Climate Change Archives


  • June 15th, 2020

    Speak out against climate-damaging oil and gas leasing  near Arches and Canyonlands National Park

     The Trump administration is proposing to sacrifice our national parks and exacerbate the climate crisis by leasing a massive swath of treasured public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks for oil and gas development.  On June 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an environmental assessment purportedly analyzing the effects of such leasing.  Watch for SUWA alerts about writing Utah Governor Herbert, and later about submitting comments to the BLM.   

    But there is something as or more effective that you can do – bring attention to this outrageous plan by writing a letter-to-the-editor or guest editorial (OpEd) to your local paper.  This issue is of national interest so papers across the country should be receptive to your commentary.

    Background:

    Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda the BLM has been on a rampage, leasing public wild lands in Utah and across the West for oil and gas development regardless of destructive impacts to the climate crisis, lands sacred to Native Americans, national parks, wilderness, recreation, wildlife and community watersheds.  In a particularly egregious plan, BLM now proposes to sell 77 oil and gas leases on 114,000 acres of public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks and the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument at a September 2020 sale. 

    These lands are some of the wildest, most scenic, and culturally significant public lands in Utah, and are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who use them for hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing and more.  Development on many of the leases would be visible from the national parks and Bears Ears National Monument as well as Dead Horse Point state park.

    SUWA and other groups have been challenging oil and gas leasing on public lands in the courts with some at least temporary success.  But if we are to change the BLM’s oil and gas leasing policies (under a new administration) it is essential we also win in the court of public opinion – and you can help do that by writing to your local news publications!

    Some messaging point you could make:

    • The Trump administration is proposing to blanket a massive swath of land near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, as well as Bears Ears National Monument, with oil and gas drilling leases.  Ultimately, this will replace the area’s unspoiled red rock canyons, expansive vistas, clean air, quiet stillness, intense night skies, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development.  
    • The future development of these leases will unavoidably and unnecessarily exacerbate the climate crisis.  We can not afford to have any more land opened to oil and gas development, especially when renewable energy sources now offer a real alternative.
    • Absurdly, this rush to lease continues even though the world is awash in excess oil and gas, as evidenced by the fact that the price per barrel of oil has dropped dramatically, even dipping below zero at one point!  
    • Even more ludicrous, BLM is offering new leases while at the same time reducing the royalty rates oil and gas companies pay on existing leases in the same area.  This “royalty relief” comes in response to oil and gas company claims that they can’t afford to develop existing leases economically at this time.  
    • And remember, leased land is tied up for decades as once leases are issued, oil companies hold a “right” to develop that lasts at least ten years!  
    • Given all this, how can anyone consider BLM’s plan to sacrifice iconic western landscapes and our planet’s health to oil and gas leasing anything but outrageous and unconscionable?
    • The September 2020 Utah oil and gas lease sale must be halted and the “energy dominance” policy reformed.
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    For more information see:

    Published articles that you can respond to:

    Other good places where you can submit LTEs/OpEds: Even if your local/regional paper has not run a news story on the September 2020 oil and gas leasing sale, you can still submit a LTE.  In fact, that could even inspire them to cover the issue. See finding “hooks” guidance below!  Use this list to find papers in your region – see tabs at bottom!

    Remember to check the word limit for your paper.  LTE word limits are often 200-250 words and papers are often strict about it. Guest Editorials (OpEds) can usually be a lot longer but OpEds are more challenging to place. 

    Finding “hooks” for your LTE/Guest Editorial:  The best hook arises if your local/regional paper publishes an article on this lease sale and you write a LTE referencing that article. But if our paper does not cover the sale, there are a lot of other ways you might make your letter/editorial timely and relevant to your local paper.  You could use any article on the climate crisis, Trump’s environmental record, or national parks and public lands, for example, as a springboard or pivot to your commentary.  You could even use the Covid-19 pandemic by leading with a sentence that talks about how you and many Americans are dreaming of the day when they can again visit safely our national parks and public lands – but say they might find them diminished if current oil and gas leasing policies persist. 

    Trust your own voice: Remember, the most compelling LTEs are written in your own voice, bringing in a personal experience or relationship to the issue as well as making broader messaging points. Trust that your letter will be more interesting if you write from your heart and interweave your own story.

