Press Releases


  • October 8th, 2021

    MEDIA ADVISORY FOR FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8 at 11:30 AM MT

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

    Media Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, 801-859-1552, steve@suwa.org                 

    Event Contact: Dave Pachecho, Utah Organizer, 801-949-3099, dave@suwa.org

    WHO:   Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

    WHAT: “Utahns Support Monuments Restoration” Rally and Watch Party

    When: Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 at 11:30am MT

    Where: Radisson Hotel Ballroom (215 W South Temple)

    More details: The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is hosting a short watch party and rally at the Radisson Hotel Ballroom (215 West South Temple) to view the national monument proclamation ceremony taking place at the same time in Washington, DC. Parking is free in the Radisson garage. Enter from the South Temple eastbound lane.

    SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch will be available for TV, radio, and print interviews. 

    **This is an indoor event. Masks and social distancing are encouraged for all attendees regardless of vaccination status.**

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  • October 6th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, (801) 428-3981, steve@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (October 6, 2021) – In response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s draft proposal released this morning to update the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) implementing regulations, which would restore many long-standing policies altered by the Trump administration, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) Legal Director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “This is an important first step to bringing common sense back to federal decision making that affects so many aspects of life in Utah. From analyzing the impacts to disadvantaged communities from uranium waste contamination to being clear eyed about the devastating consequences leasing, development and burning fossil fuels has to the climate, the Biden administration is rightly restoring transparency and science-based agency decision-making. Bottom line, these changes are necessary to ensure federal agencies are accurately disclosing all of the environmental and public health impacts of their decisions.”

    Additional Resources:

    Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – Proposed Action for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Revisions

  • September 21st, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Neal Clark, Wildlands Director, 435-259-7090, neal@suwa.org
    Judi Brawer, Wildlands Attorney, 435-355-0716, judi@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (September 21, 2021) – More than a dozen conservation organizations based in Utah and the surrounding region sent a letter today to the Bureau of Land Management (“the Bureau”), asking the agency to create a new working group to develop proactive management practices to address the rapid growth of non-motorized recreation and visitation on federal public lands in Utah.

    The letter follows a new report by Utah State University professor and recreation ecologist Dr. Christopher Monz, Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance, A Review of Research and Implications for Management of the Colorado Plateau Province. The report synthesizes more than 60 years of published scientific research to identify the lasting environmental impacts of rapidly expanding non-motorized recreation such as hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, hunting, and horseback riding on the Colorado Plateau.

    The report highlights the need for a proactive approach to planning for recreation growth on the Colorado Plateau, as opposed to the Bureau’s current reactive strategy that leads to the proliferation of damaged areas. “Activity types and behaviors that result in expanding recreation use from concentrated, high-use areas to new, less visited and undisturbed locations are perhaps the most serious consideration [for public land managers],” writes Dr. Monz. “Future management of public lands will have to be proactive in order to accommodate a likely continued increase in demand while also protecting the natural landscapes visitors seek.”

    The letter to the Bureau calling for the formation of a new recreation working group was signed by Colorado Wildlands Project, Conserve Southwest Utah, Grand Canyon Trust, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Latino Outdoors Salt Lake City, Living Rivers/Colorado Riverkeeper, Mormons for Environmental Stewardship, Utah Rock Art Research Association, Utah Chapter Sierra Club, Wasatch Mountain Club, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Wilderness Workshop, Wildlands Network, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.

    “The exploding growth of non-motorized recreation and visitation to Utah’s public lands is apparent to anyone who spends time outdoors. Urgent action is needed to ensure that public lands recreation is sustainable over the long-term for wildlife, wilderness, cultural and natural resources, and quality visitor experiences,” said Neal Clark, Wildlands Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which commissioned the report. “The Utah Bureau of Land Management is in dire need of a new vision for non-motorized recreation and visitation management. To that end, we are calling on the Bureau to establish a working group of experts to help develop science-based management strategies that proactively address this growing problem. Individual recreationists and conservation organizations cannot solve this problem alone; we need leadership from land managers to address this clearly unsustainable situation on our public lands.”

    “The BLM’s current strategy is one of pushing recreation use further and further into remote, backcountry areas. But the science is clear: to address the impacts of climate change and the biodiversity crisis, these areas must be protected as safe havens for wildlife and intact ecosystems, and the BLM must manage recreation accordingly,” said Jason Christensen, Director of Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.

    “Wildlife face a growing number of threats, from the impacts of drought to expanding human communities,” said Michael Dax, Western Program Director for Wildlands Network. “It’s important that people are able to reconnect with the natural world through recreation, but we must do so in a way that protects the resources, such as wildlife, that we want to enjoy. Proactively managing non-motorized recreation to concentrate and minimize its impacts to wildlife will help ensure that wildlife populations continue to thrive in the future.”

