July 2010

  • July 30th, 2010

    Here's what is happening this month with the redrock:
    1.  SUWA and our partners work out an historic agreement.
      Let Interior Secretary Salazar know that you want him to protect Utah wilderness!
    3.  Help spread the word on Facebook and win a SUWA hat!
    4.  Congratulations to our photo contest winners!

    5.  Calling all bloggers!
    6.  Get involved in local action this summer.

    Historic Agreement Will Protect Desolation Canyon

    Desolation Canyon
    Desolation Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Today, we announce that
    SUWA and our partners have reached an historic agreement with the Bill
    Barrett Corporation that will ensure that the Desolation Canyon stretch
    of the Green River will be protected from the sight and sound of
    industrial development even during the development and extraction of
    substantial natural gas reserves that Barrett currently has under lease.

    In addition, the
    agreement clears the way for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to
    approve a final record of decision for the "West Tavaputs Full Field
    Natural Gas Development Project" on July 30.  Both the agreement and the
    record of decision are also supported by the state of Utah, the Utah
    School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and Carbon County.

    The agreement resulted in a dramatically reduced surface footprint,
    particularly in the Desolation Canyon and Jack Canyon proposed
    wilderness areas, while permitting BBC to recover the considerable
    natural gas resource in the area.  As originally conceived under the
    Bush administration, the West Tavaputs project included over 225 surface locations in proposed wilderness areas.  Now, fewer than six locations would be developed.

    The Desolation Canyon
    proposed wilderness area in Utah is one of the most remarkable, remote
    landscapes in the lower 48 states.  By working with the Bill Barrett
    Corporation, we have been able to to protect and enhance this crown
    jewel of the public lands while allowing the company to achieve its goal
    of developing the natural gas resource.  This also serves as a powerful
    example of the progress that is resulting from the constructive ongoing
    discussions between advocates for Utah wilderness and county
    commissioners, land managers, and energy companies.

    Read the full press release here.


    Tell Secretary Salazar to Protect Utah Wilderness!

     [object Object]
    When Ken Salazar took over the reins as Secretary of Interior he proclaimed
    that there's a “new sheriff in town.”  Now that Obama administration officials are about to head to Salt Lake City, let's hold Secretary Salazar to his word.

    In 2003, the State of
    Utah and the Department of Interior secretly negotiated a deal in which the
    Interior Department abandoned its duty to identify and protect lands worthy of
    wilderness designation.  Relying on that back-room deal, in the last days of the
    Bush administration the BLM issued land use plans for 11 million acres in
    eastern Utah which included only limited protection for wilderness-quality
    lands.  Secretary Salazar has the authority to rescind the “no more wilderness”
    deal and give wilderness-quality lands the protection they deserve.  He should
    use it
    before we lose these treasured landscapes.

    Please send a message to Secretary Salazar asking him
    to defend Utah’s magnificent natural treasure
    s from off-road vehicle abuse, vandalism to
    archaeological sites, and the drilling of new oil and gas wells until Congress
    can protect these lands
    capes permanently under the Wilderness

    Spread the word on Facebook and win a SUWA hat!


    Bush administration's "No More Wilderness Policy" continues to threaten
    the future of Utah's redrock wilderness.  Help us rally up more support
    for overturning this policy on Facebook, and you can win!  Just ask
    your friends to sign our petition to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey
    If you can make your way into the "top signature gatherers" by August
    3, when these officials will be visiting Utah, you will win a SUWA hat. 


    Congratulations to our "Wild About Utah" Photo Contest Winners!

    By design, our bright yellow "Protect
    Wild Utah" buttons and stickers are easy to spot from far away.  In
    spring of 2010, we asked our members and activists to show us where they
    have displayed their passion for protecting Utah wilderness or where
    they have found a "Protect Wild Utah" button or sticker during their
    travels for a chance to win some fantastic prizes.  We received entries from around Utah, throughout the United States, and from places on five different continents. 

    Thank you to all who entered and to our prize donors, Ultralight Adventure Equipment, Black Diamond Equipment, and Joby!

    All winning photos can be viewed on our website.

