Kya Marienfeld, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • May 26th, 2020

    As you know, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been destroying native vegetation like sagebrush, pinyon pine, and juniper for decades. But in recent years, your voice and input has played a critical role in stopping or delaying many of the worst large-scale mechanical vegetation removal proposals on our public lands.

    In response, the BLM is now proposing to cut out a majority of both public oversight and scientific review of its vegetation removal activities across the West.

    Please keep the pressure up by submitting comments on the BLM’s latest attack on public lands and the public process.

    A pinyon-juniper forest chaining project on public lands in Utah.

    The agency just released a draft “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration in the Great Basin” (PEIS), which, in its current form, would serve as the only legally required review before the BLM can move ahead with a range of vegetation removal projects across 223 million acres, spanning six states, including Utah.

    Once this “programmatic” document is finalized, the BLM would be able to plan and execute massive vegetation removals anywhere within the 223 million-acre analysis area with little more than a checklist before pulling the trigger, and without any public review or input.

    Tell the BLM not to cut public input from its public land clearcutting plans. Click here to submit your comments by June 2nd!

    If this feels familiar, it is. Just one month ago, the BLM was busy making plans for a new “categorical exclusion” that would exempt pinyon pine and juniper clearcutting projects as large as 10,000 acres from environmental analysis and public accountability. Now the BLM is doubling down in its efforts to cut the public from its land-clearing decisions.

    The BLM’s PEIS for “Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration in the Great Basin” is particularly inappropriate for several reasons:

    • Despite calling for removals in the “Great Basin,” the PEIS inexplicably encompasses nearly all of Utah, including most of the Colorado Plateau, a drastically different ecosystem. It even covers potential removals on more than 1.4 million acres proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
    • The BLM sets no desired conditions for what the areas should look like after projects are completed. In other words, there will be no actual criteria for the agency or the public to measure “progress” or “success.”
    • The PEIS does not discuss specific projects, including where they will occur, which actions they entail, or what site-specific resources may be affected, putting all cultural and historic resources, wilderness-quality lands, and rare (including federally-listed threatened and endangered) plant and animal species that can be found within the hundreds of millions of acres in the crosshairs.
    • The BLM does not discuss the efficacy (or lack thereof) of various treatment methods (including chaining, mastication, chain harrowing, herbicide, and prescribed fire) or disclose results of past removals using these heavy-handed tools, essentially providing no evidence that any of the methods proposed will actually work, when the best available science actually demonstrates otherwise.
    • The PEIS calls for the use of targeted grazing as a treatment method throughout the analysis area. This method is not only scientifically unproven, it will likely contribute to continued degradation and loss of sagebrush habitat.
    • There are no plans for long-term monitoring or maintenance of the treated landscapes to ensure that the removals are successful and are not causing significant, long-term damage by destroying biological soil crust or further spreading invasive species like cheatgrass.

    Click here to submit your comments to the BLM by June 2nd!

    Comments may also be emailed directly to BLM_PEIS_Questions@blm.gov.

    This is the second time in just over a month that the BLM has tried to cut the public out of decisions to chain, masticate, and clearcut our public lands.

    Your input has made a difference before—so please take action again today. Thank you!

  • November 19th, 2018

    Even as it solicits public comments on how to (mis)manage the illegally-reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is moving forward with two terrible “vegetation management” proposals within the original boundaries of Grand Staircase.

    These two proposals would strip sagebrush and pinyon-juniper forests from more than 110,000 acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante. All told, the BLM is looking at “landscape-level project[s]” on more than 560,000 acres of your public lands.

    Can you take a moment to defend Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by telling the BLM to shelve its vegetation mis-management plans? Click here to tell the BLM what you think.

    Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    In the Paria River watershed, the BLM is considering letting loose the chainsaws and mechanical masticators on up to 93,000 acres of public lands within a 565,000 acre area. Still in the initial scoping phase of planning, comments on the Paria River Project are due on Monday, November 26th.

    In the Skutumpah Terrace area northeast of Kanab, the BLM has completed an Environmental Assessment of a “treatment” proposal to remove pinyon and juniper from more than 22,000 acres of public land. The BLM is requesting public input on this plan by Monday, December 3rd.

    Click here to submit your comments on both plans. Tell the BLM to stop vegetation removal in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Large-scale vegetation removal projects are an extreme and unproven management approach that simply do not belong on our public lands, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should certainly never be the subject of the most aggressive and invasive treatments like chaining, mastication, and mulching.

