SUWA Action Alerts Archives


  • November 13th, 2018

    This Thursday, November 15th, marks the closing of the comment period for the Trump administrations’s hastily-drafted management plans for the illegally reduced Bears Ears National Monument.

    If you haven’t already done so, please click here to submit your comments now.

    Copyright Jeff Foott

    You’ll recall that back in August, President Trump’s Interior Department released its draft management plans for what’s left of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as the lands that were illegally excised from those monuments.

    Their vision for the monuments is one of rampant oil and gas leasing, coal mining, and barely-restrained off-road vehicle use.

    It was only last December that the president unlawfully attacked both of these monuments. Now his administration has put together plans that not only fail to protect the monuments’ irreplaceable values, they invite their destruction.

    The public comment period for Bears Ears ends this Thursday, and the comment period for Grand Staircase-Escalante ends Nov. 30th. If you haven’t already done so, please click here to submit your comments for either or both monuments now.

    Thank you for standing up for Utah’s national monuments.

  • November 7th, 2018

    Harry Truman once wished for a one-armed economist because he’d grown tired of hearing, “On the one hand…on the other hand.” This post-election wrap-up is a bit like that: slivers of hope set against hard reminders.   

    For public lands, the election’s best news is probably this: the blue wavelet that washed over the House also swept away Rob Bishop’s chairmanship of the House Resources Committee. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will likely replace Bishop. Think Imperator Furiosa replaces Iago. It will be much more difficult for the Utah congressional delegation to move bad wilderness legislation.

    We won’t really celebrate, though, until we get past the dangerous uncertainty of a lame duck Congress. Retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is trying to ram through his Emery County legislation. This late in the game, his likeliest avenue is to slip his anti-wilderness bill inside some larger legislative package.  It’s our job to see that he fails. Labyrinth Canyon, Muddy Creek and the San Rafael Badlands are in the balance.  

    But we hope the election will embolden Democratic leadership to block bad legislation in these few remaining weeks, even as their Republican counterparts redouble efforts to do all the damage they can before losing power. Lame duck congresses often prove to be duds; they can also be dangerous. Muddying this lame duck’s waters even further, Trump is relieved of whatever pressure he felt to act like an adult prior to the election. With a budget deadline of December 7, he may yet have the chance to shut down the government to indulge some momentary whim.

    We’ll have to contend with the Trump administration for two more years; the election doesn’t change that. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Trump’s trained seal, faces a number of ethics-related investigations that may distract him some from his assaults on public land.  Offsetting that faint hope is the likelihood that the Bureau of Land Management will be ever more servile in its acquiescence to local Utah politicians and their anti-public lands demands. 

    The mid-terms did nothing to quash Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s massive litigation seeking control over national parks, monument, and wilderness through the antiquated and repealed RS 2477.

    There were some changes among Utah’s congressional delegation.  In potential good news for the environment, it appears Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams beat incumbent Republican Representative Mia Love.  The outlook is less clear regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who returned to Utah to collect the retiring Hatch’s seat. During his senate campaign, Romney pandered to the right wing on public land issues. We’ll see if he chooses to stay on the fringe.   

    At the state level, in what is the very essence of rotating bald tires, former San Juan County commissioner and all-terrain-vehicle protest rider Phil Lyman replaced long time State Representative Mike Noel.  A leader in the state house, the bellicose Noel did his best to drag Utah backwards with false claims on public land issues and a penchant for wasting Utah tax dollars pushing his anti-federal views.  Perhaps Lyman will surprise us by being something else. We doubt it.    

    Notably, this election brought real change to San Juan County, home of the Bears Ears National Monument. Native Americans Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes won two of three county commission seats. Both support the Bears Ears; both beat candidates who didn’t. This is an extraordinary shift of power to the Native American majority in a county where gerrymandering Anglo politicians have long suppressed Native needs and Native voices.   

    Make no mistake, Kenneth and Willie will face hostility from the entrenched county forces seeking to make them fail. Those forces were at work from the very beginning. The San Juan County Clerk sought to falsify documents in order to keep Willie off the ballot, but was busted by a federal judge. We wish the new commissioners success, and thank them for the courage to take on these offices.

    We have survived half of the national nightmare of Donald Trump’s reign. Each year becomes more dangerous as blatantly unqualified political appointees remain in place and work their mischief, twisting and distorting the bureaucracies that manage our public lands. 

    We operate in an ever-changing political environment at every level. Politicians, bureaucrats and judges come and go. The constant is the red rock wilderness and our resolve to defend it.  Thank you for being part of this movement.

    –Scott Groene

  • September 18th, 2018

    Twenty-two years ago, the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was designated, encompassing one of our nation’s most spectacular and scientifically important wilderness landscapes. It includes world-class fossil sites, archaeological and historical treasures, unique geologic formations, and incredible intact ecosystems—all of which the monument’s original designation was designed to safeguard for future generations.

