Cultural Resources Archives


  • January 3rd, 2018

    Federal Public Lands Targeted for Oil and Gas Development near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, and Culturally Significant Areas in Southeast Utah

    For Immediate Release
    January 3, 2018

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

    Salt Lake City (Jan. 3): Yesterday, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) formally protested the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to auction off more than 51,400 acres of remarkable Federal public lands in southeast Utah for oil and gas leasing and development.  Included in BLM’s lease sale, scheduled for March 20, 2018, are 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.

    “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.”

    “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.’”

    In addition to offering leases near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, BLM plans to auction off culturally and ecologically significant public lands throughout southeastern Utah including:

    • Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. In 2015 BLM briefly considered leasing in this area before acknowledging that it did not have enough basic information about the cultural resources in the area and backed away from that proposal.  BLM still lacks this information but nevertheless is now willing to put these cultural sites at risk;
    • 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 near Moab, Utah, including in the Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas.

    “It is shameful that the Trump administration is attempting to sell off our cherished wild places for the benefit of the oil and gas industry,” said Lena Moffitt, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We will continue to pursue all legal options to protect America’s public lands from the greed and recklessness of this administration.”

    “Through lease sales like this one, Interior Secretary Zinke is handing the reins of our public lands to his pals in the oil and gas industry, despite their proximity to iconic national parks, monuments, and archeologically-rich canyons,” said Marc Thomas, with the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “This unfortunate giveaway is taking place even though the industry has already stockpiled more than 1.7 million acres of leased, but unused, BLM-managed lands in Utah.  This is not the sort of stewardship Americans, including those of us living in southeast Utah, want for our special places.”

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s environmental assessment for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Colorado (protested two lease parcels near Colorado border), Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society (protest available here).  BLM’s environmental assessment is available here.

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club (protest available here).  BLM’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy is available here.

    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—less than forty percent of the total land under lease (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases).  This disparity makes clear that 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.

    ###

  • October 19th, 2017

    A band of badgers confronted Utah state officials today about their efforts to turn federal public lands over to the state of Utah to own or manage.  “How can we trust the state with our public lands when they assert that badgers loot artifacts and deny that human driven climate change is damaging the health of our public lands and forests?” asked the badgers. “The answer is that we can’t.”

    A band of badgers confronts state officials at the Utah Legislature’s Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands meeting.

    The badgers were referring to state legislator Mike Noel’s claim last year that badgers were to blame for digging up artifacts in the Bears Ears area. Noel asserted that “those little suckers are going down and digging up artifacts and sticking them in their holes.”

    Spokesperson Badger John cleared the name of badgers: “This is a falsehood.  Badgers do not loot archaeological sites, people do.”

    Badger John makes a statement at the commission meeting.

    The badgers also criticized the state for denying the deleterious effects of climate change on public lands and forests, pointing out that human-driven climate change is having real, measurable impacts every day that range from hotter, more intense wildfires to prolonged drought and multiple thousand-year storm events occurring over just a few years. “But the legislature and this commission refuse to recognize these indisputable truths,” lamented Badger John.

    Several commissioners said they cared about badgers, but continued to insist that federal public lands in Utah would be better managed by the state. The badgers wholeheartedly rejected that claim. Calling upon history, they noted that it was the failure of states to adequately steward America’s public lands that led to higher national standards in the first place.

    “When this commission asks people for trust while simultaneously spreading falsehoods and denying widely accepted science, it earns the mistrust of people and badgers everywhere,” they said.  “Leave Utah’s federal lands in America’s public hands.”

    The badgers traveled from their burrows in southern Utah to the State Capitol for the meeting of  the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands—a misnamed commission seeking ways to advance the transfer of federal lands to the state of Utah.

    SUWA is pleased to have badgers as allies in our fight to protect our public wild lands!

     

     

  • October 4th, 2017

    Once again the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is poised to auction off outstanding federal public lands in redrock country for fossil fuel development. The latest ill-conceived proposal targets some of the most culturally significant and dramatic lands in southeastern Utah, threatening the region’s air quality, cultural resources, dark night skies, wilderness-caliber landscapes, and even national monuments—including Bears Ears.

    Tell the BLM this outrageous proposal to lease and develop public lands is completely unacceptable.

