Blog Archives


  • February 17th, 2017

    Utah politicians are continuing their rabid attack on Bears Ears National Monument—but not without consequences.

    Yesterday, after a disastrous phone call between Utah Governor Gary Herbert and outdoor recreation industry leaders, Outdoor Retailer—the huge outdoor rec convention held twice a year in Salt Lake City—announced that they would be leaving Utah as soon as possible, citing Utah’s anti-public lands policies and its efforts to convince President Trump to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. Outdoor Retailer’s decision will cost the state tens of millions in annual revenue.

    Still, Governor Herbert and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop continue in their blind zeal to attack the new monument. These attacks on Bears Ears are out of step with mainstream Utah values.

    That’s why SUWA has launched a new statewide TV ad campaign to defend the monument—and to remind Utahns that despite the ideological rhetoric coming from Utah politicians, Bears Ears National Monument is good for Utah.

    Watch our new TV ad here:

    Bears Ears Ad Screenshot

    There’s no question that the Utah delegation will continue to wail about Bears Ears. And there’s no question that SUWA will be relentless in defending the monument. Please help us keep the pressure on by making a contribution today.

    Click here to contribute to the defense of Bears Ears.

    Thank you.

  • February 2nd, 2017

    After widespread public outcry from hunters, anglers, recreationists, and public lands enthusiasts across the country, Congressman Jason Chaffetz has promised to withdraw HR 621 — legislation that would have sold off millions of acres of public lands across the West. (There is no mechanism for withdrawing a bill once it’s been introduced, so we assume this means that, while it will remain on the books, he does not intend to advance it.)

    HR 621 identified 3.3 million acres of federal land across 10 states for disposal and subsequent sale (based off a dusty, 20-year-out-of-date Interior Department report), including 132, 931 acres in Utah. What Chaffetz’s bill neglected to mention is that the report also specified that many of those parcels contain a number of “impediments to disposal,” including the presence of cultural, historical, and paleontological resources as well as endangered plant and animal species. Thankfully, citizens across the country who treasure these public lands flooded the congressman’s office with calls and hosted two rallies in Montana and New Mexico to voice their outrage at what would have been nothing short of a land grab, leading the congressman to withdraw the legislation late Wednesday night.

    This is a major victory for public lands and a testament to the power of grassroots activism, but the broader fight surrounding the fate of our nation’s natural treasures is far from over.

    In disavowing HR 621, Congressman Chaffetz said nothing about another piece of legislation he introduced last week. HR 622, the “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act,” would eliminate roughly 300 law enforcement officials at the BLM and another 700 at the Forest Service and replace them with deputized local officials. Such actions would effectively curtail the agencies’ ability to ensure public safety as well as protect the critical wildlife, ecosystems, cultural sites, and other important resources of our nation’s most beloved landscapes.

    In the backdrop of all of this, the Utah delegation continues to wage war on our national monuments and the very law that made them possible, the Antiquities Act of 1906. Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz have repeatedly lobbied the Trump administration to overturn the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument and eliminate sizeable portions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well. These incredibly special landscapes—places of recreation, inspiration, reflection, joy, and discovery—remain in grave danger.

    In short, the battle to protect our public lands in the 115th Congress has only just begun. SUWA will fight our opponents every step of the way and we’ll keep you posted as new threats emerge. In the meantime, let’s continue to remind Congressman Chaffetz that public lands should be preserved for the benefit of the many instead of sold off for the sake of a few.

    If you live in Chaffetz’s district, call his office (DC: 202-225-7751, UT: 801-851-2500) and thank him for doing the right thing on HR 621, but insist that he must also withdraw HR 622 and support the Bears Ears National Monument!

  • January 19th, 2017

    Petition asks administrative appeals board to ‘stay’ BLM decision to designate Indian Creek ATV trail

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    January 19, 2017

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Indian Creek (c) Tim Peterson, flown by Lighthawk.

    Contact:
    Kya Marienfeld, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 573-228-1061
    Tim Peterson, Grand Canyon Trust, 801-550-9861

    MOAB – Last Friday a coalition of conservation groups (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness) appealed a controversial decision by the BLM’s Monticello field office to approve new ATV trails and parking areas in the heart of the popular Indian Creek region and within the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument.  The decision, which came only days before President Obama’s monument proclamation, was made without any opportunity for public review or comment.

    “It is outrageous that BLM would make this decision without seeking public input,” said Kya Marienfeld, Moab resident and Wildlands Field Advocate for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This area, like the rest of the new Bears Ears National Monument, is full of irreplaceable cultural resources and is an internationally treasured rock-climbing destination as well as the gateway into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This highly controversial decision would extend significant ATV use into a part of the region that currently does not see that kind of off-road vehicle traffic. “

    “Our local members have visited the site of the proposed project and we can only oppose the creation of this unnecessary and undesirable ATV trail,” said Wayne Hoskisson from the Sierra Club Utah Chapter. “Lavender and Davis Canyons will see a huge increase in noisy, motorized recreation. Even Canyonlands National Park criticized the route for this reason. The BLM wasted ten years trying to justify this route. They should stop now especially since it impacts the Bears Ears National Monument.”

