Scott Groene, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 3 of 3

  • June 25th, 2015

    Bad news. The counties’ proposals for Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative are in and they spell disaster for the future of Utah’s wild lands.

    Please act now and tell Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz that the county plans are wholly inadequate. In order to be successful, any public lands legislation they draft must go far beyond what the counties have proposed.

    More than two years ago, Rep. Bishop announced his desire to resolve longstanding disputes over public lands. He said that things would be different this time. In many ways they have been; we have seen some amazing goodwill and effort by the delegation. SUWA and its conservation partners jumped in with both feet and have spent hundreds of hours in the field and poring over maps.

    However, not everyone got the message. Many of the counties involved in Rep. Bishop’s initiative have stymied real progress by taking a “business as usual” approach. They propose fragmented wilderness designation while rolling back existing wilderness study areas. Even their “conservation area” designations are often rendered meaningless because they are opened to oil and gas development and riddled with roads. Tellingly, some counties are proposing even less land protection now than they did two decades ago.

    Some of the most spectacular wilderness landscapes in Utah are essentially forsaken (click here to view map). These forgotten areas include: Bitter Creek in the upper Book Cliffs; Desolation Canyon; Labyrinth Canyon; Lockhart Basin/Hatch Point east of Canyonlands National Park; White Canyon; Tables of the Sun (Nokai Dome/Red Rock Plateau); the Price River; and lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument.

    Hatch Point (Clint McKnight)

    Hatch Point, copyright Clint McKnight.

    While county commissions, like all stakeholders, should have the opportunity to provide input in this process, they should not be the defining voice in determining the future of Utah’s public lands.

    Click here to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz that all Americans should have a voice in this process.

    If the county proposals are advanced by the Utah delegation, it will mean a jigsaw puzzle of wilderness in Utah with more than half of the pieces missing. Vast reaches of undisturbed beauty that now define the redrock canyon country could be devastated by vehicle trails, energy development, and destructive “vegetation treatments.”

    Utah’s wild lands deserve better.

    Labyrinth Canyon (James Kay)

    Labyrinth Canyon, copyright James Kay.

    To succeed, the Public Lands Initiative needs to provide meaningful protection for the now-forsaken areas and incorporate the concerns of citizens across Utah and America.

    Please help save Wild Utah. Act now to tell Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz to do justice to Utah’s spectacular wild lands.

  • November 5th, 2014

    Last night the Republican Party gained a majority in the U.S. Senate to match its existing control of the House of Representatives. Now what?

    For Utah wilderness, a shift in White House control generally means more than a reshuffled congressional deck, largely because of the Executive Branch’s control of land management agencies. But even off-year elections matter, and so will this one.

    Not all Republicans are bad on environmental issues, nor are all Democrats good. But when it comes to the Congress, the League of Conservation Voters paints a clear picture. In the first session of the 113th Congress, House Republicans’ votes were good for the environment just 5 percent of the time, with House Democrats scoring 87 percent on average. Senate Republicans scored an average of 17 percent; Senate Democrats 92 percent. It is bad news for the environment that the Republicans now run the Senate.

    For starters, the Republican majority may prevent the administration’s filling of federal court vacancies—any vacancy, no matter how qualified the appointee. And the Senate will no longer act as the reliable counterweight to terrible anti-environment bills coming from the House, a role it has played since the 2010 election.

    Digging through the ordure for the Shetland pony that must surely be here somewhere, we find some solace in the likelihood that an anti-environmental majority will likely last only two years, given the balance of Senate seats up in 2016. That overlaps the time remaining in President Barack Obama’s second term. Partisan warfare will probably intensify. If you were disgusted with the last Congress, the next one may send you around the bend.

    Some Senate races remain undecided. But even if Republicans win them, they’ll still be shy of the three-fifths majority needed to override Democratic filibusters and the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a presidential veto. Thus, the Republican leadership has indicated it will operate by attaching riders to major spending bills that the government needs to pass in order to operate—and spending bills are not subject to filibusters. Expect an anti-environmental majority to use this route to repeal Obama’s efforts to address climate change and to hobble the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce corporate pollution.

    As the House and Senate spend the next two years attacking President Obama, he could respond as Bill Clinton did by creating a legacy of protected American landscapes under the Antiquities Act. Please!

    Here in Utah, we’ll hope the congressional delegation continues discussions with us to seek resolution of tough wilderness issues through Mr. Bishop’s public lands initiative. We’ll also hope the new power balance will not tempt the delegation to follow some of our kookiest state legislators in their fencepost-dumb drive to seize public lands instead.

    Some specific races deserve mention. Sadly, Doug Owens, the son of the original Redrock Champion Wayne Owens, lost his bid for Utah’s 4th congressional district. Long time redrock supporter Colorado Senator Mark Udall lost his re-election bid. On a brighter note, in Grand County, Moab residents sent a sharp rebuke to county council members hell bent on ripping apart the Book Cliffs with a highway to foster dirty fuels development. And lead Redrock champion Senator Richard Durbin won his fourth term.

    We’ve experienced similar flips in congressional control before. In 1994, the Republicans gained control of both House and Senate for first time in 40 years. That set off a seismic wave against the Redrock. The Utah congressional delegation tried to ram through a terrible “wilderless” bill, but we stopped Rep. Hansen in the House. A filibuster by Bill Bradley, then a New Jersey senator, blocked Utah’s two senators, Hatch and Bennett. President Bill Clinton’s response was to proclaim the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

    George W. Bush won the White House in 2002 while the Republicans already held the Senate and House, bringing the “drill baby drill” mentality to public lands management. We fought back with litigation against their mindless rush to drill. We won.

    No matter what this election brings, because of you we will endure and prevail. We always have.