    If you’d like some help:  We are happy to give your draft a read for accuracy or help with editing suggestions.  Just email terri@suwa.org with URGENT in the subject line!

    Send us a copy of your submitted and/or published LTE! terri@suwa.org 

    Share your published LTE/OpEd on social media!  Suggested hashtags: #ProtectWildUtah, #StandwithBearsEars  #publiclands #wilderness #utah

  • June 3rd, 2020

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently accepting public comments on a proposed coal mine expansion on the western slope of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.

    The proposal would allow Utah American Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest (and now bankrupt) coal company—to expand the Lila Canyon mine into an additional 1,272 acres of public land.

    It would also allow the company to mine an additional 9.1 million tons of coal, extending the life of the mine by approximately 3 years—with the accompanying increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The BLM’s approval of the coal mine proposal will push us further down the path to climate disaster. In a recent study, the United States Geological Survey concluded that fossil fuels extracted from public lands, including coal, account for nearly 24 percent of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

    Tell the BLM to stop all new coal development on public lands.

    The science is clear: climate change requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new coal leasing and development on public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate.

    However, with this proposal the Trump administration’s BLM is barreling in the opposite direction, digging us into a deeper hole.

    Click here to submit your comments by June 8th.

    The world does not need more coal. The climate crisis has already arrived, threatening humanity and the environment upon which all life relies. We must act now to ensure that current and future generations not only survive, but thrive in this rapidly changing world.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • April 16th, 2020
    2020EarthDayClimateStrike

    Art by Ogden Climate Strike Organizer, Raquel Juarez

    Spatial distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t engage in collective action! On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we hope you will join us online for three days of workshops, storytelling, performances, and action.

    The Utah-focused digital events will be bookended by special keynotes featuring SUWA board members and veteran wild land protectors Terry Tempest Williams and Mark Maryboy.

    RSVP to their keynotes HERE.


    These are only three of nine local at-home actions, keynotes, and webinars being held in coordination with the national Earth Day Live themes: Strike, Divest, Vote. You can see the full three-day schedule on UtahEarthDay.org. Please join us for the keynotes this coming Earth Week!

    See you on the digital picket line,
    GRoots2019
    SUWA Grassroots Organizers

  • January 17th, 2020

    The Trump administration’s rush for “energy dominance” encounters another setback in Utah; BLM forced to reanalyze environmental impacts of oil and gas development

    For Immediate Release

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org
    Ann Alexander, Natural Resources Defense Council, 415.875.8243, aalexander@nrdc.org
    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4636, phil_hanceford@tws.org

    Salt Lake City, UT (January 17, 2020): Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced that it had withdrawn its approval of 175 controversial oil and gas drilling permits on public lands in the Desolation Canyon region of eastern Utah.

    In September of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the Horse Bench Natural Gas Development Project and the drilling of up to 175 natural gas wells on “Horse Bench,” a prominent prow of land overlooking Nine Mile Canyon and the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Natural Resources Defense Council, Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, and The Wilderness Society appealed the local BLM manager’s approval of this project to the Utah BLM state director. 

    The conservation groups argued that the project, if implemented, would decimate greater sage-grouse habitat, destroy BLM-identified wilderness characteristics, and exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis—impacts that the BLM had failed to fully analyze. In his decision, the state director agreed, reversed the BLM’s drilling approvals, and ordered the agency to “complete additional [environmental] analysis.”  

    “The Desolation Canyon region, one of Utah’s most remote areas, provides critical habitat for wildlife—including greater sage-grouse—as well as outstanding opportunities for hiking and camping, and evidence of a rich cultural history,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Without this victory, these values would have been lost to the sights and sounds of industrial development.” 

     The state director’s decision grants a reprieve to one of Utah’s wildest and most culturally significant landscapes. The BLM itself has recognized that the Desolation Canyon region at issue here is “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.” 

    “The original finding that plunking down 175 natural gas wells next to the Desolation Canyon wilderness would have no significant environmental impact was clearly out of whack with reality’” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “The State Director did the right thing in setting it aside, which should lead to real scrutiny of the proposal.” 

