suwa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • November 3rd, 2020

    SUWA Staff Attorney Landon Newell discusses a proposal by the Bureau of Land Management to allow a helium drilling project within the newly-established Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness along the Green River. This is the latest in a long series of outrageous actions on public lands by President Trump’s Bureau of Land Management, but there are ways for you to get involved in the effort to stop the drilling of this spectacular wilderness before it starts.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” was written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin.

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  • October 28th, 2020

    One month before the largest wilderness bill of the last ten years was passed (the Emery County Public Land Management Act, signed into law as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act on March 12, 2019), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rushed to issue a lease to drill in the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness, which was formally designated as wilderness by the Dingell Act.

    The BLM had full knowledge that lands encompassing the leased area would soon be designated as wilderness—but went ahead and issued the lease anyway. SUWA protested that decision but the BLM’s state director rejected our challenge.

    Now, the agency has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) to approve a helium drilling project on this lease inside the wilderness. The public comment period is open through November 9, 2020.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to allow drilling in the heart of Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness!

    Aerial view of Labyrinth Canyon with lease area highlighted. Photo © Pete McBride/EcoFlight

    If allowed to proceed, the project will involve months of extensive construction in this remarkably quiet and remote place, including, at a minimum, road improvements (upgrading and graveling of existing two-tracks), well pad construction (5-7 acres of disturbance), pipelines, infrastructure on the well pad, and construction of a 10-acre processing facility on nearby Utah school trust lands. The project developer plans to drill at least two wells for helium, which requires a federal oil and gas lease to develop and which will have many of the same on-the-ground impacts as conventional oil and gas drilling.

    The Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River, which was designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as a “Scenic” segment, is one of the most iconic, remote, and world-renowned river segments in the United States.

    Please contact the BLM today and tell them:

    • Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness is too special to drill (this includes the wilderness area itself as well as the adjacent Labyrinth Canyon Scenic segment of the Green River).
    • The area is very remote, quiet, and scenic, and industrialization of the area will significantly degrade—or destroy—these values.
    • Both the lease and this last-minute rush to approve development before a potential change in presidential administration highlights everything that is wrong with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.

    Click here to submit your comments today.

    P.S. This Salt Lake Tribune article has more detail on how this lease was slipped in during the 11th hour before Labyrinth Canyon was designated as wilderness.

  • October 13th, 2020

    Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We recognized it by sharing the Bears Ears Inter Tribal Coalition’s words. Today, we want to continue the spirit of Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a message about public land. 

    The wild lands of America’s red rock wilderness are ancestral Goshute, Ute, Shoshone, Diné, Paiute, Hopi, and Pueblo territories—this only considers tribes recognized by the federal government. Since the beginning of time, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples have called the mountains, canyons, and valleys of Utah home. We honor our native neighbors and those who were here long before all of us to recognize the following:

    • Public Lands are on stolen lands: in the United States, Thomas Jefferson first employed the Doctrine of Discovery to dispossess Native peoples of their claims to land in order to continue U.S. westward expansion. The Doctrine of Discovery is a religious doctrine of the 1400s that founded the spiritual and legal right for Europeans to literally “take possession” of lands they “discovered [that were] not under the dominion of Christian rulers.” In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the Doctrine as legally valid. This historic process is where the concept of “stolen lands” come from. Even though SUWA has been persistent in the permanent protection of red rock wilderness in Utah and fights tooth and nail for the retention of public lands in the public domain, we still must face the facts of this violent time in history.
    • Federal conservation lands were created with the same kind of intention. Organ Pipe, Yosemite, and Yellowstone are just a few examples of beloved conservation lands whose establishment resulted in the displacement of native communities. This is why it’s important to know whose land you stand on, and to support native-lead campaigns to protect people and the planet. The more non-native people can recognize ancestral territories on which they live, work, and play, the better allies we can be in standing for justice for native peoples.

    Our public lands are the perfect subject for healing among all people, healing our connection with the more-than-human world, and respecting our native community members. Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but the work to protect sacred ancestral lands continues every day.

  • October 5th, 2020

    For Immediate Release

    Contact: Oliver Wood, Wildlands Attorney, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance,  435-355-0716, oliver@suwa.org

    Moab, Utah (October 5, 2020) – Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) withdrew its May 4, 2020 decision authorizing the removal of pinyon pine and juniper in a nearly 20,000-acre area within the remote Book Cliffs of southeastern Utah.

    The BLM’s withdrawal came after SUWA appealed the decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (Board), taking issue with the agency’s attempt to avoid conducting environmental analyses specific to the project area.

    Known as the Seep Ridge vegetation removal project, the now-withdrawn project would have allowed the removal of native pinyon pine and juniper trees over approximately 20,000 acres through a practice known as lop-and-scatter—a vegetation removal technique that involves felling live trees, cutting them into roughly three-foot pieces, and scattering them throughout the area. 

    In authorizing the project, the BLM sought to avoid conducting a site-specific environmental analysis by relying on documents from prior vegetation removal projects that, in total, overlapped with only twelve percent of the project’s geographic area. 

    After SUWA submitted its opening brief to the Board, the agency voluntarily withdrew the project for further analysis. 

    In response to the BLM withdrawing the project, SUWA Wildlands Attorney Oliver Wood issued the following statement:

    “Despite the Bureau of Land Management’s initial unwillingness to admit its unlawful approval of the nearly 20,000-acre Seep Ridge vegetation removal project, we are glad that the agency has decided to pull the project and initiate the level of environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The public has the right to know all of the environmental impacts of such a massive project before the chainsaws start whining and trees come crashing down.

    “This project would denude large swaths of the Book Cliffs area, including lands recognized by the Bureau of Land Management for their important wilderness and wildlife values. Because of these considerations, vegetation removal in such wild places demands a heightened level of environmental scrutiny. 

    “The Bureau of Land Management’s withdrawal of this project is just the latest in a series of setbacks for the Trump administration and its push to clearcut large portions of native pinyon pine and juniper forests throughout the West. Whether promoted under the guise of habitat restoration, fire mitigation, or watershed health, the end result of these projects is the same—deforested landscapes seeded with non-native grass species for cows. If these projects are as great as the agency would like the public to believe, then there’s no reason to avoid analyzing and disclosing those environmental impacts as required by law.”