    People's Choice/Most Creative Best in Utah Farthest from Utah

    First Place
    photo contest finalist 9
    Dance Hall Rock, Grand Staircase-
    Escalante National Monument. 
    Entry by David Mowry.

    First Place
    photo contest finalist 6
    Meadow, Utah.  Entry by James Ruda.

    Second Place
    Entry by Greta Hyland.

    Third Place
    Entry by Vicki Allen.

    First Place
    photo contest winner 1
    Adelaide, Australia.  Entry by Julio Cesar Facelli.

    Second Place
    Entry by Mike and Jean Binyon.

    Third Place
    Entry by Dave Rubin.

    People's Choice Finalists:  Entries by Bruce
    Taterka, Chris Schiller, Eric Kuhn, Dave Rubin, Heather Carter-Young,
    James Ruda, Sarah Grant, Gary Warren, Greta Hyland.

    Calling all Bloggers!

    Do you write an
    environmental, political, or Utah focused blog? Want to stay informed about
    the latest breaking news in the effort to preserve Utah wilderness? Sign up by filling out this form, and we'll send you occasional blogger-friendly alerts and media links on
    the latest news affecting Utah wilderness.

    Questions? Send an email to website@suwa.org.

    Wild Utah Summer of Local Action 2010 is Underway

    This summer, redrock activists from around the country
    will be speaking to their members of Congress and Obama administration
    officials about protecting Utah wilderness.  To get involved, please fill out this form or email jackie@suwa.org.

    President Obama's "America's Great Outdoors Initiative" listening sessions have given Utah wilderness supporters a unique opportunity to talk
    to administration officials about the threats to redrock country. 
    During these events, attendees are divided into small groups to discuss
    four conservation topics with a representative from the Department of
    Interior, Department of Agriculture, or other federal agency (what
    works, challenges, the federal government's role, and tools for
    success).  Already, activists have spoken on behalf of Utah wilderness
    in Montana, Maryland, Washington, California, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Future listening sessions will be held in Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Poughkeepsie, NY, with more to come.  If you are interested in attending one of these or future listening sessions, let us know and we will send you some talking points.  Thank you to everyone who has attended a listening session so far!

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  • July 30th, 2010

    Historic Agreement will protect Desolation Canyon

    Deso SALT LAKE CITY (July 29, 2010): Today, a coalition of conservation
    organizations announced they have reached an historic agreement with the
    Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver-based oil and gas company.

    West Tavaputs agreement ensures that the Desolation Canyon stretch of
    the Green River will be protected from the sight and sound of industrial
    development even during the development and extraction of substantial
    natural gas reserves that Barrett currently has under lease.
    Read the full press release here.

    Read more:

    Associated Press
    Salt Lake Tribune
    Deseret News
    Grand Junction Sentinel

  • July 29th, 2010

    Earlier this month we were sad to receive the word that Emery County Commissioners will not be negotiating a wilderness bill with the Utah Wilderness Coalition.

    Throughout the past two years SUWA and UWC staff have traveled thousands of miles and attended countless hours of meetings during what we were told was the “information gathering” stage of the Emery County public lands process. This made sense because this phase of their “process” had no resemblance to any accepted definition of the word–no formally stated guiding principles or sideboards, and no neutral third party facilitator (efforts by the county and SUWA to hire a neutral third-party facilitator were squelched by several outspoken Emery County Public Lands members who accused commissioners of arranging back-room deals with us.) We hoped the next phase of the “process” would actually be a process.

    We participated in many fruitful field trips and informative meetings. Recently, however the field trips have ballooned into large groups of people, many of whom seemed less interested in solving specific issues and more concerned about ‘watch-dogging’ the Emery County officials who we’re worked with directly and for whom we have a great deal of respect. The meetings have become quite abusive, not only to us, but also BLM officials.

    When we learned in May that the county had begun crafting their proposal, this signaled that most of the information had been gathered and that the formal phase had begun. We wrote Emery County Commissioners a formal letter clearly stating that while we were temporarily stepping back and allow the county to consider their potential wilderness areas, our goal was unchanged: to reach an agreement with them by bridging the gap between their proposal and ours–America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. This give and take would be based on the valuable knowledge we’ve acquired from county officials and other individuals during the past two years. We asked them for their ideas about what the next steps might look like.

