ARRWA


  • 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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  • May 11th, 2021

    Yesterday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 1535), the seminal legislation that would protect 8.4 million acres of wild public lands in Utah. This bill is more important than ever as we face the Climate Crisis and the Nature Crisis, as its passage would keep fossil fuels in the ground, preserve habitat connectivity and resiliency, and allow Utah’s desert lands to continue to sequester carbon—all while protecting the scenic and cultural resources contained on these lands for generations to come.

    Please ask your senators to join as a cosponsor of the Redrock Bill today!

    Signed on to the legislation as original cosponsors at introduction were Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

    If you are represented by any of these senators, please thank them for cosponsoring today!

    Circle Cliffs. Copyright James Kay

    “With the America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, we can protect America’s remaining wild places and reaffirm our nation’s commitment to the preservation of our national heritage,” said Senator Durbin. “Our public lands are under increasing pressure, both from development encroachment and from attacks by those who would prefer to see them sold off to the highest bidder. Congress needs to act to ensure that these lands remain in their natural condition for current and future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

    America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was developed through citizen inventories that identified wilderness-quality Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah using the same criteria set forth by the agency. Utah lags all other Western states in wilderness designation, despite having some of the wildest roadless landscapes in the lower 48 states.

    Please ask your senators to cosponsor the legislation by clicking here. And if either (or both) of your senators already cosponsored, please thank them by clicking here.