Steve Bloch, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • May 30th, 2019

    Without prior notice or opportunity for public input, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Richfield field office announced last Wednesday—just before Memorial Day weekend—that it has opened 5,400 acres of public lands surrounding Utah’s iconic Factory Butte to unfettered cross-country off-road vehicle (ORV) use.

    The BLM’s decision reverses the agency’s 2006 closure of the area to ORV use and will allow unrestricted motorized travel throughout the designated “play area.”  When the BLM implemented the 2006 closure it explained that “Factory Butte itself is an iconic formation, highly visible from Highway 24 and is often photographed.”

    Please take action! Tell the BLM what you think of its decision to open Factory Butte to off-road vehicle destruction.

    Call or email Joelle McCarthy, the BLM’s Richfield Field Office Manager, today!
    jmccarth@blm.gov
    435-896-1501

    Tell the BLM:

    • It’s ridiculous that the agency re-opened Factory Butte to motorized use after being closed for nearly 13 years without seeking public input beforehand and without giving any advance notice. The BLM manages places like Factory Butte on behalf of the public and is accountable for its decisions.
    • Post signs! ORV riders—even those who are well intentioned—won’t stay in the newly designated “open area” if that area is not easy to distinguish on the ground. The BLM has placed no signs on the inside of the “play area,” meaning there is nothing to keep riders off the butte itself.  And contrary to the agency’s claims in its press release announcing that the area is open to cross-country use, the trend of violations by ORV riders around Factory Butte is on the rise.
    • The BLM is destroying an iconic landscape! The agency’s decision ensures that one of Utah’s most recognizable landscapes will be defaced and damaged for years to come. Contrary to popular myth, these tracks don’t simply disappear after the next rain!

    Click here for more information on the BLM’s opening of Factory Butte.

    Longtime SUWA members will recall that protecting Factory Butte was a major fight in the late 90s and early 2000s. The closure of the area to ORV abuse in 2006 gave the land a much-needed chance to recover.

    The BLM’s decision last week is further proof that the Trump administration has found its legs, and that no previous environmental victory is safe from those who would destroy Utah’s wildlands.

    Please take action today. The BLM needs to hear from you.

  • November 28th, 2018

    Shortly after the Trump administration took office in 2017, SUWA filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Interior and Justice Departments seeking records related to several then-pending lawsuits, including a lawsuit brought by an oil and gas trade group (Western Energy Alliance) which challenged Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms as well as the State of Wyoming’s lawsuit against Obama-era regulation of oil and gas fracking.  In particular, we sought communications between the plaintiffs in those lawsuits and federal officials, concerned that one or more sweetheart settlements might be in the making.

    After both Departments largely ignored our requests, SUWA filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC seeking the release of all responsive records. After much back and forth with lawyers for the United States we began receiving a rolling production of records. We wanted to share a few notable items:

    •  The American Petroleum Institute’s wish list encouraging the rescission or weakening of Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms. The Trump administration has followed through with many of these proposals.

    •  Emails between the Western Energy Alliance and the Departments of Interior and Justice as early as February 2017 regarding the settlement of an Alliance lawsuit. These discussions ultimately led to the Interior Department rescinding key Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms.

    •  The National Mining Association’s wish list encouraging the rollback of Obama-era policies, including a coal leasing moratorium.

    SUWA has several other outstanding FOIA requests and lawsuits regarding records related to President Trump’s attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments as well as the State of Utah’s sweeping RS 2477 litigation. We’ll keep you posted as those bear fruit.

  • August 16th, 2018

    President Trump’s Interior Department just released draft management plans revealing their vision for how to manage what’s left of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments as well as the lands that were illegally excised from those monuments. It was only last December that the president unlawfully attacked both of these monuments.

    We expected bad, but these plans are horrible.

    Help us protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by contributing to SUWA today.

    At Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) plan sets the stage for the destruction of a unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades.

    The BLM’s preferred alternative would open huge swaths of Grand Staircase to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage. And a new report released today from the Department of Interior crows that the lands cut from the original monument by President Trump are “rated high for development potential” of coal reserves.

    The BLM is not shy about its intentions to oversee the destruction of this place.  To quote directly from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, their preferred alternative would “conserve the least land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources . . . and is the least restrictive to energy and mineral development.”

    Circle Cliffs, copyright James Kay

    Places like the Circle Cliffs region along the Burr Trail and Wolverine Loop Roads and the Vermillion Cliffs east of Kanab are now in the crosshairs and at immediate risk of being irreparably destroyed.

    At Bears Ears, the plan is terrible, prioritizing consumptive uses such as grazing and logging while failing to protect cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands.

    Under these just released plans even the smaller national monuments that
    Trump left behind would be managed in a way that offers less protection
    than they currently enjoy.

    We’ll have more information for you in the coming days, as well as instructions on how you can tell Trump’s Department of Interior what you think of their plans to further decimate Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

    With your support, SUWA won’t rest until Trump’s unlawful orders are overturned—and we will do everything in our power to ensure that these terrible plans are never implemented.

    Please contribute to SUWA today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • October 27th, 2016

    A federal district court judge in Colorado ruled yesterday in favor of SUWA and a coalition of conservation groups in their challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers that live only on oil shale formations in Utah and Colorado.

    Read More »
  • October 13th, 2016

    A federal judge recently issued an order rejecting a natural gas project on public lands along the Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River in eastern Utah. This ruling received local and national media attention.

    The plan at issue in the ruling is part of the highly controversial Gasco Natural Gas Development Project, which the BLM approved in 2012. The “Gasco project” cleared the way for nearly 1,300 new oil and gas wells in Utah’s greater Desolation Canyon region, including 215 new wells, along with roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure in an area that conservationists and federal officials agree is a wilderness-caliber landscape. This 16-well project was one of the first site-specific authorizations to follow.

    The BLM has described the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness as one of the largest unprotected roadless complexes in the lower 48 states. The area, which surrounds the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River, is awe-inspiring, offering spectacular vistas and abundant solitude.

    UpperDeso_AboveUnit_Gasco_RB_1

    The Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River offers opportunities for solitude, flatwater boating, and camping for both families and river runners alike. Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The Gasco project was heavily criticized in editorials across the country when it was approved in 2012. It was also roundly decried by congressional leaders, the outdoor industry, and environmental leaders, who called on the Interior Department to protect Desolation Canyon.

    The 16-well project at issue in the judge’s ruling was slated for construction on three drilling pads adjacent to the Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River—a section of water that offers opportunities for families and river runners to enjoy solitude between high canyon walls, sandy beaches and groves of cottonwood trees.

    UpperDeso_AboveUnit_Gasco_RB_7

    Upper Desolation Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The BLM’s approval of the Gasco project and the 16-well project came at a time when eastern Utah had experienced several years of record high wintertime ozone levels that are largely the result of oil and gas development. The recent court decision held that the BLM’s evaluation of air pollution, and in particular ozone pollution, was inaccurate and inadequate. The judge also agreed with us that the agency did not seriously consider the noise from drilling these wells and how that would affect river runners and families.

    A big thank you to all our members who submitted comments on the Gasco project, wrote letters to the editor opposing the project, or otherwise supported our efforts to send this one back to the drawing board. We couldn’t have done it without you!

    This case was brought by SUWA, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society. A team of SUWA attorneys staffed this case, led by our former colleague David Garbett.