Blog Archives

  • Hatch Point (Clint McKnight)
    June 25th, 2015

    Bad news. The counties’ proposals for Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative are in and they spell disaster for the future of Utah’s wild lands.

    Please act now and tell Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz that the county plans are wholly inadequate. In order to be successful, any public lands legislation they draft must go far beyond what the counties have proposed.

    More than two years ago, Rep. Bishop announced his desire to resolve longstanding disputes over public lands. He said that things would be different this time. In many ways they have been; we have seen some amazing goodwill and effort by the delegation. SUWA and its conservation partners jumped in with both feet and have spent hundreds of hours in the field and poring over maps.

    However, not everyone got the message. Many of the counties involved in Rep. Bishop’s initiative have stymied real progress by taking a “business as usual” approach. They propose fragmented wilderness designation while rolling back existing wilderness study areas. Even their “conservation area” designations are often rendered meaningless because they are opened to oil and gas development and riddled with roads. Tellingly, some counties are proposing even less land protection now than they did two decades ago.

    Some of the most spectacular wilderness landscapes in Utah are essentially forsaken (click here to view map). These forgotten areas include: Bitter Creek in the upper Book Cliffs; Desolation Canyon; Labyrinth Canyon; Lockhart Basin/Hatch Point east of Canyonlands National Park; White Canyon; Tables of the Sun (Nokai Dome/Red Rock Plateau); the Price River; and lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument.

    Hatch Point (Clint McKnight)

    Hatch Point, copyright Clint McKnight.

    While county commissions, like all stakeholders, should have the opportunity to provide input in this process, they should not be the defining voice in determining the future of Utah’s public lands.

    Click here to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz that all Americans should have a voice in this process.

    If the county proposals are advanced by the Utah delegation, it will mean a jigsaw puzzle of wilderness in Utah with more than half of the pieces missing. Vast reaches of undisturbed beauty that now define the redrock canyon country could be devastated by vehicle trails, energy development, and destructive “vegetation treatments.”

    Utah’s wild lands deserve better.

    Labyrinth Canyon (James Kay)

    Labyrinth Canyon, copyright James Kay.

    To succeed, the Public Lands Initiative needs to provide meaningful protection for the now-forsaken areas and incorporate the concerns of citizens across Utah and America.

    Please help save Wild Utah. Act now to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz to do justice to Utah’s spectacular wild lands.

  • NewfoundlandMtsn_ScottSmith
    June 11th, 2015
    The SUWA ad appearing in the print editions of The Hill and Roll Call in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2015. Click to see full size version (opens in PDF)

    The SUWA ad appearing in the print editions of The Hill and Roll Call in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2015. Click to see the full size version (opens in PDF).

    Today, SUWA is running ads in the print and online versions of The Hill and Roll Call — two newspapers that are must-reads for the staff and elected officials on Capitol Hill in DC — to bring attention to how some members of the Utah delegation are using the proposed expansion of the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) as an excuse to harm wilderness and conservation values in Utah’s West Desert.

    The Utah Test and Training Range is the largest training ground in the United States, covering almost 1.7 million acres in Utah’s West Desert. The Air Force, Army and Marine Corps all conduct training here.

    Recently, in order to accommodate a new fleet of F-35 aircraft, members of the Utah delegation have proposed an expansion of this training range, which would overlap with about 700,000 additional acres of lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

    But the delegation is also seeking to use the legislation as an excuse to give road rights-of-way across federal lands to several Utah counties, and to trade away public lands to mining interests. Neither of these add-on proposals have anything to do with national security, and would irreparably harm these unique public lands.

    Tell your representatives in Congress to oppose an expansion of the UTTR that contains these harmful public lands provisions!

    Many of the areas included in the proposed expansion are popular with hunters, hikers, campers and historic preservationists for their natural beauty, abundant wildlife and cultural and recreational value. As currently written, the expansion would not protect the wilderness values of places BLM agrees are wilderness caliber landscapes — including the Newfoundland Mountains, Dugway Mountains, and the Fish Springs Range — and could permanently compromise their future eligibility for protection.

    Grassy Mountains in the West Desert. Photo (c) Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Grassy Mountains in the West Desert. Photo (c) Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. In 2006, similar legislation in the West Desert led to a win-win solution for the Cedar Mountains Wilderness, which was designated as part of a larger military bill known as the Utah Test and Training Range Protection Act. Wilderness areas make ideal buffer zones for military facilities and have been intentionally designated in legislation seeking to protect military resources. That’s why the Cedar Mountains designation enjoyed the broad, bipartisan support of members of Congress. They knew it was possible to accommodate the needs of the military without compromising the beautiful public lands that make up the fabric of American life that our armed forces fight to defend.

    Tell your members of Congress National Security and Natural Resources can and should coexist!

  • (Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan (right) high-fives Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem (left) after Ivory's resolution to demand the federal government transfer control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands to western states passed at the Utah Republican Party 2014 Nominating Convention at the South Towne Expo Center, Saturday, April 26, 2014.
    June 5th, 2015
    (Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan (right) high-fives Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem (left) after Ivory's resolution to demand the federal government transfer control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands to western states passed at the Utah Republican Party 2014 Nominating Convention at the South Towne Expo Center, Saturday, April 26, 2014.

