Oil and Gas Development


  • September 29th, 2021

    Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These climate-altering emissions are wreaking havoc on our natural world, resulting in massive wildfires, extreme drought, and catastrophic flooding events. The Colorado Plateau and Utah’s redrock wilderness are expected to suffer some of the worst impacts over the coming decades.

    Despite this scientific reality, the Biden administration is considering selling a new slate of oil and gas leases across the West, including in Utah.

    Tell Biden’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect our climate by keeping fossil fuel development off our public lands.

    In Utah, the BLM is proposing to sell six parcels covering more than 6,600 acres of public lands for oil and gas development. Development on these parcels would threaten wildlife, water resources, and recreation while exacerbating the climate crisis. Four of the parcels are located adjacent to the Green River in the Uinta Basin, while another is located adjacent to the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, just north of the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park.

    San Rafael Reef. © Tom Till

    The BLM is not required to sell these—or any parcels—for development. In January, President Biden issued an executive order pausing all new oil and gas leasing on public lands to allow the Interior Department to review its broken leasing program. And while a federal court in Louisiana set aside that order and instructed the Interior Department to restart a leasing process, the court explained that the outcome of that process remained entirely subject to the BLM’s broad discretion as the land management agency—that is, the BLM retains broad legal discretion not to lease these lands in order to protect public health and the environment, including our climate.

    Tell the BLM to exercise its discretion and defer its sale of these Utah lease parcels.

    The Interior Department has recognized that the current oil and gas program is broken because, among other things, it “fail[s] to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions” and “inadequately account[s] for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources.” The BLM should not offer any new parcels until these shortcomings are resolved and the agency can tell the American people that development of these parcels will not further exacerbate the climate crisis (spoiler alert: it can’t do that, and thus shouldn’t offer these parcels for sale!).

    The BLM is accepting comments on its leasing proposal through October 1st. Please submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • August 17th, 2021

    Last week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a devastating new scientific report detailing the dire consequences of the ongoing—and worsening—climate crisis. The United Nations Secretary General called the findings “a code red for humanity.” (Read the key takeaways from the report here.)

    The IPCC’s report is an urgent call to action and its conclusions are unequivocal: we have already pushed the climate crisis too far and now the only question that remains is how quickly we can act to keep things from getting worse.

    Immediately after taking office, President Biden took decisive action to reverse the prior administration’s reckless course on climate, quickly rejoining the Paris Agreement and subsequently committing to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is an encouraging start, but much remains to be done.

    In order to reach its emissions goal, the Biden administration must immediately halt all new oil, gas, and coal leasing on federal public lands. SUWA has called on President Biden to take this crucial step to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. According to the United States Geological Survey, producing and burning fossil fuels generates nearly one quarter of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, as well as substantial amounts of methane―an even more potent greenhouse gas.

    Oil and gas development in southern Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA

    Fortunately, the Biden administration is listening. The Interior Department has launched a sweeping—and long overdue—review of the federal oil and gas leasing program and will soon release its recommendations for fixing the broken leasing system.

    But Washington, DC isn’t a one-horse town; Congress also has to do its part. And that’s where you can help.

    Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act will grant permanent protection to Utah’s wildest public lands while shielding them from climate destabilizing fossil fuel leasing and development. According to a report released this year, these lands, if kept intact and protected from the threats of such development, can help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact, it’s estimated that passage of the Red Rock bill would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.

    Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to take a decisive step toward protecting the climate by cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

  • June 29th, 2021

    Thanks to the steady and persistent work of our Wildlands Team and more than a half-decade of service expertise gained by our Stewardship Program, SUWA has successfully catalyzed overdue protection efforts for the diverse landscapes in the San Rafael Swell designated as wilderness over two years ago through the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act.

    A rock cairn basket marks (and mimics) natural formations in the Sid’s Mountain Wilderness.

    Making Progress on the Ground
    This spring we began working with the Bureau of Land Management’s Price field office—the office tasked with ensuring the integrity of those lands designated as wilderness: Muddy Creek, Labyrinth Canyon, Mexican Mountain, and many more of the San Rafael Swell’s iconic landscapes. The approach and processes we developed and continue to hone are concise, long term, and no-nonsense. Beginning with the foundation of years of data collected during fieldwork conducted by Wildlands Field Director Ray Bloxham, we rely on SUWA’s GIS team to incorporate this data into interactive maps identifying critical needs on specific public lands. Our Stewardship Coordinator Jack Hanley then revisits these sites with an attending BLM Ranger to assess, describe, and propose site-specific work plans to shore up wilderness boundaries and ensure that the impacts of ORV travel and dispersed camping are addressed head-on.

