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Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
Join our email list to stay informed about Utah wilderness.
Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
Donations of $35 or more automatically include a year’s membership in SUWA.
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*Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
The Trump administration is proposing to sacrifice our national parks and exacerbate the climate crisis by leasing a massive swath of treasured public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks for oil and gas development. On June 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an environmental assessment purportedly analyzing the effects of such leasing. Watch for SUWA alerts about writing Utah Governor Herbert, and later about submitting comments to the BLM.
But there is something as or more effective that you can do – bring attention to this outrageous plan by writing a letter-to-the-editor or guest editorial (OpEd) to your local paper. This issue is of national interest so papers across the country should be receptive to your commentary.
Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda the BLM has been on a rampage, leasing public wild lands in Utah and across the West for oil and gas development regardless of destructive impacts to the climate crisis, lands sacred to Native Americans, national parks, wilderness, recreation, wildlife and community watersheds. In a particularly egregious plan, BLM now proposes to sell 77 oil and gas leases on 114,000 acres of public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks and the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument at a September 2020 sale.
These lands are some of the wildest, most scenic, and culturally significant public lands in Utah, and are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who use them for hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing and more. Development on many of the leases would be visible from the national parks and Bears Ears National Monument as well as Dead Horse Point state park.
SUWA and other groups have been challenging oil and gas leasing on public lands in the courts with some at least temporary success. But if we are to change the BLM’s oil and gas leasing policies (under a new administration) it is essential we also win in the court of public opinion – and you can help do that by writing to your local news publications!
Some messaging point you could make:
For more information see:
Published articles that you can respond to:
Other good places where you can submit LTEs/OpEds: Even if your local/regional paper has not run a news story on the September 2020 oil and gas leasing sale, you can still submit a LTE. In fact, that could even inspire them to cover the issue. See finding “hooks” guidance below! Use this list to find papers in your region – see tabs at bottom!
Remember to check the word limit for your paper. LTE word limits are often 200-250 words and papers are often strict about it. Guest Editorials (OpEds) can usually be a lot longer but OpEds are more challenging to place.
Finding “hooks” for your LTE/Guest Editorial: The best hook arises if your local/regional paper publishes an article on this lease sale and you write a LTE referencing that article. But if our paper does not cover the sale, there are a lot of other ways you might make your letter/editorial timely and relevant to your local paper. You could use any article on the climate crisis, Trump’s environmental record, or national parks and public lands, for example, as a springboard or pivot to your commentary. You could even use the Covid-19 pandemic by leading with a sentence that talks about how you and many Americans are dreaming of the day when they can again visit safely our national parks and public lands – but say they might find them diminished if current oil and gas leasing policies persist.
Trust your own voice: Remember, the most compelling LTEs are written in your own voice, bringing in a personal experience or relationship to the issue as well as making broader messaging points. Trust that your letter will be more interesting if you write from your heart and interweave your own story.
If you’d like some help: We are happy to give your draft a read for accuracy or help with editing suggestions. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with URGENT in the subject line!
Send us a copy of your submitted and/or published LTE! email@example.com
Share your published LTE/OpEd on social media! Suggested hashtags: #ProtectWildUtah, #StandwithBearsEars #publiclands #wilderness #utah
Today, the Winter Solstice takes place in the northern hemisphere, which means we will pass through the longest night of the year. What most of us forget is that this darkness is not universal. In the southern hemisphere, December 21st is the longest DAY of the year. Shift the perspective from which you gaze and you move from huddling in dark to standing in blazing light.
For anyone who loves southern Utah’s redrock, there is good reason to experience recent weeks as a descent into darkness.
On December 4th, President Trump flew into Salt Lake City, and with the Utah delegation crowing with glee at his side, issued an illegal order gutting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Within hours, lawsuits were filed by Native American Tribes, SUWA, and many others, creating the possibility that these monuments could be restored through the courts. Then, Utah Representatives Chris Stewart and John Curtis introduced bills that that would make permanent Trump’s drastic reductions and worse. If these bills are passed by the U.S. Congress, the lawsuits are moot.
Without question, the future of the redrock is in extreme jeopardy.
But in this time of darkness, it is important to remember that light persists. It is also important to realize that YOU are the ones creating it—and it is powerful.
Take a moment and shift your gaze to these events.
An enormous crowd of over 6,000 people gather at the Utah State Capitol, spilling down from its expansive stone steps to sprawl across the vast sweep of lawn that extends southward. They stand shoulder to shoulder, Native and non-Native, young and old, holding signs and banners that proclaim their message: “We stand with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase! We will fight for and defend these monuments until full protection is restored.” A host of speakers—tribal leaders, elected officials, a scientist, the 11-year-old founder of Kids Speak for Parks, SUWA’s Latinx community organizer—speak their hearts to the crowd. Virgil Johnson, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute, pretty much sums it up when he closes his speech with “We will not be moved.”
