Press Releases Archives - Page 2 of 17


  • July 16th, 2018

    Proposed Sale of More than 300K Acres Threatens Wild Utah Federal Public Lands

    SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL

    For Immediate Release
    July 16, 2018

    Contact:
    Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Salt Lake City: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today initiated the largest sale of oil and gas leases on federal public lands throughout Utah in a decade. At its upcoming December 2018 lease sale, BLM plans to auction off 231 oil and gas lease parcels totaling nearly 300,000 acres of federal public lands and minerals, including parcels in Utah’s wild Book Cliffs, the White River, Labyrinth Canyon and Four Corners region. Taken together, these parcels cut a wide swath through Utah’s cultural, hunting, and wilderness legacy. Photographs of these places and many other wild places being proposed for sale at this upcoming sale are available here.  A map of the proposed lease parcels in the Book Cliffs and Uinta Basin is here.

    The public will not have adequate opportunity to weigh in on this enormous sale. With direction from Interior Secretary Zinke, BLM is shortening the time the public has to review and protest BLM’s proposal from 30 days to 10 days, after first eliminating the public comment period on its environmental analysis altogether. These steps are part of Secretary Zinke’s “leasing reforms,” which aim to remove perceived roadblocks between fossil fuel energy developers.

    “This is what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah,” said Steve Bloch, Legal Director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Oil and gas operators win. Everyone else loses. The American public loses the opportunity to enjoy solitude, clear air and hunt and fish – which will be lost to the smog of industrial development.”  “We also lose opportunities to camp, hike, or float on public lands and waters without the intrusive sounds of pumpjacks and haul trucks.”

    In addition to the sell-off of wilderness-caliber and culturally rich lands, BLM plans to lease roughly 100 parcels in or near the Uinta Basin region, which the Environmental Protection Agency recently designated as in “nonattainment” of national air quality standards for ozone. The Uinta Basin suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation, a result largely due to BLM’s ineffective and lax management of oil and gas leasing and development. Rather than take steps to bring the Uinta Basin into compliance with air quality standards, BLM is rushing forward faster than ever to sell-off public lands in the Basin for exploration and development.

    “We will not stand idly by as BLM sells-off Utah’s public lands heritage to the highest bidder,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “BLM’s closed-door fire sale of Utah’s remarkable red rock wilderness will not go unchecked and it will not survive judicial review.”

    “BLM’s historic practice of leaving the vast majority of our public lands and minerals available for leasing makes so many precious lands vulnerable to irresponsible leasing decisions, like those proposed for the December lease sale,” said Nada Culver, Director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “This administration is directing the agency to ignore its responsibilities to the American people, turning public lands over to the oil and gas industry that are more valuable for other uses.”

    “This sweeping sale is a serious wake up call to the American people, who own these cherished public lands,” said Bobby McEnaney, Senior Deputy Director of the Dirty Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Selling off our special places to fossil fuel interests is a one way street–we won’t get these beautiful places back. These sensitive lands should be withdrawn from the lease sale, and the public is entitled to have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on this bad idea.”

    There is no need to sacrifice Utah’s remarkable wild places for oil and gas leasing and development. Utah, like most western states, has a surplus of BLM-managed lands that are under lease but not in development–with only forty-five percent of its total leased land in development.  There were approximately 2.5 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect) at the close of BLM’s 2017 fiscal year. At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). More information regarding BLM’s December 2018 lease sale is available here.

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  • July 13th, 2018

    Proposed approval is yet another signal of the Administration’s lack of support for our public lands

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    July 13, 2018

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

    SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Today, the Trump Administration once again turned its back on protecting our nation’s public lands by supporting the proposed Alton mine expansion, which is dangerously close to Bryce Canyon National Park. If the proposal is approved, it will increase the mine by 3,600 acres– the equivalent of over 2,700 football fields– to access an additional 45-million tons of coal, which is two-million tons of coal each year. The coal strip mine expansion would occur only 10 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. Among other impacts, it would potentially destroy breeding grounds relied on by the southernmost population of Greater Sage Grouse in North America.

    Suggested approval of this coal mine comes at a time when Utah is moving toward a clean energy economy. Salt Lake City, Moab, Park City and Summit County all committed to 100% clean energy goals and the state’s rooftop solar industry continues to boom. The Trump Administration didn’t consider these factors or the unprecedented amount — over 280,000 public comments–  filed in opposition of the proposal.

    The final environmental impact study from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is forthcoming. There will be a 30 day public comment period following the release of the study.

    The below statement is a reaction from Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sierra Club:

    “The Trump Administration has repeatedly put corporate interests ahead of the American people in issues of public land management, so this is a disappointment but certainly not a surprise. Our organizations remain strongly committed to protecting the climate and the landscape, environment and cultural resources in southern Utah. Some places are simply too special to mine—this is one of them.  The doorstep to Bryce Canyon National Park should be preserved for the benefit of all visitors, rather than turned over to the highest corporate bidder.”

