SUWA supports a balanced approach to energy issues in Utah that includes protecting Utah’s redrock wilderness and other special places, as well as promoting energy efficiency and conservation to help combat climate change.
Oil & Gas Leasing and Development
In recent years, we have had numerous successes in defending Utah’s wild public lands from fossil fuel development.
- We persuaded the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to drop ill-conceived proposals to sell more than 85,000 acres of federal public land in the San Rafael Swell as well as 18,000 acres in southeastern Utah near Bears Ears National Monument.
- We have repeatedly fought off attempts to open public lands for oil and gas development in or near Argyle Canyon, Desolation Canyon, Nine Mile Canyon, and Molen Reef and the Mussentuchit Badlands (both in the western San Rafael Swell), among other wilderness-caliber landscapes.
- We have reached important settlements with oil and gas companies including the Bill Barrett Corporation and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. These agreements have resulted in meaningful protections for the Desolation Canyon, Jack Canyon and White River proposed wilderness areas.
Under the Bush administration, we successfully fought off attempts to sell new oil and gas leases and drill new wells on wilderness-quality lands across the state. During the Obama administration we worked to bring balance back to public land management through tools like master leasing plans (MLPs), which took a closer look at which lands should be off-limits to new oil and gas leasing and development and which should remain open to such activities.
In the fall of 2016, the BLM finalized the Moab MLP, which was developed in close coordination with local stakeholders (including SUWA) and covers approximately 785,000 acres of federal public land in southeastern Utah—including wilderness-caliber lands adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The plan provides a blueprint for protecting Utah’s redrock landscapes while allowing more certainty for future energy development by steering such activities away from sensitive public lands that are too wild to drill.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has quickly come full circle and brought us back to the “drill now-drill everywhere” days of the Bush administration and once again Utah is front and center on the national stage for these disastrous policies. From day one, the Trump administration has unleashed an onslaught of attacks on America’s public lands, even targeting national parks and wilderness-caliber landscapes. In Utah, the administration has proposed auctioning off oil and gas leases less than two miles from Zion National Park, immediately adjacent to Dinosaur National Monument, in the culturally and archeologically rich Molen Reef region of the San Rafael Swell, and within only a few miles of Bears Ears National Monument. Oil and gas development activities in these areas would destroy our rich American cultural heritage, dark night skies, and outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation, while also threatening our wildlife, clean air and clean water. With the help of our members and activists, SUWA is working to protect these magnificent landscapes for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
Oil Shale and Tar Sands
Utah has the misfortune of being the only state in the union with substantial tar sands deposits, as well as shallow outcroppings of oil shale. There is no shortage of small (and big) time schemers with dreams of exploiting these resources and seeing full scale oil shale and tar sand development. The greenhouse gas emissions from such development – and their contribution to climate change – would be staggering. SUWA is actively engaged in challenging oil shale and tar sands leasing and pilot projects that threaten America’s redrock wilderness.