Press Releases - Page 26 of 27

  • January 12th, 2011

    On January 11, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in a case brought by SUWA and The Wilderness Society that challenged Kane County’s attempt to undermine federal land management of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  In a fairly technical ruling, the court held that conservationists were simply not the right parties to bring the suit because the interests they sought to protect, in the court’s view, belonged to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Monument.

    According to Heidi McIntosh, co-counsel on the case, “the court’s ruling does not in any way validate the County’s decision to take the law into its own hands by removing BLM’s ORV closure signs on federal lands, nor did it rule that any of the county’s R.S. 2477 road claims were valid.  In fact, the routes at the core of the issue are primitive and remote, with little if any use.  They do not go to schools, grocery stores or other public destinations, as some have argued. And in the end, not much has changed for the county as a result of this ruling.”

    The conflict arose in 2003 when the County objected to a federal land use plan issued by the BLM which closed a number of routes to vehicle use in order to protect various natural resources.  Such vehicle use contributes to erosion, introduces non-native weeds, disrupts wildlife and has been linked to the looting of archaeological sites.  The County then took the law into its own hands and removed the BLM signs and replaced them with signs inviting ORVs and other vehicles to use the routes.  The County also enacted an ordinance which invited ORV use throughout the county, including on the closed routes in the Monument.

    We filed the suit in 2005 after the BLM failed to take action to protect the Monument from the County’s extra-legal activities. Both the U.S. District Court in Utah and a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit ruled in our favor.  The County then requested a hearing by the full 11-judge appellate court, which issued the decision yesterday.

    McIntosh noted that, “conservationists have been doing the BLM’s job by holding off the county and its aggressive actions for over five years.  The county’s signs are down, the ordinance has been repealed.  Now BLM has to step up to the plate and do its job to make sure the Monument and its remarkable resources are fully protected.”

    Below; Kane County RS 2477 Claims (and route signs) in the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM
    Kane County RS 2477 Claim Kane County RS 2477 Claim

    The Wilderness Society joined SUWA in the suit, and Earthjustice attorneys Jim Angell, Ted Zukoski and McChristie Adams were co-counsel on the case with SUWA attorneys Heidi McIntosh and Steve Bloch.  Jim Angell brought outstanding advocacy skills to his oral argument before the case at the Tenth Circuit, and we thank him, Ted and The Wilderness Society for their outstanding efforts in this case.

  • December 23rd, 2010

    Reversal of Bush-era “No More Wilderness” Policy Applauded

    Secretary of Interior Salazar’s new wilderness guidance gives needed protection to millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands in the West.  The new policy is a critical step towards ensuring the permanent protection of the last remaining wild lands in the West.   Further, protecting these remarkable landscapes will not halt the development of oil, gas and other energy sources from BLM lands.  The vast majority of these lands will still be available for development even as we ensure the lasting protection of the West’s most magnificent wilderness-quality lands.

    “Secretary Salazar was absolutely right in recognizing the high value that American’s place on their wilderness lands.  He set the bar very high and now it is up to the BLM to live up to that standard.  The devil is in the details and we look forward to seeing those details,” said Heidi McIntosh, associate director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    “This is a long overdue step to protect amazing wilderness quality lands in Utah and across the west.  With this Order, Secretary Salazar is ensuring that the nation’s wilderness resource is on equal footing with other resources such as oil, gas and mining.  Utah’s wild places will be better off with this Order,” said Stephen Bloch, attorney and energy program director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    Read the full press release here:

  • July 2nd, 2010

    Finally!  Utah State Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director and Bush administration holdover, Selma Sierra, has been “reassigned” to head the BLM’s Eastern States office.  This announcement has been a long time coming and is a welcome one to supporters of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    During her tenure in Utah, Sierra effectively carried out the Bush administration’s mission to prioritize oil and gas
    development and off-road vehicle use over all other uses of the public lands. Her most damning legacy is the completion of six unbalanced resource management plans and off-road vehicle travel plans.  These plans, rushed to completion in late 2008, attempted to cement the Bush legacy for decades to come.  Sierra was also responsible for the Utah BLM’s ‘Christmas/We’re Going Out of Business’ oil and gas lease sale in December 2008.  This sale drew nationwide attention and rebuke for its attempt to auction off leases on the doorstep of national parks and amazing wilderness and culturally significant areas, over the objections of the National Park Service and others.  The upside of that debacle is that agency reports following the sale provided the foundation for Secretary Salazar’s onshore oil and gas leasing reforms that—if implemented—will provide a more balanced approach to how the agency sells leases.

    Replacing Sierra is Juan Palma, a land manager hailing from Nevada and Oregon.  Palma has served as field office manager of BLM’s Las Vegas and Vale, Oregon, offices, as well as executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.  Most recently, Palma served as the BLM’s Eastern States Director.  He also attended Brigham Young University and has family in Utah.

    We look forward to meeting and working with Palma to tackle some of the state’s most pressing public land
    issues, including: reigning in off-road vehicle use, actively addressing climate change and, most broadly, bringing balance back to how public lands are managed in Utah.  This is a tall order but the lands that we are working to protect demand no less than a full court press throughout Palma’s tenure.

    We’ll keep you posted on our progress.


    Steve Bloch
    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance