Neal Clark, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • September 14th, 2018

    It was an interesting week for the Emery County Public Lands Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Curtis and Sen. Orrin Hatch and introduced in May of this year, would affect 1.4 million acres of land proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. The legislation has yet to reach a point where it could receive broad support from the conservation community as it fails to protect critical wilderness landscapes and includes objectionable provisions that would have far-reaching implications for the remarkable public lands in Emery County.

    SUWA staff members took journalists on an overflight of Emery County on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. Watch the GoPro video above as our friends at EcoFlight fly over Labyrinth Canyon. Click here to watch the story on Fox13 News.

    Wednesday morning we learned there would be a House Natural Resources Committee markup less than 48 hours later, on Friday. This was remarkable in that markups generally happen with significantly more notice. Whether this was an intentional attempt to push the bill through the House without anyone having a chance to review new amended language, or the result of hasty and disorganized lawmaking, is anyone’s guess. Either way, we received new language for the legislation and jumped into gear analyzing the bill and providing information to our congressional champions. While the House committee markup was ultimately cancelled (again, for reasons unbeknownst to us, though some are blaming Hurricane Florence), we’ve had a chance to dig into the issues and continue to have concerns with the legislation.

    While at first blush the Emery County bill boasts wilderness and National Recreation Area (NRA) acreages that may seem impressive, a closer analysis of the bill reveals fatally flawed legislation. From what we’ve seen of the new, proposed bill amendment, the legislation:

      • Entirely fails to protect remarkable and critical intact wilderness landscapes as wilderness. This includes large portions of Labyrinth Canyon—including the entire eastern side of the canyon system—and vast portions of the remote Muddy Creek region. As proposed, the bill would designate less wilderness than is currently protected for wilderness character as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) or Natural Areas.
      • Rolls back existing WSA protections to facilitate coal mining in the Book Cliffs.
      • Includes unprecedented giveaways to the State of Utah in the form of recreation and public purpose conveyances. The legislation would hand over control of nearly 10,000 acres of high-value public land to the State of Utah for expansion of Goblin Valley State Park. The State could then charge fees for access and develop new amenities and motorized and non-motorized trail systems.
      • Authorizes a land exchange between the federal government and the School Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) that fails to identify federal parcels for acquisition, and fails to ensure protection of lands rescinded from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments and other wilderness-quality lands.
      • Allows the State of Utah to continue its federal court litigation seeking highway rights-of-way through designated wilderness, instead of resolving Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477 issues.

    We anticipate a markup of the legislation in the House and Senate sometime later this month. In the meantime, we’ll continue to attempt to improve the bill to a point where it could be supported by SUWA and others working day in and day out to protect the wilderness lands of southern Utah. Absent the changes necessary to make this legislation one that is deserving of the landscapes it will impact, we will work tirelessly to ensure that the bill does not pass into law.

  • February 6th, 2018

    As you know, on December 4, 2017, President Trump signed two illegal proclamations that seek to significantly reduce the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.

    Despite legal challenges filed by SUWA and partner organizations over these unlawful abuses of presidential authority, the Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with creating new land use plans that reflect the diminished boundaries in both monuments.

    Even as we remain confident that President Trump’s actions will be invalidated by the courts, it’s important that you speak up as the BLM begins to move forward with its new management plans.

    Comments on the land use plans are due April 11th, 2018.

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.

    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    (Please note: you must comment separately on each monument plan.)

    We encourage you to write personalized comments, as the agency is likely to disregard boilerplate messages. In writing your comments, please consider emphasizing the following points:

    • The proclamations reducing the monuments are, first and foremost, unlawful actions that will ultimately be overturned by a court of law. Under the Antiquities Act, the president only has the authority to create a national monument, and only Congress can revoke or reduce the boundaries of an existing monument.
    • The BLM should abstain from management planning until a court has ruled on the legality of President Trump’s action. Rapidly moving forward with this planning effort is a waste of valuable agency resources that would be better spent addressing much needed on-the-ground cultural and natural resource protection issues.

    Additional talking points are available at the links below:

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.


    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Your comments submitted by March 19th play a critical role in protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in the short term, while our legal team works daily to restore the monuments for all time.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • July 22nd, 2016

    Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), unveiled on July 14th after much delay, is the kind of pro-extraction, anti-federal legislation that could only come from a congressman with a lifetime score of 3% from the League of Conservation Voters.

    Among myriad provisions that exacerbate climate change, promote the State of Utah’s land grab, and trivialize the Inter-Tribal Coalition’s Bears Ears proposal, one deficiency stands out above all else: the bill completely fails to adequately protect the nearly 4.4 million acres of remarkable wilderness-quality lands throughout southern and eastern Utah that are affected by this legislation. In doing so, the PLI removes existing wilderness management on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and fails to protect 62% of inventoried lands that qualify for and deserve wilderness protection.

    Desolation Canyon (Ray Bloxham)

    The PLI would remove existing protections from the Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The PLI rolls back existing protections for over 100,000 acres of wilderness study areas (WSAs) and at least 70,000 acres of BLM-managed natural areas (i.e., areas managed by the BLM for the protection of wilderness values).  Areas left with lesser or no protection, among many others, include the entirety of the Winter Ridge, Jack Canyon, and Squaw and Papoose WSAs, and significant portions of the Desolation Canyon, Dark Canyon, Grand Gulch, and Cheesebox Canyon WSAs. Managed natural areas around the San Rafael Reef—like Muddy Creek and Wild Horse Mesa—are also adversely impacted. In addition, the PLI completely fails to protect iconic Utah landscapes such as White Canyon (including most of its tributaries), Hatch Point, Price River, and the Mussentuchit Badlands as wilderness.

    White Canyon (Scott Braden)

    White Canyon and most of its side tributaries in the Bears Ears region would remain unprotected in the PLI, leaving the area vulnerable to mineral extraction. Copyright Scott Braden/SUWA.

    Setting aside the endless list of terrible PLI provisions, the bill is fundamentally unacceptable as it fails to protect the full spectrum of wilderness-quality lands in southern and eastern Utah. Simply put, if Rep. Bishop fixed every other provision of the bill tomorrow, it would still be a step backwards for Utah’s redrock wilderness.

    SUWA will work tirelessly to ensure that the PLI meets the same doomed fate of previous public lands bills that paid little more than lip service to Utah’s remarkable public lands — but to accomplish this, we need your help. Please contact your congressional representative and tell them that the PLI is a pro-extraction, pro-development bill disguised as conservation legislation. Tell them that Utah’s wildlands deserve better.

    >>Click here to send your message now.