suwa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • April 10th, 2019

    February 2019 scientific review counters claims made by agencies on environmental benefits of vegetation removal on public lands

    Contact: Kya Marienfeld, Wildlands Attorney, 435-259-5440, kya@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (April 10, 2019) – Citing a new report on the lack of scientific evidence supporting “vegetation treatment” projects on public lands, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and its members are calling on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to halt work on three massive “vegetation treatment” proposals within the original boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    The peer-reviewed report*, released in February, 2019 by the Wild Utah Project – a Utah-based non-profit organization focused on conservation science  – analyzes the existing scientific literature on mechanical vegetation removal projects on western public lands. The report finds little evidence to support the BLM’s assertion that vegetation treatment projects improve forage or habitat for wildlife, or reduce stream erosion and runoff.

    In response to the report and ongoing plans by the BLM to conduct mechanical vegetation treatment projects on nearly 135,000 acres of the original 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, SUWA Wildlands attorney Kya Marienfeld released the following statement:

    Large-scale vegetation removal projects are an extreme and unproven management approach that simply do not belong on our public lands, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument should never be the subject of the most aggressive and invasive treatments like chaining, mastication, and mulching. These projects are completely incompatible with protecting the fragile ecological, paleontological, and archaeological resources in Grand Staircase.”

    The BLM’s current mechanical vegetation treatment plans in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument include:

    • Proposing to use chainsaws and mechanical masticators on up to 93,000 acres of public lands within a 610,000 acre area of the Paria River watershed.
    • Authorizing the removal of pinyon pine and juniper trees from more than 30,000 acres of within Skutumpah Terrace area northeast of Kanab. SUWA and conservation partners have appealed this project to the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals.Additional resources on the web:Link to this press release.
    • In three additional proposals at the heart of Grand Staircase (including Alvey Wash, Last Chance Gulch, and Coal Bench), the BLM plans to use heavy machinery including bullhog masticators to strip more than 13,000 acres of native vegetation, including pinyon and juniper trees and big sagebrush.

    Additional resources on the web:

    Summary of the Wild Utah Project report.

    The Wild Utah Project website.

    *Jones, A.J. (Ed).  2019. Do mechanical vegetation treatments of pinyon-juniper and sagebrush communities work?  A review of the literature. Special publication, Wild Utah Project. Salt Lake City, UT. (Full report.)

  • March 14th, 2019

    In this episode of Wild Utah, we discuss SUWA’s field volunteer program, which gets folks working outside across Utah to preserve and enhance the lands we’re fighting to protect. We work directly with the BLM and Forest Service to identify and implement projects that focus on wilderness and habitat preservation, cultural resource protection, and restoration of damage caused by off-road vehicles. Join us for the discussion, then come join us in the field by visiting SUWA.org/join-service-project.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” is written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin. Wild Utah is recorded at the studio of KRCL 90.9 FM, Listeners Community Radio of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our producer is Jerry Schmidt. We thank you all for generously donating your time, equipment and talent to Wild Utah.

  • March 11th, 2019

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    BLM Withdraws Permit for Helicopter Shuttles Near Bighorn Habitat Outside of Moab Following SUWA Appeal

    Contact: Kya Marienfeld, Wildlands Attorney, 435-259-5440, kya@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (March 11, 2019) – The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Moab field office has withdrawn a multi-year special recreation permit authorizing a private helicopter company to shuttle customers in and out of Mineral Bottom, south of Labyrinth Canyon and north of Canyonlands National Park in the Green River corridor.

    The permit withdrawal comes as the result of an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), challenging BLM’s previous decision to authorize these landings.

    In response to the permit withdrawal, SUWA Wildlands Attorney Kya Marienfeld issued the following statement:

    “The BLM’s withdrawal of this helicopter landing permit is a big victory for wildlife and solitude in the Green River corridor. The best available science shows that bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to helicopter traffic compared to other aircraft, and even the occasional close overflight could have driven the native population of bighorn from its habitat in the side canyons of the Green River.

    “The BLM’s original decision to grant this commercial permit would have increased helicopter traffic that could have severely disrupted the sheep’s breeding and lambing cycle, perhaps causing them to abandon the area altogether.

    “While the BLM should never have granted the permit in the first place, we are glad to see the BLM correct their error and withdraw the permit.”

    The permit, originally issued in August, 2018, would have allowed Pinnacle Helicopters, LLC to shuttle passengers during the boating season to a backcountry airstrip in Mineral Bottom that currently has no commercial helicopter traffic. The repeated helicopter shuttles would have brought increased noise and disruption to the adjacent Hell Roaring, Spring, and Tenmile Canyons —  all of which are critical lambing and rutting habitat for a rare native population of desert bighorn sheep.

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  • February 26th, 2019

    Utah’s Iconic San Rafael Swell Nears Wilderness Protection as Part of Public Lands Package Passed by U.S. House of Representatives 

    Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, 801-712-5034, scott@suwa.org

    Jen Ujifusa, Legislative Director, 801-791-2598, jen@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (February 26, 2019) – In response to today’s passage of the Emery County Public Land Management Act by the U.S. House of Representatives as part of S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “Now that both the Senate and House have passed this legislation, only the President’s signature is needed to protect 663,000 acres of Utah’s iconic San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons as designated wilderness. After a year-long fight, what began as terrible legislation will now extend much-needed protection to some of Utah’s most beloved redrock landscapes.

    “With our Utah Wilderness Coalition allies- the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council- and thousands of Americans across the nation, we’ve made this legislation deserving of the places protected.

    “There are still lands in Emery County and elsewhere deserving of protection, and we look forward to working with the Utah congressional delegation and other members of congress to that end.

    “We’re grateful to Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who each challenged an earlier, flawed version of the bill—flaws which have now been largely addressed. These lands belong to all Americans, and wilderness bills like this one can only succeed if Utah politicians recognize the national significance of their protection.

    “We appreciate the efforts of Sen. Hatch, Rep. John Curtis, and their staffs for seeing the bill through.

    “At a time when our nation’s public lands are under assault by the Trump administration, this legislation is good for Redrock wilderness. Passing this legislation involved compromises, and worthy landscapes were left out. Nonetheless, this bill is good for Utah and good for the United States.”

    Additional Resources

    More information, including maps and photographs of the protected region, is available here.