Uncategorized Archives - Page 5 of 10


  • July 15th, 2016

    After years of missed deadlines, Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) finally introduced his long-delayed Public Lands Initiative (PLI) yesterday.  As anticipated, the PLI fails to protect Utah’s remarkable public lands and divests the American people of their public lands heritage. There is no chance this terrible bill could be passed in the few days left in this Congress, and it serves only as an effort to forestall President Obama from designating a Bears Ears National Monument.

    Utah’s congressional delegation will no doubt repeat ad nauseam their talking point about 4.6 million acres of federal land “designated for conservation” in the PLI.  Don’t believe it. The big acreages proffered by Rep. Bishop are disingenuous, as a hard look at the bill reveals that the PLI is a cobbled together mess that maximizes resource extraction and includes land “protections” riddled with loopholes.

    A pro-development bill disguised as conservation

    Among the laundry list of unacceptable provisions of the bill, the PLI:

    •  Fails to protect 62% of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act as designated wilderness and opens up currently protected lands, such as Wilderness Study Areas, to energy development and off-road vehicle use.

    Winter Ridge WSA

    Under the PLI, Winter Ridge would be released from Wilderness Study Area designation and opened up for fossil fuel development. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    •  Substitutes bastardized National Conservation Areas (NCAs) that enshrine the Bush-era management plans that designated thousands of miles of off-road vehicle routes; allows designation and development of new motorized trails; green-lights vegetation manipulation projects (such as pinyon-juniper clearcuts); mandates livestock grazing; declares that no more wilderness can be protected in these areas; and limits federal land managers’ ability to protect natural and cultural resources.

    •  Fails to protect over half a million acres of the Bears Ears region as proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition; diminishes the Coalition’s voice in management of the reduced Bears Ears NCA by creating a 10-member advisory committee with only one tribal representative; promotes motorized recreation in this archaeologically rich region; allows grazing in currently closed areas like Grand Gulch, Fish, Owl, and Arch Canyons; and prohibits the agency from protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness.

    White Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    White Canyon and most of its side tributaries in the Bears Ears region would remain unprotected in the PLI, leaving the area vulnerable to mineral extraction. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    •  Seizes authority from public land managers and instead gives the State of Utah control over the permitting and regulation of all forms of energy development on millions of acres of federal lands and, in doing so, likely eviscerates meaningful energy leasing reform such as the nearly completed Moab Master Leasing Plan.

    •  Codifies the abysmal Bush-era motorized travel plans in protected areas and prohibits future closures of any motorized route for natural or cultural resources concerns.

    •  Grants thousands of miles of claimed R.S. 2477 routes to the State of Utah while allowing for continued litigation over R.S. 2477 routes within areas designated as wilderness, NCAs, and Recreation Areas.

    •  Unleashes a carbon bomb by transferring large blocks of federal land to the State of Utah for tar sand, oil shale, potash, coal, oil, and gas development. These blocks are located in the remote Book Cliffs, in high-value scenic and recreation lands near the Green River west of Moab, on Hatch Point bordering Canyonlands National Park, near the world-renowned San Rafael Swell, and in the Uintah Basin.

    Bitter Creek (Ray Bloxham)

    Significant portions of the Bitter Creek proposed wilderness would be given to the State of Utah for fossil fuel development. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    •  Permanently establishes livestock grazing as a priority across southern and eastern Utah and would result in both increased and new grazing in areas currently closed by federal land agencies due to natural and cultural resource damage.

    •  Furthers the State of Utah’s land grab efforts by transferring federal land to the state, without compensation, for facility development and increased motorized and non-motorized recreation.

    •  Rewards dangerous anti-government activity by granting a right-of-way for motorized access in Recapture Canyon, the site of San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman’s illegal 2014 ATV protest ride.

    •  Undermines the Antiquities Act by including a companion bill that would remove the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act to protect deserving landscapes in southern and eastern Utah.

    Taken as a whole, the PLI is an assault on the wilderness of southern and eastern Utah.

    Where do we go from here?

    It’s time to move forward for the sake of Utah’s land, wildlife, and cultural resources.  It’s time to call the PLI what it really is: one more failed attempt by Utah’s congressional delegation to develop a meaningful conservation bill for the national treasures of southern and eastern Utah.  And, most importantly, it’s time for President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the Bears Ears National Monument!

