Labyrinth Canyon Helium Project Moves Forward As Legal Battle Continues
Just before Christmas, SUWA—along with our partners at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Living Rivers—sought a temporary restraining order to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from approving a plan to punch a helium well into the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness, west of the Green River.
In a rare ruling, a federal judge temporarily enjoined the BLM and the company and prohibited road and drill pad construction that was set to begin just two days before Christmas. In turn, SUWA’s legal team worked diligently through the holidays to prepare for a January 6th hearing, which would determine whether the judge would extend the injunction and block the project from moving forward until our lawsuit challenging the legality of the lease could be resolved.
Unfortunately, last week the judge denied our request for a preliminary injunction. We expect the company that is drilling the lease, “Pure Helium LLC,” has already cleared the pad, widened the road, and will be drilling between now and February 28th, when they are required to cease surface-disturbing operations until September to honor stipulations designed to protect the Mexican spotted owl.
We’ll continue to watchdog what’s happening on the ground for the next several weeks, and our legal team is working on an expedited schedule to brief the case and hopefully block the lease permanently before operations pick up again in the fall.
Photo © Joshua Ladau
Senators Call for Cancellation of Hundreds of Controversial Oil & Gas Leases in Utah
In December, just before the Christmas holiday, seven senators led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took the time to send a letter to (soon-to-be-ex) Interior Secretary David Bernhardt objecting to hundreds of oil and gas leases on Utah public lands that were poised for approval by the outgoing Trump administration. These leases did not undergo the proper NEPA analysis, and after SUWA objected, the BLM has taken them back under advisement to consider their climate impacts. We’re hoping the agency doesn’t just gloss over these concerns with a flimsy analysis, and we’re grateful to the senators for speaking out.
If you are represented by Sen. Durbin, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), or Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), please click here to thank them now!
Photo © Neal Clark/SUWA
Conservation Groups Launch Lawsuit over Deforestation Plans Affecting Six Western States
SUWA and three other conservation groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration over 11th-hour plans to approve “fuel breaks” and other vegetation removal projects across six western states in a heavy-handed and scientifically unproven effort to control the spread of wildfires. The suit points to violations of the Endangered Species Act that would result from authorizing widespread clearcutting, herbicide spraying, grazing, plowing, and prescribed fire across 223 million acres of BLM public lands in the Great Basin.
The plans, which are part of a larger Trump administration program of forest and shrubland destruction underway across the West, will have potentially devastating consequences for the imperiled greater sage grouse and numerous other threatened and endangered species. They also will exclude the public and the scientific community from key land management decisions across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah.
“Science, transparency and public input are meant to be the backbone of managing Western public lands, but instead, these decisions improperly substitute anecdote for evidence while cutting off all normal channels of public notice, review and future accountability,” said SUWA Wildlands Attorney Kya Marienfeld.
>> Click here to read SUWA’s full press release
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Podcast Examines Implications of Recent Elections for Utah’s Redrock Country
In our latest podcast, SUWA Legislative Director Jen Ujifusa and Legal Director Steve Bloch discuss how the 2020 election results will affect our work to protect Utah’s wild redrock country, and what we expect President Biden to do with respect to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
Since its debut in 2018, SUWA’s Wild Utah podcast has covered a number of issues facing redrock country. Please join our growing world of listeners by subscribing to Wild Utah through Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, or on our website.
Host a Wild Utah Presentation to Support Wilderness Designation
Think it’s time for change? Help us make it happen by inviting a SUWA grassroots organizer to give a presentation to your class, team, church, or other social network — any group that believes protecting nature is necessary for a just and livable future and would like to learn more about SUWA’s mission and strategy. Our goal is to educate communities on the issues impacting America’s redrock wilderness and how we can all help protect these magnificent public lands for future generations.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title “Presentation Request” to schedule a presentation!
Resolve to Defend the Redrock this Year by Becoming a Monthly Member
Whether your New Year’s resolutions include doing more for the redrock, stepping up your charitable giving game, or simply streamlining your finances, our monthly giving program is for you! Monthly giving of any amount is easy and secure. It includes all the benefits of a SUWA membership, and your sustaining support provides SUWA with reliable, year-round funding to fight current and future threats to our redrock wilderness.
Is protecting the redrock worth $5 or $10 a month to you? That adds up to $60 or $120 a year, which goes a long way to helping keep your public lands wild. For more details or to join as a sustaining member, please visit our website at suwa.org/monthly.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA