Travis Hammill, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance


  • May 31st, 2017

    Longstanding litigation over six BLM-Utah land use plans and travel management plans brought to a close

    An order issued today by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit clears the way for BLM-Utah to begin implementing a comprehensive settlement agreement that will result in the completion of 13 new off-highway vehicle travel management plans over the next 8 years across eastern and southern Utah.  The settlement agreement marks the end to longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by a coalition of conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and travel plans that were completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration and designated a spider web of approximately 20,000 miles of routes where off-highway vehicles could drive on federal public lands.  The settlement requires BLM to revisit these decisions across more than 6 million acres of federal public lands, minimize the impacts of off-highway vehicles on cultural resources and wilderness landscapes that provide opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation and monitor for illegal use.

    BLM-Utah will also consider the designation of three areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs) and update and prepare air quality-related reports and studies that will inform future BLM decisions regarding oil and gas development.  The settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    The settlement agreement was reviewed and approved by a federal district court judge in Salt Lake City.  In his order approving the settlement agreement, senior district court Judge Dale A. Kimball stated that the settlement “is a fair and lawful resolution of years of litigation” and is consistent with applicable federal law.

    The BLM-Utah plans at issue guide land management decisions across more than 10 million acres of federal public lands in eastern and southern Utah, including some of the nation’s most remarkable red rock wilderness landscapes.

    • “With the settlement agreement in place we will work to make sure that BLM-Utah’s new travel management plans fully account for and protect Utah’s unique cultural resources and red rock wilderness lands,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The negotiations leading up to the settlement agreement were hard fought and contentious.  In the end, we came to a place that provided sufficient certainty to the conservation groups that BLM would take seriously its responsibilities to minimize the impacts of off-road vehicle use on all public resources, including wilderness.”
    • “This proposed settlement is good news for Utah’s iconic public lands, including the lands surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Dinosaur National Monument,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice Attorney representing the conservation groups. “BLM must take a fresh look at where it will allow off-highway vehicles to drive, this time with an eye towards protecting the very things that make Utah’s redrock country so special–its wildness, opportunities for solitude, and irreplaceable archaeological sites.”
    • “These amazing lands deserve thoughtful management for uses other than motorized recreation and oil and gas development, which are prioritized in the current plans,” said Nada Culver, Director the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society. “We hope to get to work on updated plans and management decisions once the settlement is approved.”

    Photos of proposed wilderness areas in new “travel management areas” contemplated by the settlement agreement can be found here.

    The following conservation groups are plaintiffs to the litigation and parties to the settlement agreement: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rocky Mountain Wild, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Utah Rivers Council.

    The parties to the settlement agreement include the conservation groups, the off-highway vehicle group-intervenors, and the Bureau of Land Management.  Several intervenors, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and four oil and gas companies, do not oppose the agreement.

    The conservation groups were represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, SUWA, NRDC, and the law firm of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

  • March 28th, 2016
    Wilderness Week 2016

    Alissa Buckingham of NJ and Mike Abdo of Utah prepare “Hill Drop” packets that include fact sheets on the PLI and UTTR proposals. Photo by Kirsten Allen.

    Earlier this month, 24 activists with the Utah Wilderness Coalition (UWC) convened in Washington, DC to meet with congressional offices and discuss Rep. Rob Bishop’s draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI), the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) Expansion Bill, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA), and the importance of protecting Utah’s extraordinary wilderness-quality lands.  Activists from Utah and around the country stormed the Hill in teams of twos and threes, meeting with 120 offices in the Senate and House of Representatives.

    Wilderness Week 2016

    Activists prepare for their meetings on Capitol Hill. Photo by Travis Hammill.

    Wilderness Week activists first learn the nuts and bolts of lobbying, how to talk with Congress and Hill staff, the inter-connectivity of all of the legislation that affects Utah’s wilderness-quality lands, “who’s who” on Capitol Hill, and the past actions of members of Congress.  The day-long training was hosted by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, comprised of representatives of SUWA, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  It can be an exhaustive cram session, but it was clear to us from the performance of our activists in their meetings that they were star pupils and had paid attention in class!

    Wilderness Week 2016

    Wilderness Week activists watched and listened as the fate of public lands near the UTTR was discussed by the Subcommittee on Public Lands. Photo by Maureen Sheldon.

    Congress was extremely busy during this year’s Wilderness Week, and the timing for the meetings was excellent. Appropriations season was in full swing and Utah Representative Chris Stewart’s UTTR Expansion Bill had a markup, which meant many of the activists were able to attend, wearing their yellow “Protect Wild Utah” pins, which Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, certainly noticed from his front and center seat on the dais. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), the sponsor of the Red Rock Bill in the House, as well as Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) asked some very pointed questions which showed the activists that there are many members of Congress who care about Utah’s wild lands.  Several of our activists were able to catch up with Lowenthal after the hearing to thank him and pose for a photo op.

    Lowenthal and activists (Wilderness Week 2016)

    Left to right: SUWA Legislative Advocate Jordan Giaconia, activist Alissa Buckingham of NJ, activist Jim Hines of CA, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), activist Brad Stonebraker of NY, activist Shannon Gordon of Utah. Photo by Maureen Sheldon.

    The Utah Wilderness Coalition is so grateful to all 24 Wilderness Week participants for joining us in DC for this important week of lobbying. It’s because of these people, and supporters like you, that we are able to continue working to #ProtectWildUtah!

    Are you interested in joining SUWA and the UWC for future lobbying events? Would you like to hold an in-district meeting with your representatives? If so, email your regional organizer for more information on how you can get involved.

    Dave Pacheco – Utah

    Terri Martin – Utah and Western US

    Clayton Daughenbaugh – Midwest

    Travis Hammill – Eastern US