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  • May 9th, 2018

    Bill is a “Big Step Backwards” for Conservation and Wilderness on Public Lands in Emery County, Utah

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, 202-266-0473, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance jen@suwa.org 

    Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, 804-519-8449, Virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org 

    Anne Hawke, 202-513-6263, Natural Resources Defense Council ahawke@nrdc.org 

    Washington, DC (May 9, 2018) — Today, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. John Curtis of Utah introduced the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, a bill that would significantly impact the management of federal public lands in Emery County, Utah. 

    Emery County is home to world-class wilderness landscapes such as the San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons, and contains more than 1.5 million acres of land worthy of wilderness protection. 

    Conservation groups immediately blasted the bill for offering insufficient protections to the area.

    “The same politicians who instigated and celebrated the illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are now trying to claim that their San Rafael bill is a ‘conservation bill’,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “In fact, Hatch’s bill represents a big step backwards for wilderness, emphasizing motorized recreation over conservation and leaving more than 900,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands without protection.”

    “This bill represents a rollback of conservation gains for some of the most spectacular places in Southern Utah, and attempts to do an end-run around the courts by undermining a settlement reached by conservationists, the Trump administration, and off-road vehicle advocates that resolved nearly ten years of federal court litigation,” said Bobby McEnaney, Senior Lands Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The settlement requires BLM to produce new travel plans for the San Rafael area that comply with federal regulations, minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources, and minimize conflicts between resource users. This legislation enshrines the old, illegal travel plan.”

    “Sen. Hatch’s bill is a giveaway to Emery County and a loss to the people who love these public lands,” said Athan Manuel, director of Public Lands Protection for Sierra Club. “Truly world-class landscapes like Labyrinth Canyon and Muddy Creek, which deserve full wilderness protection, are instead given paltry protection under the guise of a National Conservation Area that is riddled with anti-conservation language. This NCA would actually limit land managers’ ability to protect these lands for future generations.”

    “This bill fails to provide even the bare minimum of protection necessary for this world-class wilderness area. Rather, it promotes development opportunities that will degrade and devalue these spectacular landscapes, under the guise of a conservation bill. As the rollbacks and concerted attacks on our public lands continue, this bill is simply another attempt to shortchange Utah’s public lands and sacrifice our wild spaces,” said Sierra Club Utah Director Ashley Soltysiak. 

    In addition Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis’s: 

    • Fails to protect nearly two-thirds of the wilderness proposed by America’s Redrock Wilderness Act: approximately 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness is omitted from designation.
    • Undercuts a settlement reached by conservationists, the Trump administration, and off-road vehicle advocates that resolved nearly ten years of federal court litigation by requiring new travel plans for the San Rafael area, based on conservation values. Instead, the bill takes the unprecedented approach of excluding all motorized routes from the NCA and Wilderness areas, effectively ensuring that they will remain open in perpetuity. This includes the illegal travel plan routes and additional motorized routes and trails sought by Emery County.
    • Allows the state of Utah to continue its federal court litigation seeking highway rights-of-way through newly designated Wilderness and the NCA, instead of resolving the RS 2477 issues.
    • Removes existing Wilderness Study Area protection to facilitate coal mining.
    • Creates an NCA with management language that is terrible for conservation, including giving undue influence to local and state interests, and allowing new motorized and mechanized recreational development in remote areas.
    • Furthers the state of Utah’s land grab and robs the American taxpayer by conveying federal public land to local ownership and control for no monetary consideration.

    Additional Resources: 

    Comparison of Hatch and Curtis bill to America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act:

    https://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/ARRWA_vs_EmeryCoBill_2018.pdf

    Corrected Fact Sheet on the Emery Public Land Management Act of 2018:

    https://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/Emery-Rebuttal-Factsheet-The-Truth-2-Pager.pdf 

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  • March 19th, 2018

    March 20 Lease Sale Sold Leases on Public Lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, along with Culturally Significant Areas in Southeast Utah

    Updated March 20, 2018

     

    Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Michael Saul, Center for Biological Diversity, 303.915.8308

    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635

    Salt Lake City (March 20): Today, the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctioned off parcels of federal public lands in southeastern Utah’s spectacular redrock country for oil and gas leasing and development. Included in BLM’s lease sale are approximately 54,000 acres of public lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, as well as in the culturally rich Alkali Ridge area of critical environmental concern and along the Green and San Juan rivers. Conservationists have protested the sale of 32 parcels as being contrary to federal laws and regulations. A map of the proposed lease parcels is available here.

    In addition to conservation groups’ protests, the National Park Service (NPS) raised significant concerns about the impacts of this oil and gas lease sale and later-in-time development, including impacts to air quality, dark night skies, scenic values, soundscapes and groundwater quality to parks in southeast Utah including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments (NPS’s letter available here).

    • NPS requested that BLM remove lease parcels near its parks, stating “we are concerned that continuing to offer parcels for oil and gas exploration and development in proximity to our parks will be detrimental to the experience of the visiting public.”
    • NPS explained that BLM had “not fully evaluated” its concerns regarding dark night skies and soundscapes, stating “[w]e are disappointed that there is no recognition in [BLM’s environmental reviews] of the significant potential for degradation of dark night skies and soundscapes that would result from oil and gas exploration and development on the lease parcels.”
    • NPS critiqued BLM’s failure to respond to NPS’s detailed air quality recommendations.