    (Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan (right) high-fives Rep. Kevin Stratton, R-Orem (left) after Ivory’s resolution to demand the federal government transfer control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands to western states passed at the Utah Republican Party 2014 Nominating Convention at the South Towne Expo Center, Saturday, April 26, 2014.

    The Salt Lake Tribune writes:

    Ken Ivory is a snake oil salesman.

    The Utah legislator is, just as his new worst enemies from a liberal interest group proclaim, traveling around the West, enriching himself by peddling a total phantasm about how if state and local governments keep giving Ivory’s American Lands Council more money, he will find a way to undo a century of public policy, and every decent impulse of the American people, and force the United States government to turn over millions of acres of federal land to the states.

    Disgraceful? Clearly. Criminal? That’s a reach.

    We agree with the Salt Lake Tribune. Rep. Ivory distorts the facts, dodges the truth, misconstrues history, and advances a disastrous vision that would deprive us of our public lands. He needs to answer for his organization’s compliance with lobbying rules in neighboring states.

    However, advocating for terrible public policy is not a crime. Those counties providing funding for Rep. Ivory seeking to take our public lands are misguided but they are not victims. As the Tribune says, the are co conspirators advancing ideas that will be relegated to the dustbin of history. While the truth and the best interest of the public is against him, his political speech should be allowed. We all benefit from an open dialogue about these issues. Rep. Ivory’s positions will fail; let them die of their own deficiencies.

  • Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett
    June 3rd, 2015

    The Interior Board of Land Appeals (“Board”) recently issued an order prohibiting construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail pending appeal. The order – triggered by a “Petition for Stay” filed by SUWA, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and the Great Old Broads for Wilderness – prohibits construction of 6.4 miles of new ATV trail and three associated parking areas in Indian Creek until the Board rules on the legal merits of our administrative appeal.

    In its ruling, the Board validated our argument that agency actions resulting in a permanent loss of BLM-identified wilderness character lands constitutes “irreparable harm” and determined that there is a “sufficient likelihood of success” on at least a portion of our legal claims.

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Crusher Bartlett

    Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek. Copyright Crusher Bartlett.

    The BLM’s Monticello field office irresponsibly approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail in February of 2015 (see our Spring 2015 newsletter, p. 15). Originally proposed by the pro-motorized recreation, anti-conservation leaders of San Juan County, the purpose of the ATV trail is to facilitate increased motorized use in the Indian Creek corridor by linking the proposed trail to an existing ATV trail network. If implemented, the new trail would result in increased ATV use in and near Lavender Canyon, Davis Canyon, and Bridger Jack Mesa – areas bordering Canyonlands National Park that currently see very little motorized recreational use. What’s more, the trail would bisect an area that the BLM itself identified as possessing wilderness characteristics and that is proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    The Indian Creek corridor is the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and is world-renowned for its abundance of cultural resources and quiet recreation opportunities. We are hopeful that the Board will ultimately rule in a manner consistent with protecting this irreplaceable landscape for future generations. We’ll keep you posted.

  • CedarMesaRuin(crop)_RichardBullough
    May 28th, 2015

    The BLM’s Monticello Field Office is proposing to allow the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation to guide hiking and handcart treks (reminiscent of early Mormon pioneer journeys) on three routes/trails in the Cedar Mesa area. The BLM’s current alternatives would allow for a maximum of 250 participants per day, pulling handcarts and supported by motor vehicles. Approximately 90% of this activity would occur over a 13-week “high use” period from June 1st to August 31st. Based on recent BLM data, approving any of the proposed alternatives will result in an increase of 90% to 576% above current commercial and organized group use levels.

    Please tell the BLM to protect Cedar Mesa by not approving “guided hiking and handcart treks” for groups of 250 people per day.


    Cedar Mesa Ruin. Copyright Richard Bullough.

    Although the BLM has considered a number of alternative proposals, all of them would allow total groups sizes of 250 people. For comparison, the Monticello Resource Management Plan currently only allows for a maximum of 12 people per group in all canyons within the Cedar Mesa Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA).

    As for handcart use, the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation itself states that “handcarts were not part of the Hole-in-the-Rock journey.” Therefore, putting the issue of permitted group size aside, the purpose of providing a historical experience can be met without the use of handcarts and the associated additional impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Cedar Mesa is known for its world-class cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands. The abundance and density of archaeological sites – from intact cliff dwellings to pristine rock art – combined with unparalleled solitude offer visitors a truly unique backcountry experience. This proposal has the potential to vastly change the current character of the Cedar Mesa area by adversely impacting both cultural resources and visitor expectations and experiences.

    Please send your comments to the BLM by May 29, 2015 and tell the agency it must:

    • Consider alternatives that drastically reduce the currently proposed group size of 250 users per day.
    • Consider an alternative that does not allow the use of handcarts by event participants.
    • Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to fully analyze the unprecedented increase in permitted use and the unknown adverse impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Click here to send your comments now!

    With your help, we can ensure that the BLM takes seriously its obligation to protect cultural resources and the wilderness experience that currently exists on Cedar Mesa. Thank you for your support in protecting this invaluable archaeological and wilderness treasure.

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