    Please take a moment to join us in defending Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from bad management decisions by submitting your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • September 18th, 2018

    Twenty-two years ago, the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated, encompassing one of our nation’s most spectacular and scientifically important wilderness landscapes. It includes world-class fossil sites, archaeological and historical treasures, unique geologic formations, and incredible intact ecosystems—all of which the monument’s original designation was designed to safeguard for future generations.

    Of course, clouding this significant anniversary is President Trump’s illegal order last December to carve up Grand Staircase-Escalante, excluding a huge portion of its original land area from Antiquities Act protection and leaving a much smaller fragment behind.

    Even though we are challenging this move in court, the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are moving forward with management plans for the “new” almost 50% reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the 700,000 acres of land it no longer includes.

    Click here to help save Grand Staircase-Escalante! Submit your comments by November 15th!

    Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    Drafts of these new plans were just released for public comment and they are nothing short of alarming. Among a host of other shortsighted and harmful actions that would be allowed are prospects for new coal, oil, and gas development—that is, these management plans would sacrifice public lands cut from the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to future mining and drilling.

    As SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch explains, “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    Tell the BLM why you love Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and want to see it fully protected!

    The BLM is asking for the public to comment on these plans. Please help save Grand Staircase-Escalante from a management plan that would do nothing to quell future drilling, mining, and off-road vehicle damage on these treasured public lands.

    There are so many reasons to love the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the BLM needs to hear from you about how and why its plans must do better. Take action and comment now!

    Click here to submit your comments by November 15th!

  • October 5th, 2017

    Do you want to hear the sound of helicopters in Utah’s backcountry? Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters wants to fly wealthy tourists into wilderness quality areas, using a loophole that would allow them to land on state lands inside a Wilderness Study Area near Canyonlands National Park. The National Park Service has raised concerns. SUWA is fighting the proposal.

    The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, adjacent to one of the proposed helicopter landing sites. NPS photo by Neal Herbert.

    The Moab Times-Independent reports on the latest issue hovering above Moab — and Utah’s wild lands:

    A local helicopter company’s plans to charter flights to state lands within a federal Wilderness Study Area (WSA) near Canyonlands National Park has met some pushback from conservation groups and others who cite potential impacts regarding noise and solitude.

    Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters is currently seeking a right-of-entry permit with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for transportation and charter flights on four state-owned land parcels.

    These state parcels — arranged in a “checkerboard” pattern across the map — are within or adjacent to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) WSA. One parcel sits directly adjacent to Horseshoe Canyon, home to the “Great Gallery” rock art site in Canyonlands National Park.

    Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), said this right-of-entry application reveals how differently state and federal lands are managed.

    “This [WSA] designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness,” Marienfeld said. “Aircraft lands are not permitted in these Wilderness Study Areas, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands.”

    According to Marienfeld, SUWA has expressed concerns that these helicopter flights would have a “terrible effect” on the wilderness characteristics of the area, which include solitude and remoteness.

    “It’s noise and the effects on solitude. Helicopters are loud, and this area being so remote … it’s pretty untrammeled because it’s a little ways out,” she said.

    Click here to read the full article.

    More on Pinnacle’s plans:

    • Each of the three proposed landing sites are within a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which is undeveloped public land with outstanding naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and a landscape largely unaffected by human activity.  This designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness.
    • Aircraft landings are not permitted in these WSAs, which are managed as wilderness by the BLM, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands. In essence, the state can do anything it wants with them, all with an eye on turning a profit.
    • This is exactly why the helicopter operator is seeking to take advantage of these SITLA sections and land on state-managed lands, even though tourists would be flying in with the purpose of experiencing the supreme public lands that surround each SITLA landing site.
    • One of the proposed landing sites is immediately adjacent to the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park, which contains some of the most pristine and fragile rock art panels in the world, including the famous “Great Gallery.” This entire NPS unit is managed as an archaeological district and access is carefully maintained to preserve the exceptional rock art.
    • The only people this new undertaking will benefit is a few extremely wealthy tourists, at the expense of locals who know the Robber’s Roost and Horseshoe Canyon area as a place that is well-worth the trek precisely because of its superb remoteness. Flying rich tourists in for day-trips not only cheapens the wilderness experience, but also ruins the solitude that makes this location special.

    Stay tuned for ways you can get involved…..