    BLM ignored all of these concerns and offered the 13 parcels based on its shoddy analysis and ill-founded decision that leasing would not jeopardize these resources and values.

    “We won’t sit idly by while President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke auction off America’s cultural and public lands heritage to the oil and gas industry,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This lease sale flies in the face of historic preservation and environmental laws that Congress put in place to make sure that BLM thinks before it acts; not ‘lease first, and think later.’”

    “BLM’s short-sighted decision threatens Utah’s red rock wilderness as well as significant cultural and archaeological resources,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “BLM’s ‘lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach to oil and gas development needlessly threatens iconic red rock landscapes and irreplaceable cultural history in the ill-conceived push for ‘energy dominance.’”

    In addition to offering leases adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and close to Bears Ears and Hovenweep National Monuments, BLM also plans to offer leases in culturally and ecologically significant public lands throughout southeastern Utah including:

    • Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. BLM briefly considered leasing in this area in 2015, but acknowledged that it lacked sufficient information about the cultural resources in the area and backed away from the proposal. The agency is putting these cultural sites at risk without collecting and reviewing that information;
    • Several tracts along segments of the Green River and San Juan River popular with families, recreational business, and tourists for river running, as well as home to several endangered fish species; and
    • Several tracts in proposed wilderness areas including in Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon near Moab, Utah, and in Cross Canyon, immediately adjacent to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

    “These lands and cultural artifacts belong to the American people. Instead of managing them in the public interest as the law requires, the Trump administration is using its Polluter Dominance strategy to plunder them for the benefit of big businesses and a wealthy few,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director of Lands for the Nature program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Even beyond that misguided policy, this leasing can’t be justified when nearly two million acres of public land in Utah sit leased but unused.”

    “Secretary Zinke and the BLM have acknowledged that some places should not be put at risk from oil and gas drilling, as we saw in his recent reprieves for lands around Chaco Canyon and the town of Livingston, Montana. The extraordinary cultural resources and wilderness values of these Utah lands deserve the same protection,” said Nada Culver, senior director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.

    “The Trump administration is heedlessly rushing to sacrifice irreplaceable wild rivers and wildlife to satisfy the fossil fuel industry’s greed,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ancient native fish of Utah’s San Juan and Green rivers deserve a chance at survival, but Trump’s oil and gas auction puts them at deadly risk from habitat loss and fracking pollution.”

    “Utah’s oil and gas industry has stockpiles of unused leased lands. We must not hand over our parks, monuments and archaeologically-rich canyons to them too. It’s time to re-balance the scales of development and conservation so future generations can breathe clean air, drink clean water and have access to nature,” said Ashley Soltysiak, Utah Sierra Club Chapter director.

    On January 2, 2018, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) formally protested BLM’s decision to auction off these federal public lands for leasing and development (see here and here). BLM has yet to respond to those protests but nonetheless is moving forward with this sale. BLM’s environmental assessment is available here and its Determination of NEPA Adequacy is available here.

    Like in most western states, there is a surplus of BLM-managed lands in Utah that are under lease but not in development. At the end of BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, there were approximately 2.9 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect). At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). With less than forty percent of the total land under lease there is no need to sacrifice any of these remarkable areas for oil and gas leasing and development.

    Click here for photos of areas to be auctioned off by BLM in southeastern Utah for fossil fuel development.

  • February 1st, 2018

    BLM also does away with popular master leasing plan program

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    February 1, 2018

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, 801.428.3981 or 801.859.1552(c)

    Landon Newell, Staff Attorney, 801.428.3991

    Salt Lake City, UT –Today, the Bureau of Land Management released new policy guidance for how the agency will approach oil and gas leasing on public lands.  

    In response to the new policy announcement, Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), released the following statement.

    “Today’s sweeping change to BLM’s oil and gas leasing program threatens irreplaceable federal public lands and resources in Utah and across the west. “This ‘lease first, think later’ approach is fundamentally inconsistent with federal laws that demand agencies think before they act and consider the full range of impacts from selling oil and gas leases.  Utah’s redrock wilderness is one the places directly in the crosshairs from this misguided policy, and SUWA expects to be fighting it in the trenches and the courts over the coming months and years.”

    The new policy represents a sea change in how the BLM will handle oil and gas leasing on federal public lands in Utah and across the west.  This new direction includes shortening timeframes for protests, expediting NEPA reviews, making public participation in the leasing process optional, and mandating a top-down, Washington, D.C. review before any state office can defer the sale of new leases.

    The new policy also announces that the popular master leasing plan program has been terminated.  In 2016, BLM finalized the Moab master leasing plan with support from local governments, the outdoor recreation industry, and conservationists.  While the Moab plan remains in place, the BLM’s previous plans to complete several other MLPs in Utah are now derailed.

    BLM entered into this policy as part of a sweetheart deal in a settlement with the Western Energy Alliance in a pending case in federal court in New Mexico.  Conservation groups, including SUWA, are parties to that case but were not  included in any settlement discussions.

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