Blog Archives - Page 2 of 139


  • March 19th, 2018

    March 20 Lease Sale Sold Leases on Public Lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, along with Culturally Significant Areas in Southeast Utah

    Updated March 20, 2018

     

    Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Michael Saul, Center for Biological Diversity, 303.915.8308

    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635

    Salt Lake City (March 20): Today, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctioned off parcels of federal public lands in southeastern Utah’s spectacular redrock country for oil and gas leasing and development. Included in BLM’s lease sale are approximately 54,000 acres of public lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, as well as in the culturally rich Alkali Ridge area of critical environmental concern and along the Green and San Juan rivers. Conservationists have protested the sale of 32 parcels as being contrary to federal laws and regulations. A map of the proposed lease parcels is available here.

    In addition to conservation groups’ protests, the National Park Service (NPS) raised significant concerns about the impacts of this oil and gas lease sale and later-in-time development, including impacts to air quality, dark night skies, scenic values, soundscapes and groundwater quality to parks in southeast Utah including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments (NPS’s letter available here).

    • NPS requested that BLM remove lease parcels near its parks, stating “we are concerned that continuing to offer parcels for oil and gas exploration and development in proximity to our parks will be detrimental to the experience of the visiting public.”
    • NPS explained that BLM had “not fully evaluated” its concerns regarding dark night skies and soundscapes, stating “[w]e are disappointed that there is no recognition in [BLM’s environmental reviews] of the significant potential for degradation of dark night skies and soundscapes that would result from oil and gas exploration and development on the lease parcels.”
    • NPS critiqued BLM’s failure to respond to NPS’s detailed air quality recommendations.

    BLM ignored all of these concerns and offered the 13 parcels based on its shoddy analysis and ill-founded decision that leasing would not jeopardize these resources and values.

    “We won’t sit idly by while President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke auction off America’s cultural and public lands heritage to the oil and gas industry,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This lease sale flies in the face of historic preservation and environmental laws that Congress put in place to make sure that BLM thinks before it acts; not ‘lease first, and think later.’”

    “BLM’s short-sighted decision threatens Utah’s red rock wilderness as well as significant cultural and archaeological resources,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “BLM’s ‘lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach to oil and gas development needlessly threatens iconic red rock landscapes and irreplaceable cultural history in the ill-conceived push for ‘energy dominance.’”

    In addition to offering leases adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and close to Bears Ears and Hovenweep National Monuments, BLM also plans to offer leases in culturally and ecologically significant public lands throughout southeastern Utah including:

    • Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. BLM briefly considered leasing in this area in 2015, but acknowledged that it lacked sufficient information about the cultural resources in the area and backed away from the proposal. The agency is putting these cultural sites at risk without collecting and reviewing that information;
    • Several tracts along segments of the Green River and San Juan River popular with families, recreational business, and tourists for river running, as well as home to several endangered fish species; and
    • Several tracts in proposed wilderness areas including in Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon near Moab, Utah, and in Cross Canyon, immediately adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

    “These lands and cultural artifacts belong to the American people. Instead of managing them in the public interest as the law requires, the Trump administration is using its Polluter Dominance strategy to plunder them for the benefit of big businesses and a wealthy few,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director of Lands for the Nature program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Even beyond that misguided policy, this leasing can’t be justified when nearly two million acres of public land in Utah sit leased but unused.”

    “Secretary Zinke and the BLM have acknowledged that some places should not be put at risk from oil and gas drilling, as we saw in his recent reprieves for lands around Chaco Canyon and the town of Livingston, Montana. The extraordinary cultural resources and wilderness values of these Utah lands deserve the same protection,” said Nada Culver, senior director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.

    “The Trump administration is heedlessly rushing to sacrifice irreplaceable wild rivers and wildlife to satisfy the fossil fuel industry’s greed,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ancient native fish of Utah’s San Juan and Green rivers deserve a chance at survival, but Trump’s oil and gas auction puts them at deadly risk from habitat loss and fracking pollution.”

    “Utah’s oil and gas industry has stockpiles of unused leased lands. We must not hand over our parks, monuments and archaeologically-rich canyons to them too. It’s time to re-balance the scales of development and conservation so future generations can breathe clean air, drink clean water and have access to nature,” said Ashley Soltysiak, Utah Sierra Club Chapter director.

    On January 2, 2018, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) formally protested BLM’s decision to auction off these federal public lands for leasing and development (see here and here). BLM has yet to respond to those protests but nonetheless is moving forward with this sale. BLM’s environmental assessment is available here and its Determination of NEPA Adequacy is available here.

    Like in most western states, there is a surplus of BLM-managed lands in Utah that are under lease but not in development. At the end of BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, there were approximately 2.9 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect). At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). With less than forty percent of the total land under lease there is no need to sacrifice any of these remarkable areas for oil and gas leasing and development.

    Click here for photos of areas to be auctioned off by BLM in southeastern Utah for fossil fuel development.

  • March 9th, 2018

    What happens when the government is controlled by friends of the oil/gas/mining industry and decides that public lands should be destroyed for short-term rewards? People get angry, and that anger turns to ACTION. Earlier this week, Congress heard from 30 impassioned activists in Washington, D.C. during the Utah Wilderness Coalition’s annual Wilderness Week, co-hosted by SUWA, Sierra Club, and NRDC.

    Wilderness Week activists in front of the U.S. Capitol this past week.

