Public Lands Initiative Archives


  • May 9th, 2018

    Bill is a “Big Step Backwards” for Conservation and Wilderness on Public Lands in Emery County, Utah

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, 202-266-0473, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance jen@suwa.org 

    Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, 804-519-8449, Virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org 

    Anne Hawke, 202-513-6263, Natural Resources Defense Council ahawke@nrdc.org 

    Washington, DC (May 9, 2018) — Today, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. John Curtis of Utah introduced the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, a bill that would significantly impact the management of federal public lands in Emery County, Utah. 

    Emery County is home to world-class wilderness landscapes such as the San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons, and contains more than 1.5 million acres of land worthy of wilderness protection. 

    Conservation groups immediately blasted the bill for offering insufficient protections to the area.

    “The same politicians who instigated and celebrated the illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are now trying to claim that their San Rafael bill is a ‘conservation bill’,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “In fact, Hatch’s bill represents a big step backwards for wilderness, emphasizing motorized recreation over conservation and leaving more than 900,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands without protection.”

    “This bill represents a rollback of conservation gains for some of the most spectacular places in Southern Utah, and attempts to do an end-run around the courts by undermining a settlement reached by conservationists, the Trump administration, and off-road vehicle advocates that resolved nearly ten years of federal court litigation,” said Bobby McEnaney, Senior Lands Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The settlement requires BLM to produce new travel plans for the San Rafael area that comply with federal regulations, minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources, and minimize conflicts between resource users. This legislation enshrines the old, illegal travel plan.”

    “Sen. Hatch’s bill is a giveaway to Emery County and a loss to the people who love these public lands,” said Athan Manuel, director of Public Lands Protection for Sierra Club. “Truly world-class landscapes like Labyrinth Canyon and Muddy Creek, which deserve full wilderness protection, are instead given paltry protection under the guise of a National Conservation Area that is riddled with anti-conservation language. This NCA would actually limit land managers’ ability to protect these lands for future generations.”

    “This bill fails to provide even the bare minimum of protection necessary for this world-class wilderness area. Rather, it promotes development opportunities that will degrade and devalue these spectacular landscapes, under the guise of a conservation bill. As the rollbacks and concerted attacks on our public lands continue, this bill is simply another attempt to shortchange Utah’s public lands and sacrifice our wild spaces,” said Sierra Club Utah Director Ashley Soltysiak. 

    In addition Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis’s: 

    • Fails to protect nearly two-thirds of the wilderness proposed by America’s Redrock Wilderness Act: approximately 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness is omitted from designation.
    • Undercuts a settlement reached by conservationists, the Trump administration, and off-road vehicle advocates that resolved nearly ten years of federal court litigation by requiring new travel plans for the San Rafael area, based on conservation values. Instead, the bill takes the unprecedented approach of excluding all motorized routes from the NCA and Wilderness areas, effectively ensuring that they will remain open in perpetuity. This includes the illegal travel plan routes and additional motorized routes and trails sought by Emery County.
    • Allows the state of Utah to continue its federal court litigation seeking highway rights-of-way through newly designated Wilderness and the NCA, instead of resolving the RS 2477 issues.
    • Removes existing Wilderness Study Area protection to facilitate coal mining.
    • Creates an NCA with management language that is terrible for conservation, including giving undue influence to local and state interests, and allowing new motorized and mechanized recreational development in remote areas.
    • Furthers the state of Utah’s land grab and robs the American taxpayer by conveying federal public land to local ownership and control for no monetary consideration.

    Additional Resources: 

    Comparison of Hatch and Curtis bill to America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act:

    https://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/ARRWA_vs_EmeryCoBill_2018.pdf

    Corrected Fact Sheet on the Emery Public Land Management Act of 2018:

    https://suwa.org/wp-content/uploads/Emery-Rebuttal-Factsheet-The-Truth-2-Pager.pdf 

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  • September 22nd, 2016

    Today, the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee “marked up” Rep. Rob Bishop’s terrible Public Lands Initiative (PLI)—the bill that seeks to roll back federal land protections, unleash a fossil fuel bonanza, and give away lands belonging to all Americans to the State of Utah.  As if that isn’t reckless enough, the bill fails to protect even half of the region’s deserving wilderness and it utterly fails to respect the efforts of five united Native American tribes to secure meaningful protection for the Bears Ears region—a landscape rich in cultural and natural wonders.

