suwa, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 2 of 107


  • August 30th, 2018

    More than 300 passionate wilderness advocates poured into the Salt Lake City Main Library for the People’s Hearing on the San Rafael Swell last night. The auditorium filled to overflowing as Utahns showed up to call for greater protection for the San Rafael Swell and surrounding wild lands.

    Speaker after speaker described how the Emery County Public Land Management Act (H.R. 5727/S. 2089) fails to do justice to the globally significant wild lands in the San Rafael Swell and nearby Labyrinth and Desolation Canyons. The Act could determine the future of 1.5 million acres of scenically spectacular wildlands that are also laden with cultural artifacts, including extraordinary rock art.

    Frustrated by the failure of Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative John Curtis to provide a meaningful opportunity for people outside Emery County to help shape a public lands bill for the region, the Utah Wilderness Coalition and fifteen other organizations hosted the “People’s Hearing” so those outside the county could express their views. Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis were invited but declined to attend.

    Scott Groene, Executive Director of SUWA, started off the evening by describing how the proposed Emery County bill is actually a step backwards for conservation. “The bill is worse than the status quo,” said Groene. “[It] would designate less wilderness than already has protection as Wilderness Study Areas or Natural Areas. Over 900,000 acres of deserving wild lands are left unprotected as wilderness. At the same time, the bill makes off-road vehicle abuse worse by enshrining 800 miles of off-road vehicle routes, effectively perpetuating an old, illegal and overturned travel plan.”

    Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski decried the Emery County bill as a “long-term plan to rip up this landscape” and criticized the Utah delegation for failing to provide opportunities for public input. “Without this People’s Hearing happening here tonight,” she said, “there is no public forum on this issue.”

    Shaun Chapoose, member and former chairman of the Ute Tribal Business Committee, described the bill as “another attack on our tribal lands and resources.  Another modern day Indian land grab just like Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative from a couple of years ago.”  He added, “The Ute Indian Tribe is yet another voice that did not get a seat at the table when they were drafting this bill. We found out about the bill in the days before it was introduced.”

    Chapoose, who also encouraged the crowd to become good stewards of the land they occupy, received a standing ovation from the crowd.

    “In the morning when you get up, when the sun is just rising over the mountains, when the animals are already up: how many people take that for granted?  If we do not take care of the land, people will look back in the future and say people should have done something to take care of this land.”  —Shaun Chapoose

    Lauren Wood, a third generation river runner who helps her family operate Holiday River Expeditions, an outdoor adventure company, said the company was not asked for their input, despite the fact that they have been based primarily in Emery County since 1973 and operate rafting and biking trips in the San Rafael Swell, Desolation Canyon, and Labyrinth Canyonall wild areas affected by the bill. “They speak of public process but those cherry-picked to represent the ‘public’ do not represent the whole, and the whole is exactly what we need if we hope to have a chance in this beautiful and very climate changing state.”

    “You can’t protect the lower drainage of a river and not protect the canyons and creeks that drain into it; the impact to the resource is cumulative.  Land parcels, like stakeholders, can’t be cherry-picked if we want a chance for a legitimate future for wilderness or communities in our backyard.” —Lauren Wood

    Dennis Willis, who worked for over 30 years as a rangeland, recreation and wilderness planner with the Bureau of Land Management in the region, called the bill “a minimalist approach to wilderness.” Willis described how the baseline for the bill was not an authentic assessment of how many acres of wilderness-quality lands actually exist in Emery County, but a “totally discredited, bogus and flawed inventory” from the 1980s. Willis decried the Utah delegation’s complete deference to the local county commission.

    “The local voice is important, but it shouldn’t be the only voice. Yellowstone should not be managed by residents of Cody, Wyoming.”  —Dennis Willis

    Jerry Spangler, a professional archaeologist and executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, described how the bill will irrevocably damage archaeological sites in the area. “They want to permanently designate vehicle routes as open without doing the surveys necessary to find out if those routes will harm archaeological sites. Yet we know from past experience that hundreds and hundreds of sites could be harmed, and the courts have ordered them to complete inventories.” Spangler highlighted the Molen Reef area, a landscape rich in Native American rock art, that the bill would throw open to oil and gas leasing. “Only 1% of the area has been inventoried,” he said.

