2013 Year End Dragons and Daisies

As 2013 draws to a close, the Redrock wilderness faces both great threats and opportunities. Yet despite a busted Congress and a disappointing Obama administration, the future of the canyons looks brighter now than it did on Jan 1st — thanks to supporters like you.

The threats:

Utah’s War on Wilderness: You’ll recall that the State of Utah is demanding the U.S. surrender over 30 million acres of public land to the state. This ideological fantasy would be an ecological and economic disaster for Utah. We’ve fought back through organizing and media, and the land grab movement is losing speed.

On the other hand, the State of Utah is busy pouring money down the litigation rat hole through twenty-plus lawsuits against the U.S. seeking control of more than 36,000 miles of “roads” crossing public lands. If Utah succeeds, the BLM and National Park Service will be virtually powerless to stop all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes from ripping through proposed wilderness.

Since the litigation was filed, we’ve fought back by building a team of nearly 25 lawyers and succeeded in intervening in the cases. And hairline cracks are showing in the State’s cases. Witnesses are trying to testify as to the condition of routes over a half century ago– an understandably difficult task.

Still, this litigation remains the greatest threat we’ve faced in at least 15 years.

The opportunities:

First, on November 4th, in the biggest legal victory in our 30-year history, a Utah federal district court struck down the BLM’s land use plan controlling over 2 million acres surrounding the Dirty Devil, Factory Butte, and the Henry Mountains.

This decision involves one of the six Bush-era land use plans which together control nearly 5.4 million acres of proposed Redrock wilderness. With this decision, we expect to win the rest of the cases.

Second, we also face a historic opportunity to protect large landscapes on the Colorado Plateau through ongoing discussions, led by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, intended to result in federal legislation controlling the fate of over 5 million acres of proposed Redrock wilderness– places like Desolation Canyon, the San Rafael Swell, Labyrinth Canyon, the Dirty Devil, and Cedar Mesa.

Our victory on the BLM plan above may play an important role in these discussions. The decision wrecks the status quo, overturning the Bush plans tthat county commissioners liked. Now they face uncertainty — and this should motivate them to deal. We’ve told the Utah delegation that if we can agree on wilderness and RS 2477, then we’d be willing to resolve our litigation against the remaining plans.

We’ve got a long ways to go, but these discussions could be the payoff for our 30 years of advocacy for the Redrock.

Third and finally, President Obama could reverse his administration’s disappointing record on the Redrock wilderness by designating Greater Canyonlands as a national monument. The area is now managed under a hodgepodge of plans, putting at risk extraordinary cultural and wilderness resources in places like Labyrinth Canyon, The Dirty Devil, Hatch Point and White Canyon. With our friends at the Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Trust, we’ve made monument protection a viable proposal in a very short time.

Everything that’s been accomplished for the Redrock wilderness in 2013 is due to supporters and activists like you. From all of us here at SUWA, thanks!