Blog Archives - Page 3 of 116


  • Student letter PLI (crop)
    March 16th, 2016

    On Tuesday, March 15, a group of students from campuses along the Wasatch Front gathered at the Utah State Capitol in united opposition to Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), and to show support for a Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by a historic coalition of Native American Tribes. After speaking to the media, they delivered a letter to Governor Gary Herbert outlining their concerns.

    “We are the generation that will inherit the problems that come from the short-sighted, profit-driven decision making by our elected officials,” said Karsyn Ansari, a recent graduate from the University of Utah Environmental Studies program. “We are here today to fight for our right and the right of future generations to experience redrock wilderness.”

    Student letter PLI press conference

    Students address the media from the steps of the Utah Capitol. Copyright Dave Pacheco/SUWA

    Jared Meek of Brigham Young University said “Many students have been paying attention to the PLI process and to put it lightly we are not pleased with the current proposal.”

    The students expressed deep concern about the ability of their generation (and future generations) to enjoy Utah’s fabled redrock country as it is, and to meet it on its own terms, not on terms set forth by fossil fuel developers favored by Mr. Bishop’s proposal.

    Students vow to continue their campaign against the Public Lands Initiative, and to stay involved in the public process, since Utah political leaders did not give them a voice when the legislation was being drafted. They explained how Mr. Bishop’s process was heavily weighted in favor of rural county commissioners to the exclusion of Utah’s majority population of urban dwellers, themselves included.

    Watch the Fox13 and KSL TV stories and read news coverage in the Logan Herald Journal and Deseret News.

    Add your voice! There’s still time to comment on the draft Public Lands Initiative. If you haven’t yet done so, please click here to submit your comments.

     

  • A well site near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.
    March 8th, 2016

    Thanks largely to fossil fuel development and consumption and the changes they are bringing to the planet’s climate, Utah – and particularly Utah’s canyon country – is predicted to be hotter and drier than ever. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Southwest, including Utah, will be ground zero for some of climate change’s most significant impacts in North America.

    SUWA has long championed protecting America’s redrock wilderness – more than 9 million acres of outstanding BLM-managed public lands in Utah – from fossil fuel leasing and development ranging from oil, gas and coal to oil shale and tar sands. In fact, SUWA was working to “Keep It in the Ground” long before this concept had a hashtag, a Facebook page, or even a World Wide Web to promote it.

    Our work to limit fossil fuel leasing and development is consistent with SUWA’s mission to protect Utah’s wildest places for current and future generations to enjoy. It has the added benefit of helping maintain the many ecological and climate-buffering functions provided by wild public lands. This work has perhaps never been more relevant than in today’s rapidly changing world.

    Drill pads in the Uintah Basin, Utah. Copyright Lin Alder

    Oil and gas development blanketing the Uintah Basin. Copyright Lin Alder.

    No time to lose
    Recent news headlines on climate change have been particularly dire: “hottest year in historical record,” “2015 was hottest year on record, by a stunning margin” and “Utah’s third warmest year.” The dramatic changes we are seeing in the Earth’s climate appear to be happening in a “nonlinear” fashion, meaning that the changes are happening faster and with more disastrous effects than were previously predicted.

    Fortunately, the Obama administration is taking a series of wide ranging, if overdue, steps to tackle these issues. Most recently, the Interior Department issued a moratorium on new coal leasing for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands and released proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. These are significant steps towards reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuels — but more work needs to be done!

    A well site near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    A well site on public land near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    We believe one of the next logical steps is to extend the administration’s coal leasing moratorium to new oil and gas leasing on BLM and Forest Service managed lands. Such a moratorium would allow the administration to make the same clear-eyed assessment about whether its current oil and gas leasing program is consistent with the steps our country must take to address climate change.

    Because Utah, like all western states, has millions of federal lands already under lease, but not in production, such a moratorium would not solve all of our problems. Like the coal moratorium, production from and development of existing leases would not be limited by such an action. SUWA will continue to keep a watchful eye on those potential projects.

    And because the impacts of leasing, developing and burning fossil fuels affect Utah’s redrock wilderness even if they take place outside of the wilderness proposal, you can expect to see us taking a more active role in working to defeat these proposals no matter where they occur.

    The confluence between “Keeping It in the Ground” and protecting America’s redrock wilderness is a topic we plan to explore further in a series of blog posts over the coming months, so please stay tuned.

  • PLICitizensHearing2_RayBloxham
    March 4th, 2016

    On March 2nd, over 600 Utahns poured into a “Citizens’ Hearing” in Salt Lake City on Utah Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), packing a huge auditorium, lining the walls, and standing shoulder to shoulder a dozen deep in the back of the room. More people spilled out into the auditorium’s entryway.

