Blog Archives

  • SixShooters_2
    February 4th, 2016

    Rep. Bishop’s long-awaited draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI), released on January 20th, is essentially a fossil fuel development bill that gives away public resources and fails to advance the conservation of public lands in eastern Utah.

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  • Hatch Canyon (Ray Bloxham)
  • The Bears Ears Buttes. Photo (c) Tim Peterson.
    January 11th, 2016

    Big news! A new poll shows that 2/3 of Utah residents support the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument.

    The highly-regarded Conservation in the West Poll, issued annually by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, found that 66% of Utahns support monument designation for nearly two million acres of existing public lands surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes.

    Click here to ask President Obama to protect Bears Ears.

    The Colorado College poll is not the only recent big news to come out of the Native American-led campaign to protect the Bears Ears.

    On New Year’s Eve, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition sent a formal letter to Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, telling them that the Tribes are stepping away from the Public Lands Initative (PLI) process and instead are asking President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to create a Bears Ears National Monument.

    Click here to ask President Obama to protect Bears Ears.

    The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is a partnership between the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo and Ute Indian Tribes. In October, they formally presented their proposal for a collaboratively-managed, 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument to the President as well as to Bishop and Chaffetz.


    Cliff dwelling in the Bears Ears region. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Participating in the PLI process was “to no avail,” according to the Coalition’s letter. “Not once did anyone from the Utah delegation or the PLI make a single substantive comment, positively or negatively, on our proposal.”

    Furthermore, according to the letter, the delegation failed to make good on its “guarantee” to deliver a draft of the PLI to the Coalition by December 30th (as we write this, a draft of the PLI still has yet to be released).

    “Time is of the essence,” the letter concludes. “We don’t feel we can wait any longer before engaging with the Obama administration . . . in the hope that they will advance our proposal via the Antiquities Act.”

    Please send a message to Obama today asking him to protect Bears Ears.

    There’s no question that the Bears Ears region, with more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites, is worthy of protection via the Antiquities Act. Please, add your voice today, and be sure to follow the Coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • Mt. Ellen, Henry Mountains (Ray Bloxham)
    January 5th, 2016

    Just as we were about to say goodbye to 2015, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a welcome decision in our longstanding Utah resource management plan litigation. On December 30th the Circuit Court denied a request by the BLM to indefinitely delay surveys for cultural artifacts on lands under the purview of the Richfield field office, a course of action the agency admitted would have resulted in damage to — or outright destruction of — an untold number of irreplaceable cultural sites.

    The Richfield office oversees 2.1 million acres of redrock country in south-central Utah, largely sandwiched between Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park. This land is held sacred by Native American tribes, including the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and the Hopi Tribe.

    Mt. Ellen, Henry Mountains (Ray Bloxham)

    Mt. Ellen proposed wilderness, Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Though less than 5 percent of this area has been surveyed for cultural resources, thousands of significant sites have been identified, including structures, ceramics, petroglyphs, and lithic scatters. In a land use plan adopted in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, the BLM gave the green light to ORVs to drive on more than 4,000 miles of trails and tracks without first surveying them to ensure that these irreplaceable cultural resources would not be harmed by such use.

    The Tenth Circuit’s order is just the latest ruling in a string of rulings we have obtained which consistently reject how BLM manages ORVs in the Richfield area.

    It’s confounding that the Obama administration continues to defend and implement land use planning decisions that are so wildly unbalanced in favor of ORV use and energy development over conservation – but that’s the way it’s been for the past seven years. Maybe things will be different in 2016 (hope springs eternal). SUWA and our partners have challenged all six land use plans issued at the end of the Bush administration in federal court. The Richfield plan is the first to be fully litigated.

  • Utah. USA. Hiker at sunset near the crest of the Deep Creek Mountains above Granite Creek drainage. Great Salt Lake Desert in distance. Proposed Deep Creek Mountains BLM Wilderness. Great Basin.
    December 17th, 2015

    Last week, Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee introduced a bill that would create a massive “withdrawal” zone across Bureau of Land Management lands, effectively expanding the operational footprint of the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). The training range in Utah’s West Desert is used by the Army, Air Force and Marines for operational exercises, and is off limits to the general public; the new withdrawal zone would be periodically closed to the public.

    Utah. USA. Hiker at sunset near the crest of the Deep Creek Mountains above Granite Creek drainage. Great Salt Lake Desert in distance. Proposed Deep Creek Mountains BLM Wilderness. Great Basin.

    Utah. USA. Hiker at sunset near the crest of the Deep Creek Mountains above Granite Creek drainage. Great Salt Lake Desert in distance. Proposed Deep Creek Mountains BLM Wilderness. Great Basin. Photo (c) Scott Smith.

    We’ve seen this bill before when Sen. Hatch attempted to attach it to national defense legislation in 2014, but it’s only gotten worse over time. S. 2383 would abandon bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, imperil future wilderness designations for places like the Newfoundland Mountains, Deep Creek Mountains and Dugway Mountains, and facilitate a land exchange to accelerate development in areas proposed for wilderness.

    The bill also would transfer road rights-of-way to Box Elder, Juab and Toole counties. We don’t yet know which roads—we’re working on tracking down the maps–but we do know these counties have sued to get the so-called RS-2477 rights-of-way to thousands of miles of bogus two-tracks and cow paths across federal lands, including through designated and proposed wilderness. An earlier draft of the legislation referred specifically to those types of routes as the kind that would be summarily gifted to counties.

    Speaking of gifts, the legislation includes a nice piece of window dressing: an advisory “Community Resource Group” that specifically calls for six special slots for county commissioners, seats for off-roaders, recreationists and livestock grazers, but no such reserved voice for conservation. The handpicked advisory group then faces the exhausting task of meeting “not less than once per year.”

    Doughy Mountains Wilderness Inventory Area .

    Dugway Mountains Wilderness Inventory Area .

    Protecting national security in no way needs to come at the expense of protecting America’s precious public lands heritage. In 2006 we worked successfully with Rep. Rob Bishop on designating the Cedar Mountains Wilderness adjacent to the training range. When the bill passed, it was praised by the Utah delegation as a win-win for the UTTR and for wilderness, and Pentagon officials see wilderness as a complementary and desirable “buffer zone” near military facilities. Instead of using this opportunity to protect wilderness and accommodate the needs of our armed forces, the Utah senators are using national security as an excuse for yet another public lands giveaway.

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