Blog Archives


  • 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.

    0 Comments
  • December 9th, 2014

    From E&E News (subscription required):

    LAS VEGAS — Debate over whether and how Utah should take over federal public lands is a “waste of time” and hinders constructive dialogue between Utah and land management agencies, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    Jewell spoke to Greenwire on the sidelines of the Western Governors’ Association winter meeting here last Saturday…

    Her comments came less than a week after a study by Utah universities found that the state “likely” could afford to take over and steward roughly 31 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands within its borders, and could make a profit under certain energy revenue assumptions (Greenwire, Dec. 2).

    It’s important to note that the state can only “afford” to manage the lands in 2 out of 10 scenarios, in which oil prices remain consistently high.

    Utah’s takeover bid is a legal long shot and likely unconstitutional, legal scholars argue.

    But the economic study galvanized both supporters and opponents of the takeover plan.

    Jewell said the debate is irrelevant and counterproductive.

    “A relevant discussion is, ‘How can we work collectively with the states on the thoughtful management of public lands?’” she said. “I think it is a waste of time and resources to say we want to have a state takeover of public lands.”

    Jewell said states enjoy great benefits from federal lands in their states, such as mineral royalties, recreation, hunting and fishing, and quality of life. Land management is also paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

    We agree.

    0 Comments
  • December 8th, 2014

    You know you’ve got a problem when even George W. Bush’s former Interior Secretary doesn’t think the Utah land grab will succeed. From E & E (subscription required):

    Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton questioned the viability today of conservatives’ efforts to transfer federal lands to state control…

    Asked by Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, president of the American Lands Council, about the prospects for states taking ownership of federal tracts, Norton said, “I have to admit, I’m somewhat hampered by experience.” She had just concluded a headline speech at a Washington, D.C., summit organized by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council…

    “Even during the Reagan administration, that went down in flames,” she said….

    “It’s not just the people of Utah that need to be assured that it can work, but the people of New York and California and so forth,” she said. “So it’s a real uphill battle.”

    Just uphill? Quixotic is more like it.

    0 Comments
  • December 3rd, 2014

    Dismisses Utah claims to 6 routes and concludes width of 3 other routes must be revisited

    Salt Lake City, Utah (December 3, 2014) – Yesterday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key decision in the State of Utah’s ongoing roads (RS 2477) litigation.

    North Swag RS 2477 Claim (vertical)

    RS 2477 “highway” in Kane County.

    The appeals court cut in half a 2013 decision by a district court judge to grant Utah and Kane County 12 so-called RS 2477 rights-of-way. The appeals court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over 6 of the 12 routes because they were open for motorized travel pursuant to federal land use plans. The court also reversed the district court’s “scope” (width) determinations regarding 3 other routes located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and remanded for further proceedings.

    “This decision is a significant set-back for the State of Utah’s effort to wrest control of more than 14,000 claimed ‘highways’ across federally managed lands in the state,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “After more than 10 years of litigation and millions of taxpayer dollars, Utah has little to show for its efforts. Of the 17 claimed RS 2477 rights-of-way litigated in two separate cases all the way to the Tenth Circuit, the State has established title to only 6 routes, leaving 13,983 routes to go.”

    The appeals court also rejected an argument advanced by conservation groups that the State’s RS 2477 claim in the Paria-Hackberry wilderness study area was filed too late and after the relevant 12-year statute of limitations had run.

    After being denied intervention in these proceedings, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society participated as amicus curiae before both the district court and court of appeals. The Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and National Parks Conservation Association also participated as amicus curiae in separate filings before the appeals court.

    A copy of the decision is available here.

    Background
    Originally filed in 2008, Kane County and the State of Utah expended millions of dollars to pursue 16 claimed rights-of-way in this lawsuit. Several of the claims are located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and one is within a BLM wilderness study area.

    This case is one of 25 filed by the State of Utah and its counties that claim title to approximately 14,000 dirt trails and roads across the state. Many of these claims are little more than stream bottoms and old mining tracks in the desert that serve no practical purpose whatsoever. The State is relying on a provision in the Mining Act of 1866 to try and establish its claimed rights-of-way.

    0 Comments
  • December 1st, 2014

    In 2012 the Utah legislature passed a bill demanding that the federal government turn over almost all public land in the state by the end of this year.

    With that deadline less than a month away, SUWA has launched a new statewide television, radio and web campaign to educate Utahns about the cost of Utah’s land grab – and how all Americans would lose our redrock heritage while private interests gain.

    Click here to help stop Utah’s land grab once and for all.

    Under Utah’s land grab scheme, the future of places like Greater Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa would be controlled by Utah politicians who favor development over conservation.

    While the state’s effort will likely be found unconstitutional in the courts, we need to expose this for what it is: completely wrongheaded public policy — and we need to stop it now because it creates a political environment that makes it harder to protect Utah’s wild lands for all Americans.

    Please contribute today to help stop Utah’s land grab.

    Just today a team of economists from three Utah universities, hired by the legislature, released a report that shows that if Utah were to take public lands from the federal government it would have to privatize them or pursue heavy development in order to pay for their management.

    This is a terrible idea that needs to be stopped now. Imagine the Book Cliffs strip-mined for tar sands; Arches National Park ringed with oil and gas wells; and a giant coal mine in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is what some Utah politicians want to see happen.

    Click here to stop Utah politicians from seizing America’s redrock wilderness.
    Your contribution today will help us stop Utah’s land grab, and protect Utah’s redrock wilderness, now and forever.

    (Click here to learn more about the economic report released today.)

    0 Comments
Page 1 of 10512345...102030...Last »