    The hearing was organized by the Utah Wilderness Coalition because Utah Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz have failed to provide residents living along Utah’s Wasatch Front a meaningful opportunity to help shape the PLI.

    PLICitizensHearing2_RayBloxham

    The Orson Spencer Hall auditorium was packed to overflowing with over 600 wilderness supporters. (Ray Bloxham/SUWA)

    With palpable passion and often a strong sense of frustration, speaker after speaker decried the PLI as a disaster for Utah’s public lands and called on President Obama to proclaim a Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by a historic coalition of Native American tribes.

    PLICitizensHearing_KyleStrayer

    Empty chairs were set on the stage for the absent members of the Utah congressional delegation. (Kyle Strayer)

    Some gestured or spoke to the four empty chairs on the stage that were labeled with the names of Utah’s congressional delegation, insisting that their voices be heard. (The Utah delegation was invited but did not attend the hearing. The governor’s policy director, who did attend part of the hearing, received an appreciative round of applause when his presence was announced.)

    Again and again, the spirited crowd – which spanned millennials to elders – burst into applause and waved “Protect Wild Utah” signs in support of protecting Utah’s wild lands from fossil fuel development, bogus roads, and other public land giveaways in the PLI.

    PLICitizensHearing3_KatAudetteLuebke

    Packed house at the Citizens’ Hearing on Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    PLICitizensHearing2_KatAudetteLuebke

    Standing room only — thanks for hanging in there, folks! (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    SUWA deeply thanks everyone who showed up and with their presence and/or their voice stood against the PLI and for the Bears Ears national monument. You are amazing and inspiring! Working together, we have a great chance of defeating the PLI and winning protection for Bears Ears.

    We apologize to those who couldn’t get a seat, but we hope it’s some consolation to know that the overflow crowd clearly demonstrated just how much Utahns care about our wild places (and next time we’ll get a bigger room!).

    Some highlights of the evening include:

    PLICitizensHearing_ScottGroene_KatAudetteLuebke

    Scott Groene outlines the major flaws of the PLI. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Scott Groene, Executive Director for SUWA, described the PLI as “the worst wilderness bill since the Wilderness Act created the opportunity to protect wild lands in 1964.” He went on to say “The PLI provides less protection for Utah’s wildlands than we have now, fails to protect the Bears Ears, sets off a ticking carbon time bomb, and facilitates the state of Utah’s efforts seize public lands that belong to all of us.”

    In a letter read to the audience by Katie Savage, Terry Tempest Williams said, “Today we find ourselves in a ‘perfect storm’ of ecological and social consciousness where the protection of wilderness is the protection of the climate. . . Congressman Bishop cannot hear the will of the people . . . Our voices must be amplified again, so that other voices around the country can join us in the reject of this violent initiative on the integrity of America’s Redrock Wilderness.”

    PLICitizensHearing_MarkMaryboy_KatAudetteLuebke

    Former San Juan County Commissioner Mark Maryboy calls the PLI a “disaster.” (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Mark Maryboy, speaking for Utah Diné Bikéyah, described how the Utah delegation refused to seriously engage with Native Americans seeking protection for the Bears Ears. “We must not allow the PLI to pass,” said Maryboy. “We must stand together to defeat it.”

    Former Utah Congresswoman Karen Shepherd rallied the crowd to stop the PLI, declaring “The real story is you. Look at you! You are everywhere! You can change the world.”

    Describing Utah’s wildlands as “absolutely integral to the state’s economic future,” Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf said ““We must send a clear, powerful message that the people of Utah see the PLI for what it is: a Pearl Harbor attack on the economic vibrancy of Utah.”

    PLICitizensHearing_JuanPalma_KatAudetteLuebke

    Former Utah BLM Director Juan Palma says the Hispanic community was not consulted on the PLI. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Juan Palma, former Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management, and now chief conservation officer for HECHO, “Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors,” described the deep roots Hispanics have with public lands, noting “No one came to talk to us” about the PLI.

    Lauren Wood, a third generation guide for Holiday River Expeditions and an activist for climate justice, social equality and human rights, decried the PLI as a fossil fuel development bill that “puts the earth’s livable climate on the chopping block.” “The only winners in the PLI,” she said, “are the oil companies who are hell bent on taking our public lands from the public.”

    Laying out a list of grievances, Sierra Club spokesperson Amy Mills pointed out that “Utah Rep Rob Bishop asserts that the PLI is a balanced solution that was locally driven, but the truth is, it is neither.”

    PLICitizensHearing_AmyMills_RayBloxham

    Sierra Club spokeswoman Amy Mills pulls apart Rep. Bishop’s assertion that the PLI is a “balanced solution.” (Ray Bloxham/SUWA)

    Di Allison with Great Old Broads for Wilderness announced “we have a gift for Rep Bishop,” and unwrapping a small gift box, revealed a green hearing aide. Holding up photos of her grandchildren, she said “Utah’s public wild lands are their American heritage. The myopic perspective of the PLI does not serve them. We can do better than this by protecting the Bears Ears as a national monument.”

