April 2010

  • April 28th, 2010

    On April 26, U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar instructed Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and his “Balanced Resource Council” to “Be not afraid,” no new monuments would be designated without their involvement. We would almost certainly not have Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks — which first gained administrative protection — as well as the recently established Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, if past administrations had granted such extreme deference to local interests.

    Some of the American West’s most treasured landscapes were protected by Republican and Democratic administrations using authority under the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments, which later were often made national parks. By pandering to Utah politicians, Salazar puts this administration at odds with the great conservation legacy that dates back to Teddy Roosevelt.

    Salazar mtg
    Utah wilderness activists waiting for Sec. Salazar

    Secretary Salazar’s meeting at Utah’s state capitol was billed as the first stop of President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative” listening tour, supposedly a time when citizens have the opportunity to weigh in on conservation issues.  Instead, Salazar directed his comments to Governor Herbert’s “Balanced Resource Council,” which lacks a single representative from a local, regional or national environmental group.  In fact, the constituency includes some of Utah’s most radical anti-federal politicians.  Herbert himself recently signed legislation allowing Utah to condemn federal land for the state’s use (his unconstitutional action will fail in court).   Our thanks go to the many Utah citizens who filled the meeting room wearing “Protect Wild Utah” buttons; Salazar may not have listened to you, but he had to see you!

    Salazar’s actions are unprecedented and could be extraordinarily harmful to Utah’s redrock country. Please write to Nancy Sutley, Chair of President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to ask the Obama administration to re-assert its full authority under the Antiquities Act.

  • April 27th, 2010

    Note: Earlier this
    spring, Utah Senator Bob Bennett announced he would conduct a process directed at
    creating legislation that would determine management for public lands in the
    southeast corner of Utah- – including the Utah Wilderness
    Coalition’s proposed San Juan-Canyonlands wilderness. 

    After submitting our
    prioritized list of lands in San

    that should be designated Wilderness, we received an invitation to a series of
    eight meetings to discuss values and conflicts in six different regions of the county. 
    The following was written based on the first two meetings, held April 21st
    and 22nd in Monticello, Utah.

    In the weeks since receiving notice of Senator Bennett’s
    intent to begin a San Juan County Public Lands Discussion we’ve been eager for the chance to protect some of
    the biggest and wildest lands on the Colorado Plateau.  We’ve also hoped this would be a legitimate
    and constructive process- unlike the mess we suffered through in Washington County. 
    There, we had to kill a bill in 2006 before we were able to amend
    another bill introduced 2008.  Five
    years after the terrible Washington county process was initiated, the result –
    thanks to the work of redrock activists and congressional champions – was
    legislation that was a true step forward for wilderness, but left the issue
    unresolved in that region.

    Now, after the first two days of dialogue in Monticello, what have we

    First, we’ve learned how great our partners are.  Representatives
    from Great Old Broads, the Sierra Club, the Utah Environmental Congress, and
    the Grand Canyon Trust have stepped up and delivered passionate and exciting
    information while expressing vigorous and unanimous support for America’s
    Red Rock Wilderness Act.  The photographs
    we saw and the stories we heard have been reminders of just how spectacular,
    unique, and important the 1.3 million acres (twice the size of Yellowstone) of San Juan County wilderness is.

    Senator Bennett’s Aides had a very difficult job to do: conducting
    a multiple stakeholder dialogue about Wilderness with a minimal amount of

    We learned that the questions asked by normally
    quick-tempered and cantankerous stakeholders can be based on a quest for
    understanding and not always rhetorical or barbed.  We’ve learned that some
    people believe ORVs have actually helped protect Arch Canyon,
    that if “you reach a point where you just can’t go any further, you just keep
    going”.  We learned listening to Mark
    “we need a new ethic” Ward from the Utah Association of Counties that channeling
    Aldo Leopold is impossible; Brooke and Wayne are cousins (via Brigham Young),
    that Bluff is part of San Juan County, Monticello pizza is great, Liz Thomas is
    tough as nails, and when it comes to archeology, Bill Lipe is the benevolent
    king.  We learned that solitude is actually the product they’re selling at the
    Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.  We learned that when a volcano erupts in Iceland, 500 motel rooms go vacant in San Juan County.

    We’ve learned to be very nervous about where this is all
    going.  Is this a better process than what we suffered
    in Washington County?  Or are we merely going through
    the motions and is the relaxed tenor of these meetings because the stakes are
    so low, the main decisions having already been made?  Case in point:

    It appears that no records are being kept.  There
    are no wall charts being created, no minutes are being taken, and we’ve been
    told nothing from these meetings will be distributed to the participants.  Our
    personal notes and observations will be the only way to connect the final
    product with the process.  

    We can’t sit in a circle, but in rows talking to
    the back of the other participant’s heads and to Bennett’s people, who seem
    distracted at times—multitasking on their Blackberries. (What are they missing?
    Will they really read all the supplemental material we’ve provided?)

    If these meetings are the beginning of this
    inquiry, what did the County
    mean when he
    said that they’ve been working on this for months? Is one map and a list of
    general concepts (the county’s two presentations) all they’ve accomplished to

    Senator Bennett’s staff will listen to our suggestions and we’ll avoid problems
    similar to those we’ve seen in the past.  We’re game to do whatever it takes to
    make this process work.  Stay tuned, the
    next meetings are May 5th and 6th.