Temperatures have plummeted and snow has fallen the night before. Nevertheless, thousands of people crowd the sidewalk on this Monday morning for a street protest just south of the State Capitol where Trump is speaking. They show up in down coats and snow boots, roll up in wheelchairs, braced against the bitter cold by shared passion and commitment. A group of young Native American women walk the edge of the crowd, unifying voices into chants that reverberate to the Capitol: “Defend the Sacred. Protect our Monuments.” When it is announced that Trump has acted, people drop to one knee and thump their hands against their chests, creating the sound of a single beating heart.
The weather has gotten even worse. It is bone chilling cold and one of those don’t-leave-the-house days in Salt Lake City when the smoggy inversion is so thick you can’t see the mountains that grace our skyline. SUWA is joining Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, and Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners to hold a press conference debunking and denouncing Rep. Stewart’s bill ratifying Trump’s repeal of Grand Staircase. We have asked citizens (who can spare time during a work day) to come stand behind the speakers with signs and banners in a show of support.
Again, a large crowd shows up. Standing together over 200 strong, they create a powerful sweeping panorama of bright orange “Save Grand Staircase” signs, punctuated with messages like “The President Stole Your Lands” and “Stop Stewart’s Theft.” As the speakers proclaim their shared commitment to stop Stewart’s bill, the crowd cheers and waves signs. Two days later, at the hearing in Washington, DC, 700 letters (half from Utahns, and many of those from folks in southern Utah) are submitted into the record. These letters were generated in a matter of days when word went out locally that they were needed.
These events are only the most dramatic examples of the blazing light created recently by activists standing up for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and America’s public lands in general. There are many more points of light across the country.
And here is why we believe the light of citizen activism will ultimately prevail over the dark acts threatening Utah’s redrock: that light is generated by love. And as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Our national monuments are way more than the smallest piece of ground necessary to preserve a scientific or historic object, the stingy perspective of Trump and the Utah delegation.
Our national monuments hold our values and tell our stories.
They are places that preserve what our democracy can really look like—for our entire community of diverse people, plants, and animals.
They honor our ancestors, protect our sacred sites and offer the chance to heal our history.
They are gifts to our children that create hope for the future.
Our national monuments were created out of vision, humility, and love.
When people show up to stand for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, it is an act of love—a loving devotion to these landscapes and what they stand for.
This is the light in the political darkness, and it is brilliant. It is also way more powerful than the dark acts of Trump and the Utah delegation.
So thank you to everyone everywhere who has showed up or spoken out in whatever way you have—coming to a rally or a protest, making a phone call, writing a letter to the editor, sending an email to your elected official. You are the light in the darkness, and it is because of the power of your love that we will prevail.
You stood up in defense of Bears Ears National Monument. Now we need you to do the same for Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Over the last few weeks, you helped deluge the Department of Interior with more than 685,000 comments in support of Bears Ears. Thank you to everyone who took action! This extraordinary show of support would not be possible without your individual action.
The outrageously short 15 day comment period for Bears Ears has now closed.
But the Department of Interior is still accepting comments on the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, as well as 25 additional national monuments around the country.
Even if you mentioned Grand Staircase-Escalante when you wrote earlier on Bears Ears, please write again. This will help ensure your comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante is counted.
Your comments are desperately needed! The Trump administration appears serious about eviscerating Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument. The Utah delegation is pressing the president to carve out a huge chunk of the 1.7 million acre monument for potential coal mining. And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seems to be listening! His visit to the monument in May focused on a driving tour to a coal seam!
It is important that your comments be in your own words. The Department of Interior will count them individually that way. What is most useful is your own statement about why Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is special to you and why ALL OF IT deserves to be protected. It’s fine if you keep it simple and from the heart.
To help you gather your thoughts, here are a few points of information (you can also click here to view our story map):
• Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated in 1996. Since then, it has come to be known as the “Science Monument”—yielding several new species of dinosaur and other paleontological finds and providing habitat for 650 bee species, many that are endemic to the area.
• Grand Staircase-Escalante has incredible camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo and Spooky Canyon, Coyote Gulch, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known the world over. If you have your own favorites, be sure to mention them!
• Polling shows more than half of Utahns want Grand Staircase-Escalante left alone. That’s added to the more than 80 percent of Westerners that the Colorado College Conservation in the West poll showed want existing national monuments left intact.
• Reviewing any monument is a political act, but especially when it involves one that is more than two decades old and flourishing. No president has ever taken this needless step, and neither should President Trump.