    Recently, two months after we sent our letter, we called hoping for an update on the next steps of ‘negotiation process’. We were told that there wouldn’t be any—that their proposal would become their bill. Instead they expect us to be another member of a large group of stakeholders whose information will be considered. This would be a terrible political mistake for us and waste the significant work we’ve done to build this into a national issue- and result in far less redrock protected.

    We were offering to settle wilderness issue once and for all, and even to drop our current Price Resource Management Plan litigation. Now, if they move forward—if the proposal they’re working on becomes draft legislation we see one of two possible outcomes: Either:

    • we’ll work to amend it in Congress by adding more wilderness and landscape protections, and then beginning the next day, we’ll start working on protecting what remains of ARRWA in Emery County; or, if their bill is bad enough, we’ll kill it.

    Regardless, we’ll keep pushing our RMP litigation, which once set aside by the Obama Administration will be re-done to protect more areas. We’ll begin pushing for The San Rafael Swell National Monument.

    We’ve learned a lot during our discussions in Emery, including the fact that support for and appreciation of wilderness—especially Red Rock Wilderness—continues to grow. We’re prepared for whatever comes next and we look forward to it.

  • July 29th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Seattle, WA
    July 1, 2010

    Post by Allen Stockbridge

    On Thursday, July 1st, I attended the America’s Great Outdoors listening session in Seattle. There were about 500 people attending. After meeting in a large group, with an introduction and orientation to the event, the group broke into many small groups for a structured listening session.  These groups were led by employees of the National Park Service.

    The leader of the group of 35 people that I attended was Jonathan Jarvis, the Director of the National Park Service (nationally).  The other great coincidence of picking this group at random is that Charles and Nancy Bagley, two other Seattle based SUWA members, were in the same small group.  We planned to meet in advance (we planned to recognize each other by the Protect Wild Utah yellow button that we were wearing).

    The hour and a half long listening session was structured around four questions that were asked. After each question, the audience could speak and provide their input.  The National Park Service staff took careful notes, using a laptop and overhead, so that the comments could be added to the national report. The speakers were civil towards one another, and even the ATV guy who was there agreed that ATV riders must be held accountable to the laws protecting wilderness and wilderness study areas.

    Here is what I said in response to the questions: I introduced myself and said that I had just moved to Washington State from Utah and had worked with SUWA starting in 1996.

    • Challenges – Proposed wilderness areas are vulnerable to human encroachment and need to be protected as soon as possible or will be lost as wilderness lands forever.  Some of those opposed to a wilderness designation for sensitive federal lands are intentionally denigrating the land so that it will lose its wilderness characteristics.  This is a challenge to federal lands that needs to be addressed before it is too late.
    • Federal Government Role – Federal enforcement resources are limited due to pressure on the budgets of the BLM, National Park Service, and other agencies will patrol and protect our federal lands.  It is unrealistic to increase the allocation of resources for appropriate enforcement efforts. The penalties for those who are caught by federal enforcement agents on the ground need to have more “bite” to really discourage encroachment on federal wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and other proposed wilderness land.  Sanctions can include much higher fines; and the seizure of equipment used in wilderness areas, including ATVs, trailers, and vehicles that trespass on federal wilderness land.   A public awareness campaign about new “very high fines” are needed to create awareness of the new penalties. Without increasing sanctions, and in the absence of increased patrol and enforcement resources, wilderness areas will continue to be disrespected and irreparably harmed.  Additionally, more power can be given to citizens to record illegal activities and report them to federal authorities.  On the basis of this evidence, federal prosecutors can pursue known violations with vigor.
    • Tools – U.S. Senators and Congress members should be invited and actively encouraged to visit federal lands already designated as wilderness lands or seeking wilderness protection.  For too many members of Congress, wilderness is a vague notion.  Without direct experience and personal appreciation for lasting value of wilderness lands, there will not be the passionate support needed to protect appropriate federal wilderness lands forever.  The visits will benefit other federal land programs, including the maintenance of the National Parks operating budgets, and the public outreach programs to ensure use of parks by those most in danger of Nature Deficit Disorder.

