Jen Ujifusa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • June 21st, 2018

    This morning, HR 5727, the Emery County Public Lands Management Act—or the Not So Swell bill—was heard before the Federal Lands Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The hearing, like the bill, was not good.

    Though the Utah Wilderness Coalition (which is comprised of SUWA, NRDC, and The Sierra Club), The Wilderness Society, and the National Parks Conservation Association all submitted testimony highlighting serious concerns with the bill, there was no opportunity provided for a witness to testify against this terrible proposed legislation.

    At the hearing, Rep. John Curtis of Utah continued to falsely laud the bill as win for all stakeholders. If by “all stakeholders” Curtis meant Emery County Commissioners, then he would be right. There is a long way to go before this bill could be considered a win for anyone who cherishes the deserving wilderness landscapes of the Swell and the priceless cultural resources it contains, and some very serious issues still must be fixed.

    For example, more than 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness is being left unprotected within Emery County, and other lands worthy of protection are being left out simply because they are not within arbitrary county lines. The current legislation would riddle proposed conservation areas with destructive motor vehicle routes, and contains insufficient protections for unique Utah landscapes like Labyrinth Canyon, Muddy Creek and the San Rafael Badlands. 

    Representative Alan Lowenthal, lead sponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the House, highlighted these deficiencies at today’s hearing. Rep. Lowenthal hit hard on the unprecedented proposal to “cherry stem” routes in a proposed National Conservation Area—saying that this significant loophole renders it a National Conservation Area “in name only” and undermines a legal settlement that found the current travel plan was crafted illegally and requires that it be redone.

    San Rafael Swell in Emery County, Utah. Photo (c) Bill Church

    Rep. Curtis repeatedly said no group is going to get everything they want. But that’s a standard not applied to Emery County, which seems to harbor the expectation that its woefully inadequate proposal for lands that belong to all Americans will be rubber stamped by Congress. The legislation hasn’t changed at all since introduction, and Emery County hasn’t given anything up in an attempt to make this bill a true winner. Rep. Curtis himself said that Utahns are tired of “winner take all” proposals, but that’s precisely what this bill is.

    In exchange for protecting less BLM wilderness than is already a designated Wilderness Study Area or Natural Area, and actually releasing nearly 15,000 acres of wilderness study areas to facilitate a coal mine, the county gets a whole grab bag of goodies. Among the things it would get from this bill:

    • Enshrinement of a travel plan that has already been deemed illegal. In fact, the county is trying to open more roads than are currently open across public lands.
    • 12.5% of any revenue generated from a land exchange that would be triggered by the bill.
    • Over 2,700 acres of federal public land for infrastructure such as a sheriff’s substation, airport, and information center.
    • Increased tourism that will result from the creation of new designations, including an expansion of Goblin Valley State Park and the establishment of Jurassic National Monument.

    All that for a bill that actually rolls back protections! 

    Rep. Curtis is right on one thing: Utahns—and Americans—are tired of winner-take-all proposals. He stated that he is looking forward to continuing to look with all stakeholders, including groups like SUWA, in order to move the bill, and we hope he’s serious.

    Our job is to fight for meaningful protections for Utah’s wildlands, and we will continue to press Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch to fix the glaring flaws that make this bill a conservation loss. But if we can’t persuade them, we’ll fight back. 

    Either way, we’ll continue to need your help. 

    If you haven’t already done so, please contact your members of Congress and ask them to oppose the Emery County bill! 

    Thank you for taking action to protect the San Rafael Swell and Labyrinth Canyon.

  • December 5th, 2017

    On December 4th, President Donald Trump swooped into Utah and committed the most destructive act against public lands in the history of the presidency by repealing both the decades-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the not-yet-a-year-old Bears Ears National Monument.

    Grand Staircase was shrunk by 47 percent, with about 1 million acres remaining. And in a slap in the face to the five tribes who advocated for it, Bears Ears was decimated, its 1.35 million acres reduced by 83 percent to just 229,000 acres.

    7,000 Utahns rallied in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments at the State Capitol just two days before President Trump repealed them. Copyright Diane Kelly/SUWA

    Of course, we’ve seen this coming almost since the election last November. When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke began his so-called “review” of 27 national monuments, it was clear from the get-go that the number one targets were our monuments in Utah.

    And it was sadly unsurprising when Zinke’s initial findings were leaked to reveal that he had ignored the overwhelming consensus of more than 2.8 million public comments that made it clear that the American people wanted their monuments left alone, instead recommending the types of major cuts that we have now seen.

    Rest assured that we have not been caught off guard. For months we’ve been preparing for this moment, and we are taking this fight to the courts. There is no precedent for a president undoing a national monument, and we believe Trump has acted illegally. We are joining hands with our allies across the environmental community and the Tribes that have been so wronged in this act, and we will never stop fighting for these lands.

    In the meantime, here’s how you can take action:

    Take heart and stand with us. We are on the right side of history and we will win eventually.

  • November 9th, 2017

    On November 8th, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed one of the most egregious dirty energy bills Trump’s Congress has attempted yet. H.R. 4239, the so-called “SECURE Act,” prioritizes fracking above all other energy sources, decimates rules that regulate drilling, guts public involvement and input on development through the National Environmental Policy Act, and worst of all, gives the states permitting and oversight authority over energy development on federal lands!

