Uncategorized Archives


  • January 3rd, 2018

    Federal Public Lands Targeted for Oil and Gas Development near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, and Culturally Significant Areas in Southeast Utah

    For Immediate Release
    January 3, 2018

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

    Salt Lake City (Jan. 3): Yesterday, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) formally protested the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to auction off more than 51,400 acres of remarkable Federal public lands in southeast Utah for oil and gas leasing and development.  Included in BLM’s lease sale, scheduled for March 20, 2018, are public lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, as well as in the culturally rich Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern and along the Green and San Juan rivers.

    “BLM’s short-sighted decision threatens Utah’s red rock wilderness as well as significant cultural and archaeological resources,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “BLM’s ‘lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach to oil and gas development needlessly threatens iconic red rock landscapes and irreplaceable cultural history in the ill-conceived push for ‘energy dominance.”

    “We won’t sit idly by while President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke auction off America’s cultural and public lands heritage to the oil and gas industry,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This lease sale flies in the face of historic preservation and environmental laws that Congress put in place to make sure that BLM thinks before it acts; not ‘lease first, and think later.’”

    In addition to offering leases near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, BLM plans to auction off culturally and ecologically significant public lands throughout southeastern Utah including:

    • Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. In 2015 BLM briefly considered leasing in this area before acknowledging that it did not have enough basic information about the cultural resources in the area and backed away from that proposal.  BLM still lacks this information but nevertheless is now willing to put these cultural sites at risk;
    • Several tracts along segments of the Green River and San Juan River popular with families, recreational business, and tourists for river running, as well as home to several endangered fish species; and
    • Several tracts near Moab, Utah, including in the Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas.

    “It is shameful that the Trump administration is attempting to sell off our cherished wild places for the benefit of the oil and gas industry,” said Lena Moffitt, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We will continue to pursue all legal options to protect America’s public lands from the greed and recklessness of this administration.”

    “Through lease sales like this one, Interior Secretary Zinke is handing the reins of our public lands to his pals in the oil and gas industry, despite their proximity to iconic national parks, monuments, and archeologically-rich canyons,” said Marc Thomas, with the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “This unfortunate giveaway is taking place even though the industry has already stockpiled more than 1.7 million acres of leased, but unused, BLM-managed lands in Utah.  This is not the sort of stewardship Americans, including those of us living in southeast Utah, want for our special places.”

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s environmental assessment for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Colorado (protested two lease parcels near Colorado border), Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society (protest available here).  BLM’s environmental assessment is available here.

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club (protest available here).  BLM’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy is available here.

    At the end of BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, there were approximately 2.9 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect). At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production—less than forty percent of the total land under lease (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases).  This disparity makes clear that there is no need to sacrifice any of these remarkable areas for oil and gas leasing and development.

    Click here for photos of areas to be auctioned off by BLM in southeastern Utah for fossil fuel development.

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  • December 7th, 2017

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (202) 266-0473

    This week, following the outrageous and illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump, Utah’s representatives in Congress doubled down on the effort to unprotect these iconic landscapes by introducing two bills that would essentially ratify Trump’s actions.

    On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Stewart introduced H.R. 4558, a bill that creates three new national monuments—Escalante Canyons, Kaiparowits, and Grand Staircase, respectively. These monuments match the 48 percent reduction of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument perpetrated this week by Trump’s Executive Order, but the language nullifies Trump’s proclamation in favor of that of the bill. The bill also creates the so-called “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve,” but puts management planning for that park and the three national monuments in the hands of local officials in Kane and Garfield County despite the fact that these are federal lands belonging to all Americans.

    All of the new designations prioritize recreation, hunting and grazing over conservation, and the bill reopens the lands not included in the Trump monuments to mineral leasing. The bill also includes a public lands giveaway, handing the Hole in the Rock Road to the State of Utah, and will likely reopen destructive off-road vehicle routes that have been closed for decades to protect sensitive resources.

    “This bill is a brazen handout to the extremist voices who wish to eliminate federal control of public lands that belong to all,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it purports to protect these landscapes, by handing control almost exclusively to development interests in Kane and Garfield County, it is clear the remnants of Grand Staircase-Escalante would become playgrounds for destructive recreation, poor lands management and dirty energy. The bill, with its throw away National Park designation, is a bait and switch. No one should bite.”

    The other bill, H.R. 4532, introduced Tuesday by new delegation member Rep. John Curtis, alongside Reps. Bishop, Stewart and Love from the Utah delegation, ratifies the new boundaries that Trump’s proclamation put forth for Bears Ears National Monument, replacing the Bears Ears with two significantly diminished landscapes: the 142,337-acre Shash Jáa National Monument, and the 86, 447-acre Indian Creek National Monument. These new boundaries are an 83 percent reduction in the original Bears Ears National Monument.

