SUWA Action Alerts


  • October 28th, 2020

    One month before the largest wilderness bill of the last ten years was passed (the Emery County Public Land Management Act, signed into law as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act on March 12, 2019), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rushed to issue a lease to drill in the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness, which was formally designated as wilderness by the Dingell Act.

    The BLM had full knowledge that lands encompassing the leased area would soon be designated as wilderness—but went ahead and issued the lease anyway. SUWA protested that decision but the BLM’s state director rejected our challenge.

    Now, the agency has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) to approve a helium drilling project on this lease inside the wilderness. The public comment period is open through November 9, 2020.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to allow drilling in the heart of Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness!

    Aerial view of Labyrinth Canyon with lease area highlighted. Photo © Pete McBride/EcoFlight

    If allowed to proceed, the project will involve months of extensive construction in this remarkably quiet and remote place, including, at a minimum, road improvements (upgrading and graveling of existing two-tracks), well pad construction (5-7 acres of disturbance), pipelines, infrastructure on the well pad, and construction of a 10-acre processing facility on nearby Utah school trust lands. The project developer plans to drill at least two wells for helium, which requires a federal oil and gas lease to develop and which will have many of the same on-the-ground impacts as conventional oil and gas drilling.

    The Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River, which was designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as a “Scenic” segment, is one of the most iconic, remote, and world-renowned river segments in the United States.

    Please contact the BLM today and tell them:

    • Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness is too special to drill (this includes the wilderness area itself as well as the adjacent Labyrinth Canyon Scenic segment of the Green River).
    • The area is very remote, quiet, and scenic, and industrialization of the area will significantly degrade—or destroy—these values.
    • Both the lease and this last-minute rush to approve development before a potential change in presidential administration highlights everything that is wrong with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.

    Click here to submit your comments today.

    P.S. This Salt Lake Tribune article has more detail on how this lease was slipped in during the 11th hour before Labyrinth Canyon was designated as wilderness.

  • September 23rd, 2020

    In June, we wrote to you about plans from Energy Fuels Resources—the company that successfully lobbied the Trump administration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument in 2017—to ship radioactive waste from Estonia to the White Mesa Uranium Mill, on the doorstep of the monument.

    Now, Energy Fuels Resources wants to import radioactive waste from Japan, and the State of Utah has agreed that the company doesn’t need any special licenses or permission, or to hear from the public, to accept the waste.

    Please take a moment to urge Utah regulators to protect Bears Ears!

    White Mesa Uranium Mill, © EcoFlight

    The White Mesa Uranium Mill sits next to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community. Understandably, many residents are concerned about the mill’s impact on their air quality and drinking water.

    Energy Fuels intends to extract a small amount of uranium from the waste, then dump the toxic leftovers just east of Bears Ears National Monument’s original boundary, where it will remain forever.

    Radioactive waste from overseas should never end up next to Indigenous communities in America. Please urge Utah regulators to:

    • Require that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. obtain a specific import license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Japanese waste.
    • Deny future requests to send toxic and radioactive waste to the White Mesa Mill.
    • Protect groundwater and air quality in the Bears Ears region for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community and for future generations.

    Click here to submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • September 10th, 2020

    After a long August recess, Congress is back in session for September. This is one of the best chances to get your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Will you ask them today?

    America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is the seminal legislation that would protect the amazing redrock country we all love. It would safeguard places like Desolation Canyon, the Dirty Devil region, and the east side of Labyrinth Canyon, as well as lands wrongly cleaved from Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump.

    Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor today!

    Protecting these lands as wilderness will help us in the fight against climate change, build connected habitat corridors for wildlife, and preserve places for Americans to enjoy quiet and solitude for generations to come. Utah has less protected wilderness than any other western state. As we work toward the goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030, Utah must be a large part of the discussion.

    Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    And if any of them have already cosponsored (check here), please thank them.

    Members of Congress will soon depart again to embark on the campaign trail in October, so September is the key time to get their endorsement. If you want to go the extra mile, after asking them to cosponsor via our action page, call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask them by phone. They might ask for the bill number, which in the House is H.R. 5775, and in the Senate is S. 3056.

    Thank you!

