suwa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • February 23rd, 2017

    Comment Period Open on Lease Sale Near Zion National Park

    Zion Lease Sale Parcel (Luke Henry)

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Saint George field office is preparing to lease for oil and gas development approximately 4,730 acres of federal public land at its upcoming lease sale. Two of the parcels are located less than two miles from Zion National Park along the Kolob Terrace Road, a popular tourist route. Oil and gas development in this area will be visible from the gateway community of Virgin as well as from inside the park, threatening pristine night skies, air quality, and tourism.

    The BLM’s proposal to lease for oil and gas development on the doorstep of Utah’s most popular national park has been met, unsurprisingly, by strong opposition. Local residents packed the Virgin Community Center to express their concerns during a public meeting with BLM officials, and the Washington County Commission passed a resolution in opposition to the lease sale, noting that Zion National Park is “an internationally recognized showpiece” and “the scenic nature of the area surrounding [the park] contributes to the beauty, economy, and recreational values in Washington County.”

    If you’d like to raise objections to the lease sale, the BLM is accepting public comments through March 9, 2017.

    >> Click here to submit comments now

    Photo © Luke Henry/SUWA


    SUWA Goes On Air to Defend Bears Ears

    Bears Ears Ad ScreenshotLast Thursday was a big day for the new Bears Ears National Monument.
    Following a disastrous call with Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Outdoor
    Retailer—the huge outdoor recreation convention held in Salt Lake City
    twice a year—announced that it would be leaving Utah as soon as
    possible in protest over the state’s attempts to convince President
    Trump to rescind or reduce the monument. And that same day, SUWA
    launched a statewide television campaign to remind Utahns that despite
    the governor’s misguided and damaging rhetoric, Bears Ears National
    Monument is good for Utah.

    >> Click here to watch our newest ad


    Rep. Chaffetz Gets an Earful at Town Hall Meeting

    Chaffetz Town Hall Rally

    On February 9th, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz held a town hall meeting at a suburban Salt Lake City high school. To say that the House Oversight Committee Chairman has rankled his constituents would be an understatement. In particular, his war against public lands protection (in lockstep with the rest of the Utah delegation) and his campaign against the Bears Ears National Monument (he asked Trump to revoke the designation in a recent DC meeting) raised the ire of many redrock activists in his district—and boy did they turn out to let him know.

    Inside the packed 1,100-seat auditorium, roughly half of the questions centered on Chaffetz’s opposition to public lands, Bears Ears, and environmental protection in general. Outside the meeting, another 1,200 people, armed with banners and hand-made posters in support of Bears Ears, Protect Wild Utah, and a host of other issues, held a spontaneous and boisterous rally. Chants included “Protect Bears Ears,” “Do your job,” and “Keep your hands off our lands!”

    In the wake of Chaffetz’s contentious town hall,
    which was widely covered by national
    media
    , the Utah Republican Party announced that it will no longer hold live
    town hall meetings, opting for staged tele-town hall meetings instead. In response, citizens are holding the first Utah Town Hall for All this Friday, Feb 24th at Cottonwood High School. If you live in Utah (regardless of district) and want to speak your mind, we encourage you to attend. If you’d like to get active
    in other ways, please fill out our online survey.

    Photo © Terri Martin/SUWA


    SUWA Adds New Field Organizers in Six Key Regions

    There are some important senators and representatives who are going to make or break the fight to save our public lands in Utah under the current Congress and administration. SUWA has contracted six new field organizers to better target these senators and representatives to #ProtectWildUtah. They are Allahandro Bradford (FL), Mike Salaski (PA), John Demos (ME/NH), Miguel Perla (Southern CA), Ryan Mykita (Northern CA), and Jenny Holmes (WA/OR). We are very excited to welcome these new field organizers to the fight to protect our public lands!

    If you would like to contact your field organizer, email us at field@suwa.org.


