Uncategorized Archives - Page 8 of 12

  • October 5th, 2015

    Anyone who has visited the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park or Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab over the past few years has no doubt noticed the gradual spread of industrial development at the entrance to the parks in an area known as Big Flat. What began as a modest expansion of decades-old drill pads has now taken off at a breakneck pace. The highly visible network of pump jacks, roads, and pipelines stands out as you drive along state highway 313 – a route designated by Utah as a “scenic” byway.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

    Fidelity Exploration and Production Company, a Denver based oil and gas operator, is proposing to expand this industrial web south into Hatch Point near the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Proposed for wilderness designation and identified by the BLM itself as possessing wilderness character, Hatch Point features iconic redrock formations, including towering Wingate cliffs, buttes, and rock pillars, and some of the nation’s most brilliant night skies.

    Tell the BLM this area is too special to be sacrificed to oil and gas development.


    Trough Springs Canyon, Hatch Point. Copyright Neal Clark/SUWA.

    The proposed expansion would include drilling up to 21 oil and gas wells, “upgrading” more than 19 miles of existing two-track routes into 14-foot-wide “resource roads,” and constructing several new roads. On top of all this, Fidelity is proposing to flare natural gas from each well rather than collect and transport the gas to produce energy. The flared gas will be visible from within Canyonlands National Park and will further degrade air quality in the region.

    Click here to tell the BLM not to allow the gradual industrialization of Moab’s spectacular backcountry.

    The BLM has improperly – and unlawfully – allowed Fidelity to develop the Big Flat region in a piecemeal fashion, one phase of development at a time, and is poised to do the same with Hatch Point. It’s time for the BLM to consider the entire scope of Fidelity’s activities in a single environmental impact statement before allowing the company to completely surround the eastern edge of Canyonlands National Park with its industrial web of development.

    Please tell the BLM to stop its improper piecemeal approach to energy development in the Canyonlands area!

  • March 26th, 2015

    Records Show Fish and Wildlife Service Conceded to Habitat Destruction Demanded by Industry Under the Guise of “Conservation”

    Graham's Penstemon (Susan Meyer)

    Graham’s Penstemon (Susan Meyer)

    DENVER— Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today in federal court in Denver challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers that live only on oil shale formations in Colorado and Utah. Oil shale and tar sands mining and traditional oil and gas drilling threaten 100 percent of known White River beardtongue populations and over 85 percent of the known Graham’s beardtongue populations.

    In August 2013, the Service proposed to provide Endangered Species Act protection to the wildflowers and nearly 76,000 acres of their essential habitat, recognizing the threat posed by mining and drilling. One year later—after lobbying by industry and its supporters, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and Uintah County—the Service reversed-course and denied Endangered Species Act protections. The Service based its decision on a 15-year “conservation agreement” negotiated behind closed doors with pro-industry stakeholders.

    Public records obtained by plaintiffs in today’s lawsuit show that the conservation agreement purposefully excluded wildflower habitat from protection to accommodate oil shale mining and drilling. SITLA’s Associate Director and Chief Legal Counsel, John Andrews, described the agreement as follows:

    “The basic concept is you’ve got a 15-year agreement that’s going to buy for all of our miners the ability to strip mine and destroy any [wildflowers] that are located on those sites in exchange for some conservation” on lands “that wouldn’t be disturbed” anyway.[1]

    In its proposal to list the species, the Service recognized oil shale mining in the wildflowers’ habitat as one of the primary threats justifying the need for Endangered Species Act protections. FWS found that that development of just two planned oil shale projects in Utah by the Enefit and Red Leaf corporations would have substantial impacts and would reduce the viability of the species. But the conservation agreement denies protections on private and state lands slated for oil shale development during the 15-year term of the agreement, including those owned or leased by Enefit and Red Leaf.

    “The conservation agreement is a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry,” said Robin Cooley, an Earthjustice attorney representing the conservation groups. “Although the Fish and Wildlife Service previously identified habitat that was essential to the survival of these wildflowers, the agency rolled over during negotiations and sacrificed more than 40% of this essential habitat, including lands the oil shale industry plans to strip mine in the next 15 years.”

    “The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to make decisions based on science, not politics,” said Megan Mueller, senior biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild. “The science here is clear, these wildflowers must be protected from strip mining and drilling.”

    “The Endangered Species Act has an incredible record of saving species—but it can only work if we use it. We’ve known for decades that these wildflowers need federal protections if they’re going to survive,” said Michael Saul, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s shameful to see the Fish and Wildlife Service forego that effective tool just for the profits of one industry.”

    “These rare and beautiful wildflowers are a treasured part of our natural heritage and we need to protect them for future generations to enjoy,” said Tony Frates with the Utah Native Plant Society. “Rather than ensuring their survival through the proven protections of the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service opted for a conservation agreement that paves the way for destruction of large populations of these two species.”

    Earthjustice filed today’s lawsuit challenging the Service’s failure to list the beardtongues under the Endangered Species Act on behalf of Rocky Mountain Wild, Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah Native Plant Society, Grand Canyon Trust, Western Resource Advocates, and Western Watersheds Project.


    [1] An audio recording of Mr. Andrew’s presentation at the SITLA Board Retreat, April 16-17 (Part 3), is available through Utah’s public notice website, at http://www.utah.gov/pmn/files/archive/101711.mp3 (1:21:30–:59).

    Complaint: http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/1%20-%202015.03.26%20-%20Complaint.pdf


  • March 26th, 2015

    The 114th Congress is in full swing and our congressional champions – Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) – will soon introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA). They are gathering original cosponsors and need your help to demonstrate the widespread national support for protecting one of our last great wild landscapes.

    Help us get more ARRWA cosponsors!

    Utah’s public lands are increasingly under threat from oil and gas drilling, rampant off-road vehicle use and radical proposals to let states take over federal lands. It is more important than ever that Congress knows how crucial Utah’s stunning lands are to the American people.

    Trin Alcove, Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Tom Till.

    Trin Alcove, Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Tom Till.

    Last Congress, we had 99 cosponsors in the House and a record-breaking 24 cosponsors in the Senate. Let’s surpass both of those numbers this year. Contact your congressional representatives to show that support for protecting Utah wilderness is stronger than ever.

    Click here to ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

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