Jen Ujifusa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • December 5th, 2018

    It’s finally December, which means, blessedly, that Congress is about to go home! But first they’re in a frenzy to complete their work for the session and pass as many bills as possible.

    Senator Orrin Hatch is trying to use this freneticism to glue the Emery County Public Land Management Act (S. 2809) to a potential public lands package being negotiated by the House and Senate.

    We can’t let this happen. Contact your representatives now and tell them to oppose Sen. Hatch’s “Not-so-Swell” bill!

    San Rafael River. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve told you in the past that the bill fails to protect deserving landscapes like the San Rafael Badlands, Muddy Creek, and Labyrinth Canyon. And while Hatch has made some changes at the margins of the bill, they are not sufficient. The bill still protects far too little land, and the places it claims to protect are riddled with off-road vehicle routes. It also releases currently protected land for a coal mine and facilitates a land exchange that would allow the State of Utah to acquire nearly 12,000 acres of proposed wilderness! Finally, it gives away federal public land to the State of Utah for an expansion of Goblin Valley State Park.

    Don’t let Hatch hatch another anti-wilderness scheme! Contact your representatives now!

    Bottom line: the land that we fight for is better off if the bill doesn’t pass.

    Here’s what you can do. Click here to tell your members of Congress not to allow this bill to be attached to a public lands package—or any other.

    Then, call the Capitol Switchboard and say it again: 202-224-3121.

    Together we can make sure Sen. Hatch doesn’t get the coal mine he wants in his stocking.

    Thanks for all you do!

    P.S. Help us protect the San Rafael Swell in 2019 and beyond by making a tax-deductible year-end contribution to SUWA today. Click here to contribute.

  • October 4th, 2018

    Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) “Not-so-Swell” bill, the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, passed a Senate markup Tuesday on voice vote. The bill remains a one-sided proposal from a county that openly admits it is attempting to designate the minimum amount of wilderness it can get away with.

    So now, we must fight. There are still things we can do to fix this.

    Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) office spent much of last week working to negotiate a better deal, a process cut absurdly short when Sen. Hatch’s office declared that an arbitrary deadline had not been met. Now Sen. Hatch intends to try to ram this legislation through by either sticking it on a behemoth public lands package, or by attempting to inappropriately sneak it on to completely unrelated legislation. 

    This means we need you to contact your Senators and tell them the Emery County Public Lands Management Act MUST NOT PASS as is. 

    The bill leaves more than two thirds of the deserving wilderness in Emery County unprotected. It does not have sufficient protections for Muddy Creek, which, as the largest wilderness unit in the county, would be a no-brainer in a legitimate bill. It also leaves important parts of Labyrinth Canyon unprotected, designating wilderness on only the western side of the canyon corridor, and artificially curtailing boundaries to protect illegal mountain biking routes.  And the bill envisions no protection whatsoever for the San Rafael Badlands, a rugged and incredibly wild landscape that is chock full of unique and precious archaeological sites.

    Sen. Hatch’s counterpart in the House, Rep. John Curtis, is fond of saying that nobody will get everything they want in this bill. But even if those three places were added, only half of the deserving wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would gain protection. 

    The other goodies in the bill for the county prove that, in actuality, a tiny band of Emery County officials are getting just about everything they want on lands that belong to all Americans. Not only does the bill fail to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness, it also takes a bite out of an existing Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine. The bill will make recreation impacts worse in many sensitive areas, and a designation that was to be a National Conservation Area in early versions of the bill has been downgraded to a “Recreation Area,” completely changing the way the BLM will manage the lands. 

    Finally, Hatch’s office removed a federal-state land exchange that would have consolidated scattered state parcels out of designated wilderness and moved them to another area. Done well, land exchanges like these can be a conservation gain. But it became clear that Utah wanted to trade into a disputed parcel of land that the Ute Tribe claims as its own, and rather than telling the State Trust Lands Administration to come up with a better proposal, Sen. Hatch’s office instead chose to sweep the issue under the rug. Now if the bill passes, the SITLA lands would be stranded, and the school kids the Utah delegation likes to use as an excuse to bludgeon public lands will get diddly. 

    There is limited time remaining in this Congress, and Sen. Hatch has limited floor time in which to pass this legislation. Help us make his path more difficult by calling your Senators and asking them to oppose S. 2809, the Emery County Public Lands Management Act. 

    Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 

  • 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!