Bears Ears


  • March 15th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

     

    Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, 801-712-5034, scott@suwa.org 

    Moab, UT (March 15, 2021) – In response to the Senate’s confirmation of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “Utah’s public lands suffered significant damage under the mismanagement of the Trump administration. As the first Native American to head the Department of Interior and a Westerner, Secretary Haaland is uniquely positioned to understand the importance of restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monuments; protecting cultural resources from the impacts of off-road vehicle use; and establishing a forward-looking, science-oriented approach to the stewardship of wild public lands. We congratulate her on this historic day and are grateful she was a strong supporter of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and the 30×30 initiative during her time in Congress. We look forward to her visiting Utah and working with her on the ground to find solutions.”

     

  • February 25th, 2021

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance lawsuits challenging secret 2017 meetings held between Kane, Garfield and San Juan County Commissions and Trump officials can proceed

    Contact: Laura Peterson, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.236.3766
    David Reymann, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, 801.257.7939
    Troy Booher, Zimmerman Booher, 801.924.0200

    Salt Lake City, UT (February 25, 2021) – This morning, the Utah Supreme Court issued two related opinions in long-running lawsuits brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) alleging that (1) the Kane and Garfield County Commissions and (2) the San Juan County Commission violated Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act when they each met privately and in secret with Interior Secretary Zinke (and in the case of San Juan County, other DOI officials in Washington, D.C.) in 2017 regarding Zinke’s report on the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments. These meetings preceded then-President Trump’s unlawful dismantling of those monuments. President Biden has pledged to swiftly undo Trump’s actions.

    “We’re grateful the Supreme Court has cleared the way for these important lawsuits to proceed,” said Laura Peterson, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “SUWA members and the broader public had every right to know what these commissioners were saying behind closed doors about the fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.”

    The Supreme Court reversed the district courts’ decisions to dismiss these cases at their earliest stage and concluded that (1) SUWA has legal “standing” to bring these cases (is the right party to do so) and (2) the allegations in SUWA’s lawsuits about the private meetings touching on how the hoped-for monument reductions would impact matters within the “jurisdiction or advisory power” of the commissions are sufficient for the cases to proceed. The cases will be remanded back to district court.

    The Supreme Court also (1) reversed Seventh District Judge Lyle Anderson’s decision in the case involving the San Juan County Commission to sua sponte (on his own accord and without a motion by the County) sanction SUWA for filing the case and order that SUWA pay the County’s attorney’s fees and (2) reversed Sixth District Judge Marvin Bagley’s decision in the Kane and Garfield County case that SUWA had brought its case in bad faith and order that SUWA pay the Counties attorneys’ fees. With regard to Judge Anderson’s decision, the Supreme Court specifically called out Anderson’s inappropriate “independent factual research” as contrary to the Judicial Code of Conduct.

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance was represented in the San Juan County case by Troy Booher, Dick Baldwin, and Frederick Voros with the Salt Lake City law firm Zimmerman Booher, and Laura Peterson and Stephen Bloch at SUWA. SUWA was represented in the Kane and Garfield County case by David Reymann and Austin Riter with the Salt Lake City law firm Parr Brown Gee & Loveless.  Friend of the Court briefs were filed in each case on SUWA’s behalf by the Deseret News, Fox 13 KSTU-TV and the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, represented by Edward Carter with the Orem firm Keen Law Offices.

    Update March 19, 2021: Today, SUWA dismissed its lawsuits against Kane, Garfield and San Juan Counties over their 2017 violations of Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act. With the Utah Supreme Court’s recent decision, we affirmed that SUWA and its members have a right to ensure that the public’s business be conducted out in the open and that SUWA should not be punished for trying to hold public officials accountable.

    Four years after filing the lawsuits, with Secretary Zinke and President Trump no longer in office, it is time to move on. We will continue to work to ensure that Utah elected officials conduct public business in an open and transparent manner, consistent with Utah law.

    Additional Resources 

    Southern Utah Wilderness v San Juan County opinion.

    Southern Utah Wilderness v Kane County opinion.

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  • December 21st, 2020

    SUWA Legislative Director Jen Ujifusa and Legal Director Steve Bloch discuss how the 2020 election results will affect our work to protect Utah’s wild redrock country, and what we expect President Biden to do with respect to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.

    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. Post studio production and editing is by Jerry Schmidt.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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

  • December 2nd, 2020

    Located just three miles from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community and one mile from Bears Ears National Monument, the White Mesa Uranium Mill was originally designed to run for 15 years before being closed and cleaned up. 40 years later, the mill is still in operation, and community members are concerned about the mill’s continued impacts on public and environmental health, as well as the mill’s ongoing desecration of cultural and sacred sites. As the last remaining conventional uranium processing mill in the country, will the White Mesa Mill become the world’s radioactive waste dump? We speak with Yolanda Badback from White Mesa Concerned Community and Talia Boyd, Cultural Landscapes Program Manager with the Grand Canyon Trust, about the nuclear fuel cycle, impacts to Indigenous communities, and what you can do to help stop ongoing harm by closing and cleaning up the mill.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” was written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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

  • 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.