Daily News Archives


  • December 11th, 2018

    Relentless. That’s the word that best describes the assault on Utah’s public lands from the Trump administration and Utah politicians over the past 12 months.

    From President Trump’s illegal reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments last December to the nearly seven-fold increase in oil and gas leasing we’ve seen in Utah under the Trump administration, the people who would tear up Utah’s magnificent wilderness for fossil fuel development haven’t once let up.

    But SUWA has been relentless in defending the Redrock throughout 2018. And that defense is only possible because of the support from people like you.

    Click here to make a year-end contribution to SUWA today!

    The results of the midterm elections brought a ray of hope. The Democratic victory in the House of Representatives means Trump’s Department of Interior will finally face much-needed oversight in 2019.

    But the fact is, we still have at least two more years of the Trump administration, and they aren’t going to let up in their efforts to roll back protections and continue implementing their drill-everywhere “Energy Dominance” agenda.

    And the state of Utah, emboldened by the president’s relentless assault on Utah’s public lands, isn’t letting up either.

    Help defend Utah’s redrock wilderness in 2019 and beyond by making a special contribution today.

    With two more years of the Trump administration ahead, 2019 will be a time of defense. We need your support to:

    • Defeat President Trump’s illegal monument proclamations in federal court and restore Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments.
    • Fight back against the State of Utah’s more than 20 lawsuits that seek to gain rights to approximately 14,000 “hoax highways.” The state brought these cases with the express goal of blocking protection of Utah’s wild lands and turning them over to extractive industries and off-road vehicles.  After years of depositions and behind-the-scenes lawyering, SUWA will be defending the land against the state of Utah and Kane County in the first “bellwether” case this winter.
    • Hold onto the land until it can be permanently protected as wilderness or national monuments. That means our day-to-day work of defending the land against proposals big and small, from challenging energy leasing and development to blocking “chaining” projects to halting off-road vehicle abuse.
    • Build the movement to protect the Redrock. SUWA’s life blood for political strength and financial support comes from members like you. Our membership ultimately gives us our core political strength for both legislative and executive branch work.

    To meet these big challenges, we’ve set a big goal — raising $250,000 online by the end of this month.

    Can you help us reach that goal by making a special tax-deductible year-end contribution today?

    Click here to help protect the Redrock in 2019 and beyond.

    SUWA will never rest in our defense of America’s redrock. But our work is only possible with the support of people like you.

    Thank you for standing with us to defend Utah wilderness.

    Karin Duncker
    Development Director

  • November 28th, 2018

    Shortly after the Trump administration took office in 2017, SUWA filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Interior and Justice Departments seeking records related to several then-pending lawsuits, including a lawsuit brought by an oil and gas trade group (Western Energy Alliance) which challenged Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms as well as the State of Wyoming’s lawsuit against Obama-era regulation of oil and gas fracking.  In particular, we sought communications between the plaintiffs in those lawsuits and federal officials, concerned that one or more sweetheart settlements might be in the making.

    After both Departments largely ignored our requests, SUWA filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC seeking the release of all responsive records. After much back and forth with lawyers for the United States we began receiving a rolling production of records. We wanted to share a few notable items:

    •  The American Petroleum Institute’s wish list encouraging the rescission or weakening of Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms. The Trump administration has followed through with many of these proposals.

    •  Emails between the Western Energy Alliance and the Departments of Interior and Justice as early as February 2017 regarding the settlement of an Alliance lawsuit. These discussions ultimately led to the Interior Department rescinding key Obama-era oil and gas leasing reforms.

    •  The National Mining Association’s wish list encouraging the rollback of Obama-era policies, including a coal leasing moratorium.

    SUWA has several other outstanding FOIA requests and lawsuits regarding records related to President Trump’s attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments as well as the State of Utah’s sweeping RS 2477 litigation. We’ll keep you posted as those bear fruit.

  • October 12th, 2018

    Sweetwater Reef in Emery County.

    SUWA Executive Director Scott Groene has an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune today:

    At the end of his 40-plus year tenure as the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is clinging to the past. And he’s trying to drag Utah with him.

    Hatch’s “Not-so-Swell” bill, the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, passed a Senate markup in early October. The bill remains a one-sided proposal from a county that openly admits it is attempting to designate the minimum amount of wilderness it can get away with.

    Hatch’s Emery County bill follows his goading President Trump into eviscerating Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments last December — slapping down Native American Tribes, undercutting local businesses and opening some of America’s most spectacular lands for development. It’s an ultimately futile effort, since the boom and bust industries that drove the state’s economy when Hatch first won office in 1977 continue to fade in the rear view mirror.

    Knowing that his terrible bill can’t pass the Senate on its own, Sen. Hatch hopes to attach the bill to an omnibus or unrelated legislation:

    His bill is all about the outdated fantasy that protecting Utah’s public lands harms us as a state. The bill leaves more than two-thirds of the deserving wilderness in Emery County unprotected. It lacks sufficient protections for Muddy Creek, which, as the largest unprotected wilderness in the county, would be a no-brainer in a legitimate bill. It also omits important parts of Labyrinth Canyon, Utah’s premier flatwater multi-day river experience for families, beginners and experts alike. And the bill envisions no protection whatsoever for the San Rafael Badlands, a rugged and incredibly wild landscape that is chock full of unique and precious archaeological sites, where hundreds of new and significant cultural sites have been discovered in the past five years.

    Hatch’s #NotSoSwell bill is a taunt to SUWA supporters like you:

    Hatch intends to force this bill through Congress in the very limited time left in this session, daring us to try to stop him. We think we can. If he wins, it resolves nothing, as wilderness advocates will be back the next day fighting to protect the omitted lands. If we win, it’s back to “Go.”