    “For far too long our public lands have been handed off to the oil and gas industry without any consideration for the enormous impacts of these decisions on our climate, wildlife and health,” said Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director at The Wilderness Society. “We welcome the BLM’s decision and hope the agency will move towards managing our public lands to be a key solution to climate change, not a growing contributor.”

    In addition, the large industrial equipment required for this drilling project, including tanker trucks, drill rigs, and fracking equipment, would have passed through Nine Mile Canyon to access Horse Bench. Nine Mile Canyon is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts—including petroglyphs and pictographs, kivas, and granaries—and is significant to several Native American tribes. The canyon also contains important historic sites, including evidence of the post-Civil War era Buffalo Soldiers and early settlers. The BLM has described the canyon as “the world’s longest art gallery” and an “outdoor museum.” Dust and pollution from passing trucks could harm these irreplaceable treasures, and proposed roads would make the area more accessible to vandals.

    “Nine Mile Canyon is a cultural and archaeological treasure,” said Pam Miller, Director of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition. “This victory goes a long way to protecting these world-class resources for future generations.” 

    The BLM’s withdrawal this week of 175 oil and gas drilling permits is just the latest setback for the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda in Utah and nationally. Following several significant legal precedents, including a pivotal March 2019 federal court ruling, the BLM on four recent occasions has been forced to pull back oil and gas leasing decisions covering more than 328,000 acres of public lands in Utah due to inadequate environmental analyses (more about these decisions here). 

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  • January 9th, 2020

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:

    Kya Marienfeld, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 435-259-5440, kya@suwa.org
    Laura Welp, Western Watersheds Project, 435-899-0204, laura@westernwatersheds.org
    Mary O’Brien, Grand Canyon Trust, 435-259-6205, mobrien@grandcanyontrust.org

    Moab, UT (January 9, 2020) – On New Year’s Eve, the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a five-year, $75 million-dollar financial agreement to support the continued destruction of pinyon pine, juniper, and sagebrush ecosystems throughout Utah.

    The BLM committed up to $75 million dollars to the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative (UWRI), a partnership of federal and state agencies and public land grazing and hunting interests. UWRI has clearcut and mechanically “treated” hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands in Utah in the name of restoration since its inception 12 years ago.

    Recent scientific literature clearly outlines the risks associated with large-scale surface disturbing activities, such as chaining or mulching live pinyon pine and juniper forests, yet the BLM and UWRI have almost always ignored this information and instead forged ahead with an antiquated, unscientific approach to land management that more often than not converts the “treated” areas into exotic forage and invasive species.

    “The BLM’s commitment to fund the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative over the next five years represents the worst of the Trump administration’s war on science and refusal to acknowledge the global climate crisis we’re witnessing on a daily basis,” said Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Rather than destroying large native ecosystems, the BLM should be working to preserve the ecological integrity of intact landscapes in order to mitigate the ongoing climate crisis. ”

    “Utah’s public lands are forever scarred by 60 years of counterproductive vegetation removal projects, which have historically done little more than increase non-native forage for cattle,” said Laura Welp, Ecosystems Specialist with Western Watersheds Project. “These destructive projects are based on fundamentally flawed concepts and failure should be expected. Continuing down the current path of promoting large-scale pinyon pine, juniper, and sagebrush clearcuts that are driven by funding rather than science spells disaster for Utah’s remarkable public lands.”

    “While a rare BLM project funded by UWRI is actually committed to diverse public input and species other than livestock and big game, most are hell-bent on clearing out pinyon pine, juniper, and sagebrush to make room for livestock forage, and then UWRI and land managers never look back when the land has been reduced to cheatgrass, tumbleweed, bare soil, and/or a feedlot of non-native forage grasses,” said Mary O’Brien, Utah Forests Program Director with Grand Canyon Trust.

    “Not only does the agreement represent a gross misuse of taxpayer funding, it also supports a partnership that has continually ignored best available scientific information regarding the risk of large-scale surface disturbing activities and the need to bolster climate resiliency by maintaining native ecosystems in a hotter, drier desert Southwest,” added Marienfeld.

    Additional Resources

    More information, including recent scientific literature and reports on the risks of BLM’s vegetation removal program, is available here.

    BLM press announcement.

    Link to this press release here.

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