Uncategorized Archives - Page 8 of 12

  • 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.

  • November 9th, 2015

    Despite the dramatic drop in natural gas and oil prices, the BLM is considering approval of a large-scale oil and gas development project in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area in the heart of Utah’s West Tavaputs Plateau. The area targeted for development is part of the larger Desolation Canyon region, which, according to the BLM itself, contains “one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.”

    The BLM is accepting comments on this project through November 13th. Please tell the agency to keep oil and gas development out of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness!

    Desolation Canyon  (Horse Bench), Ray Bloxham

    Horse Bench in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon, is seeking approval to industrialize the remote and wild West Tavaputs by constructing and drilling up to 19 well pads, 175 natural gas wells, and miles of associated roads and pipelines. If the project is approved, the West Tavaputs will be dotted with pumpjacks, drill rigs, and haul trucks rather than greater sage-grouse, elk, mule deer, and black bear.

    Please ask the BLM to protect the wild heart of the West Tavaputs Plateau.

    Adding insult to injury, all vehicular traffic will have to wind its way through Nine Mile Canyon and up the dusty switchbacks of Cottonwood Canyon before reaching the proposed development area atop the West Tavaputs. Called “the world’s longest art gallery” by the BLM, Nine Mile Canyon is world-renowned for its abundance of historic and cultural sites, with more than 10,000 images etched onto its walls by prehistoric peoples. Dust from passing haul trucks could harm these irreplaceable treasures, and proposed roads would make the area more accessible to vandals.

    To date, the BLM has failed to properly analyze the potential impacts to these important resources or to consider the project’s influence on climate change. It has analyzed only XTO’s large-scale proposal and has not considered any alternatives, such as limiting the project’s surface disturbance footprint to areas outside greater sage-grouse habitat, or placing pipelines along existing disturbances.

    Click here to ask the BLM to properly analyze the impacts of XTO’s proposal and consider more appropriate alternatives.



  • October 13th, 2015

    The St. George BLM recently released its draft management plan for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs National Conservation Areas (NCAs) and is accepting public comments until November 16th.

    If you care about these areas, now is the time to act.

    As you may recall, the 2009 Washington County public lands bill (i.e., the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009) established the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs—both located in a unique corner of Utah where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert ecosystems meet.  The NCAs were created to “conserve, protect, and enhance . . . the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources” of the designated lands.

    Red Cliffs NCA (Bob Wick)

    Red Cliffs NCA, copyright Bob Wick/BLM.

    Now, anti-conservation voices in Washington County have made it their goal to undermine any effort to protect wildlife and wilderness-quality lands through management of the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs.  They have attacked the BLM for proposing measures to ensure long-term conservation within the NCAs and have attempted to skew reality by arguing that the BLM must designate a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA.

    Please tell the BLM to implement the highest level of protection for the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by November 16th.

    BLM’s Alternative C, the “conservation alternative,” would ensure long-term protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.   These protections include:

    • Prohibiting a right-of-way for a highway corridor through the Red Cliffs NCA (the “Northern Corridor”), which was established for the purpose of protecting the Mojave desert tortoise (a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act).
    • Designating a multispecies wildlife corridor and removing the “open” motorized vehicle designation in the protected area.
    • Managing BLM-identified wilderness-quality lands for the protection of wilderness values.
    • Designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern for threatened, endangered, and at-risk species.
    • Limiting new motorized and non-motorized recreational development.
    • Prohibiting new transmission and pipeline rights-of-way through protected areas.
    • Removing livestock grazing and livestock developments from the Beaver Dam Wash NCA.

    Click here to tell the BLM to prioritize conservation within the Beaver Dam Wash and Red Cliffs NCAs by implementing the highest level of protection for wildlife and wilderness-quality lands.

  • 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!