    Please contact your representative and tell them to oppose H.R. 4239 when it comes to the floor!

    We won’t bother to tell you the Orwellian phrase they came up with to get to the name “SECURE Act.” You should think of it as the “So the Earth is Completely Undermined, Ravaged, and Eviscerated Act.”

    Can you imagine a world in which state politicians are calling the shots on which federal lands should be drilled? In Utah, precious little public land would be left unexploited. The passage of this bill would effectively be the first step in the state of Utah’s wild-eyed plan to take over federal lands.

    Troublingly, we’re hearing that the SECURE ACT could get a vote on the floor as soon as next week. That’s why it’s imperative that you contact your member of Congress and ask them to oppose it today!

    In addition to all the horrors listed above, the bill weakens protections for marine mammals, expands offshore drilling in America’s oceans, undoes protections in the Arctic, and eliminates the ability for a president to withdraw areas from drilling off the coasts. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of destruction.

    Tell your representative to vote NO on this blatant attempt to hand over America’s natural wonders to fossil fuel developers!

    Thank you!

  • May 12th, 2017

    President Trump has declared war on Utah’s national monuments. Now is the time to act.

    President Trump’s April 26th Executive Order requires a “review” of national monuments dating back to 1996. This bureaucratic speak hides the administration’s real intention: dismantling the protections put in place for our nation’s most treasured public lands. Included in the review are dozens of monuments across the country, but the bookends of the timeline are Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, making it clear that they are the prime targets.

    The Department of Interior is now accepting comments to gauge public support for these monuments.

    Help us save Utah’s monuments! Please click here to submit your comments and we’ll deliver them to the Department of Interior. We are collecting comments ourselves so we can ensure an accurate accounting of supportive comments to add to national totals.

    Utah has been under siege from politicians hostile to protecting its wilderness for decades, but this action marks the most sweeping threat to the preservation of Utah’s protected wildlands. What’s worse, the Bears Ears comment period is a mere 15 days, meaning we need everyone to act quickly.

    Click here to submit your comments now.

    It’s important that comments be in your own words—the Department of Interior will count them individually that way. But to help you gather your thoughts, let us remind you of what’s at stake.

    Bears Ears:
    •    Bears Ears National Monument was a significant achievement. President Obama protected the 1.3 million-acre monument in December at the urging of a historic coalition of five Tribes that had come together to advocate for its protection.

    •    It is the first national monument to include traditional knowledge as an object worthy of protection in the monument proclamation. And every inch of Bears Ears is necessary to preserve the more than 100,000 archaeological sites therein.

    •    Bears Ears must never be shrunk nor repealed. If anything, the monument is not big enough. The Tribes had requested almost 600,000 more acres for protection. The whole tribal proposal should have been made a monument.

    •    It is a remarkable wilderness landscape. Beyond the monument’s namesake twin buttes are world-renowned wilderness treasures like White Canyon, Indian Creek, and Comb Ridge. Myriad plant and animal species thrive in its varied habitats. And you’d be hard pressed to find the solitude provided by these areas elsewhere else in the lower 48.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante:
    •    Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated in 1996. Since then, it has come to be known as the “Science Monument”—yielding several new species of dinosaur and other paleontological finds and providing habitat for 650 bee species, many that are endemic to the area.

    •    Grand Staircase-Escalante has incredible camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo and Spooky Canyon, Coyote Gulch, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known the world over. If you have your own favorites, be sure to mention them!

    •    Polling shows more than half of Utahns want Grand Staircase-Escalante left alone. That’s added to the more than 80 percent of Westerners that the Colorado College Conservation in the West poll showed want existing national monuments left intact.

    •    Reviewing any monument is a political act, but especially when it involves one that is more than two decades old and flourishing. No president has ever taken this needless step, and neither should President Trump.

    Please consider all of these points as you make your comments, and make sure to add your own! Tell the Department of Interior what makes these monuments so special.

    We know this will take more time than usual, but it’s extremely important. Tell Secretary Zinke and President Trump that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are here to stay!

    Thank you for all you do. We can’t do this without you.

  • May 1st, 2017

    Great news! Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) last week reintroduced America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 948) in the Senate. The bill would permanently protect 9.2 million acres of Utah’s amazing wilderness—places like Labyrinth Canyon, the Dirty Devil, the San Rafael Swell, and the West Desert, ensuring that they remain wild for future generations of Americans.

    If you’re from Illinois, click here to thank Sen. Durbin today!

    He was joined by 18 original cosponsors from 13 states, underscoring the importance of these remaining wild landscapes to the American people. The other champions are: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO),  Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)‎.

    If any of these senators represent you, please click here to thank them today!

    President Trump has declared an all-out assault on Utah’s public lands, last week signing an order that could lead to the repeal of both Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument. We need our congressional champions to stand up for Utah now more than ever.

    If your senator isn’t on the list yet, please click here to ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. And remember, you have two senators so you may need to thank one and ask the other!

    To double the impact, call your senators as well through the capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

    There has never been a more urgent time for the redrock wilderness. We need your help to save it.

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