Bears Ears - Page 3 of 17


  • June 15th, 2020

    Speak out against climate-damaging oil and gas leasing  near Arches and Canyonlands National Park

     The Trump administration is proposing to sacrifice our national parks and exacerbate the climate crisis by leasing a massive swath of treasured public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks for oil and gas development.  On June 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an environmental assessment purportedly analyzing the effects of such leasing.  Watch for SUWA alerts about writing Utah Governor Herbert, and later about submitting comments to the BLM.   

    But there is something as or more effective that you can do – bring attention to this outrageous plan by writing a letter-to-the-editor or guest editorial (OpEd) to your local paper.  This issue is of national interest so papers across the country should be receptive to your commentary.

    Background:

    Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda the BLM has been on a rampage, leasing public wild lands in Utah and across the West for oil and gas development regardless of destructive impacts to the climate crisis, lands sacred to Native Americans, national parks, wilderness, recreation, wildlife and community watersheds.  In a particularly egregious plan, BLM now proposes to sell 77 oil and gas leases on 114,000 acres of public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks and the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument at a September 2020 sale. 

    These lands are some of the wildest, most scenic, and culturally significant public lands in Utah, and are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who use them for hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing and more.  Development on many of the leases would be visible from the national parks and Bears Ears National Monument as well as Dead Horse Point state park.

    SUWA and other groups have been challenging oil and gas leasing on public lands in the courts with some at least temporary success.  But if we are to change the BLM’s oil and gas leasing policies (under a new administration) it is essential we also win in the court of public opinion – and you can help do that by writing to your local news publications!

    Some messaging point you could make:

    • The Trump administration is proposing to blanket a massive swath of land near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, as well as Bears Ears National Monument, with oil and gas drilling leases.  Ultimately, this will replace the area’s unspoiled red rock canyons, expansive vistas, clean air, quiet stillness, intense night skies, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development.  
    • The future development of these leases will unavoidably and unnecessarily exacerbate the climate crisis.  We can not afford to have any more land opened to oil and gas development, especially when renewable energy sources now offer a real alternative.
    • Absurdly, this rush to lease continues even though the world is awash in excess oil and gas, as evidenced by the fact that the price per barrel of oil has dropped dramatically, even dipping below zero at one point!  
    • Even more ludicrous, BLM is offering new leases while at the same time reducing the royalty rates oil and gas companies pay on existing leases in the same area.  This “royalty relief” comes in response to oil and gas company claims that they can’t afford to develop existing leases economically at this time.  
    • And remember, leased land is tied up for decades as once leases are issued, oil companies hold a “right” to develop that lasts at least ten years!  
    • Given all this, how can anyone consider BLM’s plan to sacrifice iconic western landscapes and our planet’s health to oil and gas leasing anything but outrageous and unconscionable?
    • The September 2020 Utah oil and gas lease sale must be halted and the “energy dominance” policy reformed.
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    For more information see:

    Published articles that you can respond to:

    Other good places where you can submit LTEs/OpEds: Even if your local/regional paper has not run a news story on the September 2020 oil and gas leasing sale, you can still submit a LTE.  In fact, that could even inspire them to cover the issue. See finding “hooks” guidance below!  Use this list to find papers in your region – see tabs at bottom!

    Remember to check the word limit for your paper.  LTE word limits are often 200-250 words and papers are often strict about it. Guest Editorials (OpEds) can usually be a lot longer but OpEds are more challenging to place. 

    Finding “hooks” for your LTE/Guest Editorial:  The best hook arises if your local/regional paper publishes an article on this lease sale and you write a LTE referencing that article. But if our paper does not cover the sale, there are a lot of other ways you might make your letter/editorial timely and relevant to your local paper.  You could use any article on the climate crisis, Trump’s environmental record, or national parks and public lands, for example, as a springboard or pivot to your commentary.  You could even use the Covid-19 pandemic by leading with a sentence that talks about how you and many Americans are dreaming of the day when they can again visit safely our national parks and public lands – but say they might find them diminished if current oil and gas leasing policies persist. 

    Trust your own voice: Remember, the most compelling LTEs are written in your own voice, bringing in a personal experience or relationship to the issue as well as making broader messaging points. Trust that your letter will be more interesting if you write from your heart and interweave your own story.

    If you’d like some help:  We are happy to give your draft a read for accuracy or help with editing suggestions.  Just email terri@suwa.org with URGENT in the subject line!

