• June 13th, 2017

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s interim report on the fate of Bears Ears National Monument was released yesterday—and it isn’t good.

    As expected, Zinke recommends that President Trump dramatically shrink the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument—though he doesn’t say specifically by how much, or where. Instead, he punted the details of how he’ll recommend Trump chop up the monument to his final report, due in August.

    The fact is, the president doesn’t have the authority to reduce the monument. Any attempt by Trump to reduce Bears Ears would immediately wind up in court.

    But there’s still time to defend Bears Ears. And now that Zinke has made his intentions clear, your voice is more important than ever.

    Click here to submit your comments now.

    Bears Ears cultural site. Copyright Tim Peterson

    Despite virtually ignoring previous public comments which favored keeping Bears Ears intact by a 9-1 margin, Secretary Zinke has extended the comment period for Bears Ears. Even if you’ve commented before, now is your chance to tell Zinke what you think of his plan to drastically reduce Bears Ears National Monument.

    Remind Secretary Zinke that:

    •  The President doesn’t have the authority to modify the monument’s boundaries. Only Congress can do that.

    •  Bears Ears National Monument was a significant achievement for the historic coalition of Tribes that came together to advocate for its protection.

    •  It is the first national monument to include traditional knowledge as an object worthy of protection in the monument proclamation. And every inch of Bears Ears is necessary to preserve the more than 100,000 archaeological sites therein.

    •  It is a remarkable wilderness landscape. Beyond the monument’s namesake twin buttes are world-renowned wilderness treasures like White Canyon, Indian Creek, and Comb Ridge. Myriad plant and animal species thrive in its varied habitats. And you’d be hard pressed to find the solitude provided by these areas elsewhere in the lower 48.

    Secretary Zinke tried to mask the brutality of his recommendation by calling on Congress to make parts of Bears Ears a National Conservation Area and to give Tribes co-management of whatever crumbs remain of the monument after Trump dices it up. But that’s not just kicking the can down the road—that’s kicking it into the abyss. Congress has had 111 years to protect Bears Ears, and it has completely failed to do so.

    Please, take a moment today to let Secretary Zinke know what you think about his plans for Bears Ears.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • June 12th, 2017

    For Immediate Release: June 12, 2017
    Contact: Mathew Gross, (435) 259-4316

    Today Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued an interim report that signaled his desire to greatly reduce the Bears Ears National Monument. A final report is expected in August.

    The following statement is from Mathew Gross, Media Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

    “Though Secretary Zinke’s interim report does not change anything about Bears Ears on the ground today, it makes it clear the Secretary is trying to line up the political cover to eviscerate the monument. That doesn’t change the fact that any attempt by the Trump administration to weaken or shrink the monument is illegal. The landscapes and cultural resources protected in Bears Ears belong to the American people and must be protected for the sake of future generations, not pawned off as a trophy for the Utah delegation.”

    In his report, Zinke reopened the public comment period on Bears Ears, which to date has shown an overwhelming support for the monument—more than a million comments have been submitted in favor of protecting existing national monuments like Bears Ears. Zinke also suggested that Bears Ears National Monument is too large, despite its boundaries having already been considerably diminished from the original proposal put forward by a coalition of five Tribes.

    In addition, Zinke’s report punts many issues to Congress, suggesting that after Bears Ears is shrunk, Congress should reinstate some of the areas in other designations, and work with tribes on co-management. This is a red herring, as the Utah delegation already showed an unwillingness to protect Bears Ears adequately in its abysmal Public Lands Initiative last year—and the administration is doing the same by showing its intent to shrink the boundaries. Since the failure of the PLI, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have done nothing but lobby the Trump administration to undo the monument. They have no serious intention of protecting the Bears Ears and have already failed to do so.

    Today’s report may be a reprieve from immediate damage to Bears Ears, but the end game is an unprecedented attack on America’s public lands.

    The Bears Ears Buttes. Photo (c) Tim Peterson.

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  • June 6th, 2017

    Terrific news! The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has pulled back an outrageous proposal to lease federal public lands for oil and gas development at the doorstep of Zion National Park.

    And it was citizen action that made the difference!

    The problem emerged this past winter when the BLM identified two parcels near Zion for inclusion in a September 2017 oil and gas lease sale. The parcels of land are less than two miles from the park boundary, lay clearly within the park’s viewshed, and are traversed by the Kolob Terrace Road – a popular access route to the backcountry portion of the park. The parcels also abut the town of Virgin and are transected by a popular mountain bike trail.

    View across lease parcels pulled by the BLM thanks to citizen outcry. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    Local citizens, supported by conservation groups including SUWA, jumped into action. Several hundred people packed a local information meeting in the tiny community of Virgin. In response to the encouragement of local residents, the towns of Springdale and Toquerville passed resolutions against leasing. The Washington County Commission, concerned especially about impacts to water resources, followed suit. Two dozen local businesses joined together to write the BLM. And letters poured in from around the country. In total, more than 40,000 people wrote comments objecting to the proposed lease sale.

    The public outcry even captured the attention of Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert. In a letter to the BLM, Governor Herbert asked that leasing be deferred, stating that oil and gas development in the area would threaten the recreation and tourism based economies of local communities and noting that the area was “not ideal for extraction.”

    SUWA offers a big thanks and congratulations to everyone who helped. This victory is a great reminder that even in these tough times we can prevail in protecting Utah’s wild places when citizens join together to speak out!

  • June 1st, 2017

    Sunset Arch in GSENM. Photo (c) James Kay.