    I encourage you to attend a Listening Session and speak. I think it is equally important to write your comments into the official record at: http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf/

    For me personally, it was a deeply rewarding experience.  I left with the feeling that the federal government is listening.  I can only hope the majority of people speak to preserve wilderness and fund national parks, and federal agencies charged with protecting the land.

  • July 28th, 2010

    America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session, Albuquerque, NM
    July 17, 2010

    Post by Don Boyd

    There were about 400 participants in the Great Outdoors Listening Event I attended in Albuquerque on July 17. A youth involvement forum had been held among youth earlier in the day and a pair of teen representatives from that forum gave a report highlighting a youth march for conservation as one practical thing that youth could do. Following remarks by Senator Bingaman, Secretary Salazar, and an emcee from the Dept. of the Interior and a panel of New Mexico folks – Alvin Warren, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Dept; Kenny Salazar – Assoc. Dir. of the New Mexico Acequina Assoc.;
    Sue Probart, Exec. Dir. of Tree New Mexico; and Carl Colonius, Exec. Dir., Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – we broke into 4 groups to hold discussions.

    The group was facilitated by someone from the Dept. of the Interior and we were asked to respond to 4 questions:

    1. What Works
    2. Challenges – obstacles to achieve goals for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?
    3. Federal Government’s Role – how can the feds be a more effective partner?
    4. Tools – What additional tools and resources would help your efforts be even more successful?

    1. What Works?

    Beyond acknowledging that these events would have never happened in the previous administration and that there is a hope that it reflects a deeper and more abiding appreciation of the importance of conservation of our natural resources, we didn’t talk much about what works.

    2. Challenges?

    Not surprisingly, we spent most of our time here.

    1. No plan for youth involvement.
      This observation drew more comments and agreement than any other identified Challenge. A US Forest Ranger talked about how he involved youth in his region and how he could do more with additional funding. He spoke about how a similar activity when he was a kid set him on his career path. Youth are seen as unconnected and clearly experiencing “nature gap” (nature deficit disorder). Lack of a plan is reflected in: no vocational ag programs in schools; teacher ignorance about how to introduce nature and conservation programs, and parent apathy; and, no creation of entry
      level jobs by the Fed. government. (New Mexico’s high poverty rate and high unemployment, especially among young Hispanics, is both a source of concern and hope if funding could be found to introduce them to wilderness and conservation issues.) One participant gave the rallying cry of, “No child left on their behind, no child left inside!”
    2. Potential loss of wilderness quality lands in Utah – much redrock country is at risk – in New Mexico Otero Mesa grasslands and others – and in Colorado. (Understandably, there was more focus on the risks in New Mexico.) Potential for severe destruction to waterways due to proposed new uranium mining in New Mexico.
    3. Lack of a meaningful vision. This lack of vision has prevented effective planning for the use of public conservation resources and allows some lands to be cherry picked by short sighted local politicians and/or well financed private parties.
    4. There is little overall coordination of preservation efforts. One participant offered the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as an example of what can happen when there is a well coordinated plan across a geographic area.
    5. The increasingly higher cost of accessing public lands. What began as a “pilot” (charging access fees), has gone on to be the norm and the result is that many people cannot afford to visit “public lands” and therefore have little investment in protecting them.
    6. Fiscal year budgets are often in conflict with youth association budgets making application for funding difficult.
    7. Lack of public appreciation for the connection between our dependence on non-renewable resources and the pressure on natural land resources.
    8. No coordination of resources from all entities at the state level.

    3. & 4. Fed. Government Role?

    1. Vision with teeth in it that supports sustainable access to wilderness quality lands.
    2. Clear earmarking of resources to engage and involve youth (ala CCC)
    3. Creation of a Fed. Partnership Coordinator role at each state to coordinate resource distribution to local entities. A high point of the event was being able to hear what is being done by local people who are leveraging local resources, including volunteers, to involve youth and protect local habitat.
    4. Do away with the “No New Wilderness” policy.
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