  • August 13th, 2020

    Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) each recently sent separate letters to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging against the leasing of nearly 87,000 acres of redrock country near Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef National Parks, including significant landscapes that would be protected within America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Great news: it worked! The combined pressure from these members of Congress, conservation groups, and activists like you led the Bureau of Land Management this week to remove all parcels from the lease sale in San Juan and Grand Counties. The result is that no leases will be offered in the September sale that conflict with America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!

    If your member(s) of Congress signed one of these letters, please click here to thank them.

    Joining Senator Durbin on his letter were 15 senators:

    Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
    Cory Booker (D-NJ) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
    Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Patty Murray (D-WA)
    Edward Markey (D-MA) Tom Udall (D-NM)
    Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
    Ron Wyden (D-OR) Kamala Harris (D-CA)
    Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
    Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

    Representative Lowenthal was joined by 32 colleagues, who in the letter wrote, “Development of these parcels would threaten to ruin the stunning scenic beauty and visitors’ use and enjoyment of these iconic national parks, redrock canyons, and mesas with drill rigs, pipelines, and natural gas flaring. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive down demand for oil and gas leases on public lands while oil and gas wells are being shut-in or abandoned at unprecedented rates, providing little economic justification for this sale. We urge the Department of the Interior to cancel this lease sale.”

    Joining Rep. Lowenthal were the following representatives:

    Rep Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (D-MA)
    Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
    Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
    Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)
    Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
    Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
    Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
    Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
    Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)
    Rep. Nanette Barrigan (D-CA) Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
    Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
    Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)
    Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA) Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
    Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)
    Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA)
    Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) Rep. A Donald McEachin (D-VA)

    To read the Durbin letter, click here. To read the Lowenthal letter, click here.

    This kind of pressure from Congress helps us protect the redrock we all love! If any of these members represent you, please take time to thank them today!

  • July 29th, 2020

    It’s been a wild month. Two weeks ago, the Trump administration finalized its attack on America’s bedrock environmental law—the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Today, SUWA, along with a nationwide coalition of conservation and environmental justice organizations, challenged the administration’s rollback of NEPA regulations in federal court.

    NEPA, often referred to as the “Magna Carta” of environmental law, is our “national charter for the protection of the environment.” It has two primary goals. First, it guarantees that federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) analyze and disclose the impacts of proposed projects on the environment and public health. Second, it guarantees that the relevant information will be made available to the public so that they can play a role in both the decision-making process and the implementation of that decision.

    The Trump administration’s revised NEPA regulations severely undermine these goals. For example, they:

    • Allow Federal agencies such as the BLM to exempt a broader range of projects from analysis and disclosure;
    • Expedite the decision-making process by establishing presumptive time limits on environmental reviews;
    • Encourage the use of programmatic environmental reviews, which allow agencies to front-load generic, boilerplate analyses and effectively postpone meaningful analyses until the 11th hour, if at all.
    • Limit the range of potential “effects” that must be analyzed and disclosed by the agency prior to approving new projects;
    • Put private interests ahead of public interests by allowing Federal agencies to consider “the goals of the applicant” when crafting alternatives to the proposed project; and
    • Restrict public participation by allowing federal agencies to require that the public post a bond before they can challenge development proposals on public lands.

    In short, the revised NEPA regulations are designed to allow federal agencies such as the BLM to push through more projects, faster, and with less analysis and public scrutiny.

    Make no mistake, Trump’s assault on NEPA strikes at the heart of our work to protect the redrock. If left unchallenged, it will weaken the scientific review process, stifle public input, and open the door to unchecked exploitation of America’s public lands.

    Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to oppose Trump’s attack on this crucial environmental law.

    Importantly, NEPA regulations apply to all federal projects on public lands, including those managed by the BLM, Forest Service, and National Park Service. It is estimated that federal agencies approve more than 110,000 projects each year, including thousands in Utah alone.

    Without an intact NEPA review process it would have been significantly harder for SUWA to successfully challenge more than 300,000 acres of oil and gas leasing, or the two enormous vegetation removal projects proposed for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

    Beyond its importance to public land protection, NEPA also gives vulnerable populations a chance to voice concerns about development proposals that may harm their communities, including power plants and fossil fuel pipelines. The Trump administration’s rollback of NEPA regulations exploits these marginalized communities, endangers human health, and exacerbates the climate crisis.

    Like so many of Trump’s policies, we are confident that this one will be sent to the trash pile of bad ideas. You can help ensure this by contacting your members of Congress today.

    Please urge your representatives to defend the public process and oppose any weakening of NEPA.

    Thank you!