    “The BLM has never gone out and looked. If they did, they would find a wealth of very important rock art sites. You can’t manage if you don’t have that information.”  —Jerry Spangler

    Samuel Graham, an immigrant from Venezuela who made Utah home “to be closer to the clarity of spirit which the desert provides,” said “for constituents like me, public lands are the only place we can escape the demands of the city.”

    “Originally, my family and I fled Venezuela, a country which lost the moral battle for its people. The first class I attended was civics, where I learned about the values of America and the symbols that represent those values: Statue of Liberty for diversity, our constitution to empower people, the vast untouched West to represent the spirit. Now the battle for America’s morality is here and it starts with protecting our public lands.”  —Samuel Graham

    Robert Davies, physicist and climate change educator, detailed how the bill failed to consider the need to protect large landscapes to help avoid, and mitigate, the impacts of climate change.  “Much of the damage we have done cannot be undone. But so much damage yet to come can be prevented. We know how: species need habitat,” said Davies.  “Astute public policy would keep this habitat, and the whole of the Swell, intact and unbroken.”

    Many more individual citizens spoke on behalf of protecting the San Rafael Swell.  A few highlights:

    “These lands are why people live here, why people come here. We don’t have a coal plant on our license plate. We have an arch and a skier.”
    —Peter Jensen

    Like other redrock pilgrims, I’ve run Desolation Canyon, I’ve hiked down Muddy Creek with my family. I’ve clambered through slot canyons sliced through the Reef. I’ve come upon wild horses at Cedar Mountain on my way to camp on the Moroni Slopes. I’ve photographed the Black Dragon pictograph and that universe of Native spirituality pecked into the cliffs at the Rochester rock art site. This bill does not adequately protect these astonishing landscapes.” —Stephen Trimble

    “I want to speak for the people who inhabited the Swell a long time ago and who left behind galleries and galleries of irreplaceable rock art. The Emery County bill gives no protection for this precious part of all our heritage.”
    —Diane Orr, Utah Rock Art and Research Association

    “I would like to ask Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis, have you seen the San Rafael Swell?  When you are out in the quiet and solitude of Mother Earth, do you feel the divine spirit?  I ask you to search your soul and see if this bill should be set aside.”
    —Ty Markham, Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance

  • August 20th, 2018

    This Wednesday, August 22nd, the “Not-so-Swell” bill proposed by Utah’s Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Emery County Public Land Management Act, which affects places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, and the San Rafael Swell, is crammed into a hearing with a massive slate of 13 other bills, and no opposition witness will be called.

    This means the ONLY WAY your congressional members are really going to hear about this bill is if you contact them!

    Muddy Creek proposed wilderness, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve been working for months to try to improve this bill, but it remains a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. It’s the brainchild of a tiny county political body whose members openly admit their goal is to prevent meaningful wilderness protections for some of Utah’s most spectacular and remote public lands. Just for starters, this bill:

    • Leaves more than 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness out of the running for protection, including much of the iconic Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon areas
    • Seeks to codify an illegal travel plan that we’ve already settled in court
    • Turns federal lands over to the State of Utah
    • Releases a Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine expansion
    • Fails to protect significant priceless cultural resources in the San Rafael Badlands

    Sen. Hatch is trying to dazzle Congress into thinking this is a good bill. Tell them the truth!

    This is the biggest legislative fight we’ve had in years. The good news is we have many allies in Congress, they just need to hear from you!

    Thank you for taking action.

