Neal Clark, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • March 9th, 2021

    This Friday, March 12th, marks the second anniversary of the Emery County Public Land Management Act becoming law as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. 

    Muddy Creek Wilderness.

    The Emery Act is one of the largest wilderness bills in a decade to become law, protecting 663,000 acres of public land as designated wilderness while also creating the nearly 217,000-acre San Rafael Swell Recreation Area and protecting 63 miles of the Green River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.


    But as the two-year anniversary of the Act approaches this week, the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been haphazard at best in its implementation of protections directed by Congress, and is even advancing a new motorized travel plan for the region that would maximize off-road vehicle abuse despite the Congressional mandate to prioritize conservation in the region. 

    World-class landscapes like Muddy Creek, Labyrinth Canyon, and Desolation Canyon have been designated wilderness for two years now, yet you wouldn’t know it on the ground. 

    Illegal motorized use in these areas has gone largely unchecked, boundary signage is woefully inadequate, and public information is slim. 

    Taken together, the BLM has left public land users guessing about where activities like motorized use is- and is not – appropriate. Among the issues that persist two years since enactment of the Emery Act:

    • The BLM has failed to address illegal off-road vehicle use that continues to occur within designated wilderness areas and the San Rafael Swell Recreation Area. This includes failing to take actions to remediate and rehabilitate areas, including closing illegal trails, installing adequate signage, and providing educational information to the public.
    • The BLM has prioritized actions such as coal leasing, gypsum mining, and helium exploration over proactively managing designated wilderness and the recreation area.
    • The BLM is currently considering designating over a thousand miles of new routes in the heart of the San Rafael Swell. Inventory maps released as part of the BLM’s “scoping” phase of its travel planning process would inundate the Swell with new motorized vehicle routes, forever changing this iconic area from one with diverse recreational opportunities to essentially a motorized playground, directly contravening the Act’s intent of conserving the area for future generations.
    • One month before it was formally designated as wilderness by the Dingell Act, the BLM rushed to issue a lease to drill for helium in the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness. SUWA, along with conservation partners, have sued the BLM for failing to take a hard look at the potential climate harms from the fracking project and failing to provide a reasoned basis for offering this land for leasing in the first place. 

    It is our hope that the Biden administration will focus the Utah BLM on conservation management, and in doing so will work to prioritize the implementation of protections established by the Dingell Act. 

    Labyrinth Canyon.

    For more, check out our story map of lands protected in the Emery County Public Land Management Act.

     

  • September 23rd, 2020

    In June, we wrote to you about plans from Energy Fuels Resources—the company that successfully lobbied the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument in 2017—to ship radioactive waste from Estonia to the White Mesa Uranium Mill, on the doorstep of the monument.

    Now, Energy Fuels Resources wants to import radioactive waste from Japan, and the State of Utah has agreed that the company doesn’t need any special licenses or permission, or to hear from the public, to accept the waste.

    Please take a moment to urge Utah regulators to protect Bears Ears!

    White Mesa Uranium Mill, © EcoFlight

    The White Mesa Uranium Mill sits next to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community. Understandably, many residents are concerned about the mill’s impact on their air quality and drinking water.

    Energy Fuels intends to extract a small amount of uranium from the waste, then dump the toxic leftovers just east of Bears Ears National Monument’s original boundary, where it will remain forever.

    Radioactive waste from overseas should never end up next to Indigenous communities in America. Please urge Utah regulators to:

    • Require that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. obtain a specific import license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Japanese waste.
    • Deny future requests to send toxic and radioactive waste to the White Mesa Mill.
    • Protect groundwater and air quality in the Bears Ears region for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community and for future generations.

    Click here to submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • June 22nd, 2020

    At the doorstep of Bears Ears National Monument, the White Mesa Uranium Mill in southern Utah wants to acquire tons of new radioactive waste shipped all the way from Estonia.

    The mill’s owner, Energy Fuels Resources, lobbied the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument in 2017. If the license application is approved by the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, the White Mesa Uranium Mill would begin accepting 660 tons of radioactive waste to process in the first year alone.

    Click here to ask the state of Utah to reject the proposal to import radioactive waste to southern Utah.

    Bringing Estonia’s radioactive waste, which contains about 0.05% uranium ore, to the White Mesa Uranium Mill for processing would add millions of tons of toxic waste to the pits that lie just a few miles from the Ute Mountain Ute’s White Mesa community.

    White Mesa Uranium Mill, copyright EcoFlight

    The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has voiced concerns about Energy Fuels Resources’ proposal and the threat of contamination to the Tribe’s drinking water. Scott Clow, the Environmental Programs Director for the Tribe, lamented to the Salt Lake Tribune how the White Mesa Uranium Mill is becoming “the world’s radioactive waste dump.” He added, “The Tribe does not want these materials to continue to be delivered to their neighborhood, their traditional lands, and stored there forever.”

    Energy Fuels Resources already has a questionable track record when it comes to handling toxic and radioactive materials. Within the last five years, trucks driving through southern Utah on their way to White Mesa have spilled radioactive waste twice, and the mill itself releases toxic and radioactive air pollutants, which residents of White Mesa have reported smelling.

    The public comment period on Energy Fuels Resources’ proposal is open through July 10, 2020.

    Click here to submit your comments to Utah regulators today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • October 11th, 2019

    UTVs like this one could soon be allowed in Utah’s national parks under a Trump administration directive.

    Earlier today, we asked folks to make calls to Utah politicians who are considering whether to weigh in on the Trump administration directive to open Utah’s national parks to off-road vehicles like UTVs and ATVs.

    At this point, no further calls are needed. Your messages have been received.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • October 10th, 2019

    From Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks to Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Cedar Breaks national monuments, Utah is home to some of the most spectacular and beloved jewels of the National Park System. But these world-renowned landscapes are now threatened by a shortsighted directive from the Trump administration to open all park roads (both paved and unpaved) to off-road vehicles, including ATVs and UTVs.

    As the term “off-road vehicle” clearly implies, these machines are designed specifically to travel off-road and beyond the reach of standard passenger vehicles into rugged backcountry terrain. Even on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, where such vehicles already have tens of thousands of routes open to their use, managing illegal off-road use is a nightmare for agency officials.

    The National Park Service, which is dedicated to “conserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System,” is ill-equipped to handle the problems that will inevitably arise.

    Click here to oppose the terrible precedent of allowing off-road vehicles in Utah’s cherished national parks.

    The Trump administration wants to open all National Park Service roads in Utah to off-road vehicles, including UTVs like the ones pictured above. Photo: iStock.com/marekuliasz

    If the Trump administration has its way, natural and cultural resources will be put at risk from irresponsible and illegal off-road vehicle use on park roads, and the silence and unspoiled views in places like the White Rim and Maze District of Canyonlands National Park and Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park will be broken by the invasive engine noise and dust clouds generated by these incompatible machines.

    If that’s not bad enough, the administration is attempting to force off-road vehicle use into Utah’s national parks and national monuments with no analysis of impacts and no public input. This is remarkable given the Park Service’s prior determination that off-road vehicles pose “a significant risk to park resources and values which cannot be appropriately mitigated,” and their use is “not consistent with the protection of the parks and monuments.” The agency even acknowledged that “[n]o reasonable level of law enforcement presence would be sufficient to prevent . . . use off roads.”

    Take Action: Please write the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and tell him not to make this reckless decision that could irreversibly damage some of America’s most remarkable national parks and monuments.