ARRWA


  • August 17th, 2021

    Last week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a devastating new scientific report detailing the dire consequences of the ongoing—and worsening—climate crisis. The United Nations Secretary General called the findings “a code red for humanity.” (Read the key takeaways from the report here.)

    The IPCC’s report is an urgent call to action and its conclusions are unequivocal: we have already pushed the climate crisis too far and now the only question that remains is how quickly we can act to keep things from getting worse.

    Immediately after taking office, President Biden took decisive action to reverse the prior administration’s reckless course on climate, quickly rejoining the Paris Agreement and subsequently committing to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is an encouraging start, but much remains to be done.

    In order to reach its emissions goal, the Biden administration must immediately halt all new oil, gas, and coal leasing on federal public lands. SUWA has called on President Biden to take this crucial step to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. According to the United States Geological Survey, producing and burning fossil fuels generates nearly one quarter of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, as well as substantial amounts of methane―an even more potent greenhouse gas.

    Oil and gas development in southern Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA

    Fortunately, the Biden administration is listening. The Interior Department has launched a sweeping—and long overdue—review of the federal oil and gas leasing program and will soon release its recommendations for fixing the broken leasing system.

    But Washington, DC isn’t a one-horse town; Congress also has to do its part. And that’s where you can help.

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

    Passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act will grant permanent protection to Utah’s wildest public lands while shielding them from climate destabilizing fossil fuel leasing and development. According to a report released this year, these lands, if kept intact and protected from the threats of such development, can help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact, it’s estimated that passage of the Red Rock bill would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.

    Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to take a decisive step toward protecting the climate by cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

  • July 20th, 2021

    We examine how America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act defines the turf of Utah’s wilderness debate – literally on the ground, as well as politically – and how the bill sets the standard against which other legislative and administrative actions are measured.

    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. Our interlude music, “Chuck’s Guitar,” is by Larry Pattis. Post studio production and editing is by Jerry Schmidt.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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

  • June 9th, 2021

    There is some entertainment value to Senator Romney and Representative Curtis introducing an Illinois wilderness bill to contrast the more serious proposal from Senator Durbin to protect federally-owned wild lands located within the state of Utah.  However, their bill covers the entire Shawnee National Forest regardless of what is still wild and what is not, so it doesn’t truly pass the laugh test.

    So let’s talk about actions that are actually important and impactful.

    The world is facing a climate crisis.  The Colorado River is at all-time lows and shrinking, threatening water used for drinking and growing food for millions.  Forest fires burn across the headlines.  Bigger fiercer hurricanes are wreaking unprecedented damage. Storm patterns are harming agriculture in the American heartland.  Refugees are beginning to flee from one nation to another due to climate impacts.  Creation itself is in decline with the numbers of lifeforms and their wild homes crashing to unprecedented lows.  This is just the beginning tip of the melting iceberg.

    Instead of frivolous legislation, it would be helpful to see a serious proposal from the Utah delegation.  Fortunately, we have “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act” to fill the void.

    Scientists – and the Paris Climate Agreement — tell us we need to remain below a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase if we are to avoid widespread and irreversible disaster.  To accomplish that we need to stop emitting greenhouse gasses and sustain Mother Nature’s capacity to draw carbon out of the atmosphere via sequestration. America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act makes a sizable contribution on both fronts.

    A new peer-reviewed research study shows that Senator Durbin’s bill would allow us to keep in the ground the equivalent of nearly 6% of the carbon budget necessary to avoid warming the earth more than 1.5 degrees.  The same study shows that conserving the trees, desert shrublands and soils on these lands would retain their innate ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, allowing the amount of carbon sequestered by these lands to increase 10% over the course of this century.

    And there are more benefits.  America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would conserve substantial areas of “climate refugia” – wildland habitat that is crucial for animals and plants to adapt to and survive changing climate conditions.  In addition, Utah’s wildlands sit in a uniquely productive place for sustaining multi-state wildlife corridors – five to be exact – that provide lifelines for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, black bear and mountain lion in a changing climate.

    Finally, Senator Durbin’s bill would help sustain flows in the shrinking Colorado River.  This is because the bill would help prevent surface-disturbing activities which increase the amount of windblown dust that lands on Colorado snowpack.  Studies show that “red dust on snow” causes the snow to melt faster and sooner, reducing flows by more than 5% in recent years.

    These are positive impacts for people across the west, the entire nation, and the world.

    What happens to the wild places on the United States public lands within the boundaries of Utah is of concern to all Americans.  We elect United States Senators to represent their home state, serve the entire country and do what they can to help the world.  We are grateful  that Sen. Durbin is stepping into his responsibility, acting for our families and for our future.