    Tin Cup Mesa. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA

    Not only is this lease sale terribly misguided, it’s also totally unnecessary. At the end of the BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, about 1.1 million acres of BLM managed lands in Utah were in production out of approximately 2.9 million acres leased to oil and gas operators—that’s less than forty percent of the total land under lease. Given the current surplus of oil and gas leases in Utah, there is simply no need to open up more public land to fossil fuel development, particularly in sensitive and wild places.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to auction off our natural and cultural heritage to the fossil fuel industry.

    Specifically, the BLM is proposing to lease for oil and gas development:

    •    Parcels located in the Goldbar Canyon, Hatch Point/ Hatch Canyon, and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas in Grand County and the Cross Canyon, Monument Canyon, and Tin Cup Mesa proposed wilderness areas in San Juan County.

    •    Parcels in the Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), designated for its impressive density of cultural and archaeological sites. The BLM itself has recognized that the area contains “[l]arge pueblos with complex architecture and connecting prehistoric roads” and calls it “one of the best-known and influential examples of scientific archeological investigation in the southwestern U.S.”

    Under the Trump administration, the BLM is rushing to sacrifice the most outstanding and significant public lands—lands that belong to each and every one of us—for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. If we don’t act, we stand to lose something truly irreplaceable.

    Please stand up for your public lands by submitting comments to the BLM by October 23rd!

    Thank you for taking action.

    >> Click here to view a map of lease parcel locations

    >> Click here to see more photos of lands affected by this lease sale

  • September 1st, 2017

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced plans to offer seventy-five leases for oil and gas development on federal public land on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument and in the San Rafael Swell.

    Read More »
  • June 22nd, 2017

    * SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE *

    For Immediate Release: June 22, 2017

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Staff Attorney
    Tel: 801-428-3991

     Acting in lockstep with the Trump administration’s relentless onslaught against federal public lands, the BLM is proposing to offer at the agency’s December 2017 oil and gas lease sale 79 parcels for leasing and development on approximately 100,000 acres of federal public lands in eastern and central Utah.  Included in this list are parcels along the western edge of the San Rafael Swell and immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.

    “This is an outrageous proposal to lease and develop some of Utah’s most culturally rich and wildly scenic federal public lands.  BLM has quickly come full circle and brought us back to the ‘drill now-drill everywhere’ days of the early 2000s, and once again Utah is front and center on the national stage for these disastrous policies,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    BLM Vernal field office leasing documents here; BLM Price field office leasing documents here.

    Leasing in the San Rafael Swell
    For the third time in five years, BLM is proposing to offer leases in the Molen Reef region of the western San Rafael Swell – an area with high cultural and archaeological density and outstanding recreational opportunities.  The BLM’s initial decision to offer these leases in 2013 drew immediate and widespread criticism, including a large public protest in front of the agency’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City. Ultimately, the agency determined that it did not have enough information regarding cultural and archaeological resources to justify leasing the area for oil and gas development.  In 2015, the BLM once again deferred leasing in the Molen Reef region, citing the continuing need to gather more cultural and archaeological resource information.

    To date, the agency has still not completed those cultural resource inventories.  In fact, the BLM admits it has surveyed only 0.6 percent of the proposed parcels and thus is in no stronger a position to justify leasing now than it was in 2013.  The agency’s leasing flip-flop is a disservice to this remarkable wilderness-caliber landscape and its thousands of known – and yet to be discovered – cultural resources.

    View of lease area in the western San Rafael Swell (Eagle Canyon/Molen Reef region). Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Leasing on the Doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument
    In a return to the Bush administration’s scorched earth approach to oil and gas leasing in the Uinta Basin, the BLM is also proposing to offer leases immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument.  This ill-advised proposal would green-light oil and gas development right next to the monument, including along the primary access route travelled by thousands of visitors annually.  In fact, one of the parcels proposed for sale was previously offered at BLM’s infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale and later withdrawn from sale by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after a successful lawsuit by SUWA and others blocked its issuance.

    In a letter to the BLM, the National Park Service has objected to the leasing proposal, citing the adverse impacts to air quality, viewsheds, dark night skies, water quality, and natural soundscapes.

    ###

Page 1 of 212