• July 19th, 2017

    Once again, your voice in defense of Utah’s wild places is urgently needed.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to lease 79 parcels for oil and gas development on approximately 100,000 acres of federal public lands in eastern and central Utah. Included in this list are parcels along the western edge of the San Rafael Swell, in the heart of the Desolation Canyon region, the Book Cliffs, and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
    For the third time in five years, the BLM is proposing to offer leases in the Molen Reef region of the western San Rafael Swell—an area with high cultural and archaeological density and outstanding recreational opportunities. The agency’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the BLM’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City.

    Ultimately, the agency determined that it did not have enough information regarding cultural and archaeological resources to justify leasing the area for oil and gas development. In 2015, the BLM once again deferred leasing in the Molen Reef region, citing the continuing need to gather more cultural and archaeological resource information.

    Citizens protested a very similar BLM lease sale for the San Rafael Swell in 2013. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now. Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA

    To date, the agency has still not completed those cultural resource inventories. In fact, the BLM admits that it has surveyed at most only 2.9 percent of the proposed parcels and thus is in no stronger a position to justify leasing now than it was in 2013. The agency’s leasing flip-flop is a disservice to this remarkable wilderness-caliber landscape and its thousands of known—and yet to be discovered—cultural resources.

    Please tell the BLM to protect the irreplaceable cultural and archaeological resources in the Molen Reef region of the San Rafael Swell. 

    Leasing near Dinosaur National Monument and in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions
    In a return to the Bush administration’s scorched earth approach to oil and gas leasing in the Uinta Basin, the BLM is also proposing to offer leases in areas proposed for wilderness designation in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions as well as immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    This ill-advised proposal would, among other things, green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually. One of the parcels was previously offered at the BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.

    In a letter to the BLM, the National Park Service has objected to the leasing proposal, citing adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes. Oil and gas development on the parcels near the monument would be visible from the Quarry Visitor Center as well as from numerous vantage points within the monument.

    Please tell the BLM to protect Dinosaur National Monument and the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions from oil and gas leasing and development.

    Thank you.

  • July 12th, 2017

    The Trump administration asked for your opinion on their plans to reduce Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and 25 other national monuments across the country—and you gave them an earful.

    Thanks to SUWA members and supporters like you, along with millions of concerned citizens across the nation, the Trump administration received more than 2.7 million comments in SUPPORT of our national monuments during their public comment period, which ended Monday. Comments in favor of keeping our national monuments intact outnumbered those opposed to national monuments by a staggering 98 to 1.

    And more than one million of those comments specifically mentioned support for Bears Ears, which is the first target on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s list of endangered monuments.

    Will this outpouring of support make a difference? That remains to be seen. Secretary Zinke has already indicated that he wants to see Bears Ears shrunk, perhaps dramatically. The fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante remains an open question, which should be answered when Secretary Zinke issues his final report on August 24th.

    We hope that this tremendous show of support for national monuments will give Secretary Zinke pause and convince the administration that there is no political victory in eviscerating America’s natural and cultural heritage.

    But if it doesn’t change their minds, and they try to shrink Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante, we’ll take them to court.

    And we’ll take them to court knowing that we have the backing of thousands of people like you, people who are willing to stand up and speak out on behalf of the redrock—any time, any place, and no matter the odds.

    Thank you for being such a critical part of the SUWA team.

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  • June 22nd, 2017

    Acting in lockstep with the Trump administration’s relentless onslaught against federal public lands, the BLM is proposing to offer at the agency’s December 2017 oil and gas lease sale 79 parcels for leasing and development on approximately 100,000 acres of federal public lands in eastern and central Utah. Included in this list are parcels along the western edge of the San Rafael Swell and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
    For the third time in five years, the BLM is proposing to offer leases in the Molen Reef region of the western San Rafael Swell—an area with high cultural and archaeological density and outstanding recreational opportunities.  The BLM’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the agency’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City. Ultimately, the agency determined that it did not have enough information regarding cultural and archaeological resources to justify leasing the area for oil and gas development.  In 2015, the BLM once again deferred leasing in the Molen Reef region, citing the continuing need to gather more cultural and archaeological resource information.

    To date, the agency has still not completed those cultural resource inventories.  In fact, the BLM admits it has surveyed at most only 2.9 percent of the proposed parcels and thus is in no stronger a position to justify leasing now than it was in 2013.  The agency’s leasing flip-flop is a disservice to this remarkable wilderness-caliber landscape and its thousands of known—and yet to be discovered—cultural resources.

    View of lease area in the western San Rafael Swell (Eagle Canyon/Molen Reef region). Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Leasing on the Doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument
    In a return to the Bush administration’s scorched earth approach to oil and gas leasing in the Uinta Basin, the BLM is also proposing to offer leases immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.  This ill-advised proposal would green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually.  In fact, one of the parcels proposed for sale was previously offered at BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.

    In a letter to the BLM, the National Park Service has objected to the leasing proposal, citing the adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes.

    The BLM is currently accepting public comments on its oil and gas leasing proposal.  With your help we were able to fight off earlier attempts to auction off public lands in these areas to private industrial development—and we will do so again.  Our public lands deserve better than this.  Please make your voice heard by submitting comments today.

    >> Click here to comment on the San Rafael Swell Lease parcels
    >> Click here to comment on the Dinosaur National Monument lease parcels

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  • June 15th, 2017

    San Juan, Kane and Garfield County Commissions held a series of unlawful meetings over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2017

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    David Reymann, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, 801.257.7939

    In response to a series of recent, unlawful closed door meetings between three southern Utah county commissions and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and others regarding the fate of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has notified each commission that it has violated Utah’s Open and Public Meeting Act and demanded that these meetings cease.  In separate letters to the San Juan, Kane, and Garfield County Commission, SUWA stated that “[b]y failing to properly notice and allow public attendance at their meetings with Secretary Zinke … the Commission violated the Act.”

    “These commission meetings are textbook violations of the Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act.  Because the commissions met with Secretary Zinke and other officials and discussed the future of these national monuments they need to provide public notice and allow the public an opportunity to attend the meeting.  That’s the whole point of the Act: for state and local government to conduct public business out in the open,” said David Reymman, an attorney with the Salt Lake City law firm Parr Brown Gee & Loveless.

    “The San Juan, Kane and Garfield county commissions repeated secret meetings with Secretary Zinke and other government officials about Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments are completely at odds with Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act.  SUWA members in these three counties have an intense interest in protecting our state’s national monuments and would have attended these meetings and vocally advocated for their protection had they known about them.  The commissions’ decision to operate under cover of darkness is unlawful and cannot continue,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    San Juan County Commissioners met with Secretary Zinke in Washington, D.C. on May 2 and June 5, and in Utah on May 8 and 9.  Garfield and Kane County Commissioners met with Secretary Zinke in Utah on May 10.

    Mr. Reymann represents SUWA with regard to Garfield and Kane Counties’ alleged violation of the Act.  SUWA attorneys Mr. Bloch and Ms. Laura Peterson represent the organization with regard to San Juan County’s alleged violation of the Act.

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