    Of course, clouding this significant anniversary is President Trump’s illegal order last December to carve up Grand Staircase-Escalante, excluding a huge portion of its original land area from Antiquities Act protection and leaving a much smaller fragment behind.

    Even though we are challenging this move in court, the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are moving forward with management plans for the “new” almost 50% reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the 700,000 acres of land it no longer includes.

    Click here to help save Grand Staircase-Escalante! Submit your comments by November 15th!

    Circle Cliffs, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    Drafts of these new plans were just released for public comment and they are nothing short of alarming. Among a host of other shortsighted and harmful actions that would be allowed are prospects for new coal, oil, and gas development—that is, these management plans would sacrifice public lands cut from the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to future mining and drilling.

    As SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch explains, “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    Tell the BLM why you love Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and want to see it fully protected!

    The BLM is asking for the public to comment on these plans. Please help save Grand Staircase-Escalante from a management plan that would do nothing to quell future drilling, mining, and off-road vehicle damage on these treasured public lands.

    There are so many reasons to love the real Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the BLM needs to hear from you about how and why its plans must do better. Take action and comment now!

    Click here to submit your comments by November 15th!

  • August 20th, 2018

    This Wednesday, August 22nd, the “Not-so-Swell” bill proposed by Utah’s Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Emery County Public Land Management Act, which affects places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, and the San Rafael Swell, is crammed into a hearing with a massive slate of 13 other bills, and no opposition witness will be called.

    This means the ONLY WAY your congressional members are really going to hear about this bill is if you contact them!

    Muddy Creek proposed wilderness, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve been working for months to try to improve this bill, but it remains a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. It’s the brainchild of a tiny county political body whose members openly admit their goal is to prevent meaningful wilderness protections for some of Utah’s most spectacular and remote public lands. Just for starters, this bill:

    • Leaves more than 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness out of the running for protection, including much of the iconic Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon areas
    • Seeks to codify an illegal travel plan that we’ve already settled in court
    • Turns federal lands over to the State of Utah
    • Releases a Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine expansion
    • Fails to protect significant priceless cultural resources in the San Rafael Badlands

    Sen. Hatch is trying to dazzle Congress into thinking this is a good bill. Tell them the truth!

    This is the biggest legislative fight we’ve had in years. The good news is we have many allies in Congress, they just need to hear from you!

    Thank you for taking action.

  • July 24th, 2018

    Guided by the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, on July 16th the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed a massive statewide auction of federal public lands for oil and gas leasing and development. The December 2018 lease sale will be the largest in Utah in more than a decade, and its targets include many wild and culturally-rich redrock landscapes.

    Tell the BLM to stop sacrificing our wilderness-quality public lands for fossil fuel development!

    In this proposal, the BLM intends to offer for lease:

    •    225 parcels totaling 329,826 acres of federal public lands including wilderness-caliber lands in Bitter Creek, Desolation Canyon, Dragon Canyon, Hatch Canyon / Hatch Wash, Labyrinth Canyon, Monument Canyon, Sweetwater Canyon, Tin Cup Mesa, Wolf Point, and the White River area (all proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act — click here to see map).

    •    Parcels located in greater sage-grouse habitat, adjacent to rivers and streams (including the Green and White rivers), and in or near culturally-rich landscapes including Nine Mile Canyon and the Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

    •    159 parcels in the Uinta Basin, the majority of which are located in or near the region found by the Environmental Protection Agency to be in violation of national air quality standards for ozone—a problem largely attributable to the BLM’s authorization of oil and gas exploration and development in that region.

    Click here to demand that the BLM remove these sensitive landscapes from its December lease sale.

    White River. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    It gets worse! The BLM also intends to use the environmental analysis prepared for this lease sale to justify its recent issuance of an oil and gas lease located on lands unlawfully removed by President Trump from monument protection in Bears Ears National Monument. The agency issued this lease in early 2018 but suspended that decision following a successful legal challenge brought by SUWA. However, the BLM is now trying to paper over its prior unlawful leasing decision as part of its larger auction of these remarkable lands.

    Finally, and adding insult to injury, the BLM has taken significant steps to limit opportunities for public comment on this massive lease sale. In fact, the public will have no opportunity at all to comment on the agency’s environmental analysis.  Instead, in an attempt to rush this sale through, the BLM is only allowing “scoping” comments during a 15-day period which runs through July 31st.  When the agency’s final decision is released, the window for public protest will be a mere 10 days (reduced from the usual 30).

    Please take a moment to tell the BLM that this massive auction of public lands, and the elimination of the public’s voice, is completely unacceptable.

    Thank you for taking action!