SUWA Action Alerts Archives


  • April 6th, 2020

    Comments due by April 13th, 2020!

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of native pinyon pine and juniper forests throughout the West each year. In recent years, public input has stopped many of these controversial projects or helped the BLM make better, more scientifically-sound vegetation management decisions that leave pristine, sensitive wilderness-quality lands and habitat intact.

    Now, despite the critical role of public input and oversight on these controversial vegetation removal projects, the BLM is proposing a new categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would allow up to 10,000 acre projects to mechanically remove pinyon pine and juniper trees on public lands with no environmental analysis, public accountability, or public input. 

    We must use this opportunity to remind the BLM why public input is crucial to a rational and science-based decision-making process, provide evidence that the environmental effects of vegetation removal projects vary significantly from project to project, oftentimes causing significant long-term harm to native ecosystems, and make the public voice heard.

    Comments on the proposed categorical exclusion are due April 13th, 2020. Click here to submit comments through our online action center.

    When writing your comments, please consider the following points:

    • 10,000 acre projects are an extremely unreasonable size to categorically exclude from NEPA and public review. This area is larger than many cities. Congress in the past has called for agencies to establish categorical exclusions for some projects up to 4,500 acres in size. BLM’s proposed categorical exclusion is more than double that, with very few limitations on where, when, and how treatments can be conducted.
    • The best available science shows that these projects do have significant environmental effects, making any blanket determination that future projects need not go through the NEPA process because there are no significant environmental effects wildly inappropriate.
    • BLM has misrepresented available scientific research on the effects of these projects in its categorical exclusion proposal, erroneously concluding they have a net positive effect on the ecosystem. This completely excludes science showing that mechanical pinyon pine and juniper removal is overall very harmful for woodland-dependent species, including migratory birds whose populations are already in drastic decline.
    • BLM should not be able to categorically exclude any projects in National Monuments, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Wilderness Study Areas, or other special-status public lands. There are many proposed vegetation removal projects in recent years that were removed from these sensitive areas because of public input and engagement. It is improper for BLM to be able to plan, approve, and execute projects using heavy machinery to clearcut native forests in these special management lands with no public oversight and without robust, site-specific environmental analysis.
    • These projects help accelerate climate change by causing large-scale surface disturbance that increases desertification, contributes to atmospheric dust levels, and removes valuable forest carbon sinks. BLM must continue to do project-specific, public, NEPA analysis for pinyon pine and juniper removal projects because of their potential contributions to climate change.
    • BLM has not demonstrated that it has adequately monitored past vegetation removal projects to ensure that the treatments do not cause significant, long-term damage to overall ecosystem health by disturbing and destroying biological soil crust or spreading invasive species like cheatgrass. BLM must provide long-term monitoring data from past projects to demonstrate their success before categorically excluding future projects from NEPA. BLM must make this data publicly available.
    • BLM has not provided any criteria or guidelines in the proposed CX to determine what qualifies as sage-grouse or mule deer habitat, and because there will be no public process, the BLM will not need to justify these determinations. Therefore, the BLM could ostensibly use the proposed CX to remove 10,000 acres of forest wherever it wants with no public accountability. Distressingly, the public may not even know these large-scale projects were happening until after they were completed and the deforestation was irreversible.

    Please consider all of these points as you make your comments, and make sure to add your own! Tell the Bureau of Land Management why large-scale mechanical removal of pinyon pine and juniper forests across the west continues to be a very significant action deserving of careful environmental review and public input.

    >> Click here to submit comments through our online action center (personalize if possible)
    >> Click here to submit comments via the BLM’s web portal (use points above to craft a message in your own words)

    Aftermath of a BLM “mastication” project on Utah public lands. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

  • 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!

  • January 23rd, 2020

    Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) will soon reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the House of Representatives, and we need your help to gather support! We have two actions for you that can really make a difference.

    First, will you contact your members of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act?

    This legislation is the seminal vision for protecting Utah’s deserving redrock wilderness, including places like the Dirty Devil, Desolation Canyon, Cedar Mesa, and parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that were illegally repealed by President Trump.

    Please help us gather cosponsors by contacting your members of Congress today!

    Fisher Towers,  © Tom Till

    Protecting wilderness is more important than ever. We are facing a climate crisis, and safeguarding tracts of public land from fossil fuel development and other adverse impacts is one strategy that can help preserve important habitat, boost climate resiliency, and encourage carbon storage. Did you know that more than 20 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from public lands? It’s time to focus on solutions, and protecting 8.4 million acres of wilderness in Utah would be a great start.