  • August 15th, 2018

    For Immediate Release
    August 15, 2018

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, 801-428-3981

    Salt Lake City, UT – In response to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) release of draft management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, which were illegally reduced by President Trump in December of last year, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Legal Director Stephen Bloch released the following statement:

    “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    “The BLM is very open about its intentions.  To quote directly from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, their preferred alternative would ‘conserve the least land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources … and is the least restrictive to energy and mineral development.’ Places like the Circle Cliffs region along the Burr Trail and Wolverine Loop Roads and the Vermillion Cliffs east of Kanab are now in the crosshairs and at immediate risk of being irreparably destroyed. Even the lands that Trump left as national monuments would be managed in a way that is less protective than they currently enjoy.”

    The plan for Bears Ears National Monument is equally bad, prioritizing consumptive uses such as grazing and logging and failing to protect cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands.”

    “SUWA won’t rest until Trump’s unlawful orders are overturned and will do everything in our power to ensure that these plans are never implemented.”

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  • July 26th, 2018

    203,000 Acres of Remote and Wild Lands Including in the San Rafael Desert and Dirty Devil Regions to be Auctioned Off for Oil and Gas Leasing and Development

    SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * SIERRA CLUB * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

    For Immediate Release
    July 26, 2018

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.807.6918
    Carly Ferro, Sierra Club, 801.467.9294 x100
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Salt Lake City: Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plans to offer 109 leases, consisting of 203,321 acres of federal public land, for oil and gas development, including 158,944 acres of public lands in the heart of Utah’s San Rafael Desert and northern Dirty Devil region. BLM’s latest assault on Utah’s wild lands is entirely in lockstep with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda and will sacrifice some of Utah’s wildest and most remote landscapes in pursuit of this quixotic goal. Photographs of the San Rafael Desert are available here. A map of the parcels up for auction is available here.

    “This is a textbook example of what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah, a full-on assault against one of our state’s wildest places” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The oil and gas industry has been trying to get its hands on this remote, wild corner of Utah’s redrock country for years and we’ve fought them off. They’re not going to get it this time either without a fight.”

    At its September 2018 lease sale, BLM will auction off parcels overlapping (and adjacent to) Highway 24 the main access route to Goblin Valley State Parkas well as parcels less than two miles from the Horseshoe Canyon extension of Canyonlands National Park (and only a few miles farther from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park). The National Park Service has stated that Horseshoe Canyon “contains some of the most significant rock art in North America.” This includes the “Great Gallerya world-renowned panel of well-preserved life-sized figures with intricate designs.

    “BLM’s ‘lease-everything, lease-everywhere’ oil and gas agenda will have significant long-term impacts to Utah’s wild public lands,” said Landon Newell, Staff Attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The clean air, expansive vistas, quite stillness, and sense of wildness enjoyed in these areas will be lost to the sights and sounds of industrial development including pumpjacks, drill rigs, and natural gas flaring.”

    “BLM is focusing on leasing to the exclusion of all other multiple uses,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel and Director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “This process has shown a disturbing lack of concern for the invaluable resources and experiences that will be lost, and hasn’t taken into account input from the American public.”

    “Our public lands are being sold out with little to no concern for the public will or well-being, allowing oil and gas drilling to eat up wild places and encroach further on parks like Canyonlands. This foolhardy rush to mine and drill every possible acre could have irreparable consequences for our health, environment and climate,” said Ashley Soltysiak, Director of Utah Sierra Club.

    In its rush to auction off these remarkable public lands, BLM drastically reduced opportunities for public involvement. The agency allowed for only a fifteen-day public “scoping” period but provided little more than a few maps for public review. BLM provided no opportunity for the public to review or comment on the draft environmental assessments and reduced the public protest period (which started today) from 30 days to 10 days.

    There is no need to sacrifice Utah’s remarkable wild places for oil and gas leasing and development. Utah, like most western states, has a surplus of BLM-managed lands that are under lease but not in development—with only forty-five percent of its total leased land currently in development. There were approximately 2.5 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect) at the close of BLM’s 2017 fiscal year. At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here—follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). More information regarding BLM’s September 2018 lease sale is available here.

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