  • February 8th, 2016

    Rep. Bishop’s long-awaited draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI), released on January 20th, is essentially a fossil fuel development bill that gives away public resources and fails to advance the conservation of public lands in eastern Utah.  To educate the public on just how bad this bill really is, SUWA has launched a television, web, and outdoor advertising campaign in Utah (view television spots below).

    Bishop’s bill rolls back existing protections for wilderness-quality lands and carves out major loopholes in the meager wilderness it does propose. It also fails to protect the extraordinary cultural and natural resources of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument and gives away federal lands owned and cherished by all Americans. Finally, it promotes a fossil fuel bonanza that will industrialize Utah’s scenic landscapes and exacerbate climate change.

    Tell Rep. Bishop we need a bill that fully protects Utah’s wild lands — and the best interests of all Americans.

    The draft PLI has been roundly criticized by conservation groups, climate activists, the Outdoor Alliance, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, among others, for failing the American people on multiple levels. We need visionary legislation that future generations will thank us for, not a shortsighted bill that forfeits our common heritage for the benefit of only a few.

    Rep. Bishop needs to hear from you that the PLI is unacceptable as currently written.  Click here to send a message to Rep. Bishop.

  • January 4th, 2016

    SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE * EARTHJUSTICE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    January 4, 2015
    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Robin Cooley, Earthjustice, 303.996.9611

    SALT LAKE CITY: Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, CO rejected a request by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to indefinitely delay surveys for cultural artifacts on public lands managed by the Richfield Field Office in Utah.  In May of 2015, environmentalists and historic preservation advocates secured a victory when a Utah federal district court judge ordered BLM to conduct on-the-ground surveys to identify cultural artifacts in need of protection on more than 4,000 miles of dirt roads and trails where BLM has permitted off-road vehicles to be driven.  The Tenth Circuit confirmed that BLM must comply.

    “This region is home to an abundance of archaeological resources, including caves, rock shelters, and rock art, that provide a window in to the lives of the early inhabitants of the Colorado Plateau,” said Kevin Jones, former Utah State Archaeologist.  “Off-road vehicles pose a serious threat to these irreplaceable resources.”

    The Richfield Field Office covers 2.1 million acres of red rock country in south-central Utah, largely sandwiched between Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park.  This land is held sacred by Native American tribes, including the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and the Hopi Tribe.  Thousands of significant cultural properties have been identified in the field office including structures, ceramics, petroglyphs, and lithic scatters.  In a land use plan adopted in late 2008, BLM gave the green light to off-road vehicles to drive on more than 4,000 miles of trails and tracks without first surveying them to ensure that these irreplaceable cultural resources would not be harmed by such use.

    “This is an important decision from the Tenth Circuit,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “In practical terms the ruling means that BLM can no longer delay following federal historic preservation laws which require the agency to ‘look before it leaps,’ and determine what irreplaceable cultural resources in the Richfield field office are at risk from off-road vehicle use.  Rather than some new requirement, this is work that BLM was required by law to have undertaken 15 years ago when it first began the Richfield plan.”

    Less than five percent of the public lands managed by the Richfield Field Office have been surveyed for cultural resources.  BLM is required to survey the routes designated for off-highway vehicle use within three years.

    “For decades, BLM has allowed off-road vehicles to carve up the landscape without first ensuring that the remnants of region’s rich history are preserved,” said Robin Cooley, Earthjustice attorney representing the conservation groups.  “The court’s order means that BLM will finally have to take the steps required by law to identify and protect cultural artifacts.”

    BLM’s request to delay the cultural resource surveys was also opposed by the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Indian Peaks Band of Paiute, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Morning Star Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native traditions, culture, and art.

    The Richfield land use plan is one of six plans—covering more than 11 million acres—adopted at the end of the George W. Bush administration.  These plans were widely criticized for prioritizing motorized use and energy development over protection of Utah’s spectacular red rock canyon country.  The conservation and historic preservation groups have challenged all six plans in court.  The Richfield plan is the first to be litigated, but the plans all suffer from similar legal flaws.

    The conservation groups challenging the plans include the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Utah Rivers Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Rocky Mountain Wild.  The groups are represented by attorneys at SUWA, Earthjustice, and Robert Wiygul of Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside.

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