SUWA Action Alerts Archives


  • View of Castleton Tower and the La Sal Mountains from Dome Plateau. Copyright Tom Till.
    August 19th, 2015

    Last Friday, Utah BLM released the long awaited draft Moab master leasing plan (or Moab MLP) for a 90-day public review and comment period.

    View of Castleton Tower and the La Sal Mountains from Dome Plateau. Copyright Tom Till.

    View of Castleton Tower and the La Sal Mountains from Dome Plateau. Copyright Tom Till.

    BLM kicked off the master leasing plan process in May 2010 in direct response to litigation that SUWA and our partners brought in the last days of George W. Bush administration to stop oil and gas leasing on the door step of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and other remarkable wilderness landscapes. After we successfully blocked the sale of the infamous “77 leases” and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew them from sale, there was consensus that the Obama administration needed to do better.

    The plan released last week will give BLM the tools to protect roughly 750,000 acres of remarkable public lands around Moab that are illustrative of what Americans think about when they imagine Utah’s redrock country. Places like Porcupine Rim, Fisher Towers, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon will be protected from the sight and sound of pump jacks and other oil field equipment. As things stand today, these places and many others in the region are vulnerable to the devastating impacts of oil and gas leasing and development, as well as potash mining.

    At the same time, the master leasing plan will provide for better management of oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources. The MLP will also give industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development could take place, and companies will understand the terms and conditions for those activities

    Master leasing plans are one example of the Obama administration’s early promise to better balance protection of wild places, local economies, and energy development. The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality acknowledged as much as it blogged last week about the genesis of the Moab MLP and its potential to bring long needed balance to some of the west’s most significant landscapes.

    Predictably, the Moab MLP is far from perfect and leaves critical landscapes unprotected. For example, under the current “preferred alternative” the Labyrinth Canyon stretch of the Green River and its stunning side canyons remain open to leasing and development. With your help, we will work to ensure that this classic Utah landscape is protected.

    BLM has scheduled three open houses in late September and early October in Moab, Monticello and Salt Lake City and will also be accepting comments via email and letter. Look for updates from us in the coming weeks with suggestions about how to get involved.

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  • Coal Hollow Mine (RayBloxham)
    July 9th, 2015

    Some bad ideas just don’t go away. In 2011, with your help, we sent a clear message to the BLM to “just say no” to a proposed coal lease on the western doorstep of Bryce Canyon National Park. So did the National Park Service. So did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You would think the BLM would get the message.

    Yet here we are, in the summer of 2015, and the BLM has just released a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) analyzing the potential coal lease at the behest of Alton Coal Development—a small, privately held, out-of-state company. The lease would expand the current Coal Hollow mine from private land onto adjacent public land.

    The impact of the mine expansion on the local environment would be significant. It would pollute the air, flood Bryce Canyon’s world-famous dark night skies with light, degrade the habitat and health of wildlife such as the imperiled sage grouse, lower water quality, and mar one of the most majestic landscapes in the world.

    Coal Hollow Mine (RayBloxham)

    Coal Hollow Mine at the doorstep of Bryce Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The expanded Coal Hollow strip mine would also allow up to 300 coal trucks to barrel through the historic town of Panguitch each day, threatening shops, restaurants, motels and small businesses that depend on tourists, and putting residents at risk for respiratory health problems related to toxic coal dust.

    We need your help again to tell the BLM, in no uncertain terms, “just say no!”

    The BLM is holding five open houses in the coming weeks: July 14 (Cedar City), July 15 (Panguitch), July 16 (Salt Lake City), July 21 (Kanab) and July 22 (Alton). Please consider attending one of these meetings to learn more about this terrible proposal. Click here for specific locations and times.

    We’ll post another alert  soon on how you can take further action and submit detailed comments via our website (to submit comments now, visit the BLM comment page).

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  • MussentuchitBadlands_small
    July 7th, 2015

    Here we go again. The BLM’s Price field office is once again poised to put a large portion of the San Rafael Swell on the auction block for oil and gas leasing. Targeted landscapes include the Limestone Cliffs, Molen Reef, Mussentuchit (pronounced “musn’t-touch-it”) Badlands, Rock Canyon, and Upper Muddy Creek areas – all proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (view map). These lands, which hug the west side of the Swell, feature a kaleidoscope of colorful sandstone layers and exhibit nearly every type of geological strata found in the redrock country. They also provide for critical soil and watershed functions, exceptional recreational opportunities, and important scientific and educational study.

    Please tell the BLM not to lease these treasured public lands for oil and gas development!

    MussentuchitBadlands_small

    Mussentuchit Badlands, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The places at risk are also rich in sensitive and irreplaceable cultural, archaeological, and paleontological resources, including extensive lithic scatters, pictographs, petroglyphs, and historic structures. Despite all this, however, the BLM is opening the door for industry to step in and permanently scar these landscapes, destroying their remarkable wilderness and cultural values.

