Blog Archives - Page 2 of 113


  • 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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  • The Bears Ears Buttes/ Photo (c) Jeff Clay.
    December 3rd, 2015

    We wanted to make sure you saw this op-ed from Herman Daniels, Jr. in Sunday’s edition of the Salt Lake Tribune. Mr. Daniels is a Navajo Nation Council Delegate representing the Utah communities of Naa’tsis’Áán (Navajo Mountain) and Oljato (Monument Valley). He writes:

    Recently, a number of people have tried to speak on behalf of Native Americans who live in Utah — including those of us who are Navajo and live in San Juan County.

    False statements have been made to the media, claiming that the proposal put forward last month by five tribes — Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute and Uintah Ouray Ute — to protect the Bears Ears as a national monument is not supported by native communities and local people in San Juan County.

    Mr. Daniels explains how Navajo Chapter Houses are “the fundamental building block[s] of Navajo democracy,” and how six of the seven Chapter Houses in Utah have passed resolutions in support of protecting Bears Ears. “[I]t becomes clear that the Navajo people who live in San Juan County overwhelmingly support the creation of a 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument,” he writes.

    Mr. Daniels continues:

    In an Oct. 29 interview on KSL Radio’s Doug Wright show, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop stated that in the Public Lands Initiative process, he “need[s] to give precedence to the Native Americans who live in Utah.” As a council delegate representing Utah, I could not agree more and I can assure the congressman that he has local Navajo support in protecting Bears Ears.

    If Bishop agrees to give precedence to the Native Americans who live in Utah, then he should understand that we have already spoken, and with overwhelming unity we have asked for Bears Ears to be protected. . . . What we have said, and continue to say, is this: It is time to protect Bears Ears, and if it can’t be passed in the coming months through the Public Lands Initiative, then the president should declare this living cultural landscape as a national monument for all.

    The op-ed really is worth reading in its entirety.

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  • 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.

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  • 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 blm_ut_mb_mlpcomments@blm.gov or write to Brent Northrup, MLP Project Manager, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532.

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  • 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.

     

     

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