Blog Archives


  • October 19th, 2017

    A band of badgers confronted Utah state officials today about their efforts to turn federal public lands over to the state of Utah to own or manage.  “How can we trust the state with our public lands when they assert that badgers loot artifacts and deny that human driven climate change is damaging the health of our public lands and forests?” asked the badgers. “The answer is that we can’t.”

    A band of badgers confronts state officials at the Utah Legislature’s Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands meeting.

    The badgers were referring to state legislator Mike Noel’s claim last year that badgers were to blame for digging up artifacts in the Bears Ears area. Noel asserted that “those little suckers are going down and digging up artifacts and sticking them in their holes.”

    Spokesperson Badger John cleared the name of badgers: “This is a falsehood.  Badgers do not loot archaeological sites, people do.”

    Badger John makes a statement at the commission meeting.

    The badgers also criticized the state for denying the deleterious effects of climate change on public lands and forests, pointing out that human-driven climate change is having real, measurable impacts every day that range from hotter, more intense wildfires to prolonged drought and multiple thousand-year storm events occurring over just a few years. “But the legislature and this commission refuse to recognize these indisputable truths,” lamented Badger John.

    Several commissioners said they cared about badgers, but continued to insist that federal public lands in Utah would be better managed by the state. The badgers wholeheartedly rejected that claim. Calling upon history, they noted that it was the failure of states to adequately steward America’s public lands that led to higher national standards in the first place.

    “When this commission asks people for trust while simultaneously spreading falsehoods and denying widely accepted science, it earns the mistrust of people and badgers everywhere,” they said.  “Leave Utah’s federal lands in America’s public hands.”

    The badgers traveled from their burrows in southern Utah to the State Capitol for the meeting of  the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands—a misnamed commission seeking ways to advance the transfer of federal lands to the state of Utah.

    SUWA is pleased to have badgers as allies in our fight to protect our public wild lands!

     

     

  • October 12th, 2017

    On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced H.R. 3990, a disgraceful bill that would essentially gut the Antiquities Act. The full committee mark-up also effectively killed a Democratic request for more transparency in Zinke’s monument review process.

    H.R. 3990, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), would so severely limit a president’s power to designate new monuments that had it been in the original language of the law, Utah would not have four of its five national parks and seven of its eight national monuments today—places like Arches, Zion, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears. It would limit the size of new monuments to 85,000 acres and require approval from local and state lawmakers and governors. A president would still be able to designate a monument in an emergency situation, but the designation would expire within a year without congressional action.

    Monument sign at Cottonnwood Road, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), lead sponsor of the House version of the Red Rock bill, called HR 3990 a “blatant attempt to dismantle the Antiquities Act.” He spoke of the direct threat this bill poses to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and to all of Utah’s red rock country: “The stunning red rock canyons, protected by the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments . . . all of these natural features would be threatened by this bill.”

    Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Judith Zimmerman

    Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) noted: “There is something good about this bill, and that is that it points out that the president has no authority to unilaterally shrink or undesignate a national monument under current law. This admission is useful because the president may soon try to invoke that nonexistent power to the lasting detriment of our country.”

    The bill passed out of committee on party lines, 23-17.

    The champions standing up for the Antiquites Act and our public lands who voted against this terrible bill were:
    Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)

    If your member of Congress is listed above, please call them and thank them at 202-224-3121

    Conversely, the members of Congress who voted to gut the Antiquities Act are:
    Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep Scott Tipton (R-CO), Rep Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), Rep. Amata Radewagen (R-AS), Rep. Darin LaHood (R- IL), Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT)

    If your member of Congress is listed above, please call them and register your disappointment at 202-224-3121.

    After the vote on HR 3990, H. Res. 555 was submitted to the mark up. H. Res. 555, introduced by Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) and 25 other House Democrats, was an attempt to force a formal disclosure of Secretary Zinke’s monument review and gain transparency on the process of its creation. This resolution of inquiry, introduced a week ago, is likely what prompted the Antiquities Act overhaul to be unveiled.

    The resolution was passed out of committee, but was reported “unfavorably,” effectively killing the measure.

    This bill is a disaster, but just because it passed out of the committee doesn’t mean it will become law. To help us make sure it doesn’t, please call your representatives and let them know you oppose H.R. 3990 and any similar effort to gut the Antiquities Act! 202-224-3121

  • October 9th, 2017

    Today we learned Rep. Rob Bishop is putting forward legislation that would put size and qualification limits on monuments that can be designated under the Antiquities Act, eliminating “natural or geologic features” as objects deserving of protection, and giving the president unprecedented authority to shrink monuments.

    “By putting forth this legislation, Congressman Bishop has conceded that President Trump currently has no authority to shrink national monuments,” said Jen Ujifusa, legislative director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “If the rules proposed in this bill would have been in place in the original Antiquities Act, Americans would not be lucky enough to have Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon or Capitol Reef National Parks today—all of which were first protected as national monuments. This is another extreme attack against our public lands from the very congressional delegation that should instead be taking pride in protecting them.”

