Uncategorized - Page 5 of 18


  • February 26th, 2020

    One of our most important tools in protecting Utah’s redrock wilderness is under unprecedented attack.

    As you may have heard, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—our nation’s bedrock environmental law—is now in the Trump administration’s crosshairs.

    The administration has proposed rolling back and significantly weakening NEPA, a move that  “strike[s] at the heart of the public’s right to know what our government is doing or failing to do on our behalf and to speak to the lasting impact those actions might have,” as SUWA board member Sharon Buccino put it in The New York Times.

    NEPA is the legal foundation for transparent protections of our environment and public health. It ensures that Federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), thoroughly analyze and disclose to the public the environmental impacts of a proposed action, and  guarantees that relevant information is made available to the public so that they can play a role in the decision-making process.

    Environmental reviews and public participation, required by NEPA, are one of the most important tools we have in the fight against climate change, and the proposed weakening of NEPA will make it easier to mine, drill, and chain our public lands.

    Without the current NEPA protections, SUWA would have been unable to:

    NEPA is everything when it comes to protecting Utah’s red rock wilderness.  If implemented, the Trump administration’s rollback of NEPA will, among other things, exclude climate considerations from NEPA reviews, restrict public input, and  narrow the scope of NEPA reviews.

    This attack on our nation’s bedrock environmental law is unprecedented. It is counter to everything we stand for as a democracy, and is a thinly-veiled attempt to make it easier for the Trump administration to rubber stamp development permits and entrench federal climate denial, without public participation or oversight.

    SUWA and partner groups are submitting comments on the proposed rollback of this critical environmental law. We’ll let you know when your voice can make a difference.

  • February 14th, 2020

    This op-ed by SUWA Executive Director Scott Groene was published in the online version of the Salt Lake Tribune on February 13, 2020.

    With the reintroduction of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in Congress last week, it’s worth reflecting on how far wilderness has come in Utah.

    Over the past 15 years, more than one million acres of public land in Utah have been protected as wilderness. And through land exchanges, litigation and management plans, hundreds of thousands of additional acres of redrock canyons and mesas have gained some form of protection.

    During that same time, Utah politicians from top to bottom have spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prevent conservation and seize control of these lands from the public.

    How has so much been protected in a state so openly hostile to conservation? The answer is America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Over 30 years ago, Utahns recognized that over half of the wilderness in their state had been lost and decided they needed to act to protect the remaining canyon country. No one else would do it — not the politicians blinded by the past, nor federal agencies afraid to act. So volunteers spent years surveying the lands, and, with the leadership of Utah Rep. Wayne Owens, created America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) — legislation that today would protect 8.4 million acres of wilderness on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

    With this vision, Utahns set out to defend and protect these lands. The national support they organized translated into the political strength necessary to block the Utah delegation from enacting shortsighted legislation that would have sliced the redrock country to bits. And it gave Utahns the power to prevent administrations from tearing the backcountry apart with energy development, clear cuts and off-road vehicle routes. The ubiquitous yellow “Protect Wild Utah” signs are the tip of an iceberg of a great citizens’ movement.

    The latest fruit of these labors was the Emery County Public Land Management Act. What started as a political fight when Rep. John Curtis and former Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced terrible legislation for the San Rafael Swell ended up as a classic win-win scenario. Through hard work and difficult conversations, Republican Hatch and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin hammered out a deal to designate 663,000 acres of wilderness, ensuring that uniquely Utah landscapes like Muddy Creek, Labyrinth Canyon and the San Rafael Swell will be left undisturbed for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

    The people of Emery County succeeded in determining their own future, avoiding designation of a national monument other than the one they wanted: Jurassic National Monument. It was a significant accomplishment all around, though ultimately the bill designated less than half of the acres proposed for wilderness in the county.

    Getting less than half of what we at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) know deserves protection was only acceptable because, as part of the bargain, Hatch and Durbin agreed that SUWA could continue to advocate for wilderness protection of the remaining undesignated lands through the landmark ARRWA legislation. That’s worth restating: SUWA’s ability to continue advocating for additional wilderness in Emery County was an explicit part of the deal.

    Durbin and SUWA offered not to pursue additional wilderness in Emery County in return for more wilderness in the San Rafael Badlands, but Hatch’s office declined the offer. After Hatch’s retirement, Durbin met with Sen. Mitt Romney and made the same proposal. Romney, likewise, declined it.

