Landon Newell, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 2 of 3

  • December 9th, 2016

    Yesterday afternoon, December 8, BLM announced its decision to defer from leasing two highly contested oil and gas lease parcels in Nine Mile Canyon, citing unresolved issues regarding impacts to rock art and other cultural resources.

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  • November 9th, 2015

    Despite the dramatic drop in natural gas and oil prices, the BLM is considering approval of a large-scale oil and gas development project in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area in the heart of Utah’s West Tavaputs Plateau. The area targeted for development is part of the larger Desolation Canyon region, which, according to the BLM itself, contains “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.”

    The BLM is accepting comments on this project through November 13th. Please tell the agency to keep oil and gas development out of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness!

    Desolation Canyon  (Horse Bench), Ray Bloxham

    Horse Bench in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon, is seeking approval to industrialize the remote and wild West Tavaputs by constructing and drilling up to 19 well pads, 175 natural gas wells, and miles of associated roads and pipelines. If the project is approved, the West Tavaputs will be dotted with pumpjacks, drill rigs, and haul trucks rather than greater sage-grouse, elk, mule deer, and black bear.

    Please ask the BLM to protect the wild heart of the West Tavaputs Plateau.

    Adding insult to injury, all vehicular traffic will have to wind its way through Nine Mile Canyon and up the dusty switchbacks of Cottonwood Canyon before reaching the proposed development area atop the West Tavaputs. Called “the world’s longest art gallery” by the BLM, Nine Mile Canyon is world-renowned for its abundance of historic and cultural sites, with more than 10,000 images etched onto its walls by prehistoric peoples. Dust from passing haul trucks could harm these irreplaceable treasures, and proposed roads would make the area more accessible to vandals.

    To date, the BLM has failed to properly analyze the potential impacts to these important resources or to consider the project’s influence on climate change. It has analyzed only XTO’s large-scale proposal and has not considered any alternatives, such as limiting the project’s surface disturbance footprint to areas outside greater sage-grouse habitat, or placing pipelines along existing disturbances.

    Click here to ask the BLM to properly analyze the impacts of XTO’s proposal and consider more appropriate alternatives.



  • October 5th, 2015

    Anyone who has visited the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park or Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab over the past few years has no doubt noticed the gradual spread of industrial development at the entrance to the parks in an area known as Big Flat. What began as a modest expansion of decades-old drill pads has now taken off at a breakneck pace. The highly visible network of pump jacks, roads, and pipelines stands out as you drive along state highway 313 – a route designated by Utah as a “scenic” byway.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

    Fidelity Exploration and Production Company, a Denver based oil and gas operator, is proposing to expand this industrial web south into Hatch Point near the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Proposed for wilderness designation and identified by the BLM itself as possessing wilderness character, Hatch Point features iconic redrock formations, including towering Wingate cliffs, buttes, and rock pillars, and some of the nation’s most brilliant night skies.

    Tell the BLM this area is too special to be sacrificed to oil and gas development.


    Trough Springs Canyon, Hatch Point. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA.

    The proposed expansion would include drilling up to 21 oil and gas wells, “upgrading” more than 19 miles of existing two-track routes into 14-foot-wide “resource roads,” and constructing several new roads. On top of all this, Fidelity is proposing to flare natural gas from each well rather than collect and transport the gas to produce energy. The flared gas will be visible from within Canyonlands National Park and will further degrade air quality in the region.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to allow the gradual industrialization of Moab’s spectacular backcountry.

    The BLM has improperly – and unlawfully – allowed Fidelity to develop the Big Flat region in a piecemeal fashion, one phase of development at a time, and is poised to do the same with Hatch Point. It’s time for the BLM to consider the entire scope of Fidelity’s activities in a single environmental impact statement before allowing the company to completely surround the eastern edge of Canyonlands National Park with its industrial web of development.

    Please tell the BLM to stop its improper piecemeal approach to energy development in the Canyonlands area!

  • September 14th, 2015

    The San Rafael Swell is once again under attack from oil and gas leasing – and again sensitive and irreplaceable cultural, archaeological, paleontological, and wilderness values are at risk.

    More than 35,000 acres – all of them identified by BLM as possessing wilderness value – have been placed on the auction block in BLM’s upcoming November 2015 oil and gas lease sale, including the Limestone Cliffs, Molen Reef, Mussentuchit (pronounced “musn’t-touch-it”) Badlands, Rock Canyon, and Upper Muddy Creek areas.

    Molen Reef (RayBloxham)

    Molen Reef proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    These lands, which hug the west side of the San Rafael Swell, feature a kaleidoscope of colorful sandstone layers and exhibit nearly every type of geological strata found in the redrock country.

    Mussentuchit Badlands (Ray Bloxham)

    Mussentuchit Badlands proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Oil and gas development in this region of the Swell is entirely speculative and unnecessary due to its remote location and the large amount of BLM-managed land in Utah already under lease (much of which is not being developed). These leases open the door for industry to step in and permanently scar the Swell, destroying its remarkable values. They also complicate good-faith negotiations currently underway as part of Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative regarding these exact same lands.

    SUWA will be submitting a formal challenge to the inclusion of these lease parcels in the November sale. Stay tuned!