Blog Archives


  • August 15th, 2017

    Kane and Garfield County Commissions held a series of unlawful meetings over Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, violating Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act

    For Immediate Release
    August 15, 2017

    Contact:
    Laura Peterson, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.236.3762
    David Reymann, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, 801.257.7939

    Today, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed a lawsuit in Utah’s Third District Court alleging that Kane and Garfield Counties violated Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act when county commissioners met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and others in a closed-door meeting to discuss the fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  In the lawsuit, SUWA asserts that on or around May 10, 2017, Kane and Garfield County commissioners met with Interior Secretary Zinke and other officials in Utah regarding the future of the almost 21-year-old national monument.  The meeting was not publicly noticed and county commissioners did not allow members of the public to attend or participate in the meeting.

    “These commission meetings are textbook violations of Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act.  Because the commissions met with Secretary Zinke and other officials and discussed the future of these national monuments they need to provide public notice and allow the public an opportunity to attend the meeting.  That’s the whole point of the Act: for state and local government to conduct public business out in the open,” said David Reymann, an attorney with the Salt Lake City law firm Parr Brown Gee & Loveless.

    “The Utah Open and Public Meetings Act requires county commissioners to deliberate and take actions openly and transparently.  Kane and Garfield county commissions’ secret meetings with Secretary Zinke and other government officials about Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are unlawful and cannot continue.  SUWA members in these counties have an intense interest in protecting Utah’s national monuments and would have attended these meetings and vocally advocated for their protection had they known about them,” said Laura Peterson, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    Mr. Reymann is representing SUWA in its suit against Kane and Garfield Counties.

    ###

  • August 11th, 2017

    In July, a Resolution supporting Latinx engagement in the great outdoors and conservation was introduced  to the U.S. Senate. The Resolution is supported by Democrats and Republicans across the nation as well as in the House of Representatives. It affirms the role Latinos have to play in conservation efforts, supports the meaningful engagement of Latinos in conservation, and encourages Latino communities to participate in various activities that foster a love of the outdoors and drive conservation awareness. The implications of this simple resolution are bright for U.S. public lands and over 56.6 million Latinx and Hispanic U.S. residents.  It means that our precious redrock country will have more voices to speak for its protection.

    Efforts to protect public lands in Utah and our nation’s most delicate and threatened ecosystems will only succeed as far as the number of people willing to speak up for them. In order to speak for our public lands, Latinx communities must get to know the places we are speaking for. Places like the San Rafael Swell, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the numerous canyons, rivers, and cultural sites throughout southern Utah are the inheritance of all American people. Yet, Hispanic and Latinx populations are underrepresented in these areas. For example, the Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service reported that 14 percent of forest visitors identified as Hispanic—a harrowing number considering that populations in Arizona and New Mexico are 48 percent and 31 percent Hispanic respectively. The most recent National Park Service study on visitation likewise confirmed that communities of color are underrepresented in public lands—22 percent of visitors are minorities, though they make up 37 percent of the population.

    Organizations are working nationally to remedy this discrepancy while equipping Latinx and Hispanic communities with the tools to stand up for public land conservation. Twenty-one organizations undersigned in a letter urging Congress to support the resolution are spearheading Latinx community engagement in conservation by helping eliminate barriers to public lands through education, democratic participation, service, recreation, and amplifying Latinx voices for conservation.

    SUWA has joined the movement with the addition of our new Latinx Community Organizer (yours truly). Our goals fall right in line with this resolution and the guiding principles of the Next 100 Coalition: to ensure that our public lands reflect the faces of our country, celebrate all cultures, and actively engage all racial and ethnic communities in shaping the future of our public lands. We will do this by proactively creating opportunities for local Latinx and Hispanic communities to speak out in the media, learn about the issues, serve our unprotected wildlands, and participate in grassroots activism.

    If you or your group are passionate about wild Utah and want to learn more or get engaged, contact olivia@suwa.org.

  • July 19th, 2017

    Once again, your voice in defense of Utah’s wild places is urgently needed.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to lease 79 parcels for oil and gas development on approximately 100,000 acres of federal public lands in eastern and central Utah. Included in this list are parcels along the western edge of the San Rafael Swell, in the heart of the Desolation Canyon region, the Book Cliffs, and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
    For the third time in five years, the BLM is proposing to offer leases in the Molen Reef region of the western San Rafael Swell—an area with high cultural and archaeological density and outstanding recreational opportunities. The agency’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the BLM’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City.

    Ultimately, the agency determined that it did not have enough information regarding cultural and archaeological resources to justify leasing the area for oil and gas development. In 2015, the BLM once again deferred leasing in the Molen Reef region, citing the continuing need to gather more cultural and archaeological resource information.

    Citizens protested a very similar BLM lease sale for the San Rafael Swell in 2013. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now. Copyright Terri Martin/SUWA

    To date, the agency has still not completed those cultural resource inventories. In fact, the BLM admits that it has surveyed at most only 2.9 percent of the proposed parcels and thus is in no stronger a position to justify leasing now than it was in 2013. The agency’s leasing flip-flop is a disservice to this remarkable wilderness-caliber landscape and its thousands of known—and yet to be discovered—cultural resources.

    Please tell the BLM to protect the irreplaceable cultural and archaeological resources in the Molen Reef region of the San Rafael Swell. 

    Leasing near Dinosaur National Monument and in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions
    In a return to the Bush administration’s scorched earth approach to oil and gas leasing in the Uinta Basin, the BLM is also proposing to offer leases in areas proposed for wilderness designation in the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions as well as immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    This ill-advised proposal would, among other things, green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually. One of the parcels was previously offered at the BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.

    In a letter to the BLM, the National Park Service has objected to the leasing proposal, citing adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes. Oil and gas development on the parcels near the monument would be visible from the Quarry Visitor Center as well as from numerous vantage points within the monument.

    Please tell the BLM to protect Dinosaur National Monument and the Desolation Canyon and Book Cliffs regions from oil and gas leasing and development.

    Thank you.

  • July 12th, 2017

    The Trump administration asked for your opinion on their plans to reduce Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and 25 other national monuments across the country—and you gave them an earful.

    Thanks to SUWA members and supporters like you, along with millions of concerned citizens across the nation, the Trump administration received more than 2.7 million comments in SUPPORT of our national monuments during their public comment period, which ended Monday. Comments in favor of keeping our national monuments intact outnumbered those opposed to national monuments by a staggering 98 to 1.

    And more than one million of those comments specifically mentioned support for Bears Ears, which is the first target on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s list of endangered monuments.

    Will this outpouring of support make a difference? That remains to be seen. Secretary Zinke has already indicated that he wants to see Bears Ears shrunk, perhaps dramatically. The fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante remains an open question, which should be answered when Secretary Zinke issues his final report on August 24th.

    We hope that this tremendous show of support for national monuments will give Secretary Zinke pause and convince the administration that there is no political victory in eviscerating America’s natural and cultural heritage.

    But if it doesn’t change their minds, and they try to shrink Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante, we’ll take them to court.

    And we’ll take them to court knowing that we have the backing of thousands of people like you, people who are willing to stand up and speak out on behalf of the redrock—any time, any place, and no matter the odds.

    Thank you for being such a critical part of the SUWA team.

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