SUWA Action Alerts Archives

  • RecaptureRuin_LizThomas
  • USEME_PLIvsBEmemeWhiteCanyonStructure
    September 22nd, 2016

    Today, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee “marked up” Rep. Rob Bishop’s terrible Public Lands Initiative (PLI)—the bill that seeks to roll back federal land protections, unleash a fossil fuel bonanza, and give away lands belonging to all Americans to the State of Utah.  As if that isn’t reckless enough, the bill fails to protect even half of the region’s deserving wilderness and it utterly fails to respect the efforts of five united Native American tribes to secure meaningful protection for the Bears Ears region—a landscape rich in cultural and natural wonders.

    A “mark up” is a congressional procedure in which members are supposed to take the information they learn from witnesses at a hearing and apply that information by attempting to improve the bill through amendments. Several wilderness champions in the House did just that, offering amendments that would spruce up the PLI and at least bring it into accordance with the Wilderness Act, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and several other federal laws that are undermined by Bishop’s bill. Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) all offered up commonsense amendments to repair just some of the bill’s significant environmental flaws, and argued admirably against the bill’s harmful provisions. It was apparent that they listened to the testimonies and worked to fix the bill accordingly.

    If any of them are your Representatives, please call their offices and thank them for fighting the PLI today! The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121. You can also watch the debate here.

    Rep. Bishop, for his part, ignored last week’s testimony by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management opposing the bill, ignored the testimony of Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a member of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (also opposing the bill), and continued to ignore the voices of other tribes, conservationists, and the more that 300 million Americans that own the public lands in question.

    In fact, the only amendment Rep. Bishop offered to his bill was one for technical changes—fixing typos, grammatical errors and the like. It was the only amendment of the day that passed, and in Rep. Bishop’s hopelessly stacked committee, the bill eventually passed too, on a party line vote.

    But don’t worry. From here on out, the Public Lands Initiative has no chance.

    As pointed out by Reps. Grijalva, Tsongas, and Lowenthal, the bill simply will not advance in the Senate. It contains too many poison pills, too many egregious violations of bedrock environmental law, too little wilderness, and too little compromise for that body to approve. But let’s say, just for argument, that it did pass the Senate. What president is going to sign into law a bill that was opposed by multiple agencies within his or her own administration? Do you think President Obama, who has protected more public lands in his time in the Oval Office than any of his predecessors, would sign into law the PLI, which imperils millions of acres of deserving wilderness?

    The simple answer is no. He wouldn’t do that. So the PLI is doomed, dead, failed. And it’s too bad, because we spent precious years working on it in earnest before it became obvious the bill would go nowhere good.

    Now the focus must turn to what still is achievable: protecting the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument that has been requested by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. Throughout the PLI discussions, it has often been said by the Utah delegation that everyone agrees the Bears Ears region deserves protection. And we certainly do. Now that it’s clear the PLI cannot do the job, President Obama should step in. Click here to send a message asking him to Protect Bears Ears now!

  • PLI_HatchCanyon_NotProtected_2
    September 15th, 2016

    Rep. Rob Bishop just held a hearing on his Public Lands Initiative (PLI), bringing his disastrous vision for the management of Utah’s spectacular public lands to the chambers of Congress.

    Testifying against the bill were representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, an alliance of five Tribes that have come together to propose national monument designation for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears region of southeasern Utah.

    Let your representative know it’s time to defeat the PLI!

    That its sponsors repeatedly tout the “conservation” in this bill is Orwellian. In reality, the PLI is the worst “wilderness” bill we’ve seen in Congress since the visionary Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed into law. Among its indecencies:

    • It rolls back existing protections on more than 100,000 acres of Utah’s deserving BLM wilderness.
    • Its “National Conservation Areas” are riddled with loopholes that are in direct opposition to conservation—allowing things like mining, deforestation projects and rampant road development.
    • It hands over to the State of Utah massive tracts of land that belong to the American people.
    • It gives unelected local groups unprecedented authority over the management of federal lands.
    • Its proposal for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears region is woefully inadequate.

    Contact your member of Congress today and tell them the PLI cannot pass!

    Fortunately, the bill was met with vigorous opposition by Reps. Niki Tsongas (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Alan Lowenthal (CA), and Jared Polis (CO). If they are your representatives, please call their offices and thank them. The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

    We have worked for 30 years to cultivate congressional champions who can save Utah’s wilderness from proposals like the PLI—champions who understand that these majestic redrock plateaus and canyons deserve real protection for generations to come. But we’ve only been successful because you respond to our alerts, call your members of Congress, and enlist their help.

    Please do that again today. The legislative markup, the next step in the advancement of a bill through Congress, may still be coming this month.

    Please tell your representative that Utah’s wilderness deserves better than the PLI!

    Thank you!

  • WinterRidgeWSA_Released_in_PLI_RB_1
  • Desolation Canyon (Ray Bloxham)
    July 22nd, 2016

    Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), unveiled on July 14th after much delay, is the kind of pro-extraction, anti-federal legislation that could only come from a congressman with a lifetime score of 3% from the League of Conservation Voters.

    Among myriad provisions that exacerbate climate change, promote the State of Utah’s land grab, and trivialize the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s Bears Ears proposal, one deficiency stands out above all else: the bill completely fails to adequately protect the nearly 4.4 million acres of remarkable wilderness-quality lands throughout southern and eastern Utah that are affected by this legislation. In doing so, the PLI removes existing wilderness management on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and fails to protect 62% of inventoried lands that qualify for and deserve wilderness protection.

    Desolation Canyon (Ray Bloxham)

    The PLI would remove existing protections from the Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The PLI rolls back existing protections for over 100,000 acres of wilderness study areas (WSAs) and at least 70,000 acres of BLM-managed natural areas (i.e., areas managed by the BLM for the protection of wilderness values).  Areas left with lesser or no protection, among many others, include the entirety of the Winter Ridge, Jack Canyon, and Squaw and Papoose WSAs, and significant portions of the Desolation Canyon, Dark Canyon, Grand Gulch, and Cheesebox Canyon WSAs. Managed natural areas around the San Rafael Reef—like Muddy Creek and Wild Horse Mesa—are also adversely impacted. In addition, the PLI completely fails to protect iconic Utah landscapes such as White Canyon (including most of its tributaries), Hatch Point, Price River, and the Mussentuchit Badlands as wilderness.

    White Canyon (Scott Braden)

    White Canyon and most of its side tributaries in the Bears Ears region would remain unprotected in the PLI, leaving the area vulnerable to mineral extraction. Copyright Scott Braden/SUWA.

    Setting aside the endless list of terrible PLI provisions, the bill is fundamentally unacceptable as it fails to protect the full spectrum of wilderness-quality lands in southern and eastern Utah. Simply put, if Rep. Bishop fixed every other provision of the bill tomorrow, it would still be a step backwards for Utah’s redrock wilderness.

    SUWA will work tirelessly to ensure that the PLI meets the same doomed fate of previous public lands bills that paid little more than lip service to Utah’s remarkable public lands — but to accomplish this, we need your help. Please contact your congressional representative and tell them that the PLI is a pro-extraction, pro-development bill disguised as conservation legislation. Tell them that Utah’s wildlands deserve better.

    >>Click here to send your message now.

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