    Like the Escalante bill, Rep. Curtis’ bill creates a new management council comprised of the same local elected officials that sought the undoing of the monument, as well as members of Tribes who are picked not by Tribal governments, but by the Utah delegation. Furthermore, the bill excludes three of the five tribes who advocated for protection of Bears Ears from the council. This framework ensures that the protective status of the original Bears Ears National Monument will not be honored in these newer, decimated parcels.

    “The fact that these bills even exist is evidence that the Utah delegation knows Trump’s actions were illegal, and they are scrambling to set up a Plan B,” Groene said. “But the two million acres of lands that Trump stripped from the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments still belong to all Americans, and we will work with our allies in Congress, who are more motivated than ever, to ensure that neither of these efforts to hand over these national treasures ever see the light of day.”

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    White Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Clay

     

  • December 5th, 2017

    On December 4th, President Donald Trump swooped into Utah and committed the most destructive act against public lands in the history of the presidency by repealing both the decades-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the not-yet-a-year-old Bears Ears National Monument.

    Grand Staircase was shrunk by 47 percent, with about 1 million acres remaining. And in a slap in the face to the five tribes who advocated for it, Bears Ears was decimated, its 1.35 million acres reduced by 83 percent to just 229,000 acres.

    7,000 Utahns rallied in support of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments at the State Capitol just two days before President Trump repealed them. Copyright Diane Kelly/SUWA

    Of course, we’ve seen this coming almost since the election last November. When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke began his so-called “review” of 27 national monuments, it was clear from the get-go that the number one targets were our monuments in Utah.

    And it was sadly unsurprising when Zinke’s initial findings were leaked to reveal that he had ignored the overwhelming consensus of more than 2.8 million public comments that made it clear that the American people wanted their monuments left alone, instead recommending the types of major cuts that we have now seen.

    Rest assured that we have not been caught off guard. For months we’ve been preparing for this moment, and we are taking this fight to the courts. There is no precedent for a president undoing a national monument, and we believe Trump has acted illegally. We are joining hands with our allies across the environmental community and the Tribes that have been so wronged in this act, and we will never stop fighting for these lands.

    In the meantime, here’s how you can take action:

    Take heart and stand with us. We are on the right side of history and we will win eventually.

  • December 4th, 2017

    Following President Trump’s unlawful attempt to repeal Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, the federal public lands and significant cultural, paleontological and wilderness resources in those monuments will be left exposed to oil, gas and coal leasing and development, as well as the location and development of new hard rock mining claims (e.g. uranium).  The attached maps overlay the current monument boundaries, the significantly smaller monuments President Trump unlawfully designated, and mineral potential in both monuments.

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, 801-428-3981

  • October 26th, 2017

    A new Utah poll demonstrates, again, that while bold conservation is often controversial at inception, it becomes appreciated with time. But Utah’s politicians still haven’t learned. When significant landscapes are protected by executive orders, they pull the Chicken Little routine and shake their fists at the sky. History proves them wrong every time.

    And it’s happening all over again.

    A new Dan Jones poll shows Utahns 2-1 oppose Utah politicians’ efforts to break apart the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument. Twenty years ago, President Clinton was hung in effigy in Escalante for establishing the monument. Today, local businesses there and in Boulder are pleading with the Trump administration to leave it intact.

    Buttes along the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    As we’d expect, the poll shows less support for the nascent Bears Ears National Monument. This is probably due to the steady outpouring of flagrantly false claims made by Senator Hatch, Representative Bishop and others that the monument will somehow devastate local economies and harm school kids. Still, only half of Utahns have bought into the lies so far as to favor reducing the monument.

    Given time, the majority of Utahns will solidly celebrate Bears Ears as they do the Grand Staircase.

    And of course, these lands belong to all Americans, not just those of us living here in Utah.

    Bears Ears Buttes in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Foott

    These protections are good for America. There is no serious argument that we’d be better off today if the Grand Staircase-Escalante had been sacrificed to a coal mine—especially as the view from the Kaiparowits Plateau (where the coal diggers wanted to dig) already includes the 800-foot-tall smokestacks at the Navajo Generating Station, set to close in two years because burning coal is no longer economic.

    President Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument for the Tribes who have lived and used these lands since time immemorial, and it will be a great injustice if it is undone. Utah politicians will go down as standing far on the wrong side of history.

    Every time Americans have chosen to protect western landscapes, the decision has been recognized as wise, with the perspective of time, by citizens living both far from and near the affected lands. This week’s poll confirms that, again. Will Utah’s politicians ever learn?

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