County Proposals Shortchange Wilderness
Bad news. The counties’ proposals for Representative Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative are in and they spell disaster for the future of Utah’s wild lands. If adopted, these proposals would fragment wilderness designation while rolling back existing wilderness study areas. Even the “conservation area” designations are often rendered meaningless because they are opened to oil and gas development and riddled with roads.
Some of the most spectacular wilderness landscapes in Utah are essentially forsaken (click here to view map). These forgotten areas include: Bitter Creek in the upper Book Cliffs; Desolation Canyon; Labyrinth Canyon; Lockhart Basin/Hatch Point east of Canyonlands National Park; White Canyon; Tables of the Sun (Nokai Dome/Red Rock Plateau); the Price River; and lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument.
While county commissions, like all stakeholders, should have the opportunity to provide input in this process, they should not be the defining voice in determining the future of Utah’s
public lands. To succeed, the Public Lands Initiative needs to provide meaningful protection for the now-forsaken areas and incorporate the concerns of citizens across Utah and America.
Photo: Labyrinth Canyon, copyright Tom Till
Test Range Proposal Morphs into Major Public Lands Giveaway
In the last Congress, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch proposed an expansion of the Utah Test and Training Range—a 1.7 million-acre military training ground and bombing range in Utah’s West Desert—by including in it about 700,000 additional acres of land now overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The Pentagon didn’t ask for this, but it was tacked on to the National Defense Authorization Act anyway. Fortunately, it didn’t make the final cut.
When the expansion was revived in this Congress, a number of bad public lands provisions stuck like burrs onto its coattails at the behest of Utah representatives. Now, in addition to the enlargement, the proposal would give away RS 2477 rights-of-way to Juab, Tooele, and Box Elder counties, something that has nothing to do with the UTTR and has everything to do with the State of Utah’s ideological battles against federal lands.
Alarmed by this turn of events, we recently ran ads in Capitol Hill newspapers and have briefed our allies on the Hill about the nefarious add-ons in the proposal. The scheme has so far not ended up in that package, but work on it isn’t finished yet either. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Photo: Dugway Mountains, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA
America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act Introduced in 114th Congress!
On May 19, Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Alan Lowenthal joined forces to introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 1375/H.R. 2430) in Congress, the visionary legislation that would protect 9.2 million acres of Utah’s world-renowned public lands as wilderness (click here to watch Rep. Lowenthal’s ARRWA speech in the House of Representatives).
Joining Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lowenthal so far are 14 senators and 81 members of the House of Representatives. These members know that places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, Greater Cedar Mesa, and the San Rafael Swell are the birthright and heritage of all Americans and deserve permanent protection.
If your representative or senators are missing from the cosponsor list, ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!
Photo: Hatch Point, copyright Chris Noble
Court Orders BLM to Fix Flaws in Richfield Plan
On May 22, the United States District Court for the District of Utah issued a long awaited ruling regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Plan and Off-Road Vehicle Travel Management Plan for the Richfield field office, specifically directing the agency to complete comprehensive cultural surveys and additional analyses over the next 1-3 years. This “remedy decision” book-ended a November 2013 decision which held that BLM’s plans violated several substantive laws.
A coalition of conservation groups led by SUWA and Earthjustice challenged the Richfield plans in an attempt to stem the ORV damage to Utah’s spectacular public lands. These plans threaten world-renowned southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon system (including Butch Cassidy’s infamous hideout, Robber’s Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states) and Factory Butte.
The Richfield RMP is just one of six land use plans—covering more than 11 million acres of eastern and southern Utah—that the Interior Department finalized before the Bush administration left office in 2008. Each of the six plans is wildly unbalanced in favor of off-road vehicle use and energy development and threaten Utah’s redrock country. Conservationists have challenged all six plans in court. The Richfield RMP is the first of the six to be litigated.
Photo: Factory Butte, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Good News in the Fight against ATV Proliferation in Indian Creek
The Interior Board of Land Appeals recently issued an order prohibiting construction of the Indian Creek ATV trail pending appeal. The order—triggered by a “Petition for Stay” filed by SUWA, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and the Great Old Broads for Wilderness—prohibits construction of 6.4 miles of new ATV trail and three associated parking areas in Indian Creek until the Board rules on the legal merits of our administrative appeal.
If implemented, the new trail would result in increased ATV use in and near Lavender Canyon, Davis Canyon, and Bridger Jack Mesa—areas bordering Canyonlands National Park that currently see very little motorized recreational use. What’s more, the trail would bisect an area that the BLM itself identified as possessing wilderness characteristics and that is proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. We are hopeful that the Board will ultimately rule in a manner consistent with protecting this irreplaceable landscape for future generations.
Photo: Bridger Jack Mesa, copyright Crusher Bartlett