    A “mark up” is a congressional procedure in which members are supposed to take the information they learn from witnesses at a hearing and apply that information by attempting to improve the bill through amendments. Several wilderness champions in the House did just that, offering amendments that would spruce up the PLI and at least bring it into accordance with the Wilderness Act, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and several other federal laws that are undermined by Bishop’s bill. Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) all offered up commonsense amendments to repair just some of the bill’s significant environmental flaws, and argued admirably against the bill’s harmful provisions. It was apparent that they listened to the testimonies and worked to fix the bill accordingly.

    If any of them are your Representatives, please call their offices and thank them for fighting the PLI today! The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121. You can also watch the debate here.

    USEME_PLIvsBEmemeWhiteCanyonStructure
    Rep. Bishop, for his part, ignored last week’s testimony by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management opposing the bill, ignored the testimony of Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a member of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition (also opposing the bill), and continued to ignore the voices of other tribes, conservationists, and the more that 300 million Americans that own the public lands in question.

    In fact, the only amendment Rep. Bishop offered to his bill was one for technical changes—fixing typos, grammatical errors and the like. It was the only amendment of the day that passed, and in Rep. Bishop’s hopelessly stacked committee, the bill eventually passed too, on a party line vote.

    But don’t worry. From here on out, the Public Lands Initiative has no chance.

    As pointed out by Reps. Grijalva, Tsongas, and Lowenthal, the bill simply will not advance in the Senate. It contains too many poison pills, too many egregious violations of bedrock environmental law, too little wilderness, and too little compromise for that body to approve. But let’s say, just for argument, that it did pass the Senate. What president is going to sign into law a bill that was opposed by multiple agencies within his or her own administration? Do you think President Obama, who has protected more public lands in his time in the Oval Office than any of his predecessors, would sign into law the PLI, which imperils millions of acres of deserving wilderness?

    The simple answer is no. He wouldn’t do that. So the PLI is doomed, dead, failed. And it’s too bad, because we spent precious years working on it in earnest before it became obvious the bill would go nowhere good.

    Now the focus must turn to what still is achievable: protecting the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument that has been requested by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. Throughout the PLI discussions, it has often been said by the Utah delegation that everyone agrees the Bears Ears region deserves protection. And we certainly do. Now that it’s clear the PLI cannot do the job, President Obama should step in. Click here to send a message asking him to Protect Bears Ears now!

  • September 15th, 2016

    Rep. Rob Bishop just held a hearing on his Public Lands Initiative (PLI), bringing his disastrous vision for the management of Utah’s spectacular public lands to the chambers of Congress.

    Testifying against the bill were representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, an alliance of five Tribes that have come together to propose national monument designation for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears region of southeasern Utah.

    Let your representative know it’s time to defeat the PLI!

    PLI_Infographic_TitleBlock
    That its sponsors repeatedly tout the “conservation” in this bill is Orwellian. In reality, the PLI is the worst “wilderness” bill we’ve seen in Congress since the visionary Wilderness Act of 1964 was passed into law. Among its indecencies:

    • It rolls back existing protections on more than 100,000 acres of Utah’s deserving BLM wilderness.
    • Its “National Conservation Areas” are riddled with loopholes that are in direct opposition to conservation—allowing things like mining, deforestation projects and rampant road development.
    • It hands over to the State of Utah massive tracts of land that belong to the American people.
    • It gives unelected local groups unprecedented authority over the management of federal lands.
    • Its proposal for the 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears region is woefully inadequate.

    Contact your member of Congress today and tell them the PLI cannot pass!

    Fortunately, the bill was met with vigorous opposition by Reps. Niki Tsongas (MA), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Alan Lowenthal (CA), and Jared Polis (CO). If they are your representatives, please call their offices and thank them. The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

    We have worked for 30 years to cultivate congressional champions who can save Utah’s wilderness from proposals like the PLI—champions who understand that these majestic redrock plateaus and canyons deserve real protection for generations to come. But we’ve only been successful because you respond to our alerts, call your members of Congress, and enlist their help.

    Please do that again today. The legislative markup, the next step in the advancement of a bill through Congress, may still be coming this month.

    Please tell your representative that Utah’s wilderness deserves better than the PLI!

    Thank you!

  • July 27th, 2016

    In response to Senator Mike Lee’s “field hearing” in Blanding today to discuss the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) and “the potential impacts of large-scale monument designations,” Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) Executive Director Scott Groene released the following statement:

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