    Our members know SUWA wouldn’t walk away from hundreds of thousands of acres of redrock wilderness in exchange for nothing. Durbin’s insistence on doing what is right for the land is what got the protections added for Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon in the first place.

    Unfortunately, some of Utah’s politicians are attempting to rewrite history — ignoring the way the Emery County negotiations happened and pulling out their tired old playbook to attack ARRWA when it was recently introduced. Romney even went so far as to introduce his own wilderness bill in Illinois as a ploy to get back at Durbin, an absurd tactic considering Durbin enthusiastically supports wilderness. These theatrics are typical of our delegation whenever ARRWA is reintroduced in Congress, but they only serve to emphasize the bill’s power and importance.

    As Utah’s population grows, protected lands become more precious. We need these places more than ever to hold carbon in the ground, to protect Native American homelands, to shelter stressed wildlife and, ultimately, for our own well-being. We’re always ready to roll up our sleeves and engage on tough public lands issues, and we look forward to the next opportunity.

  • February 7th, 2020

    It’s official! America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). With your support to galvanize members of Congress, there are already 58 members who have joined the fight to protect wild Utah.

    We want to give these members a standing ovation to show how much we appreciate their efforts to protect the Utah we know and love.

    Below is the list of members currently signed on. If one of these members represents you, please click here to thank them for their support of the redrock! If either of your senators is already a cosponsor of the Senate companion bill, your message will go to them too.

    Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44)
    Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-8)
    Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3)
    Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (PA-2)
    Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26)
    Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)
    Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-8)
    Rep. Sean Casten (IL-6)
    Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)
    Rep. Lacy Clay (MO-1)
    Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9)
    Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
    Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11)
    Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1)
    Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
    Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1)
    Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12)
    Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
    Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11)
    Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3)
    Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-1)
    Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-28)
    Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4)
    Rep. Robin L. Kelly (IL-2)
    Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6)
    Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-5)
    Rep. Ron Kind (WI-3)
    Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2)
    Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17)
    Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8)
    Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13)
    Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
    Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
    Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)
    Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-8)
    Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7)
    Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4)
    Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2)
    Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
    Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5)
    Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-4)
    Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-6)
    Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
    Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20)
    Rep. William Pascrell (NJ-9)
    Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
    Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-2)
    Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8)
    Rep. Harley Rouda (CA-48)
    Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)
    Rep. Adam B. Schiff (CA-28)
    Rep. Kim Schrier (WA-8)
    Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY-3)
    Rep. Paul D. Tonko (NY-20)
    Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-3)
    Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14)
    Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7)
    Rep. Peter Welch (VT)

    This legislation was first envisioned by people just like you who were adamant about protecting these lands for all to enjoy. By thanking your member of Congress, you’ll let them know how important these landscapes are—with their archaeological, biological, and recreational wonders—to all Americans.

    Please thank your member of Congress today!

  • December 19th, 2019

    Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft travel management plan for the San Rafael Desert in Emery County, Utah that would more than double the number of miles open to motorized use—forever changing the area’s stunning and remote wild lands, and turning them into a playground for off-road vehicles.

    The San Rafael Desert is a sublime area of Utah’s backcountry, encompassing the newly-designated Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness and wilderness-quality lands such as Sweetwater Reef and the San Rafael River.

    Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. Instead, the agency’s draft travel management plan for the San Rafael Desert would inundate this remote area with off-road vehicle routes, increasing the miles open to motorized vehicles from 300 miles to more than 775.

    Click here to tell the BLM its draft plan for the San Rafael Desert is unacceptable and fails to minimize damage to natural and cultural resources.

    Labyrinth Canyon. © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Among other things, the BLM’s preferred alternative would:

    • Designate as open to motorized vehicles more than 300 miles of routes that are reclaimed, reclaiming, or do not exist on the ground.  Designating these routes is unnecessary and will damage desert soils, vegetation, riparian areas, cultural resources and wildlife habitat.
    • Designate as open to motorized vehicles popular non-motorized areas such as Moonshine Wash (from the trailhead to the slot canyon), June’s Bottom, and along the San Rafael River.

    The San Rafael Desert travel management plan is the first of thirteen travel plans the BLM will complete over the next six years as a part of a court-supervised settlement agreement with conservation and off-road vehicle groups. The plans will determine where motorized vehicles are allowed on some of Utah’s wildest public lands.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the San Rafael Desert.

    The BLM is giving the public only 30 days during the busy holiday season to review its proposed travel management plan and submit written comments.

    Click here to submit your comments by January 13th.

    Also be sure to check out our story map for more information, including maps and photographs of currently-designated and proposed motorized vehicle routes.