Chaining Archives


  • August 21st, 2018

    Last fall, SUWA filed a lawsuit to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from destroying pinyon-juniper woodlands through “chaining” and “bull-hog” projects in an area of Utah’s West Desert called Hamlin Valley. Click here for more information on these types of projects.

    These projects arose out of an analysis that the BLM’s Cedar City field office completed in 2014, which broadly considered how vegetation removal projects would impact public land across an almost 200,000-acre area. The BLM’s analysis did not describe how many of the 200,000 acres would be manipulated, nor where projects would actually occur on the ground. As the analysis stated, the emphasis was “on analyzing the cumulative effects of multiple future activities rather than the direct and indirect effects of a single activity.”

    In seeming direct contradiction of that statement, the BLM started approving and implementing projects without analyzing the direct and indirect effects.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The first of these projects was done without public notification. After we realized the BLM was proceeding this way, we immediately contacted them and demanded that they live up to their commitment to perform additional site-specific analysis. When the BLM wouldn’t agree, we filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that it had a duty under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze and disclose the direct and indirect effects of these projects, which it had failed to do.

    Even though two projects were completed while the case was progressing, we continued litigating, hoping to prevent this type of devastation from occurring through potential future projects.

    And now, after months of back and forth between us and the agency, the BLM has finally backed down and agreed to prepare new site-specific analyses for any additional projects in the greater Hamlin Valley area. With the BLM’s commitment in hand, and made expressly to the court, we agreed to dismiss our lawsuit.

    We hope that this helps the BLM begin to rein in its devastating chaining and other vegetation removal projects. We’ll continue to hold the agency accountable while pushing them to make better informed, more transparent decisions.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

     

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

  • March 27th, 2018

    Over the past few weeks, the State of Utah and other organizations have taken to the airwaves and Internet to bolster support for vegetation removal projects on Bureau of Land Management-managed public lands in Utah. While these efforts are big on assertions and anecdotal evidence, the actual projects lack scientific support in the vast majority of cases.

    We think it’s important for the public to understand the lack of scientific consensus, risk, and uncertainty involved with these large-scale surface-disturbing projects. To this end, this 2013 report of existing scientific literature, compiled by the Wild Utah Project—an organization committed to “providing science-based strategies for wildlife and land conservation”—is an important read for anyone interested in the history and state of the science surrounding this controversial topic.

    Don’t let the title Mechanical treatment of pinyon-juniper and sagebrush systems in the intermountain West: A review of the literature scare you. This report is easily digestible and addresses common assumptions underlying projects to remove pinyon-juniper forests and sagebrush stands, and highlights areas where proponents of vegetation removal are sorely lacking a scientific basis. Enjoy!

    Also be sure to check out our cover story on chaining in the Spring 2018 issue of Redrock Wilderness.