ARRWA - Page 8 of 17

  • March 8th, 2016

    Thanks largely to fossil fuel development and consumption and the changes they are bringing to the planet’s climate, Utah – and particularly Utah’s canyon country – is predicted to be hotter and drier than ever. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Southwest, including Utah, will be ground zero for some of climate change’s most significant impacts in North America.

    SUWA has long championed protecting America’s redrock wilderness – more than 9 million acres of outstanding BLM-managed public lands in Utah – from fossil fuel leasing and development ranging from oil, gas and coal to oil shale and tar sands. In fact, SUWA was working to “Keep It in the Ground” long before this concept had a hashtag, a Facebook page, or even a World Wide Web to promote it.

    Our work to limit fossil fuel leasing and development is consistent with SUWA’s mission to protect Utah’s wildest places for current and future generations to enjoy. It has the added benefit of helping maintain the many ecological and climate-buffering functions provided by wild public lands. This work has perhaps never been more relevant than in today’s rapidly changing world.

    Drill pads in the Uintah Basin, Utah. Copyright Lin Alder

    Oil and gas development blanketing the Uintah Basin. Copyright Lin Alder.

    No time to lose
    Recent news headlines on climate change have been particularly dire: “hottest year in historical record,” “2015 was hottest year on record, by a stunning margin” and “Utah’s third warmest year.” The dramatic changes we are seeing in the Earth’s climate appear to be happening in a “nonlinear” fashion, meaning that the changes are happening faster and with more disastrous effects than were previously predicted.

    Fortunately, the Obama administration is taking a series of wide ranging, if overdue, steps to tackle these issues. Most recently, the Interior Department issued a moratorium on new coal leasing for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands and released proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. These are significant steps towards reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuels — but more work needs to be done!

    A well site near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    A well site on public land near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    We believe one of the next logical steps is to extend the administration’s coal leasing moratorium to new oil and gas leasing on BLM and Forest Service managed lands. Such a moratorium would allow the administration to make the same clear-eyed assessment about whether its current oil and gas leasing program is consistent with the steps our country must take to address climate change.

    Because Utah, like all western states, has millions of federal lands already under lease, but not in production, such a moratorium would not solve all of our problems. Like the coal moratorium, production from and development of existing leases would not be limited by such an action. SUWA will continue to keep a watchful eye on those potential projects.

    And because the impacts of leasing, developing and burning fossil fuels affect Utah’s redrock wilderness even if they take place outside of the wilderness proposal, you can expect to see us taking a more active role in working to defeat these proposals no matter where they occur.

    The confluence between “Keeping It in the Ground” and protecting America’s redrock wilderness is a topic we plan to explore further in a series of blog posts over the coming months, so please stay tuned.

  • March 4th, 2016

    On March 2nd, over 600 Utahns poured into a “Citizens’ Hearing” in Salt Lake City on Utah Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI), packing a huge auditorium, lining the walls, and standing shoulder to shoulder a dozen deep in the back of the room. More people spilled out into the auditorium’s entryway.

    The hearing was organized by the Utah Wilderness Coalition because Utah Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz have failed to provide residents living along Utah’s Wasatch Front a meaningful opportunity to help shape the PLI.


    The Orson Spencer Hall auditorium was packed to overflowing with over 600 wilderness supporters. (Ray Bloxham/SUWA)

    With palpable passion and often a strong sense of frustration, speaker after speaker decried the PLI as a disaster for Utah’s public lands and called on President Obama to proclaim a Bears Ears National Monument as proposed by a historic coalition of Native American tribes.


    Empty chairs were set on the stage for the absent members of the Utah congressional delegation. (Kyle Strayer)

    Some gestured or spoke to the four empty chairs on the stage that were labeled with the names of Utah’s congressional delegation, insisting that their voices be heard. (The Utah delegation was invited but did not attend the hearing. The governor’s policy director, who did attend part of the hearing, received an appreciative round of applause when his presence was announced.)

    Again and again, the spirited crowd – which spanned millennials to elders – burst into applause and waved “Protect Wild Utah” signs in support of protecting Utah’s wild lands from fossil fuel development, bogus roads, and other public land giveaways in the PLI.


    Packed house at the Citizens’ Hearing on Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)


    Standing room only — thanks for hanging in there, folks! (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    SUWA deeply thanks everyone who showed up and with their presence and/or their voice stood against the PLI and for the Bears Ears national monument. You are amazing and inspiring! Working together, we have a great chance of defeating the PLI and winning protection for Bears Ears.