    Brooke Williams
    SUWA Field Advocate

  • April 21st, 2010

    Not the powder days they want: Dust spells trouble for Colorado skiers

    “As a skier, Auden Schendler sums it up with pragmatic simplicity.

    “You can’t wax for dirt,” he says.

    As the Aspen/Snowmass director of community and environmental
    responsibility, Schendler’s concerns for the disconcerting dust and
    dirt layers that have blanketed the slopes of his local ski areas along
    with mountains throughout the state this spring are considerably more
    comprehensive. And like so many observers of the reddish-brown dust
    layers that seem to be playing a more prominent — if not permanent —
    role in Colorado’s precious spring snowpack, he has more questions than
    answers.” Read more–Denver Post 

  • April 19th, 2010

    April 2010

    Here's what is happening this month with the redrock: 
    1. No more slick oil and gas permits from BLM due to a SUWA settlement.
    2. Share your photos and stories from visits to White Canyon in southeastern Utah.
    3. Remember to submit your entries for SUWA's photo contest!
    4. SW Coloradans: attend "dust on snow" organizing meetings in Durango in May!

    SUWA and Partners Achieve BLM Oil and Gas Reforms through Settlement

    Nine Mile Canyon
    An archaeological site in Nine Mile Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Thanks to a successful
    partnership of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness
    and the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, it was announced on March 31 that oil
    companies will no longer be able to skip needed environmental
    assessments in
    sensitive areas, cinching up a Bush-era loophole that allowed the messy
    of drilling permits.  The settlement with the Bureau of Land
    Management (BLM)
    means “categorical exclusions,” which allowed new drilling to be
    approved without
    first conducting a thorough environmental analysis, will no longer be
    in cases
    where there are cultural resources, wetlands, wilderness and
    highly sensitive factors.

    This is something to
    celebrate, and SUWA, along with our partners in the settlement, is pleased the
    oil and
    gas reforms promised by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
    to make progress.  No objection has been made by the Bill Barrett
    Corporation, which
    held the 30 wells in Nine
    Mile Canyon
    that triggered the suit.

    For the full press release, click here.

    Threatened Places: White Canyon and its Side Canyons

    White Canyon
    White Canyon proposed wilderness.
    copyright James W. Kay

    North of Natural Bridges National Monument, White Canyon and its
    side canyons carve cool, dark, labyrinthine
    slots so narrow that a human wingspan is enough to bridge their sides.  These canyons' upper walls are adorned with the honeycomb, grottoes and alcoves of
    erosive art, and remnants of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings
    remain mostly untouched, the difficulty of the terrain thus far
    safeguarding them from vandals and thieves.  Without wilderness
    designation, however, these prehistoric structures and artifacts may
    soon be accessed by looters with bigger and more powerful ORVs before
    they can be fully studied.

    How you can help:

    Have you been to White Canyon, Cheesebox Canyon or another side canyon in this complex, or to any other places in the Glen Canyon wilderness? 
    would love to hear your story, see your pictures, and share them with
    those who can help us protect these treasures for good. 

    us to
      Just send your stories and photos to deeda@suwa.org.  (Story and photo submissions will constitute permission
    SUWA to post them on our website and online networks and use them in our
    materials, unless the individual requests otherwise.)


    Time is Running Out for the "Wild About Utah" Photo Contest!

    is your chance to win great prizes for displaying your passion for
    protecting Utah wilderness in your hometown or in places you've
    traveled.  Just take a photo of yourself wearing a "Protect Wild Utah"
    button or sticker, or take a photo of a button or sticker on your
    backpack, on your car bumper, etc.  Don't have a button or sticker?  We
    will continue to accept requests via our online form  through the end of next week.  If we have already sent you a button or sticker, remember to send your photo contest entries to photocontest@suwa.org before May 1!

    To view all entries, be sure to check out SUWA's Flickr page.

    Calling All Southwest Coloradans!

    SUWA's Western Regional Organizer, Terri Martin, will be speaking about "Redrock Wilderness or Red Dust Melting Colorado Snow?" in Durango, Colorado this May.  For more information or to schedule a presentation in Colorado, email Terri at terri@suwa.org

    Read more about SUWA's "Dust on Snow" work in The Aspen Times.


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  • April 13th, 2010

    Torn up soil in Utah’s redrock also slashes Colorado’s ski season

    “The red dust blanketing area mountains and virtually every surface in
    Aspen is a result of oil and gas development and off-road vehicle
    activity in southeastern Utah, according to David Garbett, staff
    attorney with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    He informed the Aspen City Council on Monday of the effects the dust has on the community.

    snow stained by dust melts faster because it absorbs more solar energy,
    which affects the snowpack in Aspen and surrounding areas.

    said that in 2005 and 2006, dusty snow melted 18 to 35 days earlier in
    Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Last year, dust-covered snow melted 48
    days earlier in the same area…” Read more–The Aspen Times 

    How great thou art: Faithful congregating outdoors to connect with a higher power

    “The eminent naturalist John Muir, a key figure in the
    establishment of the national parks system, was a tireless advocate
    of the spiritually transformative power of wild places. In his book
    “Travels in Alaska,” Muir writes, “Every particle of rock or water
    or air has God by its side leading it the way it should go; the
    clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

    It’s that kind of thinking about man and nature that sparked the
    creation of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s Faith and the
    Land project, an ongoing effort begun last year to get people of
    faith in Utah talking about the spiritual importance of
    wilderness.” Read more–The Provo Daily Herald

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