• August 15th, 2022

    On Friday, the U.S. House passed the Inflation Reduction Act, following  a deal by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that saw it pass the Senate earlier in the week. President Biden is expected to sign the bill sometime this week.

    The White House says the “bill would make the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis, [and] advancing environmental justice….”

    Some of the big environmental wins include:

    • Investments in clean energy and electric vehicles
    • Reducing U.S. emissions by about 40% below 2005 levels by 2030
    • Establishing a fee for excessive methane gas (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions from oil and gas drilling and development
    • Earmarking $60 billion for environmental justice initiatives in communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change, air pollution, and other environmental ills
    • Providing $250 million for conservation and resource protection projects to the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
    • Providing more than $2 billion for zero-emission equipment to reduce emissions at US ports
    • Addressing community needs (tribal, state, local government) in addressing pollution, weather resilience, and mine reclamation through a block grant program

    A lease was sold in the Eagle Canyon lands with wilderness characteristics area (pictured) noncompetitively for $1.50 per acre. This type of leasing will no longer be possible under the Inflation Reduction Act, preventing speculation by oil and gas companies. Photo by Ray Bloxham.

    But what does the bill mean for Utah and the Colorado Plateau?

    The bill contains important provisions that will reduce oil and gas lease speculation, which is rampant in Utah.

    First, under current law, anyone can nominate public lands for oil and gas leasing, and can do so for free. This process encourages companies to nominate as much land as possible throughout Utah (and the West), requiring the BLM to expend significant time and energy reviewing these lease nominations –most of which are entirely speculative. The Inflation Reduction Act would establish a $5-per-acre fee to nominate parcels for leasing, which will reduce speculation by forcing companies to put up funds to nominate parcels. 

    Second, the Inflation Reduction Act raises the minimum bid price and eliminates noncompetitive, or “over-the-counter,” leasing. Both changes are long overdue and much needed. Currently, there are two ways to lease a parcel: 1) Through a competitive sale via auction, with a minimum bid of only $2 per acre, or 2) By purchasing, within two years,  a “noncompetitive lease” that failed to sell at auction for just $1.50 per acre. These fire sale prices promote lease speculation and allow operators to lock up huge swaths of public lands. In contrast, the Inflation Reduction Act eliminates noncompetitive leasing altogether and raises the minimum competitive bid to $10 per acre.

    Third, the Inflation Reduction Act raises the royalty and rental rates for leasing and development on public lands, bringing these rates closer to what operators pay for state and private land leases and development. Presently, before a lease is put into production, operators pay a nominal rental fee of as little as $1.50 per acre to hold the lease (oftentimes holding these leases for decades without ever putting them into production). The Act modernizes these rates while discouraging speculation by requiring rentals of $3 per acre for years 1-2, $5 per acre for years 3-8, and $15 per acre thereafter.

    Finally, once a lease is put into production, operators currently pay just a 12.5% royalty on all oil and gas extracted from our public lands–a below market rate that, in effect, subsidizes development of publicly-owned lands and minerals. This rate is raised to 16.67% by the Act –which, while still too low, is a significant step in the right direction.

    While the Inflation Reduction Act has a myriad of good things for public lands, climate change mitigation, and environmental justice, it is not perfect. One provision, offered as a compromise to win Sen. Manchin’s support, is a requirement that the Department of the Interior offer 2 million acres of public lands and 60 million acres of offshore waters for oil and gas leasing and development each year for the next decade, or a total of 20 million acres of land and 600 million acres of offshore waters offered for development over the next decade.

    While this provision is concerning and frustrating to see included, the overall bill contains more good than bad, and represents the largest federal investment in climate mitigation and leasing reform to date.

  • July 19th, 2022

    UTAH SILVESTRE is a 4-part miniseries from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s WILD UTAH podcast. Hosted by Amy Dominguez and Olivia Juarez, each episode is available in both español and English, created for our gente to recognize that redrock wilderness is embedded in our community wellness, cultural histories, traditions, and our futures. We are breaking down barriers that America’s Hispanic and Latino/a/x community members encounter when they are concerned about the climate crisis and the state of nature.

    Podcast cover artwork by Mariella Mendoza.

    Episode 1: Public Lands Explained (English)

    What are federally “owned” lands? What does BLM have to do with wilderness? Get the answers with former Utah State Representative and SUWA Board Member Rebecca Chavez-Houck.

     

    Episode 1: Tierra Pública Explicado (Spanish)

    ¿Cuáles son tierras en la propiedad del gobierno? ?¿Cuál es la relación entre BLM y tierra silvestre? Obtenemos las respuestas con anterior Representativa del Estado de Utah, y miembro del consejo de SUWA, Rebecca Chavez-Houck.

     

    Episode 2: Wilderness Affects Your Daily Life (English)

    Focusing on the ways that wilderness benefits the climate, wildlife, or your own community’s wellness on a daily basis with the Co-Director of Uplift, Lyrica Maldonado.

     

    Episode 2: Tierras Salvajes y su Vida Cotidiana (Spanish)

    Enfocamos en las maneras en que la tierra silvestre beneficia la clima, la vida silvestre, y bienestar de comunidad a diario con Codirectora de Uplift, Lyrica Maldonado.

