Press Releases Archives


  • December 7th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (202) 266-0473

    This week, following the outrageous and illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump, Utah’s representatives in Congress doubled down on the effort to unprotect these iconic landscapes by introducing two bills that would essentially ratify Trump’s actions.

    On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Stewart introduced H.R. 4558, a bill that creates three new national monuments—Escalante Canyons, Kaiparowits, and Grand Staircase, respectively. These monuments match the 48 percent reduction of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument perpetrated this week by Trump’s Executive Order, but the language nullifies Trump’s proclamation in favor of that of the bill. The bill also creates the so-called “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve,” but puts management planning for that park and the three national monuments in the hands of local officials in Kane and Garfield County despite the fact that these are federal lands belonging to all Americans.

    All of the new designations prioritize recreation, hunting and grazing over conservation, and the bill reopens the lands not included in the Trump monuments to mineral leasing. The bill also includes a public lands giveaway, handing the Hole in the Rock Road to the State of Utah, and will likely reopen destructive off-road vehicle routes that have been closed for decades to protect sensitive resources

    “This bill is a brazen handout to the extremist voices who wish to eliminate federal control of public lands that belong to all,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it purports to protect these landscapes, by handing control almost exclusively to development interests in Kane and Garfield County, it is clear the remnants of Grand Staircase-Escalante would become playgrounds for destructive recreation, poor lands management and dirty energy. The bill, with its throw away National Park designation, is a bait and switch. No one should bite.”

    The other bill, H.R. 4532, introduced Tuesday by new delegation member Rep. John Curtis, alongside Reps. Bishop, Stewart and Love from the Utah delegation, ratifies the new boundaries that Trump’s proclamation put forth for Bears Ears National Monument, replacing the Bears Ears with two significantly diminished landscapes: the 142,337-acre Shash Jáa National Monument, and the 86, 447-acre Indian Creek National Monument. These new boundaries are an 83 percent reduction in the original Bears Ears National Monument.

    Like the Escalante bill, Rep. Curtis’ bill creates a new management council comprised of the same local elected officials that sought the undoing of the monument, as well as members of Tribes who are picked not by Tribal governments, but by the Utah delegation. Furthermore, the bill excludes three of the five tribes who advocated for protection of Bears Ears from the council. This framework ensures that the protective status of the original Bears Ears National Monument will not be honored in these newer, decimated parcels.

    “The fact that these bills even exist is evidence that the Utah delegation knows Trump’s actions were illegal, and they are scrambling to set up a Plan B,” Groene said. “But the two million acres of lands that Trump stripped from the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments still belong to all Americans, and we will work with our allies in Congress, who are more motivated than ever, to ensure that neither of these efforts to hand over these national treasures ever see the light of day.”

    ###

    White Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Clay

     

  • December 7th, 2017

    President’s abuse of authority strips protections from a priceless cultural and natural heritage that belongs to all Americans

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981

    Copyright Tim Peterson

    Washington, D.C. — Three days after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Following in the footsteps of the Native American Tribes who have already sued the President, Earthjustice is representing nine conservation organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution by eviscerating the monument. The unprecedented act leaves rare archaeological sites and stunning wildlands without protection from looting, prospecting, oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, or off-road vehicle damage. Bears Ears was decimated by more than 1 million acres. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations.

    “By revoking Bears Ears National Monument President Trump will be remembered for coming down on the wrong side of history,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The federal public lands and significant cultural resources within Bears Ears National Monument are world class treasures that demand the highest level of protection and respect. President Trump’s broad attack on Bears Ears—the first by any President in the 111-year history of the Antiquities Act—puts these lands and resources at immediate risk of damage and destruction and cannot stand.”

    “Nearly three million Americans voiced their support for national monuments during Trump’s monument review, but he chose to ignore both the American people and the letter of the law to cater to the extractive industries who would gut our natural wonders,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office. “We stand with Native American Tribes to defend Bears Ears National Monument from this outrageous attack.”

    Because the president’s authority to create national monuments is delegated by Congress under the Antiquities Act, monument proclamations carry the force of law and cannot be reversed by later presidents. President Trump lacks the authority to gut a national monument that belongs to all Americans.

