Blog Archives - Page 3 of 108


  • March 3rd, 2015

    Great thanks to the nearly three hundred people who rallied at the Utah State Capitol yesterday evening! From chants in opposition to the state’s attempt to take public lands out of American hands and put them “on the chopping block”, to a rousing rendition of “This Land is Your Land” with rally applicable lyrics penned by The Slickrock Stranger, the Great Public Lands Gamble Rally was a great success! Conservation groups, sportsmen, educators, elected officials and outdoor business representatives all spoke out against the state of Utah’s ongoing efforts to seize ownership of America’s public lands and turn them into industrial uses for short-term gain.

    Add your voice to theirs by signing our petition to Governor Herbert.

    Land grab rally

    Emcee Dan McCool, Political Science Professor at the University of Utah urged the crowd to pass along a message to Governor Herbert “Governor, we call on you to distance yourself from the few legislators who cooked up this mess. Collaboration is the best way to solve our problems.” Peter Metcalf, CEO of outdoor recreation company Black Diamond Equipment reminded the crowd that “Non-consumptive industries like ours would be adversely impacted and marginalized in favor of heavy development, should the state assume management.” And Heather Bennett, founder of For Kids and Lands said “Our schools are not the place to roll the economic dice.”

    Thanks to everyone who weathered the early springtime blizzard and found a place to park at a crowded Capitol. We couldn’t have done it without you.

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  • February 25th, 2015

    Here are some “good news” stories that you may have missed over the past few weeks. Any one of these things, standing alone, would be reason to cheer. Taken together, you might agree that fortune is smiling on us.

    • Appeals Board upholds BLM decision not to lease San Rafael Swell for oil and gas. Last week, an Interior Department appeals board upheld Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma’s decision not to offer certain parcels at the November 2013 oil and gas lease sale. Oil and gas companies had hoped to bid on and develop thousands of acres in the San Rafael Swell, but Director Palma made the right decision to withdraw those lands from sale. Thank you to everyone who helped us protect these wild lands in the San Rafael Swell, including the more than 200 wilderness supporters who gathered outside the BLM headquarters in September 2013 chanting “No wells in the Swell.”
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    More than 200 wilderness supporters gathered outside the BLM headquarters in September 2013 to protest oil and gas leases offered in the San Rafael Swell. State BLM Director Juan Palma wisely withdrew the leases, and that decision has just been upheld by an Interior Deptartment appeals board.

    • Federal court rejects industry challenge of Salazar decision to withdraw 77 leases from Dec 2008 lease sale. On February 12th a federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought in 2009 by some of the high bidders who challenged Secretary Salazar’s decision to withdraw 77 leases from the infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale.  This should be the end of the line for the industry-led litigation challenging this lease sale.
    • Wild and culturally significant lands taken off the chopping block. Last week, Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma announced his decision not to offer over twenty oil and gas leases in proposed wilderness and other culturally significant lands. Director Palma also deferred leasing about a dozen parcels in the so-called “state roadless area” (located in the Book Cliffs and a popular area for backcountry hunting) at the request of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Predictably, oil and gas trade groups complained about this decision but the fact of the matter is that nearly 4 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah are under lease while just around 1 million acres are in development. There simply is no shortage of leased lands!
    • Only 11 oil and gas rigs operating in Utah. The number of operating oil and gas rigs in Utah has dropped by more than half from this time last year (26 rigs in Feb 2014, 11 rigs in Feb 2015). The rigs that remain in operation are largely concentrated in well developed areas in the Uintah Basin (Utah’s “oil patch”) which means fewer threats to proposed wilderness . . . for now (we’ll take it!).

     

     

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  • February 17th, 2015

    Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that the current San Rafael Desert Motorized Travel Planning process should not result in expanded off-road vehicle use in the San Rafael Desert. Click here to send your comments by February 21, 2015.

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    San Rafael Desert. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Utah’s San Rafael Desert, included within the San Rafael River, Sweetwater Reef, Flat Tops and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness units, is a remote, undeveloped, and sublime landscape. Located east of the San Rafael Reef and expanding to Labyrinth Canyon, the San Rafael Desert is rich in archaeological sites and provides habitat for species such as pronghorn antelope, kit fox, and the burrowing owl.

    The BLM’s Price Field Office is in the early stages of motorized travel planning for the San Rafael Desert. Generally, SUWA is supportive of the BLM taking a hard look at motorized travel designations on public lands, but nearly half of the current travel planning area was already analyzed by the agency as part of its 2003 San Rafael Route Designation Plan. That plan, although not perfect, involved a lengthy public process and survived both administrative appeal and litigation. SUWA supported the plan and even intervened on behalf of the BLM in those legal proceedings.

    While it’s unclear why the BLM is using limited agency resources on motorized travel planning in areas that only recently underwent the same analysis, what is clear is that the motorized community sees this as an opportunity to create new off-road vehicle trails and to re-open areas and trails that were specifically restricted from motorized use. These include the Junes Bottom area and route proliferation along the rims of Labyrinth Canyon, through many unique dune environments, and within culturally-rich canyons such as Cottonwood Wash.

    Labyrinth Canyon

    Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    We know that any rollback of the current travel plan for the San Rafael Desert will result in increased adverse impacts to wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and wilderness-quality lands. This approach directly contradicts the BLM’s obligation to minimize impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Please tell the BLM, by February 21, 2015, that the current San Rafael Desert Travel Planning process should not result in increased off-road vehicle routes in the San Rafael Desert and that the BLM should minimize the impacts of its designated travel system on natural and cultural resources.

    Thank you for your support in protecting this wilderness-quality landscape.

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  • February 5th, 2015

    The Utah congressional delegation has announced it will release a draft lands bill on March 27th as part of the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). The PLI refers to discussions Representative Bishop initiated several years ago with the goal of resolving public land issues in eastern Utah, including designating wilderness and settling the State of Utah’s massive RS 2477 litigation. More than 6 million acres of wilderness are at stake, from Brown’s Park in the north down to Cedar Mesa in the south.

    SUWA staff have traveled and spent considerable time in discussions trying to reach agreement with the delegation and counties, and we have appreciated open communications with the Utah congressional staff.

    To date, there has been only one agreement reached between the delegation, the governor, wilderness advocates (including SUWA), and county officials. This agreement, affecting Daggett County in northeast Utah, was a net conservation gain and a landmark moment. It was announced in a ceremony at the state capitol last November, and we were proud to participate with Representative Bishop and Governor Herbert.

    We hope to reach more such landmark agreements. We are in ongoing discussions with Uintah County, where much of the public land has been impacted by oil and gas development, but there remain critical wilderness landscapes such as Upper Desolation Canyon and the Bitter Creek complex that must be protected. We are also working with Summit County and are nearing an agreement that would expand the High Uintas Wilderness Area.

    However, to date, there have been no Daggett County-type discussions in Emery, Grand, or San Juan counties — counties that include Desolation Canyon, the San Rafael Swell, Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Valley of the Gods, and some of the most spectacular wild landscapes on the planet. Carbon and Wayne counties dropped out of the process early on, and meaningful discussions have not taken place in either.

    We remain ready and willing to continue dialogue with the delegation and governor in order to protect the redrock, although we’re a bit surprised that discussions are being short cut. We’ll let you know as soon as we receive a copy of the new proposal — like you, we’re very curious to see what the Utah delegation proposes. So stay tuned for March 27th.

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