    Either is a poor outcome.

    It’s not too late to reach an agreement that protects one of Utah’s most treasured landscapes, and leaves the retiring senator with a legacy that would long be appreciated by Utahns.

  • October 4th, 2018

    Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) “Not-so-Swell” bill, the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, passed a Senate markup Tuesday on voice vote. The bill remains a one-sided proposal from a county that openly admits it is attempting to designate the minimum amount of wilderness it can get away with.

    So now, we must fight. There are still things we can do to fix this.

    Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) office spent much of last week working to negotiate a better deal, a process cut absurdly short when Sen. Hatch’s office declared that an arbitrary deadline had not been met. Now Sen. Hatch intends to try to ram this legislation through by either sticking it on a behemoth public lands package, or by attempting to inappropriately sneak it on to completely unrelated legislation. 

    This means we need you to contact your Senators and tell them the Emery County Public Lands Management Act MUST NOT PASS as is. 

    The bill leaves more than two thirds of the deserving wilderness in Emery County unprotected. It does not have sufficient protections for Muddy Creek, which, as the largest wilderness unit in the county, would be a no-brainer in a legitimate bill. It also leaves important parts of Labyrinth Canyon unprotected, designating wilderness on only the western side of the canyon corridor, and artificially curtailing boundaries to protect illegal mountain biking routes.  And the bill envisions no protection whatsoever for the San Rafael Badlands, a rugged and incredibly wild landscape that is chock full of unique and precious archaeological sites.

    Sen. Hatch’s counterpart in the House, Rep. John Curtis, is fond of saying that nobody will get everything they want in this bill. But even if those three places were added, only half of the deserving wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would gain protection. 

    The other goodies in the bill for the county prove that, in actuality, a tiny band of Emery County officials are getting just about everything they want on lands that belong to all Americans. Not only does the bill fail to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness, it also takes a bite out of an existing Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine. The bill will make recreation impacts worse in many sensitive areas, and a designation that was to be a National Conservation Area in early versions of the bill has been downgraded to a “Recreation Area,” completely changing the way the BLM will manage the lands. 

    Finally, Hatch’s office removed a federal-state land exchange that would have consolidated scattered state parcels out of designated wilderness and moved them to another area. Done well, land exchanges like these can be a conservation gain. But it became clear that Utah wanted to trade into a disputed parcel of land that the Ute Tribe claims as its own, and rather than telling the State Trust Lands Administration to come up with a better proposal, Sen. Hatch’s office instead chose to sweep the issue under the rug. Now if the bill passes, the SITLA lands would be stranded, and the school kids the Utah delegation likes to use as an excuse to bludgeon public lands will get diddly. 

    There is limited time remaining in this Congress, and Sen. Hatch has limited floor time in which to pass this legislation. Help us make his path more difficult by calling your Senators and asking them to oppose S. 2809, the Emery County Public Lands Management Act. 

    Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 

  • September 27th, 2018

    There were a few fireworks today during the House Committee on Natural Resources’s markup of HR 5727, Rep. Curtis’s (UT-3) “Not-So-Swell” bill for Emery County bill.

    Rep. Grijalva (AZ-3), the committee’s ranking member, issued a strong opening statement, acknowledging the work Rep. Curtis has put into this legislation, but highlighting all the many things still wrong with the bill. He specifically called for more protections for Labyrinth Canyon, Muddy Creek, and the San Rafael Badlands, and for resolution to the Ute Tribe’s concerns about the land exchange the bill facilitates.

    At the outset, Rep. Curtis offered an amendment in the nature of a substitution (ANS), which serves to change the underlying bill being debated. The amendment fixed the travel plan we’d long had concerns about, but also made some things worse. For example, it downgraded the National Conservation Area in the San Rafael Swell to a National Recreation Area, which would put conservation on the backburner in the eyes of the BLM.

    Some of Rep. Curtis’s fiercest critics came from his own side of the dais. Rep. Gosar (AZ-4) offered a string of amendments that would actually make this bill even worse, removing a mineral withdrawal and removing Wild and Scenic river protections. His amendments were all defeated squarely, but not before he offered at least one argument we agree with: that the lands in question are federal lands, and all Americans should have a say in their management. We couldn’t agree more, Rep. Gosar.

    That’s why our champion in the House, Rep. Lowenthal (CA-47) offered a stirring defense of the special places that have been left out of the bill, and offered an amendment to add additional Wilderness protections for Labyrinth Canyon and Muddy Creek, and a National Conservation Area for the San Rafael Badlands. Rep. Curtis had complained earlier that nobody gets to have a “winner take all” bill, but the truth is, even if Lowenthal’s amendment was adopted, the bill would only protect half of what’s in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Unfortunately, the amendment did not pass.

    Rep. Hanabusa (HI-2) offered an amendment that would ease the Ute Tribe’s concerns by defining Indian land as any land within an Indian reservation. This amendment was defeated on a party line vote, 21-17.

    The bill ultimately passed out of committee, but not before the mark-up showed why no conservation organizations support this legislation. It’s a step backward for conservation, and Rep. Curtis doesn’t seem to want to fix that. He is still only catering to the desires of Emery County—in fact, he went as far as to say he would turn the land over to the county if he could: “If they had stewardship—believe me, I would love to wave a wand and give them the land, but this is the next best thing to it — to ask what they would do with the federal land in their area.”

    But these are all American’s public lands. Keep emailing your members of Congress and asking them to oppose this legislation as it continues to move throughout both chambers.