ARRWA - Page 5 of 17


  • 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.

  • February 7th, 2020

    It’s official! America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). With your support to galvanize members of Congress, there are already 58 members who have joined the fight to protect wild Utah.

    We want to give these members a standing ovation to show how much we appreciate their efforts to protect the Utah we know and love.

    Below is the list of members currently signed on. If one of these members represents you, please click here to thank them for their support of the redrock! If either of your senators is already a cosponsor of the Senate companion bill, your message will go to them too.

    Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44)
    Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-8)
    Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3)
    Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (PA-2)
    Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26)
    Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)
    Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-8)
    Rep. Sean Casten (IL-6)
    Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)
    Rep. Lacy Clay (MO-1)
    Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9)
    Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
    Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11)
    Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1)
    Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
    Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1)
    Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12)
    Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
    Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11)
    Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3)
    Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-1)
    Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-28)
    Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4)
    Rep. Robin L. Kelly (IL-2)
    Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6)
    Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-5)
    Rep. Ron Kind (WI-3)
    Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2)
    Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)
    Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8)
    Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13)
    Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
    Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
    Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
    Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-8)
    Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7)
    Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4)
    Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2)
    Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
    Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5)
    Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-4)
    Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-6)
    Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
    Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)
    Rep. William Pascrell (NJ-9)
    Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
    Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2)
    Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8)
    Rep. Harley Rouda (CA-48)
    Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)
    Rep. Adam B. Schiff (CA-28)
    Rep. Kim Schrier (WA-8)
    Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY-3)
    Rep. Paul D. Tonko (NY-20)
    Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-3)
    Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)
    Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7)
    Rep. Peter Welch (VT)

    This legislation was first envisioned by people just like you who were adamant about protecting these lands for all to enjoy. By thanking your member of Congress, you’ll let them know how important these landscapes are—with their archaeological, biological, and recreational wonders—to all Americans.

    Please thank your member of Congress today!

  • January 23rd, 2020

    Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) will soon reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the House of Representatives, and we need your help to gather support! We have two actions for you that can really make a difference.

    First, will you contact your members of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act?

    This legislation is the seminal vision for protecting Utah’s deserving redrock wilderness, including places like the Dirty Devil, Desolation Canyon, Cedar Mesa, and parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that were illegally repealed by President Trump.

    Please help us gather cosponsors by contacting your members of Congress today!

    Fisher Towers,  © Tom Till

    Protecting wilderness is more important than ever. We are facing a climate crisis, and safeguarding tracts of public land from fossil fuel development and other adverse impacts is one strategy that can help preserve important habitat, boost climate resiliency, and encourage carbon storage. Did you know that more than 20 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from public lands? It’s time to focus on solutions, and protecting 8.4 million acres of wilderness in Utah would be a great start.

    We’re already off and running in the Senate, where Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in December. He was joined by 12 of his colleagues:

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-CT
    Sen. Jack Reed D-RI
    Sen. Bernie Sanders D-VT
    Sen. Jeff Merkley D-OR
    Sen. Debbie Stabenow D-MI
    Sen. Martin Heinrich D-NM
    Sen. Amy Klobuchar D-MN
    Sen. Tammy Baldwin D-WI
    Sen. Jacky Rosen D-NV
    Sen. Patrick Leahy D-VT
    Sen. Robert Casey D-PA
    Sen. Robert Menendez D-NJ

    That brings us to the second way you can lend your voice to the movement to save our redrock wilderness. If any of the above senators represent you, please click here to thank them for their support of the redrock! We would not be able to push back on Trump’s attacks on Utah wilderness without their help.

    If you don’t see one or both of your senators on the list, there’s still time for them to get on the bill. Click here to ask them to sign on as a cosponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    And don’t worry, based on your address, this message will go to your representative in the House and any senator not currently on the bill. Our system is clever like that!

    Please ask them to sign on today!

  • September 14th, 2018

    It was an interesting week for the Emery County Public Lands Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Curtis and Sen. Orrin Hatch and introduced in May of this year, would affect 1.4 million acres of land proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. The legislation has yet to reach a point where it could receive broad support from the conservation community as it fails to protect critical wilderness landscapes and includes objectionable provisions that would have far-reaching implications for the remarkable public lands in Emery County.

    SUWA staff members took journalists on an overflight of Emery County on Wednesday, September 12, 2018. Watch the GoPro video above as our friends at EcoFlight fly over Labyrinth Canyon. Click here to watch the story on Fox13 News.

    Wednesday morning we learned there would be a House Natural Resources Committee markup less than 48 hours later, on Friday. This was remarkable in that markups generally happen with significantly more notice. Whether this was an intentional attempt to push the bill through the House without anyone having a chance to review new amended language, or the result of hasty and disorganized lawmaking, is anyone’s guess. Either way, we received new language for the legislation and jumped into gear analyzing the bill and providing information to our congressional champions. While the House committee markup was ultimately cancelled (again, for reasons unbeknownst to us, though some are blaming Hurricane Florence), we’ve had a chance to dig into the issues and continue to have concerns with the legislation.

    While at first blush the Emery County bill boasts wilderness and National Recreation Area (NRA) acreages that may seem impressive, a closer analysis of the bill reveals fatally flawed legislation. From what we’ve seen of the new, proposed bill amendment, the legislation:

      • Entirely fails to protect remarkable and critical intact wilderness landscapes as wilderness. This includes large portions of Labyrinth Canyon—including the entire eastern side of the canyon system—and vast portions of the remote Muddy Creek region. As proposed, the bill would designate less wilderness than is currently protected for wilderness character as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) or Natural Areas.
      • Rolls back existing WSA protections to facilitate coal mining in the Book Cliffs.
      • Includes unprecedented giveaways to the State of Utah in the form of recreation and public purpose conveyances. The legislation would hand over control of nearly 10,000 acres of high-value public land to the State of Utah for expansion of Goblin Valley State Park. The State could then charge fees for access and develop new amenities and motorized and non-motorized trail systems.
      • Authorizes a land exchange between the federal government and the School Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) that fails to identify federal parcels for acquisition, and fails to ensure protection of lands rescinded from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments and other wilderness-quality lands.
      • Allows the State of Utah to continue its federal court litigation seeking highway rights-of-way through designated wilderness, instead of resolving Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477 issues.

    We anticipate a markup of the legislation in the House and Senate sometime later this month. In the meantime, we’ll continue to attempt to improve the bill to a point where it could be supported by SUWA and others working day in and day out to protect the wilderness lands of southern Utah. Absent the changes necessary to make this legislation one that is deserving of the landscapes it will impact, we will work tirelessly to ensure that the bill does not pass into law.