    Home to ancient cliff dwellings, sacred tribal cultural sites, and iconic wildlife, Bears Ears National Monument is a national treasure. Its buttes, cliffs, and canyons include over 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, some dating to 12,000 B.C.E. To ensure its lasting protection from looting, mining and other threats, an historic inter-tribal coalition of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, the Ute Indian Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni successfully advocated for its protection as a national monument.

    “Five Native Tribes came together in an unprecedented way to protect Bears Ears National Monument,” said Bill Hedden, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Trust. “This remarkable area had been considered for national monument status for 80 years, and President Trump’s action to eviscerate the monument after a hasty review dishonors not only their heritage, but our shared American heritage as well.”

    President Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument on December 28, 2016 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that has been used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. Congress enacted the law in 1906, granting presidents the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors. Only Congress can do that.

    “The President has the unquestionable authority to create national monuments, and a monument like Bears Ears shows why this law should be respected,” said The Wilderness Society’s Senior Counsel Nada Culver. “We will fight to make sure that both the law and this place are defended.”

    The thousands of archaeological sites in Bears Ears are in dire need of protection from ongoing looting and desecration. No fewer than six serious cases of looting were documented in 2016 alone. These majestic lands are also threatened by uranium mining and oil and gas drilling.

    “The administration’s move to strip protections away from our treasured public lands leaves Bears Ears vulnerable to oil and gas development and looting of invaluable Native American cultural resources,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Bears Ears protects and connects the surrounding national park landscape that includes Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Natural Bridges National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. This place was deserving of its national monument designation, just as park sites like the Grand Canyon and Muir Woods were, and remains so today. An attempt to diminish these protections is a betrayal of the American people, and the more than 2.8 million American voices who asked that these incredible places remain protected as they are. We cannot and will not let this stand.”

    Bears Ears National Monument is home to bears, cougars, and bighorn sheep, and is dominated by two buttes that jut thousands of feet above canyon lands to form the region’s namesake, “Bears Ears.” Bears Ears National Monument continues to be used for pilgrimage, prayer and ceremonies to this day, and is a healing place vital to sustaining Native American culture and religion for the Tribes with sacred ties to these lands.

    “Overturning protections for critically important parts of the Bears Ears National Monument is an insult to people across the country who love and care about our public lands, and it’s a threat to the special places we leave as legacy for our children,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

    “President Trump’s executive order obstinately ignores the will of the American people and the value Bears Ears holds for Native Americans, local communities and wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Bears Ears National Monument supports a great diversity of plants, prized elk and bighorn sheep populations and 15 species of bat, yet the Trump administration would rather see this monument downsized and surrounded by oil and gas wells than protected for posterity.”

    “Some of America’s best-loved national parks, such as Grand Canyon, Olympic, and Grand Teton, started off as Monuments that were designated amid a storm of local controversy,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of the Western Watersheds Project. “Twenty years from now, if our suit is successful, Bears Ears will be famous and treasured and its opponents will look just as foolish and short-sighted as those who opposed the Grand Canyon’s designation.”

    “The Trump administration has crossed the line in attacking the clear authority of a previous president to declare a national monument,” said Shelley Silbert, Executive Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “President Trump lacks the legal authority to remove by fiat protection of any of the Bears Ears land for the enjoyment and use of future generations, and we stand ready to fight this in the courts.”

    “The sacred places and archeological treasures in Bears Ears will be devastated if Trump’s order is allowed to stand,” said Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program Director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve seen the wreckage on public lands from toxic mining, drilling and fracking. Trump wants to ramp that up. It’s unconscionable and we can’t allow it.”

    “It’s appalling that the president prioritizes the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry over protecting this incredible, vulnerable landscape that belongs to every American,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “The president somehow kept a straight face at the signing ceremony when he spoke of increasing public access, but his only concern was industry’s unfettered access to Bears Ears’ resources.”

    “President Trump grossly exceeded his authority in this shameful attempt to hand over sacred lands to private commercial interests,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “His order is not just illegal, it’s a serious affront to every American who values our country’s natural wonders. This landscape—with its petroglyphs, stone villages and sheer natural splendor—has been the homeland to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. We look forward to fighting in court to forever preserve these historical, natural, and cultural treasures that are held in trust for future generations.”

    About the lawsuit:

    Earthjustice represents nine groups challenging President Trump’s unlawful action: The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations.

