back of the room. More people spilled out into the auditorium’s entryway.
The hearing was organized by the Utah Wilderness Coalition because Utah Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz have failed to provide residents living along Utah’s Wasatch Front a meaningful opportunity to help shape the PLI.
With palpable passion and often a strong sense of frustration, speaker after speaker decried the PLI as a disaster for Utah’s public lands and called on President Obama to proclaim a Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by a historic coalition of Native American tribes.
Some gestured or spoke to the four empty chairs on the stage that were labeled with the names of Utah’s congressional delegation, insisting that their voices be heard. (The Utah delegation was invited but did not attend the hearing. The governor’s policy director, who did attend part of the hearing, received an appreciative round of applause when his presence was announced.)
Again and again, the spirited crowd – which spanned millennials to elders – burst into applause and waved “Protect Wild Utah” signs in support of protecting Utah’s wild lands from fossil fuel development, bogus roads, and other public land giveaways in the PLI.
SUWA deeply thanks everyone who showed up and with their presence and/or their voice stood against the PLI and for the Bears Ears national monument. You are amazing and inspiring! Working together, we have a great chance of defeating the PLI and winning protection for Bears Ears.
We apologize to those who couldn’t get a seat, but we hope it’s some consolation to know that the overflow crowd clearly demonstrated just how much Utahns care about our wild places (and next time we’ll get a bigger room!).
Some highlights of the evening include:
Scott Groene, Executive Director for SUWA, described the PLI as “the worst wilderness bill since the Wilderness Act created the opportunity to protect wild lands in 1964.” He went on to say “The PLI provides less protection for Utah’s wildlands than we have now, fails to protect the Bears Ears, sets off a ticking carbon time bomb, and facilitates the state of Utah’s efforts seize public lands that belong to all of us.”
In a letter read to the audience by Katie Savage, Terry Tempest Williams said, “Today we find ourselves in a ‘perfect storm’ of ecological and social consciousness where the protection of wilderness is the protection of the climate. . . Congressman Bishop cannot hear the will of the people . . . Our voices must be amplified again, so that other voices around the country can join us in the reject of this violent initiative on the integrity of America’s Redrock Wilderness.”
Mark Maryboy, speaking for Utah Diné Bikéyah, described how the Utah delegation refused to seriously engage with Native Americans seeking protection for the Bears Ears. “We must not allow the PLI to pass,” said Maryboy. “We must stand together to defeat it.”
Former Utah Congresswoman Karen Shepherd rallied the crowd to stop the PLI, declaring “The real story is you. Look at you! You are everywhere! You can change the world.”
Describing Utah’s wildlands as “absolutely integral to the state’s economic future,” Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf said ““We must send a clear, powerful message that the people of Utah see the PLI for what it is: a Pearl Harbor attack on the economic vibrancy of Utah.”
Juan Palma, former Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management, and now chief conservation officer for HECHO, “Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors,” described the deep roots Hispanics have with public lands, noting “No one came to talk to us” about the PLI.
Lauren Wood, a third generation guide for Holiday River Expeditions and an activist for climate justice, social equality and human rights, decried the PLI as a fossil fuel development bill that “puts the earth’s livable climate on the chopping block.” “The only winners in the PLI,” she said, “are the oil companies who are hell bent on taking our public lands from the public.”
Laying out a list of grievances, Sierra Club spokesperson Amy Mills pointed out that “Utah Rep Rob Bishop asserts that the PLI is a balanced solution that was locally driven, but the truth is, it is neither.”
Di Allison with Great Old Broads for Wilderness announced “we have a gift for Rep Bishop,” and unwrapping a small gift box, revealed a green hearing aide. Holding up photos of her grandchildren, she said “Utah’s public wild lands are their American heritage. The myopic perspective of the PLI does not serve them. We can do better than this by protecting the Bears Ears as a national monument.”
Marcel Gaztambide, speaking for Uplift, a climate action group for the Colorado Plateau, said “The youth of the Colorado Plateau will not accept the loss of wilderness at this scale. We refuse a rollback on wilderness protection, we refuse lax air quality standards, we refuse the creation of vast fossil fuel zones, we refuse the creation of unnecessary and unwanted roadways, and we refuse the endangerment of the region’s biodiversity.”
Eyrie Horton, a student at Utah’s Westminster College, stated “The PLI is basically stealing our land. It fosters an economy based on pulling fossil fuels out of the ground. I can tell you that that is not going to fly with my generation.”
Jared Meek, speaking for the EcoResponse Club at Brigham Young University, said “many students had been paying attention to the PLI process and to put it lightly we are not pleased with the current proposal. . . . At BYU, we believe that the Earth has been entrusted to humankind to care for, and that we have a sacred stewardship to conserve and preserve our beautiful home for future generations. After all it is we, the younger generation of this state, that will have to live with the choices of those currently in political office.”
Darren Bingham, speaking for several organizations at Utah State University, said “Our hearts lie in wilderness. If the PLI goes through, our children (which I don’t expect to have), will be the losers because our wild places will be largely gone. We need to stop giving away public lands to development interests and give them back to the people who were here thousands of years ago.”
Speaking on behalf of Faith and the Land, Dede Carpenter explained that many people of faith “are aligned” with the Tribes’ call for a Bears Ears monument, as the PLI “would leave us nothing but remnants of the beauty that connects us spiritually to something higher than our individual selves.”
Ann Whittaker, who described herself as “the granddaughter of a World War Two veteran who found salvation and atonement in the public lands” asked “where is the reverence, where is the respect for heritage and posterity in legislation that is written to bring money to a few?”
Cinimin Kofford, a student from Provo attending Utah Valley University said that “As a student, we have the unique responsibility to protect and preserve our public lands, rather than see them traded away for fossil fuel development. And as an outdoor recreation professional, I want access to public lands for my generation, and for many to come.” Both of these concerns have been “overlooked in the PLI.”
It’s all hands on deck! If citizens don’t speak up, Utah wild lands could be lost forever.
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop has unveiled his “Public Lands Initiative” and it is an utter disaster for Utah’s wild lands. The bill rolls back wilderness protection, creates vast fossil fuel development zones, sanctions a sprawling spiderweb of disputed roads, and gives away public lands for development.
And no wonder – the public has been left out of the Public Lands Initiative. Despite requests, Rep. Bishop never held hearings along the Wasatch Front where most Utahns live. He only sought input from rural areas representing 5 percent of the state’s population (and 1/20th of 1 percent of the nation’s population).
You deserve a voice! That’s why the Utah Wilderness Coalition is holding a “Citizens’ Hearing” in Salt Lake City.
Citizens’ Hearing on Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative
Wednesday, March 2
6:30 – 9:30 PM
Orson Spencer Hall Auditorium (Google Map)
University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
(10 minutes north of South Campus Trax station)
This is your chance to stand up for vigorous protection of Utah wildlands.
Show your support by simply showing up! Better yet, come and speak! Share your view on the Public Lands Initiative and the future of Utah’s wild places. All comments will be recorded and submitted to the U.S. Congress as well as the Utah delegation.
Feel free to make a sign and bring it – we will also be handing out yellow “Protect Wild Utah” signs and buttons.
This is a pivotal moment. We need to pack the room with wilderness advocates! Bring family and friends. Invite everyone you know who loves Utah’s redrock!
Hope to see you there!
P.S. Rep. Bishop is still accepting written comments on the Public Lands Initiative — if you haven’t yet submitted yours, please click here to comment before March 2nd.