Blog Archives - Page 3 of 105

  • October 22nd, 2014
    Portions of Red Canyon will soon become part of the Lower Flaming Gorge Wilderness under the Daggett County conservation agreement, and this stretch of the Green River will receive a new Wild and Scenic River designation.

    Portions of Red Canyon (above) will soon become part of the Lower Flaming Gorge Wilderness under the Daggett County conservation agreement, and this stretch of the Green River will receive a new Wild and Scenic River designation.

    SUWA is pleased to announce that we, along with our conservation partners, have reached an agreement with Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) on land conservation in Daggett County. In short, it should result in the protection of many worthy, remarkable lands in northeastern Utah.

    None of this would have been possible without thirty years of tireless effort by activists, supporters, and staff to protect the redrock. It is because for many years our supporters across the country—in places like Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey—have brought cosponsors to America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act that we are here. It is because activists in Utah and nationwide are pushing for Greater Canyonlands National Monument that we are here. It is because people fought in the ‘80s and ‘90s to stop bad wilderness bills that we are here. This is an outgrowth of the work of thousands of unsung heroes. Many thanks to all of you who have helped to bring this day about.

    Also, we owe our conservation partners a debt of gratitude for their help in reaching this agreement. We were joined in this effort by the Grand Canyon Trust, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

    A little background. Last year, Rep. Bishop announced that he would pursue a sort of grand bargain to address public land issues in eastern Utah; he asked rural counties to come forward with proposals for public lands within their boundaries. One of the first to volunteer was Daggett County.

    Daggett County, nestled in the northeast corner of the state, shares a border with Wyoming and Colorado. It is Utah’s least populous county and contains remarkable wildlands. These run the gamut from the redrock-topped Diamond Breaks; to the beautiful Red Canyon, formed by the Green River; to the snowy peaks of the Uinta Mountains, Utah’s highest range.

    Daggett County’s initial proposal for the area was low on wilderness. However, SUWA staff worked for months to change that. In particular, our eyes and ears on the ground, Ray Bloxham, distinguished himself once again as the most knowledgeable field expert on BLM issues. His expertise did much to persuade the county to accept wilderness.

    Our agreement highlights 33,254 acres of BLM as wilderness. This includes our Lower Flaming Gorge, Dead Horse Pass, and Diamond Breaks units. North of the Green River, our Goslin Mountain, Home Mountain, and O-Wi-Yu-Kuts areas will be protected as part of a 31,000-acre conservation area with wilderness-like protections. Utah’s largest existing wilderness area, the High Uintas, will be expanded by nearly 50,000 acres in the county. The cherry on top is the protection of fourteen miles of the Green River as part of the Wild and Scenic River System.

    Naturally, this deal involves more than wilderness. Part of this agreement will include a federal/state land exchange that will remove the threat of development in conservation areas while allowing development in more appropriate areas (in actuality, the centerpiece is the state acquisition of an existing natural gas storage facility on federal land that is already in operation). The agreement also resolves R.S. 2477 claims in the county: the state and county will get recognition for many of their claims but they must abandon all claims that conflict with wilderness and conservation lands. The county will receive federal acreage adjacent to the town of Dutch John for a shooting range and landfill.

    Although the acreage figures are small here when compared to many other counties in the state, the impact is huge. This agreement will protect the lion’s share of lands proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in this region and, hopefully, it lays the groundwork for substantial protection moving forward. Rep. Bishop will now move his Public Lands Initiative to the next county, using this agreement as a model.

    >> Read our press release

    >> View a map of lands in the Daggett County conservation agreement

    >> Read details of the conservation agreement

  • October 15th, 2014

    Today, October 15th is National Fossil Day! We celebrate it with the acknowledgement that as a repository of scientific discovery, Greater Canyonlands holds a treasure trove of found and yet-to-be-found paleontological secrets.

    Nasutoceratops, Natural History Museum of Utah, photo by Lukas Panzann

    Nasutoceratops, Natural History Museum of Utah, photo by Lukas Panzann.