    SUWA successfully fought off proposed oil and gas leasing in these same areas during the Bush administration and will do so again with your help.

    Please tell the BLM enough is enough! No more oil and gas leasing in the Swell!

     

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  • Hatch Point (Clint McKnight)
    June 25th, 2015

    Bad news. The counties’ proposals for Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative are in and they spell disaster for the future of Utah’s wild lands.

    Please act now and tell Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz that the county plans are wholly inadequate. In order to be successful, any public lands legislation they draft must go far beyond what the counties have proposed.

    More than two years ago, Rep. Bishop announced his desire to resolve longstanding disputes over public lands. He said that things would be different this time. In many ways they have been; we have seen some amazing goodwill and effort by the delegation. SUWA and its conservation partners jumped in with both feet and have spent hundreds of hours in the field and poring over maps.

    However, not everyone got the message. Many of the counties involved in Rep. Bishop’s initiative have stymied real progress by taking a “business as usual” approach. They propose fragmented wilderness designation while rolling back existing wilderness study areas. Even their “conservation area” designations are often rendered meaningless because they are opened to oil and gas development and riddled with roads. Tellingly, some counties are proposing even less land protection now than they did two decades ago.

    Some of the most spectacular wilderness landscapes in Utah are essentially forsaken (click here to view map). These forgotten areas include: Bitter Creek in the upper Book Cliffs; Desolation Canyon; Labyrinth Canyon; Lockhart Basin/Hatch Point east of Canyonlands National Park; White Canyon; Tables of the Sun (Nokai Dome/Red Rock Plateau); the Price River; and lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument.

    Hatch Point (Clint McKnight)

    Hatch Point, copyright Clint McKnight.

    While county commissions, like all stakeholders, should have the opportunity to provide input in this process, they should not be the defining voice in determining the future of Utah’s public lands.

    Click here to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz that all Americans should have a voice in this process.

    If the county proposals are advanced by the Utah delegation, it will mean a jigsaw puzzle of wilderness in Utah with more than half of the pieces missing. Vast reaches of undisturbed beauty that now define the redrock canyon country could be devastated by vehicle trails, energy development, and destructive “vegetation treatments.”

    Utah’s wild lands deserve better.

    Labyrinth Canyon (James Kay)

    Labyrinth Canyon, copyright James Kay.

    To succeed, the Public Lands Initiative needs to provide meaningful protection for the now-forsaken areas and incorporate the concerns of citizens across Utah and America.

    Please help save Wild Utah. Act now to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz to do justice to Utah’s spectacular wild lands.

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  • CedarMesaRuin(crop)_RichardBullough
    May 28th, 2015

    The BLM’s Monticello Field Office is proposing to allow the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation to guide hiking and handcart treks (reminiscent of early Mormon pioneer journeys) on three routes/trails in the Cedar Mesa area. The BLM’s current alternatives would allow for a maximum of 250 participants per day, pulling handcarts and supported by motor vehicles. Approximately 90% of this activity would occur over a 13-week “high use” period from June 1st to August 31st. Based on recent BLM data, approving any of the proposed alternatives will result in an increase of 90% to 576% above current commercial and organized group use levels.

    Please tell the BLM to protect Cedar Mesa by not approving “guided hiking and handcart treks” for groups of 250 people per day.

    CedarMesaRuin(crop)_RichardBullough

    Cedar Mesa Ruin. Copyright Richard Bullough.

    Although the BLM has considered a number of alternative proposals, all of them would allow total groups sizes of 250 people. For comparison, the Monticello Resource Management Plan currently only allows for a maximum of 12 people per group in all canyons within the Cedar Mesa Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA).

    As for handcart use, the Hole-in-the-Rock Foundation itself states that “handcarts were not part of the Hole-in-the-Rock journey.” Therefore, putting the issue of permitted group size aside, the purpose of providing a historical experience can be met without the use of handcarts and the associated additional impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Cedar Mesa is known for its world-class cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands. The abundance and density of archaeological sites – from intact cliff dwellings to pristine rock art – combined with unparalleled solitude offer visitors a truly unique backcountry experience. This proposal has the potential to vastly change the current character of the Cedar Mesa area by adversely impacting both cultural resources and visitor expectations and experiences.

    Please send your comments to the BLM by May 29, 2015 and tell the agency it must:

    • Consider alternatives that drastically reduce the currently proposed group size of 250 users per day.
    • Consider an alternative that does not allow the use of handcarts by event participants.
    • Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to fully analyze the unprecedented increase in permitted use and the unknown adverse impacts to natural and cultural resources.

    Click here to send your comments now!

    With your help, we can ensure that the BLM takes seriously its obligation to protect cultural resources and the wilderness experience that currently exists on Cedar Mesa. Thank you for your support in protecting this invaluable archaeological and wilderness treasure.

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