    We apologize to those who couldn’t get a seat, but we hope it’s some consolation to know that the overflow crowd clearly demonstrated just how much Utahns care about our wild places (and next time we’ll get a bigger room!).

    Some highlights of the evening include:


    Scott Groene outlines the major flaws of the PLI. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Scott Groene, Executive Director for SUWA, described the PLI as “the worst wilderness bill since the Wilderness Act created the opportunity to protect wild lands in 1964.” He went on to say “The PLI provides less protection for Utah’s wildlands than we have now, fails to protect the Bears Ears, sets off a ticking carbon time bomb, and facilitates the state of Utah’s efforts seize public lands that belong to all of us.”

    In a letter read to the audience by Katie Savage, Terry Tempest Williams said, “Today we find ourselves in a ‘perfect storm’ of ecological and social consciousness where the protection of wilderness is the protection of the climate. . . Congressman Bishop cannot hear the will of the people . . . Our voices must be amplified again, so that other voices around the country can join us in the reject of this violent initiative on the integrity of America’s Redrock Wilderness.”


    Former San Juan County Commissioner Mark Maryboy calls the PLI a “disaster.” (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Mark Maryboy, speaking for Utah Diné Bikéyah, described how the Utah delegation refused to seriously engage with Native Americans seeking protection for the Bears Ears. “We must not allow the PLI to pass,” said Maryboy. “We must stand together to defeat it.”

    Former Utah Congresswoman Karen Shepherd rallied the crowd to stop the PLI, declaring “The real story is you. Look at you! You are everywhere! You can change the world.”

    Describing Utah’s wildlands as “absolutely integral to the state’s economic future,” Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf said ““We must send a clear, powerful message that the people of Utah see the PLI for what it is: a Pearl Harbor attack on the economic vibrancy of Utah.”


    Former Utah BLM Director Juan Palma says the Hispanic community was not consulted on the PLI. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Juan Palma, former Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management, and now chief conservation officer for HECHO, “Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors,” described the deep roots Hispanics have with public lands, noting “No one came to talk to us” about the PLI.

    Lauren Wood, a third generation guide for Holiday River Expeditions and an activist for climate justice, social equality and human rights, decried the PLI as a fossil fuel development bill that “puts the earth’s livable climate on the chopping block.” “The only winners in the PLI,” she said, “are the oil companies who are hell bent on taking our public lands from the public.”

    Laying out a list of grievances, Sierra Club spokesperson Amy Mills pointed out that “Utah Rep Rob Bishop asserts that the PLI is a balanced solution that was locally driven, but the truth is, it is neither.”


    Sierra Club spokeswoman Amy Mills pulls apart Rep. Bishop’s assertion that the PLI is a “balanced solution.” (Ray Bloxham/SUWA)

    Di Allison with Great Old Broads for Wilderness announced “we have a gift for Rep Bishop,” and unwrapping a small gift box, revealed a green hearing aide. Holding up photos of her grandchildren, she said “Utah’s public wild lands are their American heritage. The myopic perspective of the PLI does not serve them. We can do better than this by protecting the Bears Ears as a national monument.”


    Marcel Gaztambide. (Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Marcel Gaztambide, speaking for Uplift, a climate action group for the Colorado Plateau, said “The youth of the Colorado Plateau will not accept the loss of wilderness at this scale. We refuse a rollback on wilderness protection, we refuse lax air quality standards, we refuse the creation of vast fossil fuel zones, we refuse the creation of unnecessary and unwanted roadways, and we refuse the endangerment of the region’s biodiversity.”

    Eyrie Horton, a student at Utah’s Westminster College, stated “The PLI is basically stealing our land. It fosters an economy based on pulling fossil fuels out of the ground. I can tell you that that is not going to fly with my generation.”


    Jared Meek. ( Kathlene Audette-Luebke)

    Jared Meek, speaking for the EcoResponse Club at Brigham Young University, said “many students had been paying attention to the PLI process and to put it lightly we are not pleased with the current proposal. . . . At BYU, we believe that the Earth has been entrusted to humankind to care for, and that we have a sacred stewardship to conserve and preserve our beautiful home for future generations. After all it is we, the younger generation of this state, that will have to live with the choices of those currently in political office.”

    Darren Bingham, speaking for several organizations at Utah State University, said “Our hearts lie in wilderness. If the PLI goes through, our children (which I don’t expect to have), will be the losers because our wild places will be largely gone. We need to stop giving away public lands to development interests and give them back to the people who were here thousands of years ago.”

    Speaking on behalf of Faith and the Land, Dede Carpenter explained that many people of faith “are aligned” with the Tribes’ call for a Bears Ears monument, as the PLI “would leave us nothing but remnants of the beauty that connects us spiritually to something higher than our individual selves.”


