For Immediate release: November 4, 2011

Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-428-3981
Tim Wagner, Sierra Club, 801-467-9294
David Nimkin, National Parks Conservation Association, 801-521-0785
Josh Mogerman, Natural Resources Defense Council, 773-531-5359 (m) or

Bureau of Land Management Proposes Harmful Expansion of Strip Mine Adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park

Alton Coal Strip Mine Puts Utah Residents, Wildlife, Climate and National Park at Risk

SALT LAKE CITY– Today, the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft environmental impact statement that considers leasing federal lands on the doorstep of Bryce Canyon National Park for a coal strip mine. This development threatens the remarkable clean air, clean water, and dark night skies at the Park as well as the livelihood of nearby gateway communities.

“This study is woefully inadequate in analyzing the impacts on the region’s natural wonders, its wildlife, and clean air and water,” said Tim Wagner, representative of the Sierra Club. “Forsaking all of these diverse benefits for a few years’ worth of dirty coal and the profits for one company is not sound public lands management.”

The BLM is analyzing this potential coal lease at the behest of a small, privately held company, Alton Coal Development.  The lease would expand the current Coal Hollow mine from private land onto adjacent public land.

Southern Utah residents are especially concerned about the Alton Coal strip mine expansion’s impact on their tourism-based local economy.  Each year, approximately 1.29 million tourists visit Bryce Canyon National Park, attracted by the unparalleled opportunities for stargazing, hiking and camping.

“This type of short-sighted land management will not only jeopardize the natural beauty and attributes of Bryce Canyon National Park, but it will also harm the economies of all the communities that depend upon the pristine qualities of Bryce Canyon and its dark skies to draw visitors,” said National Parks Conservation Association Southwest Regional Senior Director David Nimkin. “Visitors to Bryce Canyon expect clean air, healthy wildlife and, in the evening, dark skies that provide some of the best astronomy viewing in the contiguous United States. If this strip mine is allowed to expand, these great park attributes will be impaired, potentially discouraging park visitation and degrading a natural wonder.”

Expanded mining operations and the huge trucks used to transport coal would create noise, vibrations and safety issues that jeopardize the tourism-based economy. For example, the expanded Alton Coal Strip Mine would allow up to 300 coal trucks to barrel through the historic town of Panguitch each day, threatening shops, restaurants, motels and small businesses that depend on tourists, and putting residents at risk for respiratory health problems related to toxic coal dust.

My family, like hundreds of Southwest Utahans, depends on the tourism-based economy of Bryce Canyon National Park, and also the local hunting, fishing and many other outdoor opportunities of this spectacular region,” said Panguitch business owner Bobbi Bryant.  “If the BLM gives away our public lands to Big Coal, we risk losing our quality of life.”

The impact of the mine expansion on the local environment would be enormous, polluting the air; flooding Bryce Canyon’s world-famous dark night skies with light; impacting the habitat and health of wildlife, like the area’s mule deer herd and imperiled sage grouse; lowering water quality; and marring one of the most majestic landscapes in the world.

“This is an outrageous decision by the Obama administration,” said Stephen Bloch, attorney and energy program director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Expanding the Coal Hollow mine onto federal lands so close to Bryce Canyon National Park and in the middle of one of North America’s premier trophy mule deer herds is a terrible idea.”

The public now has two months to weigh in on the BLM’s plan.

“Strip mines adjacent to some of our last and most beloved wild places show just how desperate we should be to get off of coal,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Lands and Wildlife Program Director Sharon Buccino. “This irresponsible project would sap the local economy and wreck their quality of life to fuel limited special interests. It’s no wonder people are so frustrated with corporate power these days. We simply cannot mortgage our lands, air and quality of life in this manner—there are better options that don’t come with this massive price tag.”


Alton Coal Development received permit approval from the State of Utah for its nearby private land mine in 2009 over the objections of the National Park Service, dozens of local residents and business owners and conservation organizations. The state’s approval was upheld by an administrative board and is currently on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. In the meantime, dozens of trucks pass through Bryce Canyon National Park gateway community of Panguitch daily on their more than 100 mile journey to a rail spur in southwest Utah. From there, the coal is taken to the Intermountain Power Plant, which in turn sends 75% of its electricity to the power grid for the Los Angeles area. Southern California communities are demanding that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commit to phasing out power from the Intermountain Power Plant by 2020 or sooner, investing instead in solar, wind and other clean energy solutions that will create family-wage jobs in Los Angeles.



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