Join Monument Watch!
President Trump’s orders to repeal Grand Staircase and Bears Ears National Monuments and replace them with dramatically smaller monuments has stripped protections for over two million acres of land. We believe Trump’s orders are illegal and have filed two lawsuits challenging his drastic reductions of both monuments.
Until the courts rule on these lawsuits, SUWA will work to defend all lands within the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments from any harm. You can help by participating in Monument Watch.
When you visit lands within the original, legal boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, watch for any action that may disturb, or is disturbing, the natural setting or archaeological sites. If you live in southern Utah, listen and watch for any evidence that such an action is being planned or initiated. We need your eyes and ears!
Photo © Grant Collier
Don’t Be Fooled: Rep. Stewart’s “National Park” Bill Is a Dangerous Ruse
In early December, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced H.R. 4558, a bill that establishes three small national monuments in place of the repealed Grand Staircase-Escalante and creates the so-called “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve” (a park in name only). All of the new designations prioritize grazing, hunting, and recreation, and the bill reopens lands not included in the Trump monuments to mineral leasing. The legislation also includes a public lands giveaway (handing the Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the State of Utah), and management planning for the “park” and all three monuments would be placed in the
hands of local officials in Kane and Garfield County, despite the fact that
these federal lands belong to all Americans.
On December 14th, the ludicrously titled “Grand Staircase-Escalante Enhancement Act” was heard by the Federal Lands Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. The Republican majority focused on what they viewed as the problems surrounding the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument designation. However, redrock champion Rep. Lowenthal (D-CA) reminded everyone that Congress had confirmed the monument, and that courts had upheld its constitutionality. Kanab business owner Susan Hand then explained what a benefit the monument has been to local communities, invalidating the argument that it is killing the economy.
Though no markup has been scheduled, the bill is likely to move quickly as Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop has made it a top priority. We’ll keep you posted.
Photo © Jeff Foott
Rep. John Curtis Drinks the Anti-Monument Kool-Aid, Goes after Bears Ears
The same week Rep. Chris Stewart introduced his bill to make permanent Trump’s illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante, the newest member of Utah’s congressional delegation, Rep. John Curtis, introduced H.R. 4532, a bill to ratify Trump’s repeal of Bears Ears National Monument and replace it with two significantly diminished landscapes: the 142,337-acre Shash Jáa National Monument, and the 86, 447-acre Indian Creek National Monument. These new boundaries exclude 83 percent of lands protected in the original Bears Ears National Monument.
Much like the Stewart bill, Rep. Curtis’ legislation creates a new management council comprised of the same local elected officials who sought the undoing of the monument, as well as members of Tribes who are picked not by tribal governments, but by the Utah delegation. Furthermore, the bill excludes three of the five Tribes that advocated for protection of Bears Ears from the management council. This framework seems designed to ensure that the protective status of the original Bears Ears National Monument will not be honored in the two significantly diminished parcels that remain.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing but we’ll be keeping a close eye on it and will let you know when action is needed.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Trump Administration’s Push for Energy Dominance Threatens Wild Lands and Cultural Resources
While the fight to protect Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments grabs headlines, SUWA is also hard at work defending Utah’s wilderness-quality lands from the Trump administration’s lease-everything, lease-everywhere push for energy dominance on our public lands.
On December 12th, the Utah BLM held its online auction for the December 2017 oil and gas lease sale. The agency auctioned off 75 lease parcels consisting of 94,040 acres of federal public land overseen by its Vernal and Price field offices. Included in this auction were parcels in the Molen Reef region of the San Rafael Swell, the Desolation Canyon region west of the Green River, and along the entrance road to Dinosaur National Monument. A coalition of conservation organizations led by SUWA has filed an administrative challenge to this leasing decision. That challenge remains pending before the Utah BLM state director.
In similar fashion, the BLM will auction off 43 parcels covering 51,400 acres of federal public land overseen by its Moab and Monticello field offices this March. Included in this sale are parcels near Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, parcels in the culturally and archeologically dense Alkali Ridge region of San Juan County, and in wilderness-caliber lands such as Hatch Point / Hatch Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, and Goldbar Canyon. SUWA has been actively engaged by providing comments, information, and data to the agency (to no avail). In the coming weeks we will file a formal challenge to this ill-conceived decision.
Photo © Liz Thomas/SUWA
Through Dark Times, the Light Persists
Today, the Winter Solstice takes place in the northern hemisphere, which means we will pass through the longest night of the year. What most of us forget is that this darkness is not universal. In the southern hemisphere, December 21st is the longest DAY of the year. Shift the perspective from which you gaze and you move from huddling in dark to standing in blazing light.
Without question, the future of the redrock is in extreme jeopardy. But in this time of darkness, it is important to remember that light persists. It is also important to realize that YOU are the ones creating it—and it is powerful.
So thank you to everyone everywhere who has showed up or spoken out in whatever way you have—coming to a rally or a protest, making a phone call, writing a letter to the editor, sending an email to your elected official. You are the light in the darkness, and it is because of the power of your love that we will prevail.
>> Click here to read this blog post in full (and see some inspiring photos)
Photo © Tim Peterson
Stand Up and Be Counted: Become a Member of SUWA
There’s no question that 2017 has been a tough year for those of us who love Utah’s redrock wilderness. From President Trump’s illegal rollbacks of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments to a new focus on “energy dominance” over conservation on Utah’s public lands, there’s been a lot of bad news.
SUWA stands up to the greed and scare tactics of Utah’s politicians. We challenge the federal agencies that succumb to political pressure, day in and day out. And we have begun the fight to reverse President Trump’s attacks on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase in court.
2018 is going to bring even more battles to protect Utah’s magnificent wilderness lands. Please join thousands of people like you who are standing up to be counted as Americans willing to defend our wild Utah heritage.
Photo © Jeff Foott