    Under consideration for years, BLM previously approved construction of the Indian Creek ATV project in February 2015. At that time, the same coalition of conservation groups challenged BLM’s decision and won a stay from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, which later vacated and remanded the decision back to BLM (at its request) for additional analysis. Despite this order from the Board, BLM’s newest decision on the ATV project repeats the same mistakes as its initial approval. The new trails and associated parking areas authorized by BLM this time around will bisect an area that BLM has already determined is a wilderness-caliber landscape, and will result in the disqualification of over 900 acres from potential future designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

    In addition, BLM’s designation of new ATV trails in Indian Creek directly contradicts the new Bears Ears National Monument Proclamation, which calls for a full planning process before designating new roads or trails. Under the Proclamation, new routes like the Indian Creek ATV trails and parking areas may be designated only for purposes of public safety or for protecting the fragile resources the Monument safeguards.

    “Why would BLM rush to expand off-road vehicle use in Indian Creek just days before Bears Ears National Monument was designated?” asked Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director for Grand Canyon Trust. “Indian Creek is a treasure – the 80 year effort to protect it was successful because of its cultural importance. Now is the time to plan for the future considering all the values for which Bears Ears National Monument was protected – not to sneak in more off-roading just under the wire.”

    The BLM’s Environmental Assessment can be found here.

    ###

  • January 18th, 2017

    Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), President-elect Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, finished his ‘How Do You Do?’ hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday. The results, as is often the case in the public lands universe, are coming up Utah.

    ct-ryan-zinke-interior-secretary-confirmation-hearing-20170117
    Do you want the good news or the bad news? Or both? In the hearing, Rep. Zinke said more than once that visiting the Beehive State was his “first order” should he be confirmed—even confirming that to Sen. Manchin, who was fishing for West Virginia as the answer.

    SUWA, naturally, welcomes any new secretary of Interior who proposes to visit us in what he called our “Great State of Utah.” Utah’s public lands are the crown jewels of those managed by the secretary—some of the last unprotected wildernesses in the lower 48—indeed, the last to be mapped because of their rugged and untamable beauty.

    But, we have serious concerns about Zinke’s nomination. His record is partly cloudy on its fairest days. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool fossil fuel booster, and he lauds industry deregulation. He has occasionally made a point of resisting public lands giveaways of the kind that extremists in Utah champion, and he did defy Rep. Rob Bishop’s attempts to dismantle the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But these qualifications were once the cellar for an incoming Interior Secretary—not the ceiling.

    That President Obama just designated 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument only underscores the importance of Zinke’s promised visit. If confirmed as DOI boss, Zinke will be the head liaison between the U.S. government and the many sovereign tribes of this nation. Because an unprecedented coalition of tribes—the Navajo, the Zuni, the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute and the Ute Indian Tribe—came together to request the monument in honor of the heritage they all share in this landscape, it will be mandatory for the next DOI Secretary to meet with them and understand their role in protecting this place. Anything less is a total sham. And Zinke’s hedges on the next administration’s intentions were a red flag.

    That’s why, at the hearing, one of our great public lands champions, Sen. Martin Heinrich, made a point of reminding Rep. Zinke that even tribes in New Mexico are celebrating the new Bears Ears National Monument. It’s obvious that native people of many states, and diverse citizens of all fifty, are joining together to rejoice in this new designation, which will endure for generations.

    But we worry the nominee doesn’t truly see it that way. In justifying Utah as a priority visit at the hearing, Zinke drew on his Navy Seal background and called it a “five-meter target,” (i.e. the thing immediately in front of you) and proclaimed that “obviously we have a problem in the Great State of Utah.”

    That almost sounds like he sees our state as a threat, doesn’t it? It’s clear he needs some better intel.

    Rep. Zinke has vowed to visit with those “affected” by the Bears Ears and make a “recommendation” to President Trump about its future. That handshake tour requires at least two stops beyond what a bitter Utah delegation would show him:

    First, Zinke must meet with the tribes who so passionately worked for its protection and assist them in their goals—certainly they are affected.

    Second, as the local conservation group that has worked on Utah wilderness for more than 30 years, and knows these lands inside and out, Rep. Zinke needs to meet with our staff in Moab. Our folks in Moab are closer to parts of the monument than any town in San Juan County. We’ll gladly accommodate his schedule so we can show off what our nearly 13,000 members know to be true: that these public lands are among the nation’s most wild, most fragile and most precious, and that his job is one that will require true vision.

    In the hearing, Zinke repeatedly professed his admiration for President Teddy Roosevelt, who first designated the Natural Bridges National Monument, which the new Bears Ears National Monument adorns and completes with holistic, 21st Century boundaries. Zinke claimed today he hoped to be “bold,” to seek a vision for “100 years from now.” We hope the Montanan will live up to that professed dream, by looking to the possibilities and economies of the future instead of the past.

    After all, Teddy Roosevelt himself signed the Antiquities Act that made the Bears Ears National Monument possible. And, as the 26th president said, “Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”

Page 1 of 12512345...102030...Last »