Emery County Bill Receives Hearing in House Subcommittee
On June 21st, the #NotSoSwell Emery County bill, H.R. 5727, had a farce of a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Representative John Curtis, the bill’s sponsor, spoke in glowing terms about the proposal, but no witness was even invited to testify against the bill despite widespread opposition to it from several conservation groups, including SUWA, Sierra Club, NRDC, the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society. Such is the way of hearings in the House, which these days amount more to tent revivals than meaningful discussions of a bill’s merits and shortcomings.
Remember, the Emery County legislation unprotects about 15,000 acres of Wilderness Study Area and leaves more than 2/3 of proposed wilderness in the county unprotected. In addition, it seeks to legislate routes in an illegal travel plan that we already have a court settlement for! It’s a real sham.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Election Victory for Bears Ears
Few local politicians have been as outspoken against Bears Ears National Monument as San Juan County (Utah) Commissioner Rebecca Benally, who used her position to claim that local Native Americans opposed the Bears Ears designation. But now, the people have spoken. In the Democratic primary election in Utah on June 26th, Ms. Benally went down in defeat against pro-monument candidate Kenneth Maryboy. As Indian Country Today explains, “[t]he most important thing about this election . . . is that it ends the Trump administration narrative about local support for their actions by Native Americans . . . While the area tribes supported the previous monument standards, the Interior Department could turn to San Juan County Commissioner Benally for a more favorable response. That’s no more.” Mr. Maryboy now moves on to face his Republican opponent in the November general election.
Photo © Jeff Foott
Mining in Grand Staircase-Escalante?
A Canadian firm is looking into mining copper on lands cut from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah public radio station KUER reports. As SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch says, “President Trump’s unlawful order dismantling the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is directly responsible for these recently located mining claims within the original boundaries of the monument. We are confident that Trump’s order will be overturned in court. In the meantime, mining in this remote and fragile location poses a clear and present danger to the monument and we won’t allow any on-the-ground activities to start without a fight – period.”
Photo © Jeff Foott
Redrock Activists Hone Leadership Skills at Retreat
Over two days in early June, devoted redrock activists from Utah and 13 other states gathered for SUWA’s 2018 Grassroots Leaders Retreat, a bi-annual training event designed to deepen understanding about our issues, enhance advocacy skills, and build community. The group gathered at a beautiful ranch just outside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument where the setting sun glowed luminous on the Straight Cliffs of the Kaiparowits Plateau every evening.
At camp we reviewed the significant accomplishments and current challenges of the Wild Utah campaign, and learned more about the new bill that could wreck or, if substantially improved, potentially protect the San Rafael Swell. An excursion across the Burr Trail provided a firsthand look at what Trump’s illegal gutting of Grand Staircase-Escalante means on the ground, what an RS 2477 right-of-way claim really looks like, the impacts of grazing, and the threats posed by state land inholdings. We also focused on advocacy skills, with activist toolkit sessions on how to table effectively at local public events, write powerful and persuasive letters-to-the-editor, and educate congressional representatives.
And of course we walked the land together, heading out into canyons and along the waterways to personally experience and absorb the beauty of the landscape. The retreat underscored once again how citizen activism is the pulsing heart of the Wild Utah campaign. SUWA is grateful for all who came and we look forward to joining with more of you in the future!
Photo © SUWA
SUWA Joins GreenLatinos at 2018 Summit
In late May, SUWA participated in the 2018 GreenLatinos Summit, where 200 organizations converged to uncover the deep impacts that racism, climate change, pollution, public land policy, and fossil fuel exploitation have on Latinx and Hispanic communities. To say this conference was intersectional would understate the tightly woven roots shared by social injustices, environmental policies, and issues typically seen as “Latino issues.”
One important message we came away with concerned transformational relationships. A panel speaker said that in the past, organizations came to Latinx communities with the goal of getting something out of the community – a survey, a partnership, a commitment to act – but little was reciprocated, especially in terms of resources needed by organized Latinxs. The speaker stressed not only the importance of equitable transactional relationships but also the need to build meaningful relationships in ways that transform both Latinx community organizations and environmental activists.
One break-out session involving public land conservation organizations from throughout the West led to a nuanced discussion of how national monuments and other public lands are significant to the Latinx community. This session reinforced the national importance of each local landscape in promising Latinx families and individuals solace, wellbeing, and a place in the American story.
SUWA is proud to be a part of GreenLatinos and is thrilled to continue conversations and action with this exemplary group of advocates.
Become a Crew Leader for SUWA’s Service Program!
As we continue our summer of service work in Bears Ears National Monument, we look ahead to a busy fall season (click here to view our complete calendar). We’re preparing for project work across the state: Bears Ears, Book Cliffs, Canaan Mountain Wilderness, Cedar Mesa, and the Deep Creek Mountains. Our crews will be active nearly every weekend now through early November – and we need your help!
Beginning this fall we will recruit, train and outfit select individuals to lead service projects in Utah. SUWA’s crew leaders will work with our Program Director and collaborating land managers to increase our program’s capacity while ensuring our productive presence across Utah.
Prospective crew leaders should submit a brief statement of interest (up to a page), along with a resume of relevant experience, to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a volunteer position. You may email preliminary inquiries to the same address or call (435) 259-9151.
Photo © Jeremy Lynch/SUWA