    Send us a copy of your submitted and/or published LTE! terri@suwa.org 

    Share your published LTE/OpEd on social media!  Suggested hashtags: #ProtectWildUtah, #StandwithBearsEars  #publiclands #wilderness #utah

  • June 10th, 2020

    Contact:
    Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT – The Trump administration has released its proposal to open up more than 110,000 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling, most of which lies in southern Utah near Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef national parks.

    • In total, the administration is opening up 114,050 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling.
    • Leases are within 0.4 miles of Canyonlands National Park, 4 miles of Arches National Park, 3 miles of Capitol Reef National Park, and 0.7 miles of the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
    • Leases are also within 5 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park, and within 0.1 miles of the Green River.
    • Leases also encompass lands with wilderness characteristics including Duma Point, Goldbar Canyon, Hatch Canyon, Horse Thief Point, Hunters Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon areas. These are areas that appear natural (i.e., are free from signs of human development), and provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive types of recreation (e.g., hiking, camping, and hunting).

    A map of the area is available here

    Photographs of the area are available here

    At more than 114,050 acres across 77 separate parcels of public land, the scale of the lease sale is the largest seen in the area since the oil industry giveaways at the end of the George W. Bush administration in December 2008, which ironically also included 77 parcels.

    The nature and scale of that Bush-era lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups that blocked the sale and led to long overdue and common sense reforms to the oil and gas leasing process. The Trump administration overturned those reforms shortly after taking office, setting the stage for a repeat of the disastrous December 2008 lease sale.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pressing ahead with its plans to proceed with the lease sale by beginning the public comment period, ignoring numerous calls for the agency to pause or extend comment periods until after the pandemic.

    The BLM made the right decision last month to extend the comment period on a planning process for oil and gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where many communities are focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping their members safe. The agency should also take community needs into consideration here and extend the comment period.

    The U.S. Geologic Survey and other government and academic reports predict that southeastern Utah will warm more rapidly over the coming decades than nearly any other part of America.  By proposing to sell these leases to oil and gas extraction the Trump administration is ignoring the climate crisis and working to seal the fate of this area to be hotter, drier and less ecologically sustainable.

    “This supersized lease sale will hand over oil and gas lease rights to famous Utah red-rock landscapes and lead to heavy industrial development and emissions that will degrade air quality and dark night skies, permanently mar the land, and exacerbate the climate crisis,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It’s plain to see that the Trump administration is trying to sell as many leases as it can before the November election; we’ve stopped this kind of short-sighted public lands fire sale before.”

    “This is a huge expansion and a real threat to nearby national parks and monuments, as well as enormous amounts of the extraordinary red-rock landscape that Utah is famous for,” said Erika Pollard, associate director southwest for the National Park Conservation Association. “The public have a right to have their say about oil and gas drilling plans, and especially those as reckless as these. Forcing this through in the middle of a pandemic while people are preoccupied with keeping their families and communities safe demonstrates a complete disregard for the public. The Bureau of Land Management urgently needs to reconsider this entire oil and gas drilling plan and at the very least should postpone the process until the public can participate properly.”

    “Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks are among the crown jewels of America’s National Park System, attracting over 2.5 million visitors to Utah in a normal year,” said Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “But this is not a normal year.  Leasing public land for oil and gas drilling on the doorstep of these national parks will always be a threat to these irreplaceable resources. And right now, there is no good reason for BLM to push through a lease sale as communities across the country continue to deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. We urge BLM to defer the leasing proposal until the fall, when the public will be better able to submit their comments on this questionable lease sale.”


    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique wilderness character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Wilderness Preservation System, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation. www.suwa.org

  • February 6th, 2020

    Salt Lake City, UT (February 6, 2020) – In response to the release today of the management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA)  released the following statement:

    “We’re disappointed but not surprised that the BLM has finalized terrible management plan for what remains of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. These plans represent the lowest common denominator for BLM stewardship of the irreplaceable cultural, paleontological, and biological resources on these awe-inspiring public lands. The plans also set the stage for destructive chaining of native vegetation, unmanageable recreation, and increased off-road vehicle use,” said Neal Clark, Wildlands Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  

    “Our members and the public should rest assured that these management plans will not be the final chapter for the management of these remarkable public lands.  We are confident that the lawsuits challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack of the monuments will succeed and these plans, which are the fruit of Trump’s poisonous actions, will be undone,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    “At Grand Staircase, Trump’s plan openly admits that it will result in the destruction of countless paleontological, cultural, and ecological resources that form the backbone of why this monument was established in the first place,” said Bloch. “One of the wildest landscapes in the lower forty-eight states will be lost if these plans are carried into action over the next few years.”