    We’re already off and running in the Senate, where Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in December. He was joined by 12 of his colleagues:

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-CT
    Sen. Jack Reed D-RI
    Sen. Bernie Sanders D-VT
    Sen. Jeff Merkley D-OR
    Sen. Debbie Stabenow D-MI
    Sen. Martin Heinrich D-NM
    Sen. Amy Klobuchar D-MN
    Sen. Tammy Baldwin D-WI
    Sen. Jacky Rosen D-NV
    Sen. Patrick Leahy D-VT
    Sen. Robert Casey D-PA
    Sen. Robert Menendez D-NJ

    That brings us to the second way you can lend your voice to the movement to save our redrock wilderness. If any of the above senators represent you, please click here to thank them for their support of the redrock! We would not be able to push back on Trump’s attacks on Utah wilderness without their help.

    If you don’t see one or both of your senators on the list, there’s still time for them to get on the bill. Click here to ask them to sign on as a cosponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    And don’t worry, based on your address, this message will go to your representative in the House and any senator not currently on the bill. Our system is clever like that!

    Please ask them to sign on today!

  • December 10th, 2019
    Mojave Desert Tortoise Graphic

    Utah’s public lands are facing death by a thousand cuts. And now the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) near St. George—home to the densest population of threatened Mojave desert tortoise anywhere on earth—is on the chopping block.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is being pressured by Washington County, Utah, to let the State of Utah build a four-lane highway through the heart of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

    They’re  hoping to sneak this proposal through during the holiday season—and they’ve given just 30 days for the public to comment.

    Tell the BLM: no way to a highway through the Red Cliffs NCA!

    If this highway is allowed it will:

    ● Bisect Red Cliffs NCA east to west with a four-lane highway;

    ● Irrevocably damage habitat for the already-threatened Mojave desert tortoise and 20 other species of sensitive wildlife; and

    ● Set a terrible national precedent that National Conservation Areas can be bulldozed and paved.

    We can’t let Washington County succeed in creating a major loophole in the Endangered Species Act, letting them go back on a promise made in 1996 to permanently protect Red Cliffs, the threatened Mojave desert tortoise, and quality of life in southern Utah.

    Please take action today. Tell the BLM to protect the Mojave desert tortoise and the integrity of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area by rejecting the “Northern Corridor” highway proposal today.

    Click here to tell the BLM what you think of their plans to build a highway through Red Cliffs NCA.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • December 6th, 2019

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering giving away the United States’ interest to a 10-mile dirt road (the so-called “Manganese Road”) in the southwest corner of Utah. This is a test case brought by the State of Utah that, if successful, would open the door for the Trump administration to cede control of tens of thousands of miles of dirt roads and trails that Utah claims as rights-of-way across federal public lands.

    The State of Utah and its counties have filed more than 20 federal lawsuits claiming title to 14,000 alleged rights-of-way totaling approximately 35,000 miles. They are pursuing their claims under an obscure provision of the 1866 Mining Act known as “Revised Statute 2477” (aka R.S. 2477).

    A State of Utah R.S. 2477 claim in the Paria River streambed (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Paria-Hackberry Wilderness Study Area). Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The Trump administration’s BLM is trying to give the state a leg up by using a controversial and unlawful tool known as a “recordable disclaimer of interest” (RDI) to simply surrender control over federal public lands to the State of Utah and its counties. In other words, the BLM is essentially telling the state “don’t bother with that cumbersome litigation, we’ll just give you everything you’re after.”

    Click here to tell the BLM to reject the state’s unlawful RDI application! The public comment deadline is this Monday, December 9th.

    If the State of Utah succeeds with this first disclaimer it has thousands of similar claims blanketing Utah’s redrock country waiting in the wings. Many of these claims are nothing more than cow paths, streambeds, and two-tracks in the desert.

    And make no mistake about it, if Utah secures title to these federal lands it has been outspoken about its intent to widen, improve, and even pave these dirt paths and trails in an effort to take control of public lands and prevent wilderness protection.

    The BLM is giving the public only 30 days during the busy holiday season to review Utah’s proposal and submit written comments. To make matters worse, the agency is only providing the one-sided application from Utah for reference and is refusing to share the agency’s own information and analysis about this claim.  At this point the BLM does not plan to offer a second comment period to allow the public to review and comment on the agency’s findings.

    The BLM may approve the State of Utah’s RDI application as soon as February 2020.

    Please join with our Senate champion Richard Durbin, along with Senators Feinstein, Baldwin, Udall, and Heinrich, and tell the BLM to reject Utah’s RDI application.

    Thank you!