Blog


  • September 29th, 2020

    SUWA Staff Attorney Laura Peterson discusses the recent decision by the Utah Bureau of Land Management to more than double the number of off-road vehicle routes across the wild San Rafael Desert. We get her perspective on the decision, how it will affect future BLM travel planning across Utah, and what this means for SUWA’s efforts to protect wild Utah from motorized mayhem in our remaining wild places.

     
    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” was written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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  • September 24th, 2020

    Trump administration forced to reverse course; rescind approval for oil/gas wells on public lands located less than a quarter-mile from the national monument; in greater sage-grouse Priority Habitat Management Area

    For Immediate Release 

    Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-428-3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, Utah (September 24, 2020) – The Trump administration recently announced that it has withdrawn its approval of an oil and gas drilling proposal on public lands at the edge of Dinosaur National Monument.

    In September 2019, the Bureau of Land Management approved the so-called Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project and the drilling of two oil and gas wells in a remote area just west of Dinosaur National Monument. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) appealed the local  manager’s approval of this project to the Bureau’s State Director.

    SUWA argued that the project, if implemented, would adversely impact the adjacent national monument, greater sage-grouse habitat, destroy agency-identified wilderness characteristics, and exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis—impacts the Bureau had failed to fully analyze and disclose. In his decision, the Deputy State Director for Lands and Minerals, the individual charged with overseeing the Bureau’s oil and gas program in Utah, agreed, reversed the local manager’s approval of the project, and ordered the agency to “complete additional [environmental] analysis.” The Deputy State Director’s decision grants a reprieve to one of Utah’s wildest and most remote landscapes. 

    “For years, the Bureau of Land Management has stubbornly refused to analyze and disclose the true costs of oil and gas development in Utah and across the West, even as the agency makes decisions that drive our country and the world into climate chaos,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The Deputy State Director did the right thing in setting it aside, which should lead to real scrutiny of the proposal.”

    “Piece by piece, well by well, we are working to dismantle decisions made by the Trump administration that threaten everything special about Utah’s wildest public lands and hasten the climate crisis,” said Steve Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  

    The large industrial equipment required for this drilling project, including tanker trucks, drill rigs, and fracking equipment, would have passed within one-fourth of a mile of Dinosaur National Monument. The monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts—including petroglyphs and pictographs—and paleontological resources. The National Park Service has recognized the Monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of our Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.” The proposed development also would have destroyed greater sage-grouse “priority” habitat—that is, habitat identified by BLM “as having the highest value to maintaining sustainable [greater sage-grouse] populations.” 

    The Deputy State Director’s recent withdrawal of this project is just the latest setback for the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda in Utah and nationally. Earlier this year, based on similar legal shortcomings, the Bureau had to withdraw approval of 175 oil and gas drilling permits, and over the past two years the Bureau on four separate occasions has been forced to pull back oil and gas leasing decisions covering more than 328,000 acres of public lands in Utah. 

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  • September 23rd, 2020

    In June, we wrote to you about plans from Energy Fuels Resources—the company that successfully lobbied the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument in 2017—to ship radioactive waste from Estonia to the White Mesa Uranium Mill, on the doorstep of the monument.

    Now, Energy Fuels Resources wants to import radioactive waste from Japan, and the State of Utah has agreed that the company doesn’t need any special licenses or permission, or to hear from the public, to accept the waste.

    Please take a moment to urge Utah regulators to protect Bears Ears!

    White Mesa Uranium Mill, © EcoFlight

    The White Mesa Uranium Mill sits next to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community. Understandably, many residents are concerned about the mill’s impact on their air quality and drinking water.

    Energy Fuels intends to extract a small amount of uranium from the waste, then dump the toxic leftovers just east of Bears Ears National Monument’s original boundary, where it will remain forever.

    Radioactive waste from overseas should never end up next to Indigenous communities in America. Please urge Utah regulators to:

    • Require that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. obtain a specific import license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Japanese waste.
    • Deny future requests to send toxic and radioactive waste to the White Mesa Mill.
    • Protect groundwater and air quality in the Bears Ears region for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community and for future generations.

    Click here to submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • September 22nd, 2020

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is excited to announce our Fall 2020 Stewardship Scholarship Essay Contest. Please review the guidelines below:


    Students are invited to write a 750-1250 word essay on the topics of Land Stewardship or Trust in the More-Than-Human world for a chance to win a cash scholarship toward your education. There will be one grand prize scholarship of $1000 and two semi-finalist scholarships of $500 awarded. Complete essays or excerpts may be printed in SUWA’s Redrock Newsletter.

    SUWA’s mission is to protect the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau in its natural state for all Americans. Recognizing that people of color have historically been left out of the U.S. public land conservation movement, we are committed to our goal of raising diverse voices across the West – those who take the lead protecting public lands in Utah.

    Eligible students are those who 1) are self-identified as Black, Indigenous, and/or a Person of Color, 2) live in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, or a Tribal Nation in the region, and 3) are enrolled at least half-time as an undergraduate at a college, university, technical school, or vocational institution in the Spring 2021 academic year.

    The scholarship application period opens Tuesday, September 22, 2020 and closes on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at midnight MST.


    Essay Topics

    Essays should draw from your personal experience to connect the dots between fundamental social issues and the need for broadscale land protection. Write as if to an external audience whom you feel may not understand your experience at the outset. In this way, write as a teacher from your own place of learning. Please choose one of the following topics to respond to in your essay submission.


    Topic 1: Trust in the More-Than-Human World

    Public lands are held in trust for all Americans. No matter where you are from, or how long you’ve been an American, they are for you, and for the generations to come. While all of the natural world held in public trust has a  legal definition, we want to know how you’ve come to gain a sense of trust – in your self, in your community, or in your surrounding natural environment – through your relationship with the more-than-human world. 

    Briefly define what trust means, or looks like, to you. Tell the reader where a feeling of trust in yourself or in relationship with others comes naturally. Then, answer the question: What does trust look like beyond your human relationships? Tell a story about a specific relationship with a natural element (place, plant, animal, fungi, or other element of nature) that you learned to trust. What impact has this trust between you and the more-than-human world had on your life? How does this inform your activism?


    Topic 2: Land Stewardship Today

    Stewardship takes on numerous forms according to our values and traditions. Each of these personal aspects are shaped by your culture.

    Write from your personal experience. This may incorporate wilderness encounters, or include your personal experience of wild things within a context not conventionally defined by the “wilderness” term. Describe how your connection to the natural systems (landscapes; creatures; broader ecosystems) at the heart of the wilderness concept, have propelled your activism.


    Submission Process

    All submissions should be sent as a Word Doc to scholar@suwa.org. Please include “Scholarship Submission” as the title of your email. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis through November 29th.

    At the top of the Word document containing your essay, please include the following:

    • Your Full Name
    • Your School/Student ID#
    • Your Contact Phone #
    • Statement of Need [3-5 sentences outlining your personal need and interest in the scholarship. This will NOT be shared publicly.]

    Questions? Write to us at: scholar@suwa.org