    You stood up in defense of Bears Ears National Monument.  Now we need you to do the same for Grand Staircase-Escalante.

    Over the last few weeks, you helped deluge the Department of Interior with more than 685,000 comments in support of Bears Ears.  Thank you to everyone who took action!  This extraordinary show of support would not be possible without your individual action.

    The outrageously short 15 day comment period for Bears Ears has now closed.

    But the Department of Interior is still accepting comments on the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, as well as 25 additional national monuments around the country.

    Please write today to help save Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument!

    Even if you mentioned Grand Staircase-Escalante when you wrote earlier on Bears Ears, please write again.  This will help ensure your comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante is counted.

    You can access the Department of Interior’s official comment form here.

    Your comments are desperately needed!  The Trump administration appears serious about eviscerating Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument.  The Utah delegation is pressing the president to carve out a huge chunk of the 1.7 million acre monument for potential coal mining.  And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke seems to be listening!  His visit to the monument in May focused on a driving tour to a coal seam!

    It is important that your comments be in your own words. The Department of Interior will count them individually that way. What is most useful is your own statement about why Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is special to you and why ALL OF IT deserves to be protected.  It’s fine if you keep it simple and from the heart.

    To help you gather your thoughts, here are a few points of information (you can also click here to view our story map):

    •    Grand Staircase-Escalante was designated in 1996. Since then, it has come to be known as the “Science Monument”—yielding several new species of dinosaur and other paleontological finds and providing habitat for 650 bee species, many that are endemic to the area.

    •    Grand Staircase-Escalante has incredible camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Places like Calf Creek, Peekaboo and Spooky Canyon, Coyote Gulch, and the Hole in the Rock Road are known the world over. If you have your own favorites, be sure to mention them!

    •    Polling shows more than half of Utahns want Grand Staircase-Escalante left alone. That’s added to the more than 80 percent of Westerners that the Colorado College Conservation in the West poll showed want existing national monuments left intact.

    •    Reviewing any monument is a political act, but especially when it involves one that is more than two decades old and flourishing. No president has ever taken this needless step, and neither should President Trump.

    The comment period for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument closes on July 10.  But please take a moment and write now.  We want to show strong support prior to the anniversary of the Antiquities Act on June 8!

    To make sure your comment is properly tallied, please send us a copy.  You can do that easily by:

    • Clicking on “I want to provide my contact information” on the DOI comment form;
    • Clicking on “Email Receipt” at step 3;
    • Forwarding the email you receive from regulations.gov to issues-action@suwa.org

    Thanks for taking action.

  • May 31st, 2017

    Longstanding litigation over six BLM-Utah land use plans and travel management plans brought to a close

    An order issued today by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit clears the way for BLM-Utah to begin implementing a comprehensive settlement agreement that will result in the completion of 13 new off-highway vehicle travel management plans over the next 8 years across eastern and southern Utah.  The settlement agreement marks the end to longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by a coalition of conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and travel plans that were completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration and designated a spider web of approximately 20,000 miles of routes where off-highway vehicles could drive on federal public lands.  The settlement requires BLM to revisit these decisions across more than 6 million acres of federal public lands, minimize the impacts of off-highway vehicles on cultural resources and wilderness landscapes that provide opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation and monitor for illegal use.

    BLM-Utah will also consider the designation of three areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs) and update and prepare air quality-related reports and studies that will inform future BLM decisions regarding oil and gas development.  The settlement agreement can be viewed here.

    The settlement agreement was reviewed and approved by a federal district court judge in Salt Lake City.  In his order approving the settlement agreement, senior district court Judge Dale A. Kimball stated that the settlement “is a fair and lawful resolution of years of litigation” and is consistent with applicable federal law.

    The BLM-Utah plans at issue guide land management decisions across more than 10 million acres of federal public lands in eastern and southern Utah, including some of the nation’s most remarkable red rock wilderness landscapes.

    • “With the settlement agreement in place we will work to make sure that BLM-Utah’s new travel management plans fully account for and protect Utah’s unique cultural resources and red rock wilderness lands,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The negotiations leading up to the settlement agreement were hard fought and contentious.  In the end, we came to a place that provided sufficient certainty to the conservation groups that BLM would take seriously its responsibilities to minimize the impacts of off-road vehicle use on all public resources, including wilderness.”
    • “This proposed settlement is good news for Utah’s iconic public lands, including the lands surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Dinosaur National Monument,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice Attorney representing the conservation groups. “BLM must take a fresh look at where it will allow off-highway vehicles to drive, this time with an eye towards protecting the very things that make Utah’s redrock country so special–its wildness, opportunities for solitude, and irreplaceable archaeological sites.”
    • “These amazing lands deserve thoughtful management for uses other than motorized recreation and oil and gas development, which are prioritized in the current plans,” said Nada Culver, Director the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society. “We hope to get to work on updated plans and management decisions once the settlement is approved.”

    Photos of proposed wilderness areas in new “travel management areas” contemplated by the settlement agreement can be found here.

    The following conservation groups are plaintiffs to the litigation and parties to the settlement agreement: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Rocky Mountain Wild, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Utah Rivers Council.

    The parties to the settlement agreement include the conservation groups, the off-highway vehicle group-intervenors, and the Bureau of Land Management.  Several intervenors, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration and four oil and gas companies, do not oppose the agreement.

    The conservation groups were represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, SUWA, NRDC, and the law firm of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

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