Uncategorized - Page 5 of 18


  • April 1st, 2020

    Twenty-eight redrock volunteers traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the waning days of February to participate in our annual Wilderness Week event. Their advocacy will lay the groundwork for the next big step forward in protecting Utah’s magnificent wild lands.

    The purpose of February’s Wilderness Week was to ramp up support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act—the flagship legislation for our redrock protection campaign. Coordinated by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, whose leading organizations are SUWA, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 28 volunteers (from Utah and 17 other states) worked together in 12 teams and held 140+ meetings with legislators. Over the course of several days, they crisscrossed Capitol Hill and walked the marble corridors of Congress wearing their highly visible “Protect Wild Utah” buttons.

    2020 Wilderness Week activists in front of the U.S. Capitol.

    With activists’ efforts concentrated on the Emery County bill last year—which permanently protected 663,000 acres of wilderness in Utah’s San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons—reintroduction of the redrock bill got a late start in the 116th Congress. Nevertheless, we’re already up to 74 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 17 in the Senate. You can click here to see if your representative and senators are among them.

    If any of your elected officials are not listed, click here to ask them to endorse America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Just as our Wilderness Week activists were leaving Washington, the coronavirus hit the United States hard. That’s why your emails and calls to Congress are even more crucial today—so that we can sustain the momentum created by these dedicated individuals who volunteered their own personal time to travel to our nation’s capital on behalf of the spectacular landscapes we all love.

    Southern Utah’s national treasures need your support! Please click here to contact your members of Congress today.

    Thank you!

  • March 19th, 2020

    In light of coronavirus impacting our communities and disrupting our day-to-day routines, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty that the world is facing right now.

    In a very short amount of time, our lives at work, school, and home have had to change so that we may prevent the further spread of COVID-19. While social distancing has become a best practice during this pandemic, we’ve also seen how much this is actually physical distancing.

    While we cannot share the same physical space with people outside of our homes—and, for many, at work—now is a time when remaining socially close to friends and loved ones and strengthening social ties is ever more important. This is a great time to make better use of your phone, video call platforms, pens and paper, and other technologies.

    If you spend time scrolling through social media, one positive message you may have seen in your newsfeed is that “the outdoors have not been canceled.”  One thing we can do right now is observe the arrival of spring. From outside of our homes in Utah, we can see forsythia, daffodils, and willows emerge as late-arriving turkey vultures soar above.

    Stay home for now. The wilderness isn’t going anywhere. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Right now might seem like a good time to pack your car and head into our wild public lands to take refuge in nature while maintaining safe physical distance from other people; this is not a good idea. We’d like to advise our members, supporters, and all public land lovers to stay at home and find solace in your own backyard or neighborhood park, or on local city sidewalks.

    Already, the Southeast Utah Health Department has closed hotels and camping in Grand, Emery, and Carbon Counties, and all restaurants are limited to takeout. Rural communities at the doorsteps of America’s redrock wilderness face serious challenges to providing healthcare services to rural residents when pandemics or other community health emergencies arise. Injuries sustained by visitors on nearby public lands add stress to local emergency services and medical facilities, and visitation may also promote the spread of coronavirus to local residents. The fact is, there are few resources to care for sick people in rural hospitals—including in Moab (in Grand County), which has only two ventilators and 17 hospital beds. Please, stay home.

    Wilderness is a treasure we work to save in part so that we may take refuge and recharge in it. But now is a time when we should prioritize protecting each other. By actively choosing to stay home and find peace in the springing life of our own locales, we can help ensure that the residents in rural gateway communities are safe through the duration of this pandemic.

    The more we can do as a community to follow CDC guidelines and avoid physical contact or proximity with others now, the sooner we can get past this pandemic and get out on our public lands again. Until we reach that point, please notice what nature is blessing you with right outside of where you live. If you feel nostalgia for the redrock, share photos and videos of your adventures on public lands, tag us @ProtectWildUtah on Instagram, and hold onto those travel plans for the future.

    And if you have the capacity, we hope any desires that arise in you to bask in the southern Utah sun can find an outlet through your advocacy.

    In spite of the pandemic, the US Department of Interior’s plans to lease public land for oil and gas development and to push through weakening of public oversight and environmental review will proceed as usual. Thus, SUWA’s litigation in courts, collaboration with BLM offices, field work, mapping, membership services, legislative advocacy, and grassroots organizing will carry on. All SUWA employees will remain on the job through this unusual spring; staff and volunteers are working remotely and practicing physical distancing. We’ll be counting on members and volunteers to help keep the pressure on congressional offices, engage in grassroots actions through new upcoming digital platforms, and stay vocal about the global imperative of preserving wild spaces for their myriad values in this era of climate crisis.

    Until the health of our communities is restored, this excerpt from Wallace Stegner’s 1960 Wilderness Letter comes to mind:

    The reminder and the reassurance that [wilderness] is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there.

    We promise, southern Utah wilderness will remain. It will be waiting for you. The waters will run from spring snowmelt, flowers will bloom, young raptors will take their first flights, and the sandstone guardians will remain vigilant beneath sun and stars. Let us practice patience in the way that our beloved canyons, slowly carved throughout time, have always known.

    Stay well,
    The Staff at SUWA

    P.S. Please note that our online store is temporarily closed and there may be delays in mailing out donation acknowledgement letters and thank-you gifts. Your patience is appreciated during this uncertain time.

  • 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!