Uncategorized Archives - Page 7 of 12


  • 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.

  • November 20th, 2015

    We have two good pieces of news to share as this week comes to a close.

    First, BLM’s Utah state office decided to postpone the November 2015 oil and gas lease sale and the offering of 36 parcels (totaling more than 36,000 acres) in the Vernal, Price and Fillmore field offices, as well as the Fishlake National Forest. Local activists had planned to protest the sale – arguing that the federal government should stop all oil, gas and coal leasing on public lands – and that caught the BLM off guard. The agency has said that it plans to hold this sale sometime in the near future.

    Lost in the shuffle was the fact that the BLM deferred 14 parcels in the Mussentuchit Badlands just north of Capitol Reef National Park, as well as a handful of other parcels in the San Rafael Swell, Nine Mile Canyon, and on the banks of the Green River. These parcels will NOT be part of the “make-up” auction.

    Given the longstanding surplus of federal lands already under lease, there is no pressing need for this lease sale or really any sales for the foreseeable future. Check out SUWA’s oil and gas fact sheet for more information.

    Second, a federal judge denied the BLM’s request to delay long overdue cultural resource surveys in the Henry Mountains and other parts of the Richfield field office. The agency had complained that complying with the judge’s order would be expensive, time consuming, and ultimately not really that important because many of the cultural sites are, in BLM’s estimation, low value. The BLM has told us it plans to file a similar “stay” motion with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. We’ll keep you posted.

    The Richfield resource management and travel plan designated over 4,200 miles of dirt roads and trails for ORV use, threatening the solitude and wild character of places like the Henry Mountains proposed wilderness, above. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    Henry Mountains proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.