The comment period for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument closes on July 10. But please take a moment and write now. We want to show strong support prior to the anniversary of the Antiquities Act on June 8!
To make sure your comment is properly tallied, please send us a copy. You can do that easily by:
Thanks for taking action.
A huge crowd of more than 1,400 people poured into the tiny southeastern Utah town of Bluff on Saturday to attend a public meeting hosted by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.
Volunteers handed out 1,000 Protect Bears Ears t-shirts to enthusiastic citizens flooding into the meeting grounds before running out. The overwhelming support for a monument was clearly visible by the broad swaths of people wearing light blue t-shirts, which dominated the audience.
The crowd included Native Americans and others from the Four Corners region and beyond. New and long-time activists alike swarmed to Bluff to stand in support of the tribal proposal to protect Bears Ears as a co-managed national monument.
In cloudless 100 degree heat, people packed into the 400 person community center, squeezed knee to knee on seats set up beneath an expansive shade pavilion, crammed into shifting pockets of shade or simply stood for hours in the sun.
For three and a half hours, Interior Secretary Jewell and a panel of other high-ranking Obama administration officials listened attentively as person after person spoke passionately about the future of the Bears Ears region.
Top leaders of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni and Ute Tribes made powerful statements about the need for a monument proclamation to protect their ancestral homelands from looting and other destructive activities. Navajo President Russell Begaye called the Bears Ears area a “place of healing and spirituality” and said that “Navajos relate to the Bears Ears area as other people relate to their relatives,” and through these relationships facilitate healing.
Tribal leaders emphasized that co-management authority offers a rich opportunity to bring together the wisdom of traditional Native American knowledge with western science.
Tribal leaders also stressed that the Public Lands Initiative still fails to address their concerns, and that the process failed to incorporate their voices. Malcolm Lehi, Ute Mountain Ute Councilman, said, “For far too long, native people have not been at the table. We are not invited to the table. So we are here today inviting our own selves to the table.”
Others speaking in support of monument proclamation and against the PLI included several Utah elected officials, professional archaeologists, rock climbers, local business people, and both long-time residents and visitors to southeastern Utah.
One archaeologist described how “it’s like a giant vacuum cleaner came and sucked up the artifacts,” saying the Bears Ears area “should have been proclaimed a national monument 25 years ago.”
A local outdoor enthusiast said that “I have spent the best times of my life climbing, backpacking, hiking and camping in this region. We need a monument proclamation to keep it as it is for the future.”
A local Bluff business owner said that “As a business person, I believe a monument will bring good to this community.”
State legislator Joel Briscoe, who described himself as a descendent of Mormon pioneers —including one “who was part of the super-human feat of Hole in the Rock” trek (which passed through the Bears Ears area) — stressed that “we cannot understand this land if we won’t listen to the spiritual power of the land. It is my prayer that those making decisions will all listen to the spiritual power of this land.”
Speakers also included people opposed to a monument who raised a variety of concerns about how that designation could affect their interests. But the conversation remained civil, and a common theme across almost all speakers was how much they loved the land and wanted to see it protected in some way.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also spent several days before the meeting with members of the Utah delegation, visiting with local community leaders and touring sites in the Bears Ears. On Friday afternoon, she visited the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Summer Gathering at Bears Ears Meadow and met with tribal leaders.
SUWA thanks everyone who was able to carve out the time to make it to Bluff and stand in support of the tribes for a Bears Ears National Monument. Each individual who came – just by showing up — helped to create the amazing and impressive throng of Bears Ears supporters. This extraordinary demonstration of widespread public support is critical to encouraging the President to take action. You are all awesome!
We also thank everyone who has weighed in on Bears Ears in all the other ways we ask you to do. Every expression of support makes a difference!
Terrific news! The Departments of Interior and Agriculture have announced that they will hold a public meeting on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument on Saturday, July 16th in Bluff, Utah.
This is an exciting step forward in the campaign to convince President Obama to proclaim a Bears Ears National Monument.
If you are in the region, please do whatever you can to attend the meeting in Bluff!
Otherwise, please add your voice to the call for action on Bears Ears by sending an email to the President.
This is a pivotal moment. It is crucial that we show a rising groundswell of support from all corners of the country over the next few months.
You can help by joining our Online Advocacy Team. Once or twice a week, we will email you information and action items that you can share on social media. This is a powerful way to build the chorus of voices calling for presidential action on Bears Ears.
The Bears Ears National Monument proposal presents an extraordinary opportunity to protect one of the most scenically spectacular and archaeologically rich landscapes on the planet and to do something that’s never been done before by creating a national monument that protects Native American ancestral homelands and provides the Tribes a meaningful role in management.