suwa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • April 9th, 2020

    Photo: Peter Gatch

    Thank you, as always, for supporting the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. You may be aware that Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020. Included in this legislation were several provisions that may change your charitable donations this year. Please consider the following:

    You can now deduct your gift to SUWA, even if you take the standard deduction. The CARES Act allows for up to $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple) in an above-the-line deduction for charitable gifts made in 2020 and claimed on taxes in 2021. This means that you can lower your income tax bill by giving to SUWA today, even if you take the standard deduction on your taxes. Please talk with your accountant to learn more.

    If you itemize deductions, there are new charitable deduction limits. The CARES Act increases the existing cap on charitable cash contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60% of adjusted gross income to 100% in 2020. Please talk with your accountant to learn more.

    Were you planning to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement account in 2020? The CARES Act waives all RMDs for individuals over the age of 70 ½ who own specified retirement accounts in 2020. However, for account owners who began taking their RMDs prior to 2020, you can still choose to send a qualified charitable distribution to SUWA and thereby decrease your tax burden. For more information, please talk with your retirement account administrator or accountant.

    In addition, there are two particularly helpful ways to support SUWA during this time:

    Signing up for monthly giving ensures that the fight to protect wild Utah continues through these challenging times. Monthly giving of any amount is easy and secure; includes all the benefits of membership; and provides SUWA with reliable, year-round funding. To sign up, or for more details, please visit our Monthly Giving page.

    Please consider including SUWA in your estate plans in order to leave a lasting legacy for America’s redrock wilderness. Such plans may also provide tax savings for you or your loved ones. For more information on planned giving, please visit our Planned Giving page, or talk with your financial advisor or attorney. If you have already included SUWA in your estate plans, please let us know by contacting Michelle Martineau, our administrative director, at michelle@suwa.org or by phone at (801) 486-3763.

    If you have any questions, please contact us at membership@suwa.org or (801) 486-3161. Thank you for being part of the movement to protect wild Utah!

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Tax ID: 94-2936961

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Mailing Address: 425 East 100 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

  • April 6th, 2020

    Comments due by April 13th, 2020!

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of native pinyon pine and juniper forests throughout the West each year. In recent years, public input has stopped many of these controversial projects or helped the BLM make better, more scientifically-sound vegetation management decisions that leave pristine, sensitive wilderness-quality lands and habitat intact.

    Now, despite the critical role of public input and oversight on these controversial vegetation removal projects, the BLM is proposing a new categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would allow up to 10,000 acre projects to mechanically remove pinyon pine and juniper trees on public lands with no environmental analysis, public accountability, or public input. 

    We must use this opportunity to remind the BLM why public input is crucial to a rational and science-based decision-making process, provide evidence that the environmental effects of vegetation removal projects vary significantly from project to project, oftentimes causing significant long-term harm to native ecosystems, and make the public voice heard.

    Comments on the proposed categorical exclusion are due April 13th, 2020. Click here to submit comments through our online action center.

    When writing your comments, please consider the following points:

    • 10,000 acre projects are an extremely unreasonable size to categorically exclude from NEPA and public review. This area is larger than many cities. Congress in the past has called for agencies to establish categorical exclusions for some projects up to 4,500 acres in size. BLM’s proposed categorical exclusion is more than double that, with very few limitations on where, when, and how treatments can be conducted.
    • The best available science shows that these projects do have significant environmental effects, making any blanket determination that future projects need not go through the NEPA process because there are no significant environmental effects wildly inappropriate.
    • BLM has misrepresented available scientific research on the effects of these projects in its categorical exclusion proposal, erroneously concluding they have a net positive effect on the ecosystem. This completely excludes science showing that mechanical pinyon pine and juniper removal is overall very harmful for woodland-dependent species, including migratory birds whose populations are already in drastic decline.
    • BLM should not be able to categorically exclude any projects in National Monuments, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Wilderness Study Areas, or other special-status public lands. There are many proposed vegetation removal projects in recent years that were removed from these sensitive areas because of public input and engagement. It is improper for BLM to be able to plan, approve, and execute projects using heavy machinery to clearcut native forests in these special management lands with no public oversight and without robust, site-specific environmental analysis.
    • These projects help accelerate climate change by causing large-scale surface disturbance that increases desertification, contributes to atmospheric dust levels, and removes valuable forest carbon sinks. BLM must continue to do project-specific, public, NEPA analysis for pinyon pine and juniper removal projects because of their potential contributions to climate change.
    • BLM has not demonstrated that it has adequately monitored past vegetation removal projects to ensure that the treatments do not cause significant, long-term damage to overall ecosystem health by disturbing and destroying biological soil crust or spreading invasive species like cheatgrass. BLM must provide long-term monitoring data from past projects to demonstrate their success before categorically excluding future projects from NEPA. BLM must make this data publicly available.
    • BLM has not provided any criteria or guidelines in the proposed CX to determine what qualifies as sage-grouse or mule deer habitat, and because there will be no public process, the BLM will not need to justify these determinations. Therefore, the BLM could ostensibly use the proposed CX to remove 10,000 acres of forest wherever it wants with no public accountability. Distressingly, the public may not even know these large-scale projects were happening until after they were completed and the deforestation was irreversible.