    After an extensive training session covering the ins and outs of lobbying, Utah wilderness issues, and the legislative process, activists took to Capitol Hill to put their newfound skills to good use. Teams scheduled over 200 meetings with members of Congress. In office after office, their stories of the redrock reinvigorated old legislative champs, educated new ones, and challenged the assertions of opponents.

    Now we’re asking you to amplify their voices and help keep up the momentum.

    Click here to ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and oppose the Curtis and Stewart national monument giveaway bills!

    A love for the redrock drove these activists to share their personal stories and connections to the landscape during their meetings on the Hill. Whether they grew up near Utah’s magnificent public lands, hiked through slot canyons on family vacations, or have a deep cultural connection to the landscape, their stories struck a chord in many offices.

    For those of you reading this who were not able to attend Wilderness Week, there is still a part for you to play. No matter where you live, contact your members of Congress and tell them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!

    If they are already cosponsors, click here to thank them!

    Or if you prefer to contact your members via your smartphone, text “ARRWA” to 52886 to take action now!

    To find out if your members of Congress have already endorsed America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, click here for the current list of cosponsors

    Thank you!

  • February 20th, 2018

    As you know, SUWA works day in and day out to protect Utah’s magnificent wild lands.

    From our lawsuits challenging President Trump’s illegal reductions of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to our campaign to stop the BLM from chaining our public lands and fragmenting wilderness with oil and gas drilling—the effort to protect Utah wilderness never ends and is fought on many fronts.

    That’s why I wanted to let you know about the next big opportunity we have—to protect the San Rafael Swell and other wilderness areas in Emery County, in the central part of Utah.

    You’ll recall that Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI) was introduced in the House with much fanfare in 2016. Although it began with good intentions, the final PLI was little more than a one-sided wish list for energy interests and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Accordingly, it died a quick death in Congress.

    Emery County Wilderness Map (Thumbnail)
    Click image to view larger map

    Out of the ashes of the failed PLI, Utah’s newest representative, John Curtis, and Senator Orrin Hatch have expressed interest in creating a comprehensive lands bill for the Emery County region—which includes the San Rafael Swell and Labyrinth Canyon.

    We appreciate that Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch have committed to work with all sides, including SUWA. After all, these lands belong to all Americans. Only legislation negotiated with conservation interests will succeed.

    There are already numerous points of agreement, but a successful bill to protect the San Rafael Swell and Labyrinth Canyon must:

    • Not enshrine old, court-overturned travel plans into law. In the wake of a judge overturning the Richfield BLM’s motorized travel plan, an extraordinary agreement was reached between the Trump administration and off-road vehicle and conservation groups that ended litigation in favor of developing new travel plans, including for the San Rafael Swell. Emery County’s current proposal to enshrine the old and defeated travel plan is unacceptable. The State of Utah must also relinquish any RS 2477 claims in areas designated for protection.
    • Focus on front country development, not backcountry fragmentation. Places like Bell and Little Wild Horse Canyons are seeing increased use and crowding. However, it would be a mistake to add new recreational amenities and, in turn, additional use to this remote area, as has been proposed. Any recreation and tourist infrastructure should be built in the front country near local communities such as Green River and the towns along Highway 10.
    • Address scattered state sections. These sections, intended to help fund public schools, are isolated and often economically worthless. Legislation that trades out those sections and consolidates them elsewhere would benefit both education budgets and conservation.
    • Protect the San Rafael Swell and Labyrinth Canyon. The western bank of the Green River in Labyrinth Canyon falls within Emery County, while the eastern bank is in Grand County. We should not limit our thinking to the arbitrary political boundaries of the county. All of Labyrinth should be addressed.

    We’re excited about the opportunity to work with Rep. Curtis and Sen. Hatch to protect the places we all treasure. But it must be a good bill—a bill worthy of the landscape it seeks to protect.

    In the coming weeks, we’ll send you more information about the emerging San Rafael Swell bill and the opportunities you’ll have to participate in the process.

    Thank you for continuing to be a part of the movement to protect Utah wilderness. We cannot succeed without you.

  • February 6th, 2018

    As you know, on December 4, 2017, President Trump signed two illegal proclamations that seek to significantly reduce the boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.

    Despite legal challenges filed by SUWA and partner organizations over these unlawful abuses of presidential authority, the Bureau of Land Management is moving forward with creating new land use plans that reflect the diminished boundaries in both monuments.

    Even as we remain confident that President Trump’s actions will be invalidated by the courts, it’s important that you speak up as the BLM begins to move forward with its new management plans.

    Comments on the land use plans are due April 11th, 2018.

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.

    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    (Please note: you must comment separately on each monument plan.)

    We encourage you to write personalized comments, as the agency is likely to disregard boilerplate messages. In writing your comments, please consider emphasizing the following points:

    • The proclamations reducing the monuments are, first and foremost, unlawful actions that will ultimately be overturned by a court of law. Under the Antiquities Act, the president only has the authority to create a national monument, and only Congress can revoke or reduce the boundaries of an existing monument.
    • The BLM should abstain from management planning until a court has ruled on the legality of President Trump’s action. Rapidly moving forward with this planning effort is a waste of valuable agency resources that would be better spent addressing much needed on-the-ground cultural and natural resource protection issues.

    Additional talking points are available at the links below:

    >> Click here to comment on Bears Ears National Monument.


    >> Click here to comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Your comments submitted by March 19th play a critical role in protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in the short term, while our legal team works daily to restore the monuments for all time.

    Thank you for taking action.

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