ARRWA


  • October 13th, 2020

    Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We recognized it by sharing the Bears Ears Inter Tribal Coalition’s words. Today, we want to continue the spirit of Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a message about public land. 

    The wild lands of America’s red rock wilderness are ancestral Goshute, Ute, Shoshone, Diné, Paiute, Hopi, and Pueblo territories—this only considers tribes recognized by the federal government. Since the beginning of time, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples have called the mountains, canyons, and valleys of Utah home. We honor our native neighbors and those who were here long before all of us to recognize the following:

    • Public Lands are on stolen lands: in the United States, Thomas Jefferson first employed the Doctrine of Discovery to dispossess Native peoples of their claims to land in order to continue U.S. westward expansion. The Doctrine of Discovery is a religious doctrine of the 1400s that founded the spiritual and legal right for Europeans to literally “take possession” of lands they “discovered [that were] not under the dominion of Christian rulers.” In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the Doctrine as legally valid. This historic process is where the concept of “stolen lands” come from. Even though SUWA has been persistent in the permanent protection of red rock wilderness in Utah and fights tooth and nail for the retention of public lands in the public domain, we still must face the facts of this violent time in history.
    • Federal conservation lands were created with the same kind of intention. Organ Pipe, Yosemite, and Yellowstone are just a few examples of beloved conservation lands whose establishment resulted in the displacement of native communities. This is why it’s important to know whose land you stand on, and to support native-lead campaigns to protect people and the planet. The more non-native people can recognize ancestral territories on which they live, work, and play, the better allies we can be in standing for justice for native peoples.

    Our public lands are the perfect subject for healing among all people, healing our connection with the more-than-human world, and respecting our native community members. Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but the work to protect sacred ancestral lands continues every day.

  • September 10th, 2020

    After a long August recess, Congress is back in session for September. This is one of the best chances to get your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Will you ask them today?

    America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is the seminal legislation that would protect the amazing redrock country we all love. It would safeguard places like Desolation Canyon, the Dirty Devil region, and the east side of Labyrinth Canyon, as well as lands wrongly cleaved from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump.

    Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor today!

    Protecting these lands as wilderness will help us in the fight against climate change, build connected habitat corridors for wildlife, and preserve places for Americans to enjoy quiet and solitude for generations to come. Utah has less protected wilderness than any other western state. As we work toward the goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030, Utah must be a large part of the discussion.

    Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    And if any of them have already cosponsored (check here), please thank them.

    Members of Congress will soon depart again to embark on the campaign trail in October, so September is the key time to get their endorsement. If you want to go the extra mile, after asking them to cosponsor via our action page, call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask them by phone. They might ask for the bill number, which in the House is H.R. 5775, and in the Senate is S. 3056.

    Thank you!

  • April 1st, 2020

    Twenty-eight redrock volunteers traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the waning days of February to participate in our annual Wilderness Week event. Their advocacy will lay the groundwork for the next big step forward in protecting Utah’s magnificent wild lands.

    The purpose of February’s Wilderness Week was to ramp up support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act—the flagship legislation for our redrock protection campaign. Coordinated by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, whose leading organizations are SUWA, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 28 volunteers (from Utah and 17 other states) worked together in 12 teams and held 140+ meetings with legislators. Over the course of several days, they crisscrossed Capitol Hill and walked the marble corridors of Congress wearing their highly visible “Protect Wild Utah” buttons.

    2020 Wilderness Week activists in front of the U.S. Capitol.

    With activists’ efforts concentrated on the Emery County bill last year—which permanently protected 663,000 acres of wilderness in Utah’s San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons—reintroduction of the redrock bill got a late start in the 116th Congress. Nevertheless, we’re already up to 74 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 17 in the Senate. You can click here to see if your representative and senators are among them.

    If any of your elected officials are not listed, click here to ask them to endorse America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Just as our Wilderness Week activists were leaving Washington, the coronavirus hit the United States hard. That’s why your emails and calls to Congress are even more crucial today—so that we can sustain the momentum created by these dedicated individuals who volunteered their own personal time to travel to our nation’s capital on behalf of the spectacular landscapes we all love.