    Take Action! Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

  • June 8th, 2021

    Today, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). That means both the House and Senate versions are officially on the books for the 117th Congress and we are ready to roll!

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

    The House bill was reintroduced with 57 original cosponsors already signed on, while the companion bill in the Senate is currently endorsed by 13 senators (click here to see the full cosponsor list). That’s a great start, but we need your help to boost these numbers much higher in the coming weeks by asking your representative and senators to endorse the bill if they haven’t already.

    Lockhart Basin proposed wilderness, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is the seminal legislation that would protect 8.4 million acres of wild public lands in Utah. We all know these spectacular landscapes are worthy of permanent protection, but now we also know they play a significant role in addressing climate change by drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, sequestering it in plants and soils, and providing climate refugia for wildlife. These wild desert lands are also a vital link in the interconnected chain of largely undisturbed ecosystems running from the Grand Canyon to Glacier National Park, providing important migration corridors for wildlife.

    Many of you have helped build support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act over the years by signing postcards, making phone calls, sending emails, and even traveling to Washington, DC to meet with your elected officials in person. With the Biden administration’s current focus on climate and conserving 30% of land and water in the U.S. by 2030, now is the time to ramp up your advocacy efforts as we work to move this legislation forward!

    Click here to contact your representatives now.

    If you’d like to learn more about the bill—or simply celebrate its reintroduction with us—please join our short and sweet webinar this Wednesday, June 9th, from 6:00pm–6:30pm MT. SUWA’s Organizing and Legislative teams will briefly discuss the origins of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and what we can do to garner widespread support in Congress. Please RSVP HERE or join us on Facebook Live.

    Thanks for all you do!

  • May 24th, 2021

    Bending over backwards to help company, agency sets ball in motion to allow drilling within ½  mile of national monument; within greater sage-grouse priority habitat and wilderness-caliber lands

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:

    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org

    Salt Lake City, Utah (May 24, 2021) –  Today, the Biden administration released a proposal to authorize oil and gas drilling within ½ of a mile of Dinosaur National Monument. 

    The proposal, referred to as the Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project, involves the construction and installation of new well pads, roads, pipelines and the drilling of two wells; a plan that will industrialize the western edge of the monument. Dinosaur National Monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts and paleontological resources. According to the National Park Service, the monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of the Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.”

    “Drilling and road blasting about a quarter of a mile from Dinosaur National Monument would damage the views, quiet and dark night skies in a remote part of the park and pollute the park’s air and water,” said Cory MacNulty, southwest associate director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is a zombie lease from almost two decades ago that should never have been allowed in the first place and an urgent reminder of why our national oil and gas program needs immediate reforms.”

    The proposed development, if approved by the Bureau of Land Management, will destroy “priority” habitat for greater sage-grouse—that is, habitat identified by the Bureau “as having the highest value to maintaining sustainable [greater sage-grouse] populations.” The project would also destroy agency-identified lands with wilderness characteristics; lands the Bureau itself acknowledges are undisturbed and wilderness-caliber.

    “This proposal runs counter to every stated goal and objective of the Biden administration,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It threatens some of our wildest, most scenic public lands, including a national monument, priority habitat for greater sage-grouse, and will exacerbate the climate crisis.” 

    Making matters worse, the Bureau is bending over backwards to facilitate the project. The drilling and related development will take place on public lands that are subject to a “no surface occupancy” stipulation, which prohibits all surface disturbing activities. When the lessee, Hoodoo Mining & Production Co. LLC, acquired the lease it did so with full knowledge of this restriction. Now, and at the company’s request, the Bureau is proposing to waive that important stipulation and thereby greenlight the industrialization of the area rather than require the company to develop in a less sensitive area. 

    “Why on God’s green earth is the Bureau even entertaining this drilling project?” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The lessee knew the terms and conditions of its lease and yet now is seeking a special exception to drill right next to Dinosaur National Monument and in priority habitat for greater sage grouse? BLM needs to say “no thanks” and send the company back to the drawing board.” 

    Notably, the proposed action is identical to one previously approved by the Bureau’s Vernal  field office only to be remanded―under the Trump administration―by the Utah State Director for further environmental review (see here). Rather than conduct the required thorough analysis, the Vernal office has merely tried to paper over its previous illegal decision and is poised to once again authorize the industrialization of this wild area. 

    Additional Resources:

    Photos of wilderness-quality lands at risk from the drilling proposal (use with attribution permitted).

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