Emery County Archives


  • December 6th, 2018

    Today at the Utah State Capitol, a group of 40 young womxn* and allies — including students, educators, and community leaders from throughout Utah — braved the cold to make an urgent call for the protection of Utah’s irreplaceable wild lands in the San Rafael Swell and beyond.

    After several eloquent speeches, they walked to Governor Herbert’s office and delivered a statement signed by 79 young leaders explaining how the Emery County Public Land Management Act would exacerbate climate change and fails to sufficiently protect intact iconic landscapes such as Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon. They also delivered nearly 4,000 postcards asking the governor to protect wild public lands throughout Utah.

    Read the complete statement delivered to Gov. Herbert here: https://bit.ly/2REPJsR

    Josee Stetich

    “Wilderness has irreplaceable and unquantifiable value to human life,” said Josee Stetich, event organizer and senior at Westminster College studying environmental science. “Harming these lands in the name of development at the expense of cultural resources and solitude is irresponsible to past, current, and future generations.”

    “In 2018, Utah experienced its driest year on record. Foreseeing this drought in March, Governor Herbert asked faith leaders to pray for snow. We need far more than prayers, however. We need action. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Brooke Larsen, organizer of youth-led climate justice movement Uplift.

    Brooke Larsen

    Mishka Banuri

    Said Ella Baker-Smith, an actress and senior at Rowland Hall-St. Marks School “I have touched the glorious red rock down south and have marveled at how it seems to surround you like a warm fire. I have attempted to adopt that fire and use it to passionately advocate for you in thie very moment.”

    “The importance of public land has been impressed on me, and the benefits of wilderness became tangible, as soon as the land became an outdoor classroom for me and my students,” said Holly Lammert, a science teacher at Realms of Inquiry School.

    “Clearly our politicians aren’t willing to do the right thing, so this is a message to the politicians who aren’t interested in protecting land for future generations and to the people in power who value profits over people: the young people will not let this happen,” said West High School senior, and founder of Utah Youth Environmental Solutions, Mishka Banuri.

    *Womxn is a term used to include people of all gender orientations who identify as “women” or “femmes.”

  • December 5th, 2018

    It’s finally December, which means, blessedly, that Congress is about to go home! But first they’re in a frenzy to complete their work for the session and pass as many bills as possible.

    Senator Orrin Hatch is trying to use this freneticism to glue the Emery County Public Land Management Act (S. 2809) to a potential public lands package being negotiated by the House and Senate.

    We can’t let this happen. Contact your representatives now and tell them to oppose Sen. Hatch’s “Not-so-Swell” bill!

    San Rafael River. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve told you in the past that the bill fails to protect deserving landscapes like the San Rafael Badlands, Muddy Creek, and Labyrinth Canyon. And while Hatch has made some changes at the margins of the bill, they are not sufficient. The bill still protects far too little land, and the places it claims to protect are riddled with off-road vehicle routes. It also releases currently protected land for a coal mine and facilitates a land exchange that would allow the State of Utah to acquire nearly 12,000 acres of proposed wilderness! Finally, it gives away federal public land to the State of Utah for an expansion of Goblin Valley State Park.

    Don’t let Hatch hatch another anti-wilderness scheme! Contact your representatives now!

    Bottom line: the land that we fight for is better off if the bill doesn’t pass.

    Here’s what you can do. Click here to tell your members of Congress not to allow this bill to be attached to a public lands package—or any other.

    Then, call the Capitol Switchboard and say it again: 202-224-3121.

    Together we can make sure Sen. Hatch doesn’t get the coal mine he wants in his stocking.

    Thanks for all you do!

    P.S. Help us protect the San Rafael Swell in 2019 and beyond by making a tax-deductible year-end contribution to SUWA today. Click here to contribute.

  • November 7th, 2018

    Harry Truman once wished for a one-armed economist because he’d grown tired of hearing, “On the one hand…on the other hand.” This post-election wrap-up is a bit like that: slivers of hope set against hard reminders.   

    For public lands, the election’s best news is probably this: the blue wave that washed over the House also swept away Rob Bishop’s chairmanship of the House Resources Committee. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will likely replace Bishop. Think Imperator Furiosa replaces Iago. It will be much more difficult for the Utah congressional delegation to move bad wilderness legislation.

    We won’t really celebrate, though, until we get past the dangerous uncertainty of a lame duck Congress. Retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is trying to ram through his Emery County legislation. This late in the game, his likeliest avenue is to slip his anti-wilderness bill inside some larger legislative package.  It’s our job to see that he fails. Labyrinth Canyon, Muddy Creek and the San Rafael Badlands are in the balance.  

    But we hope the election will embolden Democratic leadership to block bad legislation in these few remaining weeks, even as their Republican counterparts redouble efforts to do all the damage they can before losing power. Lame duck congresses often prove to be duds; they can also be dangerous. Muddying this lame duck’s waters even further, Trump is relieved of whatever pressure he felt to act like an adult prior to the election. With a budget deadline of December 7, he may yet have the chance to shut down the government to indulge some momentary whim.

    We’ll have to contend with the Trump administration for two more years; the election doesn’t change that. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Trump’s trained seal, faces a number of ethics-related investigations that may distract him some from his assaults on public land.  Offsetting that faint hope is the likelihood that the Bureau of Land Management will be ever more servile in its acquiescence to local Utah politicians and their anti-public lands demands. 

    The mid-terms did nothing to quash Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s massive litigation seeking control over national parks, monument, and wilderness through the antiquated and repealed RS 2477.

    There were some changes among Utah’s congressional delegation.  In potential good news for the environment, it appears Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams beat incumbent Republican Representative Mia Love.  The outlook is less clear regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who returned to Utah to collect the retiring Hatch’s seat. During his senate campaign, Romney pandered to the right wing on public land issues. We’ll see if he chooses to stay on the fringe.   

    At the state level, in what is the very essence of rotating bald tires, former San Juan County commissioner and all-terrain-vehicle protest rider Phil Lyman replaced long time State Representative Mike Noel.  A leader in the state house, the bellicose Noel did his best to drag Utah backwards with false claims on public land issues and a penchant for wasting Utah tax dollars pushing his anti-federal views.  Perhaps Lyman will surprise us by being something else. We doubt it.    

    Notably, this election brought real change to San Juan County, home of the Bears Ears National Monument. Native Americans Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes won two of three county commission seats. Both support the Bears Ears; both beat candidates who didn’t. This is an extraordinary shift of power to the Native American majority in a county where gerrymandering Anglo politicians have long suppressed Native needs and Native voices.   

    Make no mistake, Kenneth and Willie will face hostility from the entrenched county forces seeking to make them fail. Those forces were at work from the very beginning. The San Juan County Clerk sought to falsify documents in order to keep Willie off the ballot, but was busted by a federal judge. We wish the new commissioners success, and thank them for the courage to take on these offices.

    We have survived half of the national nightmare of Donald Trump’s reign. Each year becomes more dangerous as blatantly unqualified political appointees remain in place and work their mischief, twisting and distorting the bureaucracies that manage our public lands. 

    We operate in an ever-changing political environment at every level. Politicians, bureaucrats and judges come and go. The constant is the red rock wilderness and our resolve to defend it.  Thank you for being part of this movement.

    –Scott Groene

  • 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