     

    Episode 3: Heritage, Inheritance, y Querencia (English)

    Latinos have called Utah home since before our gente were called Latino. We speak with University of Utah Professor Armando Solórzano to learn about the long history.

     

    Episode 3: Herencia y Querencia (Spanish)

    Latinos han llamado Utah a la patria antes de que nuestra gente fuera llamada latina. Hablamos con el Profesor Armando Solórzano de la Universidad de Utah para conocer la historia larga.

     

    Episode 4: Have Fun and Make a Difference! (English)

    Do two things this summer to feel good: get out into redrock wilderness for a visit, and get involved in demanding respect for la tierra. Carlos Prado (@Outdoorlos) joins us to give some tips.

     

    Episode 4: Diviértase y Haga La Diferencia! (Spanish)

    Haga dos cosas este verano para sentirse bien: visita a tierra salvaje de roca roja, e involúcrese en exigir respeto por la tierra. Carlos Prado (@Outdoorlos) se une a nosotras para dar consejos.

     

    Take action after this episode!

    Text UTAH SILVESTRE to 52886 to receive occasional text updates about Utah’s redrock wilderness in Spanish.

    Sign up to stay in the loop on redrock news and actions from SUWA!

     

    Thank you to our show supporters!

    Projects like Utah Silvestre and the Wild Utah podcast are made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Thank you for your support!

    Become a SUWA member today and support the Wild Utah Podcast

     

    Find Utah Silvestre and the Wild Utah podcast on your favorite streaming app!

    wildutah.info/Stitcher
    wildutah.info/Apple
    wildutah.info/Spotify

    Theme music is by Kevin MacLeod.
    Co-hosting is by Amy Dominguez and Olivia Juarez.
    Podcast cover art is by Mariella Mendoza.
    Audio production is by PROArtes Mexico and Laura Borichevsky.

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  • July 13th, 2022

    Latino Conservation Week is nearly upon us! Running July 16-23 this year, we’re proud to be co-hosting events alongside our friends at HEAL Utah, Conserve Southwest Utah, and other local organizations who recognize the importance of Latino/a/e leadership within the conservation movement. Below are brief descriptions of the events we’ll be at– make sure to tap the link for events you’re interested in to read the full details. We hope to see you there!

    Educational Hike on the Rocky Peak Trail – Sunday, July 17 9AM to ~10:30AM

    Come join SUWA and HEAL Utah for an educational hike along the Rocky Peak Trail in the Three Peaks Recreation Area. We will be exploring the topics of conservation of the nearby Antelope Mountain Range, conservation and its close links with Latinx culture and heritage, as well as explore the history of the nearby Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The hike is an easy to moderate trail and will take approximately an hour and a half to two hours. A dual-sided brochure about the covered topics will be provided in Spanish and English to help drive conversation and camaraderie. Let’s get out on the trail, together!

    Native Flora Workshop and Potting Party – Monday, July 18 6PM to 8PM

    We’re hosting a Native Flora Workshop and Potting Party at the Tonaquint Nature Center to kick of Latino Conservation Week! Learn about desert-friendly native plant species from a Latinx Greenhouse Manager and leave with your own potted plant to brighten your home or yard.

    Meet the Reptile Celebrities of Red Cliffs – Friday, July 22 3PM to 5:30PM

    Beat the heat in the St. George Library and meet Tu-wee the Desert Tortoise, Charlie the King Snake and Hercules the Gila monster. These are the reptile celebrities, and endangered species ambassadors, of Red Cliffs. They’re here to take photos with the family and teach you how to protect their desert home. Enjoy tortoise trivia and games, and earn your badge to become a Certified Tortoise Defender.

    Bike and Bagels Virgin River Ride – Saturday, July 23 10AM to 11:30AM

    Bring your bike and meet us at Sullivan Park for a Community Bikes and Bagels Ride along the beautiful Virgin River Trail. Free coffee and bagels and a bike safety talk to begin, then a family-friendly 5-mile roundtrip ride over gorgeous sections of boardwalk beside the Virgin River. Let us know if you need to borrow a bike!

    Fiesta de las Estrellas in Red Cliff – Saturday, July 23 9:30PM to 11:30PM

    Join us for a Fiesta de las Estrellas with refreshments at the Red Mountain Wilderness Trail Head. Learn about our galaxy by looking through a telescope with the St. George Astronomy Group. At the edge of the Red Mountain Wilderness in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, the night skies will be dark and the stars will shine brightly!

    More events and information on Latino Conservation Week can be found here.
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  • June 30th, 2022

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director,  801-859-1552, steve@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT  (June 30, 2022) – In response to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision on West Virginia vs. EPA, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) legal director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “We’re disappointed in today’s US Supreme Court decision which goes to extraordinary lengths to limit the federal government’s ability to tackle the ongoing climate crisis.

    “The Court’s radical and activist agenda poses a real threat to federal agency oversight and management of public lands, air and waters that will have real implications in Utah.”

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