December 2023 Redrock Report

Dec 14th, 2023 Written by suwa

Labyrinth Canyon Threatened Again: Comments Due Dec. 18th on American Potash Proposal

Labyrinth Canyon (Ray Bloxham/SUWA)A Canadian company curiously named “American Potash” has submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to construct four new well pads and drill four wells to explore for potash and lithium on the east side of the Green River in the iconic Labyrinth Canyon area. Three of the wells are on public lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, and the exploratory drilling alone would consume millions of gallons of Colorado River water.

Less than three months ago, the BLM took much-needed steps to protect the rugged, quiet, and stunningly scenic Labyrinth Canyon from off-road vehicle damage. But this misguided proposal—in that very same landscape—would undo that progress and likely lead to new development, permanently scarring this remarkable landscape.

The BLM is accepting public comments on this water-intensive proposal through Monday, December 18th—please take action today!

>> Click here to submit comments now

Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

Help Keep Red Cliffs Roadless! Comments Due Dec. 28th

Red Cliffs NCA (Ray Bloxham)Back in 2009, SUWA and a coalition of conservation partners worked to pass the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act, which created the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA). Located at the convergence of the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin ecoregions, the Red Cliffs are like nowhere else in Utah or the American West. Now, a proposed four-lane highway—the Northern Corridor Highway—threatens this remarkable place.

In 2021, SUWA and other conservation organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging the original highway right-of-way approval. This November, the lawsuit was settled, meaning that federal agencies acknowledged flaws in their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) approving the highway. Now, a Supplemental EIS is being prepared that reconsiders that previous approval—and it’s our second chance to speak up and ensure the Red Cliffs NCA remains roadless!

The BLM is taking comments through Thursday, December 28th—please take action to #KeepRedCliffsRoadless!

>> Click here to submit comments now

Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

Labyrinth Canyon/Gemini Bridges Travel Plan Takes Full Effect After Appeals Board Rejects Attempted Delay

Bowknot Bend, Labyrinth Canyon (Pete McBride/EcoFlight)Good news! An administrative appeals board rejected three petitions for stay filed by the state of Utah and several motorized recreation groups in an attempt to delay implementation of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan Decision. This means the agency’s long-awaited motorized vehicle travel plan for this world-renowned area, finalized in late September, now takes full effect pending a final decision on the appeal.

“We look forward to seeing the BLM begin to implement its balanced travel planning decision in the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area,” said SUWA Staff Attorney Laura Peterson. “The BLM’s plan takes a thoughtful approach to managing recreation in this popular area; one that will protect the stunning Labyrinth Canyon river corridor and critically important riparian ecosystem while leaving thousands of miles of dirt roads and trails open to motorized use in the greater Moab area. As the appeals move forward, SUWA is confident the plan will withstand scrutiny and has moved to intervene to defend BLM’s decision.”

>> Read our press release to learn more

Photo © Pete McBride/EcoFlight

Calling All Desert Rats: SUWA Is Hiring for Multiple Field Positions Based in Moab!

Hiring GraphicAs we expand our field team to tackle new projects, SUWA is looking to fill two Stewardship Program positions and hire three Wilderness Conservation Crew (WCC) Technicians. If you’re a detail-oriented person who enjoys hands-on work outside, please apply!

Stewardship Program:
The Stewardship Coordinator position is a FULL-TIME position and, among other things, involves facilitating volunteer projects, coordinating with federal agencies, conducting fieldwork, and preparing detailed reports. Application deadline: Friday, Dec. 15th. The Seasonal Stewardship Coordinator is a PART-TIME position with similar responsibilities and a seasonal work schedule running from roughly mid-February to mid-November. Application deadline: Sunday, Dec. 31st.

Wilderness Conservation Crew (WCC):
This is a PART-TIME (March 1 to October 31) field-based position focused on implementing on-the-ground protections for designated wilderness areas in central Utah. Working on a team of four crew members, the WCC Technician will use remediation techniques, data collection, and monitoring to ensure the long-term protection of designated wilderness areas. Application deadline: Wednesday, Jan. 10th.

>> Visit our Careers page to learn more and apply

Anson Resources Proposes Another Water-Intensive Development Scheme

Green River (Great Basin Water Network photo)Oftentimes, a company doesn’t have just one bad idea that would negatively impact canyon country, they have several. Such is the case with Australian-based Anson Resources. As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, “In March 2021, A1 (a subsidiary of Anson) submitted a mineral (lithium) exploration plan to BLM for two abandoned wells about 2.5 miles northwest of Dead Horse State Park and 3 miles north of Canyonlands National Park. SUWA convinced BLM to withdraw approval of that plan this year, arguing the federal agency hadn’t done adequate analysis of the potential impacts on the amount of water available in the arid region.”

Unfortunately, Anson has another scheme near the town of Green River, Utah – a major lithium extraction and exportation effort seeking billions of gallons of water rights from the Colorado River and its tributaries, including the Green River, each year. While not on land proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, this proposal would dramatically impact the greater redrock landscape and an already over-stressed Colorado River. Our friends at the Great Basin Water Network have a petition calling on the Utah State Engineer to protect the Green River. Please consider signing and sharing.

Photo courtesy of Great Basin Water Network

Slickrock & Dark Skies: Two Views of Utah Wilderness

Dark Sky (Ryan Andreasen)Earlier this month, Oregonians for Wild Utah and Washington Friends of Wild Utah hosted a special webinar titled Slickrock & Dark Skies: Two Views of Utah Wilderness. The webinar features experts Steve Hinch, a recognized photographer and author on wilderness topics, and Lisa Stoner, coordinator for the Colorado Plateau and Basin & Range Dark Sky Cooperatives for Utah State University (USU) Extension. We’re pleased to make a recording of this fascinating presentation available to all of our supporters!

More about the presenters: Steve Hinch has explored and recorded the lands of the American Southwest, including southern Utah, for forty years. His most recent, award-winning book is The Slickrock Desert: Journeys of Discovery in an Endangered American Wilderness. At USU, Lisa Stoner focuses on outreach, educational programs, partnerships, and technical support to elevate the importance of sustaining naturally dark skies across the western United States.

>> Click here to watch the webinar now

Photo © Ryan Andreasen