• April 22nd, 2021

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a travel management plan for the iconic Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area outside of Moab—a plan that will determine where off-road vehicle (ORV) use is allowed in this world-renowned area for decades to come.

    Please tell the BLM to keep motorized trails out of sensitive areas in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Home to irreplaceable cultural and historic resources, important wildlife habitat, and unmatched quiet recreational opportunities, the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region is a magnificent area of Utah’s backcountry. It encompasses the internationally-recognized Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River, as well as its many side canyons including Mineral, Hell Roaring, Spring, and Ten Mile Canyons.

    The area’s unobstructed views, soaring redrock cliffs, and Green River corridor provide endless world-class opportunities for hikers, river runners, canyoneers, climbers, bikers, photographers, and campers. Unfortunately, this area has also experienced a dramatic increase in motorized recreation over the past decade, with ORV noise and dust disproportionately impacting the majority of public land users.

    Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. The agency’s current travel plan—pushed through in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration—blanketed the area with ORV routes, prioritizing motorized recreation at the expense of all other public land uses. The high density of ORV routes in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area means there are few areas to escape the whine of all-terrain vehicles (including the now ubiquitous “utility” models known as UTVs) and dirt bikes.

    Currently, 94% of the lands within the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area are within a half mile of a designated ORV route. And less than 1.5% of the lands in this area are two miles or more from an ORV route. As a result, motorized vehicle use is damaging important soil and riparian resources, priceless cultural resources, significant wildlife habitat, and quiet recreational opportunities.

    This travel plan will have a long-lasting impact on the future of this region by determining where ORVs will be able to travel, and in turn what areas will be managed for the protection of other resources and values such as wildlife, solitude, and non-motorized recreation.

    The BLM is currently in the initial “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues that must be considered. It is vital that the agency hears from the public that the current route network is unacceptable, and that significant route reductions are needed in order to protect public land resources and balance motorized and non-motorized recreation for decades to come.

    The BLM should ensure access to trailheads, scenic overlooks, and recreational opportunities, but it must also protect the reason people want to drive here: to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges region.

    The most helpful comments mention specific trails (by name or number) or areas; how you enjoy hiking, camping, and other non-motorized pursuits in the area; and that motorized use in these places has conflicted with your particular use or enjoyment.

    The BLM is accepting comments through April 26, 2021. Be sure to make your voice heard.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • April 16th, 2021

    Get the details behind a new scientific report from EcoAdapt: Contribution of the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts. The report is authored by EcoAdapt’s Laura Hillberg, and she joins us to explain its conclusions.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Wild Utah’s theme music, “What’s Worth?” is composed by Moab singer-songwriter Haley Noel Austin. Post studio production and editing is by Jerry Schmidt.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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  • April 13th, 2021

    The Biden administration has begun the process of reviewing and modernizing the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) outdated and broken oil and gas leasing program—and not a moment too soon.

    As President Biden recognized in his January 27th executive order, “[w]e have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of [the climate] crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

    The Interior Department is accepting public comments on the leasing review process through this Thursday, April 15th. Click here to submit your comments to Interior Secretary Haaland now.

    Four long years of the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda highlighted just how broken the BLM’s oil and gas program has become and why significant changes are needed. Among the larger problems:

    • The BLM’s oil and gas leasing program plays a significant role in the climate crisis. According to the most recent data available from the United States Geological Survey, nationwide emissions from fossil fuels produced on federal lands represents 23.7 percent of national emissions for carbon dioxide, 7.3 percent for methane, and 1.5 percent for nitrous oxide over a ten-year period. All told, nearly a quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from our federal public lands.
    • Oil and gas operators currently hold thousands of leases across millions of acres of public land that they have not developed. In Utah, for example, 63 percent of the existing leases are sitting idle. Many of the leases were sold by the BLM for as little as $1.50 per acre.
    • Oil and gas operators across the West are sitting on almost 10,000 unused drilling permits. In Utah, the pace of new drilling has come to a near standstill and operators only develop approximately half of the permits that are approved. This slowdown is market-driven and occurred even during the Trump administration.

    As these statistics make clear, fossil fuel development on public lands poses a grave threat to our climate and the very last thing we need to do is make even more lands available for leasing and drilling.

    Crucially, these public lands—if left intact and protected from oil and gas leasing—can mitigate the worst effects of climate change. A recently released report estimates that passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.

    Tell Secretary Haaland that you support making the protection of our public lands a central pillar of America’s climate campaign.

    For far too long the BLM has wrongly elevated oil and gas leasing and development as the primary use of our nation’s public lands, threatening our climate, wildlife, cultural treasures, and wild places. This unbalanced approach must stop now.

    Please tell the Biden administration to end oil and gas leasing on our public lands—and especially those proposed for wilderness designation under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Click here to submit your comments to Interior Secretary Haaland by April 15th.

    If you prefer, you can submit your comments directly to the Interior Department at energyreview@ios.doi.gov.

    Thank you!

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