• March 16th, 2022

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a motorized travel management plan for the greater Paunsaugunt area outside of Kanab—a plan that will determine where off-road vehicle (ORV) use is allowed in this incredible place for decades to come.

    Just west of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and south of Bryce Canyon National Park, the Paunsaugunt travel management area encompasses roughly 200,000 acres of BLM-managed lands. The diverse character of the area, from lava flows and sand dunes to ponderosa pine forests and thousand-foot-high cliffs, provides spectacular opportunities for quiet recreation. The region also encompasses significant cultural sites and important wildlife habitat.

    The BLM is currently in the “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues the agency must consider. It is vital that the BLM hears from the public that the current route network is not acceptable, and that the number and mileage of motorized routes must be reduced to minimize damage and protect public land resources.

    Click here to submit your comments to the BLM today.

    Upper Kanab Creek proposed wilderness. © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    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 2008 during 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 users. It also designated routes that travel directly through cultural sites, fragment wildlife habitat, and damage wilderness-caliber public lands.

    The BLM should ensure access to trailheads, scenic overlooks, and recreation opportunities, but it must also protect the very reason people want to drive to such remote places: to enjoy their unspoiled beauty.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and proposed wilderness in the Paunsaugunt region.

    The most helpful comments will mention specific areas or trails (by name or number); explain how you enjoy hiking, camping, and other non-motorized pursuits in these areas; and discuss (if appropriate) how motorized use has disrupted your enjoyment of those activities.

    The BLM is accepting comments through March 25, 2022. Be sure to make your voice heard!

    Thank you for taking action!

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  • March 8th, 2022

    Utah Governor Cox and his pro-fossil-fuel allies are cynically trying to take advantage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage President Biden to quickly lease publicly-owned lands across the United States, including in Utah. But issuing new leases will do little to alleviate rising fuel prices.

    First, the issuing of new leases doesn’t directly correlate with the amount of drilling on public lands. While the acreage of public lands under lease in Utah has fluctuated over the past decade, the acreage in production has not. As of 2020, approximately sixty-three percent of existing federal leases in Utah were undeveloped, totaling nearly 1.8 million acres. 

    Put another way, the oil and gas industry is currently sitting on nearly 1.8 million acres of public land leases and not developing them. There is no reason to believe selling more leases now would change that.


    Second
    , oil and gas companies have nearly 10,000 unused (already approved) drilling permits in their pockets. In Utah, oil and gas operators on average drill less than half of their approved drilling permits.

    As President Biden correctly explained when he banned the import of Russian oil and natural gas:

    “[Industry has] 9,000 permits to drill now . . . They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved. So let me be clear . . . They are not using them for production now. That’s their decision. These are the facts.” (See also this White House fact sheet.)

    Third, most oil and gas drilling in Utah and across the United States takes place on state and private land, not public land. This means more federal public lands leasing will do little, if anything, to promote new drilling (even assuming companies would develop new leases).

    The Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development recently explained that between 2015-2019 “only an average of 17% of oil wells were drilled on federal land [in Utah]” and there is “no anticipated increase in drilling on federal land.” This study concluded that even if all federal leasing were paused—for years—“Utah has more than enough potential well locations that could be drilled without major disruption to overall activities.”

  • February 7th, 2022

    It’s now been a year since President Biden issued his Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Among other things, the order placed a pause on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and committed the United States to a ten-year goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

    At the time, SUWA called the leasing moratorium “a common sense and desperately needed step to right the ship and chart a more thoughtful, climate conscious path forward as our nation Builds Back Better.” Not surprisingly, Utah Governor Spencer Cox and pro-drilling groups such as the Western Energy Alliance immediately launched an aggressive campaign claiming the pause would have devastating effects on Utah’s rural economy.

    So what actually happened? In short, those dire predictions proved wildly inaccurate.

    To learn just how inaccurate they were and why, we invite you to scroll through our story map, The Pause on New Oil & Gas Leasing in Utah: One Year Later (and share it with friends).

    Click image to view story map

    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, wild places, cultural heritage, and the continued existence of thousands of species. This unbalanced approach must stop now. Our wild places—and the climate crisis—demand no less.

  • January 31st, 2022

    Great news! Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urging her department to designate new wilderness study areas as part of the Biden administration’s goal of protecting 30 percent of public lands and waters by 2030. That crucial goal simply isn’t possible without the robust participation of the Department of the Interior, which is the nation’s largest land manager. And with the climate and extinction crises wreaking havoc on our world, the time to act is now.

    Joining Sen. Durbin on the letter were six other senators: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

    If any of these senators represent you, please click here to thank them now.

    “Our remote lands are overlooked sometimes in conversations about addressing the climate crisis, but their contributions will be crucial. Public lands not only support complex ecosystems, but also can sequester carbon and make areas more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” the senators wrote in their letter.

    “More than 29 million acres of public lands are in need of protection. For years, DOI has not utilized its ability to protect these lands, leaving places like the Vermillion Basin in Colorado, Granite Range in Nevada, the Bodie Hills in California, Hatch Canyon in Utah, Otero Mesa in New Mexico, and the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon without proper protection for their unique resources. Without proper protections, these lands face many threats that could jeopardize wilderness-quality values the Bureau of Land Management stated these lands have.”

    To read the full text of the letter, click here.

    As the senators rightly point out, protecting public lands is one of the key ways we can help mitigate the climate crisis. We are extremely grateful to them for connecting the dots, and for reaching out to the Interior Department with solutions.

    If any of your senators are listed above, please thank them for standing up for wilderness across the West!

    Thank you.