     

    Sunset Arch in GSENM. Photo (c) James Kay.

     

  • October 5th, 2017

    Do you want to hear the sound of helicopters in Utah’s backcountry? Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters wants to fly wealthy tourists into wilderness quality areas, using a loophole that would allow them to land on state lands inside a Wilderness Study Area near Canyonlands National Park. The National Park Service has raised concerns. SUWA is fighting the proposal.

    The Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, adjacent to one of the proposed helicopter landing sites. NPS photo by Neal Herbert.

    The Moab Times-Independent reports on the latest issue hovering above Moab — and Utah’s wild lands:

    A local helicopter company’s plans to charter flights to state lands within a federal Wilderness Study Area (WSA) near Canyonlands National Park has met some pushback from conservation groups and others who cite potential impacts regarding noise and solitude.

    Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters is currently seeking a right-of-entry permit with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for transportation and charter flights on four state-owned land parcels.

    These state parcels — arranged in a “checkerboard” pattern across the map — are within or adjacent to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) WSA. One parcel sits directly adjacent to Horseshoe Canyon, home to the “Great Gallery” rock art site in Canyonlands National Park.

    Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), said this right-of-entry application reveals how differently state and federal lands are managed.

    “This [WSA] designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness,” Marienfeld said. “Aircraft lands are not permitted in these Wilderness Study Areas, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands.”

    According to Marienfeld, SUWA has expressed concerns that these helicopter flights would have a “terrible effect” on the wilderness characteristics of the area, which include solitude and remoteness.

    “It’s noise and the effects on solitude. Helicopters are loud, and this area being so remote … it’s pretty untrammeled because it’s a little ways out,” she said.

    Click here to read the full article.

    More on Pinnacle’s plans:

    • Each of the three proposed landing sites are within a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which is undeveloped public land with outstanding naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and a landscape largely unaffected by human activity.  This designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness.
    • Aircraft landings are not permitted in these WSAs, which are managed as wilderness by the BLM, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands. In essence, the state can do anything it wants with them, all with an eye on turning a profit.
    • This is exactly why the helicopter operator is seeking to take advantage of these SITLA sections and land on state-managed lands, even though tourists would be flying in with the purpose of experiencing the supreme public lands that surround each SITLA landing site.
    • One of the proposed landing sites is immediately adjacent to the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park, which contains some of the most pristine and fragile rock art panels in the world, including the famous “Great Gallery.” This entire NPS unit is managed as an archaeological district and access is carefully maintained to preserve the exceptional rock art.
    • The only people this new undertaking will benefit is a few extremely wealthy tourists, at the expense of locals who know the Robber’s Roost and Horseshoe Canyon area as a place that is well-worth the trek precisely because of its superb remoteness. Flying rich tourists in for day-trips not only cheapens the wilderness experience, but also ruins the solitude that makes this location special.

    Stay tuned for ways you can get involved…..

  • October 4th, 2017

    Once again the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is poised to auction off outstanding federal public lands in redrock country for fossil fuel development. The latest ill-conceived proposal targets some of the most culturally significant and dramatic lands in southeastern Utah, threatening the region’s air quality, cultural resources, dark night skies, wilderness-caliber landscapes, and even national monuments—including Bears Ears.

    Tell the BLM this outrageous proposal to lease and develop public lands is completely unacceptable.

    Tin Cup Mesa. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA

    Not only is this lease sale terribly misguided, it’s also totally unnecessary. At the end of the BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, about 1.1 million acres of BLM managed lands in Utah were in production out of approximately 2.9 million acres leased to oil and gas operators—that’s less than forty percent of the total land under lease. Given the current surplus of oil and gas leases in Utah, there is simply no need to open up more public land to fossil fuel development, particularly in sensitive and wild places.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to auction off our natural and cultural heritage to the fossil fuel industry.

    Specifically, the BLM is proposing to lease for oil and gas development:

    •    Parcels located in the Goldbar Canyon, Hatch Point/ Hatch Canyon, and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas in Grand County and the Cross Canyon, Monument Canyon, and Tin Cup Mesa proposed wilderness areas in San Juan County.

    •    Parcels in the Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), designated for its impressive density of cultural and archaeological sites. The BLM itself has recognized that the area contains “[l]arge pueblos with complex architecture and connecting prehistoric roads” and calls it “one of the best-known and influential examples of scientific archeological investigation in the southwestern U.S.”

    Under the Trump administration, the BLM is rushing to sacrifice the most outstanding and significant public lands—lands that belong to each and every one of us—for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. If we don’t act, we stand to lose something truly irreplaceable.

    Please stand up for your public lands by submitting comments to the BLM by October 23rd!

    Thank you for taking action.

    >> Click here to view a map of lease parcel locations

    >> Click here to see more photos of lands affected by this lease sale

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