    The geologic formations that dominate southeastern Utah are known for harboring numerous dinosaur tracks and bones, ancient fossilized plants and marine invertebrate. But a lack of resources means that much work remains to find even more. Missing puzzle pieces that could be found in Greater Canyonlands may provide answers to outstanding scientific questions, such as:

    • How did ancient sea life evolve to life on land?
    • What did those first land-dwellers look like?
    • Did it happen in southern Utah?
    • For dinosaurs, what sizes, shapes and types left traces behind?

    Paleontological potential exists in Greater Canyonlands in two main time periods (although many periods are present): the late Jurassic, around 140-160 million years ago, and the Permian, around 250-300 million years ago.

    The Jurassic is known for meat-eating dinosaurs such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, and large plant-eaters such as Apatosaurus and Diplodocus. Permian creatures of the late Paleozoic era are before the age of dinosaurs, and include Tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates) that hold keys to understanding how life emerged from the seas to land. The fossilized remains from both periods are largely still in the ground in Greater Canyonlands, awaiting discovery and research.

    Apatosaurus, Wikipedia, public domain.

    Apatosaurus, Wikipedia, public domain.

    Dinosaur tracks are also found in Greater Canyonlands, and the area around Moab has the highest density of known tracks in North America. We know this through casual observation and discovery by curious hikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts who happen to stumble across ancient footprint impressions in the sandstone as they venture in the backcountry. While these amateur finds are sometimes reported, many times they are not.

    Interpreting important remains, luckily found through non-scientific discovery, is no way to conduct systematic research, but a dedicated program that emphasizes science, and one that attracts full-time paleontologists is a breakthrough waiting to happen.

    When we attain knowledge of how earth’s creatures from millions of years ago acted, walked, reproduced, ate and lived, we can learn know more about ourselves and the world we currently inhabit.

    Greater Canyonlands is an educational opportunity we have yet to take advantage of. Digging fossils is the dream of children everywhere. Nobody needs reminding that kids dig dinosaurs and fossils. We’ve all been there, and our kids are currently as fascinated with the remains of these ancient earth creatures as we were.

    University students are fascinated too. Jason Dillingham of Snow College in central Utah described his excitement about dinosaur digs in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument “I think it’s a big adventure for me, personally. I think it’s pretty awesome. It’s amazing.”

    Even adults get into the fun, as Jeanette Bonnell, an amateur scientist and dinosaur enthusiast with Utah Friends of Paleontology, recently said “The experience of finding your first fossil is indescribable.”

    After President Clinton signed the 1996 proclamation that set aside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, funding flowed to research. This funding is what made possible the finds of Nasutoceratops titusi or Big Nose horned dinosaurs, and others, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

    Similar scientific finds are possible in Greater Canyonlands, but we need the courage to place a higher importance on scientific research in the area, rather than let it be squandered for the short term profit of fossil fuels that would otherwise be emphasized.

    A proclamation for Greater Canyonlands that supports public land agencies to focus on research and science is critical to unleashing this potential – without it, we may never know what’s out there, because there isn’t the direction or the money to look.

  • October 2nd, 2014

    055Thanks to a terrific team of six Utahns, protecting Greater Canyonlands was on the agenda this week in Washington D.C.!

    For two days, volunteer activists representing young people, archaeology, veterans, health professionals, and local Moab residents met with key offices of the Obama administration.

    Loaded up with an armful of items showcasing public support for protecting Greater Canyonlands, the activists spoke eloquently about the need for presidential action.

    2014 GC Fly-In (Jerry Spangler)Archaeologist and author Jerry Spangler shared our new publication showcasing the cultural treasures of Greater Canyonlands, emphasizing that without action this outdoor library containing 12,000 years of human history will be inevitably degraded.

    Veteran Michael Cumming described how climbing in Greater Canyonlands allowed him to heal from the trauma and loss of war, explaining that this landscape now brings similar healing to other vets through the therapeutic climbing program he then founded, Operation Climb On.

