Conservation Groups Blast Sen. Hatch, Rep. Curtis on New San Rafael Swell Bill

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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