    “At Bears Ears, we expect that the litigation brought by Native American tribes, conservation and scientific organizations, and businesses challenging Trump’s unlawful attack on this monument will succeed and the management plan will be thrown out,” said Clark.

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  • October 1st, 2019

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

    Salt Lake City, UT (October 1, 2019) – In response to Judge Chutkan’s decision allowing lawsuits to proceed against President Trump’s reductions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, SUWA legal director Stephen Bloch issued the following statement:

    “The day of reckoning for President Trump’s unlawful attack on the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments drew closer when Judge Chutkan issued her decision denying the United States’ motions to dismiss these cases.  We intend to pursue these cases until these remarkable cultural, scientific and wild redrock landscapes are restored to their full glory.”

  • July 26th, 2019

    Bears Ears (c) Jeff Foott.

    MOAB, UT — Utah’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to rush forward a plan for the illegally reduced Bears Ears National Monument that completely ignores the more than 1 million acres removed by an unlawful executive order and leaves most of the culturally and scientifically significant lands unprotected.

    In a final plan released today, the BLM proposes to manage even the remaining 15 percent of Bears Ears National Monument in a way that doesn’t sufficiently protect cultural resources and sacred sites, leaving them more vulnerable to destruction than ever before.

    Just as numerous reports have shown that the reductions were in fact focused on drilling and mining, this proposed plan shows that the BLM misled the public when claiming that a reduced boundary would allow them to better manage and protect what they considered to be the most important historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in the Bears Ears region.

    The planning process was started under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke despite protests from Congress, and newly appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has continued to ignore calls by Congress to halt planning while also disregarding active litigation challenging the Trump administration’s initial executive action.

    Secretary Zinke claimed in a monuments review interim report that a reduced boundary would allow the agency to “concentrate preservation resources,” and in his final report to President Trump, he claimed to be concerned that “that increased visitation can threaten the objects… monuments that span up to a million acres or more are difficult to protect.” This final management plan proves that this was never about resources or practical ability to protect sites, but about a concerted effort to remove protections at every opportunity.

    The nearly final plan released by the BLM fails in a number of ways:

    • Protection of cultural resources was the primary reason for Bears Ears monument designation. However, the plan chooses several management actions that would have significant impacts on cultural resources. The agencies highlight that they seek to protect identified cultural sites, but the vast majority of the monument has not yet been surveyed for cultural resources.
    • Bears Ears is home to world-class recreation opportunities. These opportunities should be preserved, but also managed so they don’t impact monument resources like cultural and paleontological sites. A recreation area management plan is scheduled to be implemented three years after the cultural resource management plan is put in place, meaning it will likely be at least five years from the final decision — a timeframe that would result in damage and degradation.
    • Bears Ears is home to some of the most unique paleontological resources in the world. Under the agencies’ preferred plan, surface-disturbing activities — including rights-of-way and potential new off-road vehicle routes — would be allowed in areas with high potential for yielding fossils, and fossil-bearing areas that are currently protected would be opened to development. The agencies’ plan provides few restrictions on camping, target shooting, hiking, and biking around paleontological resources. Moreover, under the agencies’ preferred plan, monitoring would only take place annually and only loss of, or damage to, significant fossil resources would trigger mitigation measures. This would violate federal law as Section 6302 of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act requires agencies to conduct surveys regardless of the potential impact to fossils from other uses.

    Quotes from local, national, and scientific organizations:

    Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

    “As though reducing Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85 percent wasn’t damaging enough, now the BLM’s plan ignores the concerns of tribes, archaeologists, conservationists, and the vast majority of the public by rolling back protections of the remaining 15 percent, creating a monument in name only. This plan means that one of America’s richest cultural landscapes continues to lack the protections it deserves.”

    Tim Peterson, Cultural Landscapes Program Director, Grand Canyon Trust:

    “National monuments are meant to protect our shared history and heritage while leaving a legacy for future generations. The Trump administration not only defiled our shared history by unlawfully reducing Bears Ears, they’re showing contempt for our legacy by choosing at every turn in their proposed plan to give protection short shrift. The way in which they’ve added the insult of this detestable plan to the injury of slashing Bears Ears is deeply disturbing, and it cannot stand.”