    Ann Whittaker. (Kyle Strayer)

    Ann Whittaker, who described herself as “the granddaughter of a World War Two veteran who found salvation and atonement in the public lands” asked “where is the reverence, where is the respect for heritage and posterity in legislation that is written to bring money to a few?”

    Cinimin Kofford, a student from Provo attending Utah Valley University said that “As a student, we have the unique responsibility to protect and preserve our public lands, rather than see them traded away for fossil fuel development. And as an outdoor recreation professional, I want access to public lands for my generation, and for many to come.” Both of these concerns have been “overlooked in the PLI.”

  • February 16th, 2016
    PLI Social Media Meme

    It’s all hands on deck!  If citizens don’t speak up, Utah wild lands could be lost forever.

    Utah Rep. Rob Bishop has unveiled his “Public Lands Initiative” and it is an utter disaster for Utah’s wild lands. The bill rolls back wilderness protection, creates vast fossil fuel development zones, sanctions a sprawling spiderweb of disputed roads, and gives away public lands for development.

    And no wonder – the public has been left out of the Public Lands Initiative. Despite requests, Rep. Bishop never held hearings along the Wasatch Front where most Utahns live. He only sought input from rural areas representing 5 percent of the state’s population (and 1/20th of 1 percent of the nation’s population).

    You deserve a voice! That’s why the Utah Wilderness Coalition is holding a “Citizens’ Hearing” in Salt Lake City.

    Citizens’ Hearing on Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative
    Wednesday, March 2

    6:30 – 9:30 PM
    Orson Spencer Hall Auditorium (Google Map)
    University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
    (10 minutes north of South Campus Trax station)

    This is your chance to stand up for vigorous protection of Utah wildlands. 

    Show your support by simply showing up! Better yet, come and speak! Share your view on the Public Lands Initiative and the future of Utah’s wild places. All comments will be recorded and submitted to the U.S. Congress as well as the Utah delegation.

    Feel free to make a sign and bring it – we will also be handing out yellow “Protect Wild Utah” signs and buttons.

    This is a pivotal moment. We need to pack the room with wilderness advocates! Bring family and friends. Invite everyone you know who loves Utah’s redrock!

    RSVP appreciated (but not required). You can also invite your friends to this event on Facebook.

    Hope to see you there!

    P.S. Rep. Bishop is still accepting written comments on the Public Lands Initiative — if you haven’t yet submitted yours, please click here to comment before March 2nd.

  • February 4th, 2016

    Rep. Bishop’s long-awaited draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI), released on January 20th, is essentially a fossil fuel development bill that gives away public resources and fails to advance the conservation of public lands in eastern Utah.

    Read More »
  • January 11th, 2016

    Big news! A new poll shows that 2/3 of Utah residents support the creation of a Bears Ears National Monument.

    The highly-regarded Conservation in the West Poll, issued annually by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, found that 66% of Utahns support monument designation for nearly two million acres of existing public lands surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes.

    Click here to ask President Obama to protect Bears Ears.

    The Colorado College poll is not the only recent big news to come out of the Native American-led campaign to protect the Bears Ears.

    On New Year’s Eve, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition sent a formal letter to Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, telling them that the Tribes are stepping away from the Public Lands Initative (PLI) process and instead are asking President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to create a Bears Ears National Monument.

    Click here to ask President Obama to protect Bears Ears.

    The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is a partnership between the Hopi, Zuni, Ute Mountain Ute, Navajo and Ute Indian Tribes. In October, they formally presented their proposal for a collaboratively-managed, 1.9 million acre Bears Ears National Monument to the President as well as to Bishop and Chaffetz.


    Cliff dwelling in the Bears Ears region. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Participating in the PLI process was “to no avail,” according to the Coalition’s letter. “Not once did anyone from the Utah delegation or the PLI make a single substantive comment, positively or negatively, on our proposal.”

    Furthermore, according to the letter, the delegation failed to make good on its “guarantee” to deliver a draft of the PLI to the Coalition by December 30th (as we write this, a draft of the PLI still has yet to be released).

    “Time is of the essence,” the letter concludes. “We don’t feel we can wait any longer before engaging with the Obama administration . . . in the hope that they will advance our proposal via the Antiquities Act.”

    Please send a message to Obama today asking him to protect Bears Ears.

    There’s no question that the Bears Ears region, with more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites, is worthy of protection via the Antiquities Act. Please, add your voice today, and be sure to follow the Coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

    Thank you for taking action.