Steve Bloch, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 4 of 6


  • September 16th, 2015

    In August, the BLM’s Canyon Country District Office released the long-awaited Moab Master Leasing Plan for public review and comment.  When finalized, this plan will govern the scope, pace and nature of oil, gas and potash development on more than 750,000 acres of public lands in the stunning Moab area.

    Tell the BLM to protect Moab’s redrock country from oil, gas, and potash development.

    While the draft “Moab MLP” is a good first step to protect places like Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, and Goldbar Canyon from being overrun by the sight and sound of pump jacks and drill rigs, more work remains to be done.

    Labyrinth Canyon (RayBloxham)

    Labyrinth Canyon, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Under the BLM’s current “preferred alternative,” Labyrinth Canyon and its many stunning side canyons would be targeted for leasing and drilling.  The agency would also give potash development and its staggering water use the green light – with over 42,000 acres of public lands prioritized as “potash processing facility areas,” including sites near Labyrinth Canyon and at the entrance to the Needles and Anticline Overlook roads.

    If you want to see these magnificent landscapes protected, not exploited, let the BLM know!

    The BLM needs to hear from you that you value the greater Moab area’s dark night skies, clean air, and wild open spaces.

    Click here to send your comments to the BLM.

    Thank you.

  • August 19th, 2015

    Last Friday, Utah BLM released the long awaited draft Moab master leasing plan (or Moab MLP) for a 90-day public review and comment period.

    View of Castleton Tower and the La Sal Mountains from Dome Plateau. Copyright Tom Till.

    View of Castleton Tower and the La Sal Mountains from Dome Plateau. Copyright Tom Till.

    BLM kicked off the master leasing plan process in May 2010 in direct response to litigation that SUWA and our partners brought in the last days of George W. Bush administration to stop oil and gas leasing on the door step of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and other remarkable wilderness landscapes. After we successfully blocked the sale of the infamous “77 leases” and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew them from sale, there was consensus that the Obama administration needed to do better.

    The plan released last week will give BLM the tools to protect roughly 750,000 acres of remarkable public lands around Moab that are illustrative of what Americans think about when they imagine Utah’s redrock country. Places like Porcupine Rim, Fisher Towers, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon will be protected from the sight and sound of pump jacks and other oil field equipment. As things stand today, these places and many others in the region are vulnerable to the devastating impacts of oil and gas leasing and development, as well as potash mining.

    At the same time, the master leasing plan will provide for better management of oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources. The MLP will also give industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development could take place, and companies will understand the terms and conditions for those activities

    Master leasing plans are one example of the Obama administration’s early promise to better balance protection of wild places, local economies, and energy development. The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality acknowledged as much as it blogged last week about the genesis of the Moab MLP and its potential to bring long needed balance to some of the west’s most significant landscapes.

    Predictably, the Moab MLP is far from perfect and leaves critical landscapes unprotected. For example, under the current “preferred alternative” the Labyrinth Canyon stretch of the Green River and its stunning side canyons remain open to leasing and development. With your help, we will work to ensure that this classic Utah landscape is protected.

    BLM has scheduled three open houses in late September and early October in Moab, Monticello and Salt Lake City and will also be accepting comments via email and letter. Look for updates from us in the coming weeks with suggestions about how to get involved.

  • August 14th, 2015

    A draft Bureau of Land Management plan released today could guide energy development away from sensitive lands near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and many outstanding proposed wilderness areas that are too wild to drill, though places like Labyrinth Canyon and Indian Creek could still be threatened.

    Read More »
  • July 9th, 2015

    Some bad ideas just don’t go away. In 2011, with your help, we sent a clear message to the BLM to “just say no” to a proposed coal lease on the western doorstep of Bryce Canyon National Park. So did the National Park Service. So did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You would think the BLM would get the message.

    Yet here we are, in the summer of 2015, and the BLM has just released a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) analyzing the potential coal lease at the behest of Alton Coal Development—a small, privately held, out-of-state company. The lease would expand the current Coal Hollow mine from private land onto adjacent public land.

    The impact of the mine expansion on the local environment would be significant. It would pollute the air, flood Bryce Canyon’s world-famous dark night skies with light, degrade the habitat and health of wildlife such as the imperiled sage grouse, lower water quality, and mar one of the most majestic landscapes in the world.

    Coal Hollow Mine (RayBloxham)

    Coal Hollow Mine at the doorstep of Bryce Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The expanded Coal Hollow strip mine would also allow up to 300 coal trucks to barrel through the historic town of Panguitch each day, threatening shops, restaurants, motels and small businesses that depend on tourists, and putting residents at risk for respiratory health problems related to toxic coal dust.

    We need your help again to tell the BLM, in no uncertain terms, “just say no!”

    The BLM is holding five open houses in the coming weeks: July 14 (Cedar City), July 15 (Panguitch), July 16 (Salt Lake City), July 21 (Kanab) and July 22 (Alton). Please consider attending one of these meetings to learn more about this terrible proposal. Click here for specific locations and times.

    We’ll post another alert  soon on how you can take further action and submit detailed comments via our website (to submit comments now, visit the BLM comment page).