  • January 7th, 2011

    Happy New Year from all of us at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  Thank you for your strong support in 2010.  Now let’s get to work in 2011!

    2010 ended on a bright note with Secretary Salazar’s new wilderness guidance that could give needed protection to 6 million acres of Utah’s redrock wilderness.  Thanks to all of you, this action reverses the Bush administration’s “No More Wilderness” policy, which left these lands vulnerable to off-road vehicle damage and inappropriate energy development.

    Only with your activism and support can we seize this opportunity to secure these lands the protection they deserve.  Wilderness opponents are already promising to block this policy: the oil and gas industry and off-road vehicle advocates are fuming, and politicians like Utah Senator Orrin Hatch are declaring they’ll do everything possible to stop us.

    To blunt this opposition, newly minted House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) is already circulating a letter to members of Congress asking them to thank Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for the new policy.  Please take a moment now to ask your representative to sign Mr. Markey’s letter!

    For Utahns:  Please take a moment now to ask let your Utah Congressional representatives know that you support Secretary Salazar’s action.

    This type of action will encourage the Obama administration to continue issuing conservation-oriented policies for public lands by demonstrating broad popular support.

    Thank you!

    P.S. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of supporters like you, we met our year-end goal and won a matching gift of $100,000! Your financial contributions are absolutely essential to the important work of protecting America’s redrock for current and future generations.  Sec. Salazar’s new wilderness guidance demonstrates that your support is yielding results!

  • November 3rd, 2010
    kids wild utah
    Photo by Lin Alder

    Elections matter for our public lands.  Last night brought enormous change for the worse.  Wilderness may be a bi-partisan issue, although it fares better under one party and that party was crushed last night.  But we’ve overcome bad elections before by uniting supporters in the face of great threats.

    A similar election in 1994 threw us into a horrendous legislative fight that few thought we could win.  But we did, nationalizing the need for redrock protection along the way, and winning two million acres of protection through designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  What appeared a disaster was converted through grassroots action into a stunning amount of redrock protected.  Sometimes strength comes through adversity.

    Here’s a quick summary of our potential challenges and opportunities:

    Congress: With the Republican sweep of the House, leadership of the key committees controlling public lands will be held by those hostile to wilderness.

    This means:

    • we’ll need to block attacks against key legislative authority that protects our land, water, wildlife and air, and we’ll need to stop bad wilderness bills;
    • it will be more difficult to pass good wilderness legislation;
    • the oil and gas industry is probably still hung over from last night’s celebration because our public lands now face “drill baby drill” part II;
    • we can expect scary votes on Arctic drilling, oil shale and other dirty fuels subsidies.

    White House: Any pretense of bipartisanship just vaporized.  Facing a despondent base and re-election in two years, Obama likely will respond more to outspoken and well-organized constituencies.  That’s where you, the committed redrock activists, come in. Increased partisanship may result in the Obama administration standing up for strong environmental protection, and using every tool available to do so.  Their most powerful tool is the Antiquities Act, especially for establishing new monuments in Utah.

    Notable races:  Our champions remain — Senator Dick Durbin wasn’t up for election and Congressman Maurice Hinchey defeated his opponent (who tried to use the redrock against him).  Friends like Representatives Raul Grivalja, Rush Holt and Martin Heinrich won tough races. And it appears Senate cosponsor Michael Bennet will win in Colorado. But we lost a great friend.  Senator Russ Feingold was a hero for the redrock time and time again – as well as a brave and honest man for progressive causes generally. His loss is a tragedy.

    Last night was a blow for our public lands.  But since SUWA was founded, we have outlasted or survived 6 secretaries of the interior, 6 Utah governors, 13 congressmen, and 3 senators.  Politicians come and go, but the movement to protect the redrock continues.  And, with your help, we will.

  • August 30th, 2010

    Last week, I left my home in Moab and traveled to Salt Lake City just in time to hit a “Red Alert” day — meaning the air quality was so poor that breathing could damage your lungs (yes, my driving contributed to the problem).

    Somehow that made it all the more disappointing when two days later Governor Herbert spoke at the “Take Utah Backwards” (a.k.a. “Take Back Utah”) off-road vehicle rally at the state capitol. A crowd of pollution-belching ATVs and non-street-legal vehicles first joyrode up State Street, and then the governor shared the stage with elected officials and other sundry notables (like a representative of the Farm Bureau) competing for best at bashing environmentalists.

    Why would our Governor promote more off-road vehicle use on our public lands? In the southeastern portion of our state, on
    just BLM land alone, there are 20,000 miles of dirt routes for motorized use. He wants more?

    Herbert shared the stage with Representative Mike Noel, whom the governor previously appointed to his so-called “Balanced Resource Council” — the committee intended to foster civility in public land discussions. When Noel recently learned that SUWA had resolved conflicts with an energy company over natural gas and wilderness at the north end of Desolation
    Canyon, he declared that SUWA was an “enemy of the state and the people and the children of Utah” (I hope my wife
    and kids don’t feel that way). You might have expected the governor to boot Noel from the BRC for that one. Instead, the governor’s staff sent a written defense of Noel to the Salt Lake Tribune, and on Saturday, the governor gave a shout-out
    to his “good friend, Representative Mike Noel.”

    If there is a silver lining to all this, it’s that only a few hundred attended Herbert’s speech, not the 10,000 predicted by promoters. These folks are losing momentum fast.

    Take back utah attendees
    Does this look like 5,000 attendees to you?  That is what the Take Back Utah organizers have “estimated.”
    Photo by Scott Braden.

    Off-road vehicle use is probably the greatest threat to Utah’s spectacular wilderness. We need political leadership, not pandering, if we’re going to resolve the Utah wilderness debate and protect the Redrock.

    Scott Groene
    Executive Director
    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance