Bears Ears Archives - Page 2 of 15


  • January 25th, 2019

    For Immediate Release
    January 25, 2019

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City — In a remarkably shortsighted decision, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) is proposing to sell twelve oil and gas leases totaling roughly 5,700 acres located on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument to the highest bidder. While these leases contain the same irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources that are found on adjacent federal public lands, the SITLA lands underlying the leases are not formally part of the monument.  Two of the proposed leases are also immediately adjacent to Canyonlands National Park and several proposed leases are visible from the popular Anticline and Needles overlooks.

    Today, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) protested SITLA’s proposed leasing decision and urged the agency to defer leasing until the federal litigation challenging Trump’s unlawful rollback of the monument has been resolved.

    “We are calling on SITLA Director David Ure not to sell any oil and gas leases on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument until the federal litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the monument has been resolved and the agency can pursue a land exchange that benefits Utah’s schoolchildren and protects irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “At a bare minimum, SITLA should not sell any of the proposed twelve leases until it makes clear to potential lessees that the twelve leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, that Trump’s decision attacking the monument has been challenged in court, and that access to any leases will be highly controversial.”

    On December 4, 2017, President Trump purported to dismantle Bears Ears National Monument and designate two much smaller monuments, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’. There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging President Trump’s unlawful action; the lead case is Hopi Tribe et al. v. Trump.  SUWA is a plaintiff in one of the other lawsuits, a case referred to as Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Trump.  Each of these lawsuits asks a federal judge to declare unlawful and invalidate President Trump’s December 4, 2017 proclamation. Such a decision would have significant bearing on access to any SITLA oil and gas lease sold within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, access which is subject to federal regulation and control.  SITLA’s solicitation for this lease sale contains no mention of the fact that the leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, nor does it advise potential bidders that Trump’s unlawful action is the subject of three lawsuits.

    The proposed sale of these leases also flies in the face of SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands for both short and long term economic gain and, when necessary, to consider a land exchange which would preserve unique non-economic values (such as the cultural, paleontological, and biological resources in Bears Ears).  This is precisely why President Obama’s proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument called on the Secretary of the Interior to explore a land exchange with the State of Utah for all SITLA-managed lands in the monument.  Unfortunately, the State refused to pursue such an exchange.  SITLA’s mission is “[a]dministering trust lands prudently and profitably for Utah’s schoolchildren and other trust beneficiaries.”

    Online bidding for the twelve leases closes today at 5pm mountain time.

    Resources for reporters:

    Photos of the leases are available for media use here.

    A map of the twelve leases is available here.

    Learn about the Five Native American Tribes working to protect Bears Ears.

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  • January 10th, 2019

    Moab, UT (January 10, 2019) – In response to the introduction by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) of the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy (PURE) Act, which would limit the ability of the president to protect landscapes in Utah through the use of the Antiquities Act, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “This bill is just the latest in a long line of extremist anti-conservation bills put forth by some members of the Utah delegation. The short-sightedness of the Act should be expected from Senator Lee, but it is extremely disappointing to see one of Senator Romney’s first acts in Congress be such unconsidered parroting of worn-out anti-environmental talking points.

    “Four out of five of Utah’s national parks started out as national monuments, and two of the crown jewels of our public lands — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — were protected using the Antiquities Act. All of these protections were opposed by Utah politicians with no vision for the future.

    “SUWA will fight this bill and any attempt by the Utah delegation to undermine the right of Americans to protect their public lands.”

  • November 13th, 2018

    This Thursday, November 15th, marks the closing of the comment period for the Trump administrations’s hastily-drafted management plans for the illegally reduced Bears Ears National Monument.

    If you haven’t already done so, please click here to submit your comments now.

    Copyright Jeff Foott

    You’ll recall that back in August, President Trump’s Interior Department released its draft management plans for what’s left of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as the lands that were illegally excised from those monuments.

    Their vision for the monuments is one of rampant oil and gas leasing, coal mining, and barely-restrained off-road vehicle use.

    It was only last December that the president unlawfully attacked both of these monuments. Now his administration has put together plans that not only fail to protect the monuments’ irreplaceable values, they invite their destruction.

    The public comment period for Bears Ears ends this Thursday, and the comment period for Grand Staircase-Escalante ends Nov. 30th. If you haven’t already done so, please click here to submit your comments for either or both monuments now.

    Thank you for standing up for Utah’s national monuments.

  • November 7th, 2018

    Harry Truman once wished for a one-armed economist because he’d grown tired of hearing, “On the one hand…on the other hand.” This post-election wrap-up is a bit like that: slivers of hope set against hard reminders.   

    For public lands, the election’s best news is probably this: the blue wave that washed over the House also swept away Rob Bishop’s chairmanship of the House Resources Committee. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will likely replace Bishop. Think Imperator Furiosa replaces Iago. It will be much more difficult for the Utah congressional delegation to move bad wilderness legislation.

    We won’t really celebrate, though, until we get past the dangerous uncertainty of a lame duck Congress. Retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is trying to ram through his Emery County legislation. This late in the game, his likeliest avenue is to slip his anti-wilderness bill inside some larger legislative package.  It’s our job to see that he fails. Labyrinth Canyon, Muddy Creek and the San Rafael Badlands are in the balance.  

    But we hope the election will embolden Democratic leadership to block bad legislation in these few remaining weeks, even as their Republican counterparts redouble efforts to do all the damage they can before losing power. Lame duck congresses often prove to be duds; they can also be dangerous. Muddying this lame duck’s waters even further, Trump is relieved of whatever pressure he felt to act like an adult prior to the election. With a budget deadline of December 7, he may yet have the chance to shut down the government to indulge some momentary whim.

    We’ll have to contend with the Trump administration for two more years; the election doesn’t change that. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Trump’s trained seal, faces a number of ethics-related investigations that may distract him some from his assaults on public land.  Offsetting that faint hope is the likelihood that the Bureau of Land Management will be ever more servile in its acquiescence to local Utah politicians and their anti-public lands demands. 

    The mid-terms did nothing to quash Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s massive litigation seeking control over national parks, monument, and wilderness through the antiquated and repealed RS 2477.

    There were some changes among Utah’s congressional delegation.  In potential good news for the environment, it appears Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams beat incumbent Republican Representative Mia Love.  The outlook is less clear regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who returned to Utah to collect the retiring Hatch’s seat. During his senate campaign, Romney pandered to the right wing on public land issues. We’ll see if he chooses to stay on the fringe.   

    At the state level, in what is the very essence of rotating bald tires, former San Juan County commissioner and all-terrain-vehicle protest rider Phil Lyman replaced long time State Representative Mike Noel.  A leader in the state house, the bellicose Noel did his best to drag Utah backwards with false claims on public land issues and a penchant for wasting Utah tax dollars pushing his anti-federal views.  Perhaps Lyman will surprise us by being something else. We doubt it.    

    Notably, this election brought real change to San Juan County, home of the Bears Ears National Monument. Native Americans Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes won two of three county commission seats. Both support the Bears Ears; both beat candidates who didn’t. This is an extraordinary shift of power to the Native American majority in a county where gerrymandering Anglo politicians have long suppressed Native needs and Native voices.   

    Make no mistake, Kenneth and Willie will face hostility from the entrenched county forces seeking to make them fail. Those forces were at work from the very beginning. The San Juan County Clerk sought to falsify documents in order to keep Willie off the ballot, but was busted by a federal judge. We wish the new commissioners success, and thank them for the courage to take on these offices.

    We have survived half of the national nightmare of Donald Trump’s reign. Each year becomes more dangerous as blatantly unqualified political appointees remain in place and work their mischief, twisting and distorting the bureaucracies that manage our public lands. 

    We operate in an ever-changing political environment at every level. Politicians, bureaucrats and judges come and go. The constant is the red rock wilderness and our resolve to defend it.  Thank you for being part of this movement.

    –Scott Groene

  • September 24th, 2018

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Circle Cliffs along the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah,

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, (801)-859-1552 or steve@suwa.org

    Washington, D.C. (September 24, 2018) — This morning, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled from the bench and denied a motion to transfer the lawsuits challenging President Trump’s illegal evisceration of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments to Utah.

    The United States, supported by the state of Utah, had moved to transfer the lawsuits from federal court in Washington, D.C. to Utah. That motion was opposed by the plaintiffs, including Native American tribes, conservation groups and local businesses.

    “We are gratified by today’s decision by Judge Chutkan to keep these  significant cases in federal district court in Washington, D.C. With this venue issue behind us we look forward to tackling the merits of President Trump’s unlawful decisions to dismantle Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    SUWA is a plaintiff in two of the cases challenging Trump’s actions.