Good News! For Third Time in Less Than Three Months, BLM Pulls Back Oil & Gas Leasing Decision
For the third time in less than three months, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has reluctantly recognized that its rushed “lease first, think later” mentality to oil and gas leasing and development under the Trump administration violated the law.
In a recent court filing, the BLM told a federal district court judge that the agency plans to revisit its decision to sell 36 oil and gas leases and open up approximately 57,000 acres of public lands near Bears Ears, Canyons of the Ancients, and Hovenweep national monuments in Utah for development.
The BLM’s decision is in response to litigation filed by SUWA challenging the BLM’s March 2018 and December 2018 oil and gas lease sales in southeast Utah’s Monticello field office. The BLM is pulling back its leasing decisions because the agency has recognized that it failed to fully analyze greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts in the first instance (the same mistake it has made in other lease sales).
>> Read our full press release
Photo © Neal Clark/SUWA
SUWA Appeals 5-Year Permit for Motorized Events in Utah’s West Desert
SUWA recently filed an appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals, challenging the Cedar City BLM’s approval of a 5-year permit for multiple all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and utility task vehicle (UTV) events annually on public lands throughout Utah’s remote West Desert. The agency’s decision allows Beaver County, Utah to hold up to three commercial ATV/UTV “jamborees” each year, for four to seven days each, with a total of 500 ATVs and UTVs per event. The events would utilize 836 miles of motorized routes under the jurisdiction of the Cedar City field office, some of which are primitive, rarely used, unmaintained routes on wilderness-quality lands in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
Of particular concern—and the basis of SUWA’s appeal—is that the BLM’s approval of the 5-year permit failed to adequately consider the impacts of concentrated motorized use on cultural resources in and near the approved routes. Though the BLM’s previous cultural resource inventories only cover 16 percent of the routes at issue, the agency discovered 388 archaeological sites within the project area (168 of which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places), with routes going directly through 222 of those sites. What’s more, the agency determined that there was a “moderate to high amount” of cultural resources expected in and near the 84 percent of routes that have never received an on-the-ground inventory. Even though the BLM acknowledged the potential for adverse impacts to cultural resources as a result of the approved events, the agency ultimately determined that the events would have “no adverse effect” on cultural resources.
We’ve submitted our initial brief to the appellate board and await a response from the agency. We’ll keep you informed as this appeal moves forward.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Trump Administration Appoints More Foxes to Henhouse, Sets Stage for Public Land Grab
In keeping with the Trump administration’s Orwellian promise to hire “all the best people,” ex-oil lobbyist turned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has been making moves that send shivers down the spines of Western conservationists. In May, Bernhardt tapped Karen Budd-Falen, longtime Sagebrush Rebel, to be Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Generally this role would require Senate confirmation, but Bernhardt is skipping over that nicety in the interest of slashing and burning the agency he is supposed to be running. Budd-Falen, who previously worked under the notorious Interior Secretary James Watt and has represented clients suing for control over federal lands, will be a useful deputy in the systematic destruction of our nation’s public lands.
To help her, Bernhardt also brought on another old hand from administrations gone by, assigning William Pendley, an alum of the bad old days of the George W. Bush/Gale Norton Department of Interior, to be the BLM deputy director of policy and programs. In his former role as Director of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, Pendley openly supported the State of Utah’s quest to seize federal lands, and is an advocate for the sell-off of BLM lands across the West.
Finally, in a move to decentralize and effectively neuter the BLM, the Interior Department recently announced plans to move the agency’s headquarters from Washington, DC to Grand Junction, CO, scattering most of its employees across the West.
The writing is on the wall, and we’ll need all hands on deck in the coming months as we fight to keep our public lands in public hands.
For more on the fallout of Trump’s anti-public-lands agenda in Utah, read Stephen Trimble’s recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
SUWA Helps Coordinate Latino Conservation Week
This summer, SUWA joined forces with environmental organizations across the Wasatch Front to celebrate Latinx enjoyment of the natural world and community commitment to protecting the great outdoors. We coordinated six events though the week to highlight the health of rivers, wildlife, deserts, and open space in our community as integral to Latinx health. We’d like to extend a special thanks to SUWA board member Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Millcreek City Council Member Sylvia Catten, Salt Lake City Council Member Ana Valdemoros, Hartland Community for Youth and Families Director Gilberto Rejon, and PANDOS Chairman Carl Moore for joining us in Saratoga Springs to begin our week of events where the Jordan River exits Utah Lake!
To get involved with future Latino Conservation Week events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up here.
Photo © Olivia Juarez/SUWA
Become a Sustaining Member with SUWA’s Monthly Giving Program
If you’d like a convenient, hassle-free way to help SUWA, our monthly giving program is for you. Monthly giving of any amount is easy and secure, includes all the benefits of membership, and provides SUWA with reliable, year-round funding to fight current and future threats to the redrock. Is protecting the redrock worth $5 or $10 a month to you? That’s only $60 or $120 a year and goes a long way to keeping your public lands wild.
To become a sustaining member today, use our convenient online monthly giving form: suwa.org/monthly.
Register Now for Uplift 2019!
The 2019 Uplift Climate Conference is converging in Gallup,
New Mexico this fall to address climate justice issues on the Colorado Plateau
and throughout the Southwest. It is a time for young people aged 16 to around 30 to
engage in awareness and skill-building workshops that forward movements for
climate justice in front-line communities being impacted
by climate disaster now.
>> Register today!