    Based on the findings from the new scientific report, the letter from conservation organizations calls on the Bureau to establish a non-motorized recreation and visitation working group to address the significant ecological challenges facing public lands in Utah as a result of increased use. The working group should include representatives from Native American tribes, historically underrepresented community organizations, quiet recreation organizations, wilderness and public land conservation organizations, and scientific and academic experts in the fields of recreation management, biology, wildlife, soils, and cultural resources.

    Additional Resources:

    Full Report: Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance, A Review of Research and Implications for Management of the Colorado Plateau Province by Dr. Christopher Monz

    SUWA Recreation Letter to BLM

    SUWA: Recreation Management on the Colorado Plateau

    Sign the petition: ask the Utah Bureau of Land Management to create a working group for non-motorized recreation and visitation

  • May 24th, 2021

    Bending over backwards to help company, agency sets ball in motion to allow drilling within ½  mile of national monument; within greater sage-grouse priority habitat and wilderness-caliber lands

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:

    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org

    Salt Lake City, Utah (May 24, 2021) –  Today, the Biden administration released a proposal to authorize oil and gas drilling within ½ of a mile of Dinosaur National Monument. 

    The proposal, referred to as the Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project, involves the construction and installation of new well pads, roads, pipelines and the drilling of two wells; a plan that will industrialize the western edge of the monument. Dinosaur National Monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts and paleontological resources. 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.”

    “Drilling and road blasting about a quarter of a mile from Dinosaur National Monument would damage the views, quiet and dark night skies in a remote part of the park and pollute the park’s air and water,” said Cory MacNulty, southwest associate director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is a zombie lease from almost two decades ago that should never have been allowed in the first place and an urgent reminder of why our national oil and gas program needs immediate reforms.”

    The proposed development, if approved by the Bureau of Land Management, will destroy “priority” habitat for greater sage-grouse—that is, habitat identified by the Bureau “as having the highest value to maintaining sustainable [greater sage-grouse] populations.” The project would also destroy agency-identified lands with wilderness characteristics; lands the Bureau itself acknowledges are undisturbed and wilderness-caliber.

    “This proposal runs counter to every stated goal and objective of the Biden administration,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It threatens some of our wildest, most scenic public lands, including a national monument, priority habitat for greater sage-grouse, and will exacerbate the climate crisis.” 

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

    “Why on God’s green earth is the Bureau even entertaining this drilling project?” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The lessee knew the terms and conditions of its lease and yet now is seeking a special exception to drill right next to Dinosaur National Monument and in priority habitat for greater sage grouse? BLM needs to say “no thanks” and send the company back to the drawing board.” 

    Notably, the proposed action is identical to one previously approved by the Bureau’s Vernal  field office only to be remanded―under the Trump administration―by the Utah State Director for further environmental review (see here). Rather than conduct the required thorough analysis, the Vernal office has merely tried to paper over its previous illegal decision and is poised to once again authorize the industrialization of this wild area. 

    Additional Resources:

    Photos of wilderness-quality lands at risk from the drilling proposal (use with attribution permitted).

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  • May 11th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, Legislative Director,  jen@suwa.org 

    Washington, DC (May 11, 2021) –  Yesterday, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced S. 1535, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, the seminal legislation that would protect 8.4 million acres of public lands in Utah as wilderness.

    The wild and expansive lands proposed for protection under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act comprise a prime piece of what scientists say is needed today—protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by the year 2030 in order to prevent catastrophic collapse of our natural systems. Centrally located in the Intermountain West, these lands are also a vital link in the interconnected chain of largely undisturbed ecosystems running from the Grand Canyon to Glacier National Park, providing important migration corridors for wildlife.

    In response to the Senate reintroduction, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) legislative director Jen Ujifusa issued the following statement: 

    “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is more important than ever as we face the Climate Crisis and the Nature Crisis, as its passage would keep fossil fuels in the ground, preserve habitat connectivity and resiliency, and allow the desert lands to continue to sequester carbon, all while protecting the visual and cultural resources contained on the land for generations to come. 

    “We are grateful for the leadership shown by Senator Durbin and Senate co-sponsors, and we look forward to beginning an earnest discussion with the Biden administration and Congressional leaders on how America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act can play a crucial role in achieving the administration’s goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.”

    Signing onto the legislation as cosponsors were Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

    Recent peer-reviewed research shows that passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change. Protecting these wild landscapes would keep a significant amount of fossil fuels in the ground.

    All lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act are owned by the American public and administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

    Additional resources:

    Statement from Sen. Dick Durbin.

    Report: The Role of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in Protecting Biodiversity and Mitigating the Climate Crisis (PDF).