    Take Action to #ProtectWildUtah from Your Smartphone

    Would you like to receive text alerts so you can quickly take action to #StandWithBearsEars and #ProtectWildUtah? Simply text the keyword SUWA to 52886 and we will alert you when public lands are threatened so you can send emails to your elected officials, tweet at represenatives, and share your support for the redrock on Facebook! We’ll also let you know about events you can attend and actions you can take to ensure that public lands stay in public hands. Sign up today!

  • February 22nd, 2017

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Saint George field office is preparing to lease for oil and gas development approximately 4,730 acres of federal public land at its upcoming lease sale. Two of the parcels are located less than two miles from Zion National Park along the Kolob Terrace Road, a popular tourist route. Oil and gas development in this area will be visible from the gateway community of Virgin as well as from inside the park, threatening pristine night skies, air quality, and tourism.

    Looking east-southeast across lease parcels 42 and 43 at the outskirts of Zion National Park. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    The BLM’s proposal to lease for oil and gas development on the doorstep of Utah’s most popular national park has been met, unsurprisingly, by strong opposition. Local residents packed the Virgin Community Center to express their concerns during a public meeting with BLM officials, and the Washington County Commission passed a resolution in opposition to the lease sale, noting that Zion National Park is “an internationally recognized showpiece” and “the scenic nature of the area surrounding [the park] contributes to the beauty, economy, and recreational values in Washington County.”

    The BLM is accepting public comments through March 9, 2017. Click here to submit comments now.

  • January 19th, 2017

    Petition asks administrative appeals board to ‘stay’ BLM decision to designate Indian Creek ATV trail

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    January 19, 2017

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Contact:
    Kya Marienfeld, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 573-228-1061
    Tim Peterson, Grand Canyon Trust, 801-550-9861

    MOAB – Last Friday a coalition of conservation groups (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) appealed a controversial decision by the BLM’s Monticello field office to approve new ATV trails and parking areas in the heart of the popular Indian Creek region and within the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument.  The decision, which came only days before President Obama’s monument proclamation, was made without any opportunity for public review or comment.

    “It is outrageous that BLM would make this decision without seeking public input,” said Kya Marienfeld, Moab resident and Wildlands Field Advocate for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This area, like the rest of the new Bears Ears National Monument, is full of irreplaceable cultural resources and is an internationally treasured rock-climbing destination as well as the gateway into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This highly controversial decision would extend significant ATV use into a part of the region that currently does not see that kind of off-road vehicle traffic. “

    “Our local members have visited the site of the proposed project and we can only oppose the creation of this unnecessary and undesirable ATV trail,” said Wayne Hoskisson from the Sierra Club Utah Chapter. “Lavender and Davis Canyons will see a huge increase in noisy, motorized recreation. Even Canyonlands National Park criticized the route for this reason. The BLM wasted ten years trying to justify this route. They should stop now especially since it impacts the Bears Ears National Monument.”

    Under consideration for years, BLM previously approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV project in February 2015. At that time, the same coalition of conservation groups challenged BLM’s decision and won a stay from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, which later vacated and remanded the decision back to BLM (at its request) for additional analysis. Despite this order from the Board, BLM’s newest decision on the ATV project repeats the same mistakes as its initial approval. The new trails and associated parking areas authorized by BLM this time around will bisect an area that BLM has already determined is a wilderness-caliber landscape, and will result in the disqualification of over 900 acres from potential future designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

    In addition, BLM’s designation of new ATV trails in Indian Creek directly contradicts the new Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation, which calls for a full planning process before designating new roads or trails. Under the Proclamation, new routes like the Indian Creek ATV trails and parking areas may be designated only for purposes of public safety or for protecting the fragile resources the Monument safeguards.

    “Why would BLM rush to expand off-road vehicle use in Indian Creek just days before Bears Ears National Monument was designated?” asked Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director for Grand Canyon Trust. “Indian Creek is a treasure – the 80 year effort to protect it was successful because of its cultural importance. Now is the time to plan for the future considering all the values for which Bears Ears National Monument was protected – not to sneak in more off-roading just under the wire.”

