Blog Archives

  • The Richfield resource management and travel plan designated over 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails for ORV use, threatening the solitude and wild character of places like the Henry Mountains proposed wilderness, above. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.
    November 20th, 2015

    We have two good pieces of news to share as this week comes to a close.

    First, BLM’s Utah state office decided to postpone the November 2015 oil and gas lease sale and the offering of 36 parcels (totaling more than 36,000 acres) in the Vernal, Price and Fillmore field offices, as well as the Fishlake National Forest. Local activists had planned to protest the sale – arguing that the federal government should stop all oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands – and that caught the BLM off guard. The agency has said that it plans to hold this sale sometime in the near future.

    Lost in the shuffle was the fact that the BLM deferred 14 parcels in the Mussentuchit Badlands just north of Capitol Reef National Park, as well as a handful of other parcels in the San Rafael Swell, Nine Mile Canyon, and on the banks of the Green River. These parcels will NOT be part of the “make-up” auction.

    Given the longstanding surplus of federal lands already under lease, there is no pressing need for this lease sale or really any sales for the foreseeable future. Check out SUWA’s oil and gas fact sheet for more information.

    Second, a federal judge denied the BLM’s request to delay long overdue cultural resource surveys in the Henry Mountains and other parts of the Richfield field office. The agency had complained that complying with the judge’s order would be expensive, time consuming, and ultimately not really that important because many of the cultural sites are, in BLM’s estimation, low value. The BLM has told us it plans to file a similar “stay” motion with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. We’ll keep you posted.

    The Richfield resource management and travel plan designated over 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails for ORV use, threatening the solitude and wild character of places like the Henry Mountains proposed wilderness, above. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Henry Mountains proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

  • Labyrinth Canyon (Ray Bloxham)
    November 19th, 2015

    Tired of hearing about lease sales and drilling proposals in the heart of Utah’s canyon country? Now is your chance to influence the planning process and keep new roads, oil rigs, waste pits, and pipelines out of Utah’s most iconic redrock landscapes.

    The BLM’s Canyon Country District Office is accepting public comments on the draft Moab Master Leasing Plan through Monday, Nov. 23rd. Once finalized, this plan will govern the scope, pace, and nature of oil, gas, and potash development on more than 750,000 acres of public lands in the stunning Moab area.

    Tell the BLM to protect Moab’s redrock country from oil, gas, and potash development.

    While the draft MLP is a good first step to protect places like Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, and Goldbar Canyon from being overrun by the sight and sound of pump jacks and drill rigs, more work remains to be done.

    Labyrinth Canyon (Ray Bloxham)

    Labyrinth Canyon, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Under the BLM’s current “preferred alternative,” Labyrinth Canyon and its many stunning side canyons would be targeted for leasing and drilling. The agency would also give potash development and its staggering water use the green light – with over 42,000 acres of public lands prioritized as “potash processing facility areas,” including sites near Labyrinth Canyon and at the entrance to the Needles and Anticline Overlook roads.

    If you want to see these magnificent landscapes protected, not exploited, let the BLM know!

    The BLM needs to hear from you that you value the greater Moab area’s dark night skies, clean air, and wild open spaces.

    Click here to send your comments to the BLM by the November 23rd deadline.

    You can also send comments via your personal email account to or write to Brent Northrup, MLP Project Manager, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532.

  • Deso_Cny_Horse_Bench_3
    November 9th, 2015

    Despite the dramatic drop in natural gas and oil prices, the BLM is considering approval of a large-scale oil and gas development project in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area in the heart of Utah’s West Tavaputs Plateau. The area targeted for development is part of the larger Desolation Canyon region, which, according to the BLM itself, contains “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.”

    The BLM is accepting comments on this project through November 13th. Please tell the agency to keep oil and gas development out of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness!

    Desolation Canyon  (Horse Bench), Ray Bloxham

    Horse Bench in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon, is seeking approval to industrialize the remote and wild West Tavaputs by constructing and drilling up to 19 well pads, 175 natural gas wells, and miles of associated roads and pipelines. If the project is approved, the West Tavaputs will be dotted with pumpjacks, drill rigs, and haul trucks rather than greater sage-grouse, elk, mule deer, and black bear.

    Please ask the BLM to protect the wild heart of the West Tavaputs Plateau.