    Resources for reporters:

    Read the legal document

    Photos & information on Bears Ears’ natural wonders are available for media use at “Defending Bears Ears”

    The giveaway to uranium, oil, and gas: map of potential oil and gas development and uranium development in Bears Ears

    Learn about the Five Native American Tribes working to protect Bears Ears

    More on the Antiquities Act:

    When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters—an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.

    The Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times by presidents of both parties.

    Every president since 1906—with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush—has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites—from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez’s family home—that tell the more complete story of our nation.

    The Congressional Research Service has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.
    # # #

  • December 4th, 2017

    President’s abuse of authority strips protections from iconic dinosaur wonderland in Utah and undermines 1906 Antiquities Act

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 4, 2017

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (801.428.3981 or 801.859.1552 (cell))

    Washington, DC —Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.  The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.

    “President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”

    “Americans from across the nation should be outraged by President Trump’s unlawful attempt to eviscerate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of our country’s wildest and most scientifically significant federal public landscapes,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah’s largest conservation organization. “No one will look back on this decision in 15, 25 or 50 years and say Trump did the right thing by protecting less of this magnificent place. And by promoting this illegal act, Utah’s parochial congressional delegation and local politicians have firmly come down on the wrong side of history.”

    The Grand Staircase-Escalante contains dinosaur fossils found nowhere else in the world. Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a “Dinosaur Shangri-la,” and a “geologic wonderland.” Grand Staircase holds one of the richest collections of fossils from the Late Cretaceous Period, which gives scientists and the public alike an unparalleled window into the dinosaurs that lived in these lands 10 million years ago. In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase. These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove that belongs to the American people.

    “I’m a resident of Kanab, and there are a lot of local businesses that are completely dependent on tourism related to Grand Staircase-Escalante,” said Laura Welp of Western Watersheds Project, and a former BLM botanist at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. “The entire ‘staircase’ of spectacular geological layers, with its world-class fossil resources, deserves to be protected intact from the threat of coal mining and other types of commercial exploitation.”

    President Trump’s executive order to revoke and replace Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument came on the heels of a review conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Over 2.7 million Americans roared their support for national monuments across the country, and public participation in the comment period was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping these public lands and waters protected just as they are.

    “President Trump is attempting an unauthorized remodel of the Grand Staircase, knocking out not only geologic steps but cornerstones of the evolution of species, human history, and our cultural heritage as well,” said Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands Program Director with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We’ve spent 20 years working to preserve Grand Staircase, and now we’re asking the courts to help us reconstruct what was torn down today.”

    “The Trump administration’s effort to sell out our public lands is deeply unpopular and goes against American values,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We will work to ensure our lands and waters remain open to the public and protected for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

    “For more than two decades, through Democratic and Republican Administrations alike, we have worked with the BLM, paleontologists, local landowners, ranchers and business owners to ensure the monument’s resources are protected,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel for The Wilderness Society. “This unlawful, short-sighted action by President Trump is an affront to that collaborative work happening and to the benefits the monument provides to research, the local economy, and all Americans.”

    “Despite the call for public comments, Trump never cared that we, the public, wanted him to keep his hands off our monuments,” said Chris Krupp, Public Earth Guardian at WildEarth Guardians. “He’s not concerned with those of us that camp, hike, fish and hunt. He’d rather give another handout to oil, gas and coal companies.”

    President Bill Clinton protected the lands of Grand Staircase as a national monument on September 18, 1996 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that has been used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. Congress enacted the law in 1906, granting presidents the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors.

    “Grand Staircase is a cradle of biodiversity and losing even an acre would be a crime,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have identified nearly four dozen new species of butterflies here. We must protect this monument’s wildlife, stunning landscapes and cultural treasures for future generations. Trump and the fossil-fuel industry have picked the wrong battle.”

    “If the Trump administration thinks Grand Staircase-Escalante can be sold out without a fight, they’re in for a huge surprise,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We’ll be seeing them in court.”

    “The Trump administration has ignored overwhelming support for the monument. It’s a punch in the face to local businesses who support it, and all of us who treasure it,” said Shelley Silbert, Executive Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Our organization got its start in the Escalante Canyons nearly three decades ago and we’ve worked tirelessly for proper management of the national monument since its designation. We will fight this illegal action to take any portion of this monument away from the American people.”