    The BLM’s Environmental Assessment can be found here.

    ###

  • January 18th, 2017

    Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), President-elect Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, finished his ‘How Do You Do?’ hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday. The results, as is often the case in the public lands universe, are coming up Utah.

    ct-ryan-zinke-interior-secretary-confirmation-hearing-20170117
    Do you want the good news or the bad news? Or both? In the hearing, Rep. Zinke said more than once that visiting the Beehive State was his “first order” should he be confirmed—even confirming that to Sen. Manchin, who was fishing for West Virginia as the answer.

    SUWA, naturally, welcomes any new secretary of Interior who proposes to visit us in what he called our “Great State of Utah.” Utah’s public lands are the crown jewels of those managed by the secretary—some of the last unprotected wildernesses in the lower 48—indeed, the last to be mapped because of their rugged and untamable beauty.

    But, we have serious concerns about Zinke’s nomination. His record is partly cloudy on its fairest days. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool fossil fuel booster, and he lauds industry deregulation. He has occasionally made a point of resisting public lands giveaways of the kind that extremists in Utah champion, and he did defy Rep. Rob Bishop’s attempts to dismantle the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But these qualifications were once the cellar for an incoming Interior Secretary—not the ceiling.

    That President Obama just designated 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument only underscores the importance of Zinke’s promised visit. If confirmed as DOI boss, Zinke will be the head liaison between the U.S. government and the many sovereign tribes of this nation. Because an unprecedented coalition of tribes—the Navajo, the Zuni, the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute and the Ute Indian Tribe—came together to request the monument in honor of the heritage they all share in this landscape, it will be mandatory for the next DOI Secretary to meet with them and understand their role in protecting this place. Anything less is a total sham. And Zinke’s hedges on the next administration’s intentions were a red flag.

    That’s why, at the hearing, one of our great public lands champions, Sen. Martin Heinrich, made a point of reminding Rep. Zinke that even tribes in New Mexico are celebrating the new Bears Ears National Monument. It’s obvious that native people of many states, and diverse citizens of all fifty, are joining together to rejoice in this new designation, which will endure for generations.

    But we worry the nominee doesn’t truly see it that way. In justifying Utah as a priority visit at the hearing, Zinke drew on his Navy Seal background and called it a “five-meter target,” (i.e. the thing immediately in front of you) and proclaimed that “obviously we have a problem in the Great State of Utah.”

    That almost sounds like he sees our state as a threat, doesn’t it? It’s clear he needs some better intel.

    Rep. Zinke has vowed to visit with those “affected” by the Bears Ears and make a “recommendation” to President Trump about its future. That handshake tour requires at least two stops beyond what a bitter Utah delegation would show him:

    First, Zinke must meet with the tribes who so passionately worked for its protection and assist them in their goals—certainly they are affected.

    Second, as the local conservation group that has worked on Utah wilderness for more than 30 years, and knows these lands inside and out, Rep. Zinke needs to meet with our staff in Moab. Our folks in Moab are closer to parts of the monument than any town in San Juan County. We’ll gladly accommodate his schedule so we can show off what our nearly 13,000 members know to be true: that these public lands are among the nation’s most wild, most fragile and most precious, and that his job is one that will require true vision.

    In the hearing, Zinke repeatedly professed his admiration for President Teddy Roosevelt, who first designated the Natural Bridges National Monument, which the new Bears Ears National Monument adorns and completes with holistic, 21st Century boundaries. Zinke claimed today he hoped to be “bold,” to seek a vision for “100 years from now.” We hope the Montanan will live up to that professed dream, by looking to the possibilities and economies of the future instead of the past.

    After all, Teddy Roosevelt himself signed the Antiquities Act that made the Bears Ears National Monument possible. And, as the 26th president said, “Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”

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