    Presenting a letter signed by over 750 health professionals (including 350 from Utah) to President Obama, social worker Tom Laabs-Johnson explained how protecting Greater Canyonlands would benefit the physical, emotional and public health of all Americans.

    2014 Greater Canyonlands Fly-In (DC)Local Moab resident Edgar Fuentes described how growing up with Greater Canyonlands in his backyard “kept me out of trouble” and how Moab’s economic well-being would benefit from a monument proclamation.

    Brigham Young University student Sarah Karlinsey and Colorado College student Brooke Larsen implored the Obama administration to act for the next generation, describing how young people find spiritual renewal, inspiration and adventure in Greater Canyonlands and presenting 5 videos created by youth about the area.

    2014 Greater Canyonlands Fly-In (DC)Meetings included the Council on Environmental Quality — the office that advises the president on monument proclamations — and advisers to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    The message was clear: local Utahns from many different backgrounds cherish Greater Canyonlands for many reasons and want the president to act.

    We suspect some of the activists may have left a bit of red sand from their shoes in the carpets of the people they met with. We know they left an impression with their eloquent arguments and personal stories!

  • September 23rd, 2014
    Secrets of the Past (cover image)

    Click image to view and download booklet.

    12,000-year-old encampments of ice age mammoth hunters.  Ghostly, life-sized figures staring down from towering sandstone cliffs.  Hundreds upon hundreds of stone ruins clinging to canyon walls. These are just some of the remarkable artifacts that make Greater Canyonlands a treasure trove of scientific and historical knowledge.

    Today, SUWA and the Greater Canyonlands Coalition have released a new publication, “Secrets of the Past in a Rugged Land.” 

Written by noted archaeologist Jerry Spangler, the publication takes the reader through the 12,000 years of human history embedded in Greater Canyonlands, offering highlights of the artifacts left behind by ancient inhabitants.

    Making the “archaeological case” for proclaiming Greater Canyonlands a national monument, the publication calls for presidential action to protect the area’s cultural treasures from harm.

    Click here to read the publication (opens in PDF) or watch a slideshow featuring highlights from the publication, below. 

Then, send President Obama an email asking him to protect Greater Canyonlands to preserve this irreplaceable outdoor museum.

    Hover over the image to view caption. Click on the right arrow to advance.

    For media inquiries, email Terri Martin.

  • September 17th, 2014

    Corona Arch. Copyright Tom Till.

    In order to preserve the unforgettable experience provided to visitors at Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges, BLM is proposing a temporary restriction on “roped activities” in these areas.  The recent adrenaline-driven fad of rope swinging, rappelling, slacklining, and highlining is negatively affecting the experience sought by the majority of visitors – families, hikers, sightseers and photographers – to these two very popular destinations near Moab.

    Please let the BLM know you support the proposed restrictions on these activities.

    Both Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges are impressive and unforgettable geologic formations, each located in a spectacularly scenic setting.  According to the BLM, these two geological features are the most popular such features on public lands near Moab.  An estimated 40,000 people hike to Corona Arch and 50,000 people hike to Gemini Bridges each year to savor the view and enjoy the quiet reverence of the areas “as they grasp the enormity of the views.”    As a recent New York Times article put it, the antics of a few have turned “Moab’s unique collection of ancient stone arches into death-defying swing sets . . . filling a once-solitary canyon with whooping screams and long lines of adventurers.”

    In an effort to protect the integrity of the arches and to continue to provide a quality experience to the majority of the visitors, BLM is proposing to restrict roped activities in the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.  There are many other locations on public lands in the Moab area that are available for roped activities, and the proposed temporary restrictions are in keeping with BLM’s current management plan, which directs the agency to enhance hiking opportunities at the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.

    Please send a short letter to the Moab BLM Manager, Beth Ransel, supporting BLM’s proposed restrictions on roped activities in the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.

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