    Please consider all of these points as you make your comments, and make sure to add your own! Tell the Bureau of Land Management why large-scale mechanical removal of pinyon pine and juniper forests across the west continues to be a very significant action deserving of careful environmental review and public input.

    >> Click here to submit comments through our online action center (personalize if possible)
    >> Click here to submit comments via the BLM’s web portal (use points above to craft a message in your own words)

    Aftermath of a BLM “mastication” project on Utah public lands. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

  • March 30th, 2020

    While physical distancing measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus have kept many people at home, gateway communities at the edge of wild public lands in Utah are hardly catching a break. Residents and healthcare practitioners in places like Moab and Boulder, Utah are doing everything they can to stop the transmission of Coronavirus in their small rural communities – communities particularly vulnerable to stress on healthcare, groceries and other vital resources during a pandemic.

    In this episode of Wild Utah, we are joined by Dr. Dylan Cole, Chief Medical Officer at Moab Regional Hospital, and Blake Spalding, Chef/owner of Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, to hear more about why staying at home this spring is imperative for their communities.

    Wild Utah is produced by Jerry Schmidt and 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. 

    Listen on your favorite app!

    wildutah.info/Stitcher
    wildutah.info/Apple
    wildutah.info/Spotify

  • March 19th, 2020

    In light of coronavirus impacting our communities and disrupting our day-to-day routines, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty that the world is facing right now.

    In a very short amount of time, our lives at work, school, and home have had to change so that we may prevent the further spread of COVID-19. While social distancing has become a best practice during this pandemic, we’ve also seen how much this is actually physical distancing.

    While we cannot share the same physical space with people outside of our homes—and, for many, at work—now is a time when remaining socially close to friends and loved ones and strengthening social ties is ever more important. This is a great time to make better use of your phone, video call platforms, pens and paper, and other technologies.

    If you spend time scrolling through social media, one positive message you may have seen in your newsfeed is that “the outdoors have not been canceled.”  One thing we can do right now is observe the arrival of spring. From outside of our homes in Utah, we can see forsythia, daffodils, and willows emerge as late-arriving turkey vultures soar above.

    Stay home for now. The wilderness isn’t going anywhere. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Right now might seem like a good time to pack your car and head into our wild public lands to take refuge in nature while maintaining safe physical distance from other people; this is not a good idea. We’d like to advise our members, supporters, and all public land lovers to stay at home and find solace in your own backyard or neighborhood park, or on local city sidewalks.

    Already, the Southeast Utah Health Department has closed hotels and camping in Grand, Emery, and Carbon Counties, and all restaurants are limited to takeout. Rural communities at the doorsteps of America’s redrock wilderness face serious challenges to providing healthcare services to rural residents when pandemics or other community health emergencies arise. Injuries sustained by visitors on nearby public lands add stress to local emergency services and medical facilities, and visitation may also promote the spread of coronavirus to local residents. The fact is, there are few resources to care for sick people in rural hospitals—including in Moab (in Grand County), which has only two ventilators and 17 hospital beds. Please, stay home.

    Wilderness is a treasure we work to save in part so that we may take refuge and recharge in it. But now is a time when we should prioritize protecting each other. By actively choosing to stay home and find peace in the springing life of our own locales, we can help ensure that the residents in rural gateway communities are safe through the duration of this pandemic.

    The more we can do as a community to follow CDC guidelines and avoid physical contact or proximity with others now, the sooner we can get past this pandemic and get out on our public lands again. Until we reach that point, please notice what nature is blessing you with right outside of where you live. If you feel nostalgia for the redrock, share photos and videos of your adventures on public lands, tag us @ProtectWildUtah on Instagram, and hold onto those travel plans for the future.

    And if you have the capacity, we hope any desires that arise in you to bask in the southern Utah sun can find an outlet through your advocacy.

    In spite of the pandemic, the US Department of Interior’s plans to lease public land for oil and gas development and to push through weakening of public oversight and environmental review will proceed as usual. Thus, SUWA’s litigation in courts, collaboration with BLM offices, field work, mapping, membership services, legislative advocacy, and grassroots organizing will carry on. All SUWA employees will remain on the job through this unusual spring; staff and volunteers are working remotely and practicing physical distancing. We’ll be counting on members and volunteers to help keep the pressure on congressional offices, engage in grassroots actions through new upcoming digital platforms, and stay vocal about the global imperative of preserving wild spaces for their myriad values in this era of climate crisis.

    Until the health of our communities is restored, this excerpt from Wallace Stegner’s 1960 Wilderness Letter comes to mind:

    The reminder and the reassurance that [wilderness] is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there.

    We promise, southern Utah wilderness will remain. It will be waiting for you. The waters will run from spring snowmelt, flowers will bloom, young raptors will take their first flights, and the sandstone guardians will remain vigilant beneath sun and stars. Let us practice patience in the way that our beloved canyons, slowly carved throughout time, have always known.

    Stay well,
    The Staff at SUWA

    P.S. Please note that our online store is temporarily closed and there may be delays in mailing out donation acknowledgement letters and thank-you gifts. Your patience is appreciated during this uncertain time.