    Phil Hanceford, Director of Agency Policy & Planning, The Wilderness Society:

    “The BLM is moving rapidly with limited public input towards their goal of stripping protections from some of the nation’s most treasured and sensitive lands. The Bears Ears region continues to be threatened by the hasty, illegal, and un-scientific effort by a few to open as much of our public lands to drilling and mining as possible. People should be outraged.”

    Brian Sybert, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation:

    “This rushed and reckless plan ignores tribes tied to this sacred and irreplaceable cultural landscape. It also ignores the majority of westerners who opposed slashing its size and who understand the value our public lands hold for recreation, science, and rural economies that depend on them for the long-term. It puts to rest any argument about the administration’s real motives in rolling back protections for Bears Ears and millions of other acres in the West: they are opening the door to development for their friends in industry — no matter the price for everyone else.”

    P. David Polly, Immediate Past President, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology:

    “To further his own political ends, Trump cut out most of the fossil sites for which Bears Ears was created, a loss to science and a loss every American. He did not have the authority to make the cuts and the management plans must be rewritten to protect the entire monument. They should be suspended until the courts have ruled on the boundaries like Congress itself has requested.”

    Rose Marcario, CEO and President, Patagonia:

    “The executive order abolishing Bears Ears was illegal and no management plan for these lands should proceed until resolution of the lawsuits. The president’s effort to reduce Bears Ears’ boundaries was done at the behest of mining and oil and gas industries. And this plan is another demonstration of this administration’s preference for extractive industry profit at the expense of the American people. Bears Ears contains iconic landscapes, sacred places, and priceless artifacts and this plan puts all of them under threat. Not to mention this is a colossal waste of time because the BLM will have to create a plan for the full Bears Ears as originally designated after we win the lawsuit.”

    Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains Office:

    “If we win the legal fight to restore Bears Ears National Monument, this plan will just be 800 pages of wasted effort. Even in the parts of Bears Ears that President Trump left intact, he’s planning on putting destructive activities before the American public’s interests. Bears Ears is not the kind of place for chaining thousands of acres of forest or stringing up utility lines. These are wild, sweeping monument lands.”

    Erik Murdock, Policy Director, Access Fund:

    “The Bears Ears region deserves landscape-scale protections. The reduction of Bears Ears National Monument is a direct threat to the Bears Ears landscape, traditional values, and recreation opportunities. The region contains some of the best sandstone rock climbing in the world because of its rock quality and inspirational setting. Access Fund believes that an appropriate management plan should be developed after the litigation is resolved and the boundaries of the monument are reinstated.”

    Colin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation:

    “The illegal decimation of Bears Ears National Monument opens up ancestral lands of the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni to development that will likely degrade critical wildlife habitat, fragment migration corridors, and potentially expose southern Utah communities to unacceptable pollution and health risks. Now the management plan for the meager remnants of the original monument simply pours salt in the open wounds of the tens of thousands of tribal leaders and citizens who fought for decades to conserve these sacred lands.”

    Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

    “This management plan is an insult to the public, who overwhelmingly spoke out in favor of protecting Bears Ears — and all our national monuments. Today’s plan opens the monument to damaging uses that carelessly put troves of scientific resources, sacred spaces, and adjacent national park landscapes in jeopardy. Our parks don’t exist in isolation, and the administration’s plan ignores the long-recognized threats to parks from harmful activities outside their borders, putting at risk their air and water quality, dark night skies and expansive viewsheds, as well as the multi-million dollar economy they support. The only management plan acceptable is one that encompasses Bears Ears’ entire landscape and protects the values and resources for which the monument was originally and legally created.”

    Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation:

    “This monument management plan is fundamentally flawed and premature. The National Trust and other plaintiffs are actively challenging President Trump’s unprecedented rollback of the monument’s land area by 85 percent. The plan should not be finalized before the litigation is complete. Given that the plan only considers the management needs of the much smaller — and currently contested — footprint, it is not a credible document. The plan also falls far short of providing a framework for proper stewardship of a landscape that holds deep significance for multiple tribes. It completely lacks appropriate measures to ensure protection of the significant cultural and historic resources that prompted the national monument designation in the first place and appears to leave the resources with even less protection than they had before the monument was designated. We will continue to push for the restoration of the Bears Ears National Monument to its original boundaries, and for a comprehensive management plan that truly protects the resources on the land that tell the stories of more than 12,000 years of human history.”