    Adding insult to injury, all vehicular traffic will have to wind its way through Nine Mile Canyon and up the dusty switchbacks of Cottonwood Canyon before reaching the proposed development area atop the West Tavaputs. Called “the world’s longest art gallery” by the BLM, Nine Mile Canyon is world-renowned for its abundance of historic and cultural sites, with more than 10,000 images etched onto its walls by prehistoric peoples. Dust from passing haul trucks could harm these irreplaceable treasures, and proposed roads would make the area more accessible to vandals.

    To date, the BLM has failed to properly analyze the potential impacts to these important resources or to consider the project’s influence on climate change. It has analyzed only XTO’s large-scale proposal and has not considered any alternatives, such as limiting the project’s surface disturbance footprint to areas outside greater sage-grouse habitat, or placing pipelines along existing disturbances.

    Click here to ask the BLM to properly analyze the impacts of XTO’s proposal and consider more appropriate alternatives.



  • Inter-Tribal Bears Ears Coalition Leaders in DC
    October 23rd, 2015
    Inter-Tribal Coalition Bears Ears Press Conference in DC
    Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition Co-Chair
    Eric Descheenie at the National Press Club.

    Last week, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver their proposal to President Obama to protect 1.9 million acres of public land in southern Utah as a collaboratively managed national monument. A copy of the proposal was also delivered to Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

    “We are not stakeholders here,” said Eric Descheenie, Coalition Co-Chair and Advisor to the President of the Navajo Nation, at a press conference held at the National Press Club. “We are relatives to these lands, and we have something to say.”

    Click here to watch a five-minute video highlight of the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s press conference in D.C.

    The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is a partnership of five Tribes: Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah Ouray Ute, Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo. With a new resolution of support from the National Congress of American Indians, nearly 300 Tribes stand behind the effort to Protect Bears Ears.

    SUWA fully supports the proposal to create a Bears Ears National Monument. We’re excited to see Tribes lead this effort to protect lands that SUWA has worked for decades to defend. (One of our very first campaigns, more than 30 years ago, was to prevent the BLM from chaining just below the Bears Ears themselves.)

    Click here to sign the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s petition to protect Bears Ears.

    At the press conference, tribal leaders emphasized that their proposal is about healing and bringing people together.

    “This is a humanistic endeavor for healing not just for Native people, but all people,” said Eric Descheenie.

    Please, take a moment to stand with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition by signing their petition and liking the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    Mathew Gross
    Matt Gross photo
    Media Director
    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

  • Red Cliffs NCA (Bob Wick)
    October 13th, 2015

    The St. George BLM recently released its draft management plan for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs National Conservation Areas (NCAs) and is accepting public comments until November 16th.

    If you care about these areas, now is the time to act.

    As you may recall, the 2009 Washington County public lands bill (i.e., the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009) established the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs—both located in a unique corner of Utah where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert ecosystems meet.  The NCAs were created to “conserve, protect, and enhance . . . the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of the designated lands.

    Red Cliffs NCA (Bob Wick)

    Red Cliffs NCA, copyright Bob Wick/BLM.

    Now, anti-conservation voices in Washington County have made it their goal to undermine any effort to protect wildlife and wilderness-quality lands through management of the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs.  They have attacked the BLM for proposing measures to ensure long-term conservation within the NCAs and have attempted to skew reality by arguing that the BLM must designate a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA.

    Please tell the BLM to implement the highest level of protection for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by November 16th.

    BLM’s Alternative C, the “conservation alternative,” would ensure long-term protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.   These protections include:

    • Prohibiting a right-of-way for a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA (the “Northern Corridor”), which was established for the purpose of protecting the Mojave desert tortoise (a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act).
    • Designating a multispecies wildlife corridor and removing the “open” motorized vehicle designation in the protected area.
    • Managing BLM-identified wilderness-quality lands for the protection of wilderness values.
    • Designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern for threatened, endangered, and at-risk species.
    • Limiting new motorized and non-motorized recreational development.
    • Prohibiting new transmission and pipeline rights-of-way through protected areas.
    • Removing livestock grazing and livestock developments from the Beaver Dam Wash NCA.

    Click here to tell the BLM to prioritize conservation within the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by implementing the highest level of protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.

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