    This groundtruthing and collection of data then produce formal work proposals specific to a designated wilderness area. This spring, we targeted our efforts along the eastern and western boundaries of the Mexican Mountain Wilderness, as well as locations along the eastern flank of Sid’s Mountain Wilderness. After two trips and over 200 volunteer hours committed, we’ve completed stage one protections aimed at ORV compliance in these designated wilderness areas. Currently and through the summer, we are in the midst of scoping the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, with plans for multiple fall projects beginning with a run of three weekends in September and October surrounding National Public Lands Day: September 11/12, September 25/26 (National Public Lands Day), and October 2/3. And, already in the pipeline, we have plans to move forward into the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness in the spring of 2022 and Muddy Creek Wilderness in the fall of 2022.

    Volunteer Jordan assembles the wire frame for a rock cairn basket which will serve as base for boundary signage along the Mexican Mountain Wilderness.

    An Interdisciplinary Approach
    Once our proposal has run the gamut of BLM resource specialist approvals, we then design, schedule, recruit, and execute a series of stewardship projects with field crews consisting of SUWA members, new supporters, Emery County Public Lands Council members, BLM representatives, and SUWA staff. These projects are the heart of our program, the most public aspect of our work, and emblematic of what we do. However, they are notably and importantly the culmination of diverse and persistent work within our Stewardship Program and across SUWA’s Wildlands, GIS, and Legal Teams prior to and following these flagship events. Years in the making and with years of work ahead, our hands-on work implementing wilderness projects in the Swell is undoubtedly a team effort.

    A prime example of how rehabilitation efforts such as surface raking, “iceberging” of boulders, and “deadplanting” of downed vegetation can effectively disappear the tracks of illegal ORV travel. Featured here is the Mexican Mountain Wilderness’ western boundary.

    The Work
    While on the ground in the Swell, our first approach is minimalism: raking out tracks, removing campsites, and naturalizing the landscape by strategically placing downed brush and boulders. In some cases, we employ cairn basket building—a process by which wilderness signs are housed in a cylindrical, four-foot-tall wire mesh basket filled with locally-sourced rock. The signs are drilled at the base where wire is run through and around a small boulder. Both a preventative measure for sign removal or destruction and an educational tool, you will find these installations in washes and at the junction of former illegal routes. Once installed, we recruit additional volunteers to monitor these sites for impacts and inform our Stewardship Team of up-to-date conditions. This is a key component of our growing Wilderness Stewards Program.

    Yet, as robust as our initial strategies are—95 percent of our work has endured the onslaught of the recent Memorial Day Weekend crowd—we recognize that these endeavors are merely the first offensive in a years-long drive to support SUWA’s broader effort to ensure long-lasting and effective management of wilderness in the Swell. As recreation and travel plans are shaped and implemented, and as the impacts of industrialized recreation create new challenges for wild places, we know that our stewardship work will require consistent and timely review, redesign, and reinforcement. In other words, where wilderness is concerned, it is a fact that—to ensure effective protections—we must be in this for the long haul. 2021 is the first year of many that our staff and crews will manifest a new paradigm of management on the landscape. In the years that come, we hope that you and others will join us in ensuring that our work becomes the standard by which all wilderness-quality lands are protected and defended across Utah and the West.

    Visit our website and Apply Today!

    Click here to learn more about our Stewardship Scholarships offered to student applicants from historically underserved communities currently  enrolled at least half-time in an accredited college, university, vocational school, or technical school. 

    Our crew works in tandem, employing a rock sling to move exceptionally heavy boulders to where they will block future illegal travel into the Mexican Mountain Wilderness.

     

  • June 14th, 2021

    The Biden administration is poised to authorize oil and gas drilling on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument. If approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the proposal will industrialize a remote and scenic area by greenlighting the construction of new access roads, well pads, and the drilling of two wells—all about ¼ of a mile from the monument.

    This ill-conceived project—proposed by Hoodoo Mining & Production Co. LLC—runs counter to every stated goal and objective of the Biden administration. It threatens some of our nation’s wildest, most scenic public lands, including a national monument, and will harm lands with wilderness characteristics as well as priority habitat for greater sage-grouse. On top of all this, it will exacerbate the climate crisis.

    The BLM is accepting comments through June 23rd. Please tell agency not to approve this terrible drilling proposal.

    Split Mountain Benches
    Wilderness-quality lands at risk near Dinosaur National Monument. © Scott Braden/SUWA

    Making matters worse, BLM is bending over backwards to facilitate the project. The drilling and related development will take place on public lands that are currently subject to a “no surface occupancy” stipulation, which prohibits all surface disturbing activities. When Hoodoo Mining acquired the lease it did so with full knowledge of this restriction. Now, at the company’s request, the BLM is proposing to waive that important stipulation rather than requiring the company to develop in a less sensitive area.

    Tell the BLM not to grant Hoodoo Mining’s request to waive the “no surface occupancy” stipulation.

    Dinosaur National Monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and paleontological resources. In addition, according to the National Park Service, the monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of the Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.”

    With your help, SUWA will fight every step of this project to ensure that the monument remains that way.

    Please click here to submit your comments now.