    After President Clinton designated Grand Staircase, an intricate land swap between the state and federal government was completed. Congress passed legislation modifying the monument’s boundaries in 1998 and then approved a land swap in which the state of Utah received 145,000 acres of mineral-rich federal lands and $50 million from the federal treasury. That $50 million has since gone to support Utah’s public schools, and the swap would be incredibly difficult to unravel. The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration established the Land Exchange Distribution Account to dole out the proceeds from these state-federal trades. At least 27 Utah counties have since received a total of $441 million.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante has proven a tourism and economic boon for Southern Utah since its designation. Between 2001 and 2015, the population in the two counties bordering Grand Staircase grew by 13 percent, jobs increased 24 percent and real personal income grew 32 percent. Travel and tourism boomed in the region, offering 1,630 jobs around Grand Staircase. In the big picture, recreation from adventure-seekers, hikers, amateur geologists and families simply getting outdoors now funnels more than $12 billion into Utah’s economy.

    Resources for reporters:

    Read the legal document for our lawsuit filed with the United States District Court in Washington, D.C.

    SUWA materials: “Oil, Gas Coal and Mining Interests Stand to Gain from Trump’s Illegal Repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments

    Earthjustice materials: “Utah may be trading a dinosaur wonder for a coal mine” and “Trading fossils for fossil fuels at Grand Staircase-Escalante” video

    Headwaters Economics: Summary of the local economic benefits of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and economic report “The Value of Public Lands”

    New York Times: “Utah’s ‘Grand Staircase’ Leads Back in Time to Dinosaur Shangri-La”

    More on the Antiquities Act:

    When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters—an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.

    The Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times by presidents of both parties.

    Every president since 1906—with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush—has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites—from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez’s family home—that tell the more complete story of our nation.

    The Congressional Research Service has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.

    # # #

  • December 4th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 4, 2017

    Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, 801.712.5034 (cell)
    Steve Bloch, Legal Director, 801-428-3981
    Mathew Gross, Media Director, 802-578-3394

    Salt Lake City, UT – In response to President Trump’s proclamations today that eviscerate Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “Today’s illegal proclamations by President Trump represent the single greatest attack a president has ever launched against America’s federal public lands. It is certain that the legacies of both President Trump, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who goaded him into this despicable act, will be forever tainted by their assault on more than two million acres of Utah’s wild lands that are beloved by the American public.”

    “SUWA is committed to defending these monuments in court, and confident that today’s political action will be overturned. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments will be restored to their full glory, and President Trump’s action today will be remembered as another failed attempt to thwart the will of the American people, who want these lands to remain protected.”

    With regard to his attack on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Trump divided it into three smaller sections totaling roughly 1 million acres, (a 48% reduction [900,000 acres less]) than the original monument.

    “By eliminating nearly half of Grand Staircase-Escalante, President Trump has opened up some of the most wild and scenic redrock canyons in Utah to the lost cause of coal mining. For 21 years, the protected Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has inspired families to reconnect with the wild and with each other, has reinvigorated surrounding communities, and lead to significant paleontological discoveries. It has even been affirmed and ratified by Congress. Trump’s grandstanding disregards the success of this monument, merely because Sen. Hatch instructed him to.”

    With regard to his ferocious attack on Bears Ears National Monument, Trump replaced it with two, much smaller, non-contiguous units totaling less than 230,000 acres (an 83% reduction [1.15 million acres less] when compared to Bears Ears).

    “President Trump’s decimation of the Bears Ears is just the latest in a long string of insults he has lobbed toward Tribes, five of which worked diligently for years to ensure the protection of their cultural homeland.”

    ###

  • November 30th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, 801-428-3981

    In response to reports in the Washington Post today that President Trump intends to eliminate 85% of Bears Ears National Monument and half of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Executive Director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “If President Trump chooses to act on the disgraceful work that is leaking out of the Department of Interior by shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, it will not withstand its coming test in courts any more than it will withstand the judgement of history.”

    “The new boundaries reflected in the leaked reports are a decimation of two iconic landscapes and an insult to the tribes that advocated to protect Bears Ears. To slash these monuments at the behest of ideological extremists and dirty energy barons without regard to the consequences to the landscape or to the overwhelming consensus of millions of Americans who have voiced strong opposition to any changes to our national monuments would be the single most harmful attack any president has launched on public lands.”

    ###

Page 1 of 1512345...10...Last »