    Southern Utah’s national treasures need your support! Please click here to contact your members of Congress today.

    Thank you!

  • February 14th, 2020

    This op-ed by SUWA Executive Director Scott Groene was published in the online version of the Salt Lake Tribune on February 13, 2020.

    With the reintroduction of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in Congress last week, it’s worth reflecting on how far wilderness has come in Utah.

    Over the past 15 years, more than one million acres of public land in Utah have been protected as wilderness. And through land exchanges, litigation and management plans, hundreds of thousands of additional acres of redrock canyons and mesas have gained some form of protection.

    During that same time, Utah politicians from top to bottom have spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prevent conservation and seize control of these lands from the public.

    How has so much been protected in a state so openly hostile to conservation? The answer is America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Over 30 years ago, Utahns recognized that over half of the wilderness in their state had been lost and decided they needed to act to protect the remaining canyon country. No one else would do it — not the politicians blinded by the past, nor federal agencies afraid to act. So volunteers spent years surveying the lands, and, with the leadership of Utah Rep. Wayne Owens, created America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) — legislation that today would protect 8.4 million acres of wilderness on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

    With this vision, Utahns set out to defend and protect these lands. The national support they organized translated into the political strength necessary to block the Utah delegation from enacting shortsighted legislation that would have sliced the redrock country to bits. And it gave Utahns the power to prevent administrations from tearing the backcountry apart with energy development, clear cuts and off-road vehicle routes. The ubiquitous yellow “Protect Wild Utah” signs are the tip of an iceberg of a great citizens’ movement.

    The latest fruit of these labors was the Emery County Public Land Management Act. What started as a political fight when Rep. John Curtis and former Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced terrible legislation for the San Rafael Swell ended up as a classic win-win scenario. Through hard work and difficult conversations, Republican Hatch and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin hammered out a deal to designate 663,000 acres of wilderness, ensuring that uniquely Utah landscapes like Muddy Creek, Labyrinth Canyon and the San Rafael Swell will be left undisturbed for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

    The people of Emery County succeeded in determining their own future, avoiding designation of a national monument other than the one they wanted: Jurassic National Monument. It was a significant accomplishment all around, though ultimately the bill designated less than half of the acres proposed for wilderness in the county.

    Getting less than half of what we at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) know deserves protection was only acceptable because, as part of the bargain, Hatch and Durbin agreed that SUWA could continue to advocate for wilderness protection of the remaining undesignated lands through the landmark ARRWA legislation. That’s worth restating: SUWA’s ability to continue advocating for additional wilderness in Emery County was an explicit part of the deal.

    Durbin and SUWA offered not to pursue additional wilderness in Emery County in return for more wilderness in the San Rafael Badlands, but Hatch’s office declined the offer. After Hatch’s retirement, Durbin met with Sen. Mitt Romney and made the same proposal. Romney, likewise, declined it.

    Our members know SUWA wouldn’t walk away from hundreds of thousands of acres of redrock wilderness in exchange for nothing. Durbin’s insistence on doing what is right for the land is what got the protections added for Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon in the first place.

    Unfortunately, some of Utah’s politicians are attempting to rewrite history — ignoring the way the Emery County negotiations happened and pulling out their tired old playbook to attack ARRWA when it was recently introduced. Romney even went so far as to introduce his own wilderness bill in Illinois as a ploy to get back at Durbin, an absurd tactic considering Durbin enthusiastically supports wilderness. These theatrics are typical of our delegation whenever ARRWA is reintroduced in Congress, but they only serve to emphasize the bill’s power and importance.

    As Utah’s population grows, protected lands become more precious. We need these places more than ever to hold carbon in the ground, to protect Native American homelands, to shelter stressed wildlife and, ultimately, for our own well-being. We’re always ready to roll up our sleeves and engage on tough public lands issues, and we look forward to the next opportunity.