Uncategorized Archives


  • December 19th, 2019

    Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft travel management plan for the San Rafael Desert in Emery County, Utah that would more than double the number of miles open to motorized use—forever changing the area’s stunning and remote wild lands, and turning them into a playground for off-road vehicles.

    The San Rafael Desert is a sublime area of Utah’s backcountry, encompassing the newly-designated Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness and wilderness-quality lands such as Sweetwater Reef and the San Rafael River.

    Federal law requires the BLM to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. Instead, the agency’s draft travel management plan for the San Rafael Desert would inundate this remote area with off-road vehicle routes, increasing the miles open to motorized vehicles from 300 miles to more than 775.

    Click here to tell the BLM its draft plan for the San Rafael Desert is unacceptable and fails to minimize damage to natural and cultural resources.

    Labyrinth Canyon. © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Among other things, the BLM’s preferred alternative would:

    • Designate as open to motorized vehicles more than 300 miles of routes that are reclaimed, reclaiming, or do not exist on the ground.  Designating these routes is unnecessary and will damage desert soils, vegetation, riparian areas, cultural resources and wildlife habitat.
    • Designate as open to motorized vehicles popular non-motorized areas such as Moonshine Wash (from the trailhead to the slot canyon), June’s Bottom, and along the San Rafael River.

    The San Rafael Desert travel management plan is the first of thirteen travel plans the BLM will complete over the next six years as a part of a court-supervised settlement agreement with conservation and off-road vehicle groups. The plans will determine where motorized vehicles are allowed on some of Utah’s wildest public lands.

    Tell the BLM to fulfill its legal obligation and keep motorized trails out of wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and other sensitive or inappropriate areas in the San Rafael Desert.

    The BLM is giving the public only 30 days during the busy holiday season to review its proposed travel management plan and submit written comments.

    Click here to submit your comments by January 13th.

    Also be sure to check out our story map for more information, including maps and photographs of currently-designated and proposed motorized vehicle routes.

  • October 11th, 2019

    UTVs like this one could soon be allowed in Utah’s national parks under a Trump administration directive.

    Earlier today, we asked folks to make calls to Utah politicians who are considering whether to weigh in on the Trump administration directive to open Utah’s national parks to off-road vehicles like UTVs and ATVs.

    At this point, no further calls are needed. Your messages have been received.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • September 24th, 2019

    Immediate Opening for a Legislative Advocate in Our Washington, DC Office

    The Legislative Advocate works closely with the Legislative Director and Executive Director to advance SUWA’s goal of protecting Utah wilderness, working from Washington, D.C. This person plays a critical role in the success of SUWA’s congressional and administrative efforts. The Legislative Advocate will regularly lobby Congress, the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management; analyze legislation and public lands policy; develop educational materials for Congress, government officials and the public; and coordinate with SUWA staff in Utah and other wilderness advocacy organizations.

    This is an entry-level advocacy position. A competitive benefits package includes health care and dental coverage, a retirement plan, parental leave, and paid vacation and sick days. Opportunities for travel and additional training are available.

    Please send resume, cover letter, and writing sample (1-3 pages) to Jen Ujifusa at jen@suwa.org. Position open until filled. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.

    Qualifications:

    Applicant must possess a bachelor’s degree, the ability to communicate with diverse audiences, and the ability to work in teams. We are also looking for someone who is self-motivated and committed to securing wilderness protection for qualifying public lands in Utah. Enthusiasm for environmental or wilderness issues a must. Experience with the legislative process and Congress is preferred, but not required. SUWA is committed to strengthening our organization through the contributions of passionate people with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences.

    Responsibilities:

    Assist Legislative Director in daily tasks while implementing SUWA’s broader legislative strategies

    • Lobby members of the House of Representatives and Senate to gather cosponsors for Utah wilderness legislation and defend against harmful legislation.
    • Work to achieve proper interim administrative protections for lands included in Utah Wilderness Coalition’s wilderness proposal in order to ensure their wilderness suitability for eventual designation.
    • Help organize activist trainings and lobby days in Washington, one or two times per year, working with SUWA grassroots staff.
    • Coordinate with SUWA staff on wilderness legislation, public land reform measures, and relevant administrative actions to achieve the goals of the organization.
    • Coordinate with other wilderness advocacy and environmental groups in Washington to elevate the Utah wilderness issue nationally and defend against administrative or legislative action harmful to Utah’s wild lands.
    • Prepare and deliver materials to Congress and the Bureau of Land Management
    • Help with office administrative tasks
    • Assist with hiring and managing the Policy Intern

    About the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.

    SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Park and National Wilderness Preservation Systems, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation.

  • August 1st, 2019

    BLM’s “wild west” mentality will deface Utah landscape

    For Immediate Release

    Contact:
    Laura Peterson, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-236-3762
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 646-823-4518
    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303-225-4636

    Salt Lake City, UT (August 1, 2019) – Three conservation organizations filed suit today in federal district court in Utah challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to open 5,400 acres of federal public lands around Utah’s Factory Butte to unrestricted cross-country motorized use.  The Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society filed the lawsuit asking the court to reverse the BLM’s unlawful decision and direct that the closure be reinstated.

    The BLM’s May 22, 2019 decision reversed a closure order that had been in place for more than twelve years. The agency gave no prior notice or opportunity for public input.  Its reversal just before Memorial Day weekend allowed vehicles to immediately mar this remarkable landscape.

    “It was irresponsible and anti-democratic for BLM to secretly open up this area and subject its ecosystem to destruction,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director for Lands at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The agency’s earlier move to close this area was a sound decision, based on science and extensive public input. BLM has to balance different uses of our public lands, but the ring around Factory Butte is no place for off road vehicles, which damage the soil and threaten endangered species.”

    “The BLM’s decision to allow destructive, unregulated cross-country motorized use to overrun the remarkable public lands surrounding Factory Butte – one of Utah’s most well-known landmarks – is outrageous,” said Laura Peterson, attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it refused to provide the public with any advance notice of its decision, the BLM consulted ahead of time with local counties and even shared its press release and promotional materials.  That’s clearly not the way our federal public lands are supposed to be managed.”

    The BLM did not explain its reasoning or provide an environmental analysis for its decision. Instead, BLM concocted a rationale days after its decision to lift the closure when BLM Richfield field officer manager Joelle McCarthy wrote a brief “Memo to File” on May 24, 2019. This memo was not made available to the public until May 28, 2019.

    “Sneaking this plan out without public input shows that the BLM knew the public would be outraged by the decision to open treasured lands to unfettered motorized use that will permanently scar the land,” said Phil Hanceford, attorney for The Wilderness Society. “Anyone who has traveled through this area just outside of Capitol Reef National Park has marveled at the Factory Butte and the surrounding wilderness quality lands.  The BLM’s actions are unacceptable and we believe the courts will agree.”

    BLM’s decision to reverse a 2006 closure of the area to ORV use will allow unrestricted motorized travel throughout two “play areas” totaling a combined 5,400 acres.

    The 2006 closure followed a petition Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed with the BLM outlining the devastating effects of unmanaged cross-country travel by ORVs in this area. The BLM concluded that closure was necessary to protect federally-listed cactus species, including the endangered Wright fishhook from mortality due to cross-country ORV travel.  SUWA has monitored the Factory Butte ORV closure area since 2006 and has documented ongoing and intentional ORV violations and associated damage to natural resources.

    Photographs of the remarkable Factory Butte area are available on SUWA’s website, along with a timeline of OHV use at Factory Butte and a point-by-point refutation of BLM’s misleading arguments about why it lifted the closure on cross-country motorized use.

    A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.