    PLICitizensHearing_Marcel_KatAudetteLuebke

    Marcel Gaztambide. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Marcel Gaztambide, speaking for Uplift, a climate action group for the Colorado Plateau, said “The youth of the Colorado Plateau will not accept the loss of wilderness at this scale. We refuse a rollback on wilderness protection, we refuse lax air quality standards, we refuse the creation of vast fossil fuel zones, we refuse the creation of unnecessary and unwanted roadways, and we refuse the endangerment of the region’s biodiversity.”

    Eyrie Horton, a student at Utah’s Westminster College, stated “The PLI is basically stealing our land. It fosters an economy based on pulling fossil fuels out of the ground. I can tell you that that is not going to fly with my generation.”

    PLICitizensHearing_JaredMeek_KatAudetteLuebke

    Jared Meek. ( Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Jared Meek, speaking for the EcoResponse Club at Brigham Young University, said “many students had been paying attention to the PLI process and to put it lightly we are not pleased with the current proposal. . . . At BYU, we believe that the Earth has been entrusted to humankind to care for, and that we have a sacred stewardship to conserve and preserve our beautiful home for future generations. After all it is we, the younger generation of this state, that will have to live with the choices of those currently in political office.”

    Darren Bingham, speaking for several organizations at Utah State University, said “Our hearts lie in wilderness. If the PLI goes through, our children (which I don’t expect to have), will be the losers because our wild places will be largely gone. We need to stop giving away public lands to development interests and give them back to the people who were here thousands of years ago.”

    Speaking on behalf of Faith and the Land, Dede Carpenter explained that many people of faith “are aligned” with the Tribes’ call for a Bears Ears monument, as the PLI “would leave us nothing but remnants of the beauty that connects us spiritually to something higher than our individual selves.”

    Citizens'Hearing3_KyleStrayer

    Ann Whittaker. (Kyle Strayer)

    Ann Whittaker, who described herself as “the granddaughter of a World War Two veteran who found salvation and atonement in the public lands” asked “where is the reverence, where is the respect for heritage and posterity in legislation that is written to bring money to a few?”

    Cinimin Kofford, a student from Provo attending Utah Valley University said that “As a student, we have the unique responsibility to protect and preserve our public lands, rather than see them traded away for fossil fuel development. And as an outdoor recreation professional, I want access to public lands for my generation, and for many to come.” Both of these concerns have been “overlooked in the PLI.”

  • IMG_3274_B
    February 24th, 2016

    The “Utah Test and Training Range Encroachment Prevention and Temporary Closure Act” (H.R. 4579), introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), aims to give away federal public lands under the guise of national security.

    A companion to Senator Hatch’s S. 2383, the legislation would withdraw roughly 625,000 acres of BLM lands to expand the Utah Test and Training Range—already the largest military training ground in the United States—purportedly to accommodate a new fleet of F-35 jets. But it goes well beyond that mission by granting 6,000 miles of RS 2477 rights-of-way to Box Elder, Juab, and Tooele counties.

    Write to your members of Congress and tell them to oppose this latest land grab attempt!

    These so-called routes, many of which are simply faded two-tracks, cow paths or streambeds in the desert, run directly across federal public lands and fragment critical habitats, proposed wilderness, wilderness study areas, and even parts of the designated Cedar Mountain Wilderness! Caught up in the state’s land grab fever, these counties have sued the federal government to wrest control of these bogus routes, but are unlikely to win the majority in court. Forfeiting them now in this bill would set a dangerous precedent, not just in Utah, but throughout the West.

    Tell your members of Congress that national defense is perfectly compatible with protecting our national heritage!

    CedarMtns2_RayBloxham

    Many of the so-called routes granted to counties in this bill are simply faded two-tracks, cow paths or streambeds that run directly across federal public lands and fragment critical habitats, proposed wilderness, wilderness study areas, and even parts of the designated Cedar Mountain Wilderness (above). Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    In addition, the legislation disregards bedrock environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act, undermines the protection of proposed wilderness areas such as the Newfoundland Mountains, Deep Creek Mountains and Dugway Mountains, and facilitates a land exchange that would trade away wilderness-quality lands.

    Rep. Stewart’s proposed expansion is merely part of the broader effort by the State of Utah to seize our nation’s public lands. We need you to contact your member of Congress and expose this bill for what it is—a land grab shamelessly hiding under the guise of national security.

    Click here to take action now!

    Thank you.

     

  • Bridger Jack Mesa RS 2477 Claim (Ray Bloxham)
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