  • May 26th, 2015

    BLM plan designated thousands of miles of ORV routes, placing iconic western landscapes at risk

    SALT LAKE CITY–On Friday, May 22, the United States District Court for the District of Utah issued a long awaited ruling regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Resource Management Plan and Off-Road Vehicle Travel Management Plan for the Richfield field office, specifically directing the agency to complete comprehensive cultural surveys and additional analyses over the next 1-3 years. This “remedy decision” book-ended a November 2013 decision which held that BLM’s plans violated several substantive laws, though the court deferred deciding what steps were needed to fix the plans until a second round of briefing on the appropriate remedy was completed.

    Under the Richfield RMP and ORV Travel Plan, which covers lands between Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Parks, BLM designated over 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails – enough miles to drive from Los Angeles to New York City and part way back – for ORV use. The BLM did so despite evidence of environmental damage to Utah’s unique redrock landscapes, damage to irreplaceable cultural resources, and conflicts with other public lands visitors.

    A coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and Earthjustice challenged the Richfield plans in an attempt to stem the ORV damage to Utah’s spectacular public lands. These plans threaten world-renowned southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon complex (including Butch Cassidy’s infamous hideout, Robber’s Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states) and Factory Butte.  See photos here.

    The court’s decision also raises serious questions about the legality of five other BLM management plans in the eastern half of Utah that suffer from similar legal flaws. The Richfield RMP is just one of six land use plans—covering more than 11 million acres of eastern and southern Utah—that the Interior Department finalized before the Bush administration left office in 2008. Each of the six plans is wildly unbalanced in favor of off-road vehicle use and energy development and threaten Utah’s renowned redrock country. The Obama administration has unfortunately continued to defend these plans, both in court and in practice. Conservationists have challenged all six plans in court.  The Richfield RMP is the first of the six to be litigated.

    “These important decisions flatly reject Utah BLM’s ‘designate trails first, think later’ approach to off-road vehicle management,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “By setting forth strict timelines for BLM to undertake long overdue inventories for cultural sites and prepare necessary environmental analyses, the court has sent a clear message that the status quo is not acceptable. Utah’s remarkable redrock landscapes demand better.”

    “BLM has been ignoring its mandate to minimize environmental harm from ORV abuse since the Nixon administration, when the ORV rules took effect,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “The court’s strict deadline is a wake up call that will finally force BLM to do its job and protect this magnificent expanse of scenic redrock country.”

    “This decision reinforces the court’s previous ruling that BLM must take protection of natural and cultural resources seriously,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel for The Wilderness Society. “The BLM should stop seeking to avoid its responsibilities and move forward with addressing the serious flaws in these 6 plans, fulfilling its obligations as steward of these 11 million acres of public lands and committing to meaningful conservation.”

    “BLM’s refusal to conduct on-the-ground inventories for cultural resources that are being damaged and destroyed from off-road vehicle use was shocking,” said Bill Hedden, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Trust.  Federal law requires BLM to do more to protect these irreplaceable cultural treasures and we’re pleased that the judge ordered BLM to do so.”

    Specifically, Judge Kimball:

    Directed BLM to prepare new analyses over the next 1-3 years documenting that the agency’s off-road vehicle designations minimize impacts to a number of specific resources, including wildlife, non-motorized recreation, and riparian areas.

    • Directed BLM to prepare new analyses over the next 1-3 years documenting that the agency’s off-road vehicle designations minimize impacts to a number of specific resources, including wildlife, non-motorized recreation, and riparian areas.
    • Directed BLM to complete intensive, on-the-ground surveys for historic and cultural resources over the next 1-3 years for all designated routes.
      • The Court agreed with SUWA that BLM should begin its work with all routes in the area between Capitol Reef National Park, the Henry Mountains and the Green River. This work must be completed within one year of the Court’s May 22, 2015 order.
    • Directed BLM to provide SUWA with copies of the agency’s annual ORV monitoring reports, documentation BLM has largely failed to prepare since it completed the Richfield plan in 2008. BLM is required to provide SUWA with these reports over the three-year remedial period.
    • Directed BLM to issue a new decision within six months on whether to designate the Henry Mountains as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern—which would give heightened protection to its bison herds and large expanses of remote, spectacularly scenic lands.
    • Directed BLM to issue a new decision within the next year on whether Happy Canyon and portions of Buck and Pasture Canyons are eligible for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    Further Background:

    Background information on the Richfield RMP can be found on SUWA’s website.  Photographs of the proposed wilderness areas at risk in the Richfield field office are also available. In 2008, the Salt Lake Tribune and New York Times panned the Richfield RMP, raising many of the same flaws identified in the court’s decisions.

    The conservation groups challenging the BLM’s 2008 land use plans in Utah include the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Utah Rivers Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Rocky Mountain Wild.

    The groups are represented by attorneys Heidi McIntosh and Robin Cooley of Earthjustice, Stephen Bloch and David Garbett of SUWA, and by Robert Wiygul of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside. Attorneys Nada Culver and Alison Flint of The Wilderness Society were also a part of the groups’ legal team.

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