Stay informed about Utah wilderness
Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
Stay informed about Utah wilderness
Supporters and wilderness advocates like you play a critical role in the protection of Utah’s spectacular wild places.
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*Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Petition asks administrative appeals board to ‘stay’ BLM decision to designate Indian Creek ATV trail
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 19, 2017
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.
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.
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.”
SUWA, The Wilderness Society, Earthjustice, and a coalition of eight other conservation groups, along with the Bureau of Land Management and off-highway vehicle groups have taken an important step to settle longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by the conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and off-highway vehicle travel plans completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration.
Utah’s most popular National Park threatened by sight and sound of development
For Immediate Release: January 12, 2017
Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
Cory MacNulty, National Parks Conservation Association, 801.521.0785
SALT LAKE CITY – National Park advocates, local residents and conservationists are stunned over a just announced proposal by the St. George field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer two oil and gas leases less than two miles from Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. If developed, the two parcels could easily be seen from Utah’s most popular national park. The parcels are also next to the rural residential gateway community of Virgin and dissected by the North Creek drainage – a perennial stream which flows into the Virgin River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River.
“This is a completely inappropriate location for oil and gas leasing and development,” said Steve Masefield, former Chairman of the Virgin Planning and Zoning Commission and a town resident. “Drilling on these leases would not only degrade the scenic vistas enjoyed by visitors driving to Zion. Nearby rural neighborhoods would be devastated by industrial smells, noise, lighting and traffic. Our water – and the water used by communities downstream – could be polluted.”
“As a life-time resident and a retired owner of several hospitality and tourist-related businesses in Springdale, Utah, I know how crucial the greater Zion National Park area is to our visitors and local residents alike,” said Louise Excell. “I cannot imagine how visitors will feel as they discover pump jacks and flares from oil and gas drilling are visible from both inside and outside the park. Not only will the sight be jarring for visitors and residents, but other important natural resources and quality of life will be affected, including diminished air quality, loss of natural soundscapes, and night skies.”
There are currently no producing wells in this region, and BLM is under no requirement to offer these parcels for lease. Moreover, the oil and gas industry has roughly 2 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah already under lease that they have not developed. Despite the extensive leased lands, in 2016 the drilling of new oil and gas wells in Utah reached a 30-year low. There is clearly no need to offer these two leases for sale and put Zion National Park and the surrounding region at risk from mineral development.
“With over 4 million annual visitors to Zion National Park, BLM should be working collaboratively with the National Park Service to protect – not threaten – the world class resources those visitors come to enjoy and be inspired by,” said Cory MacNulty, with the National Parks Conservation Association. “The doorstep to one of America’s ‘Best Ideas’ is not the place for oil and gas leasing and development.”
“BLM’s proposal to sell these two leases is déjà vu all over again. Just like its proposal in 2008 to sell leases adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, this is an entirely ill-conceived plan that should be rejected,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This lease first, think later approach to oil and gas leasing has been rejected time and time again. It’s hard to understand what would compel BLM to propose offering these parcels but whatever their motivation, BLM should rethink its proposal which threatens Utah’s most popular National Park.”
The two oil and gas lease parcels near Zion National Park, as well as a third parcel located adjacent to the Black Ridge Wilderness Area, are proposed for sale at BLM’s June 2017 competitive oil and gas lease sale (environmental assessment available here). BLM is accepting comments on its controversial proposal through February 10, 2017 (more information available here).
The proposed lease parcels overlap lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics (i.e., outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation) and which are proposed for Wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 2430, S. 1375 (114th Congress).
Photographs taken from the lease parcels are available here.
About Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. For more information, visit www.suwa.org.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
Breaking news! Today, President Barack Obama took action to honor and protect the heritage of Native Americans by designating Bears Ears National Monument using his authority under the Antiquities Act.
This is a historic moment. The new national monument—the result of a proposal from an unprecedented coalition of Tribal Nations—will safeguard more than 100,000 cultural sites and protect an incredible natural landscape for generations to come.
Bears Ears also marks the first time that a president has responded to a formal request from sovereign Native American Tribes to use the Antiquities Act to protect public lands and cultural resources.
Unfortunately, Utah politicians like Representative Rob Bishop have pledged to do all they can to try and undo the President’s action and rescind the national monument.
As a result—even as we celebrate—it is crucial that people like you who love Utah wilderness take action to defend Bears Ears National Monument.
Your action today will help ensure that Bears Ears National Monument remains protected forever.
Thank you for taking action. And thank you to President Obama for his bold and historic step to elevate the voices of Native Americans in the management of our public lands.