June 2024 Redrock Report

Jun 21st, 2024 Written by suwa

Take Action for Red Cliffs & the Mojave desert tortoise!


Should Washington County be allowed to build a four-lane highway through the Congressionally-designated Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA)? Whether you’re a long-time SUWA supporter who remembers the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Act (which created the NCA), or a new face to the Protect Wild Utah Movement, we hope your answer is a resounding “NO!”

The Northern Corridor Highway is a proposed four-lane highway through the Red Cliffs NCA. Local residents and concerned individuals across the country have voiced their opposition to a highway through Red Cliffs for over a decade, and for over a decade, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  rejected this misguided proposal. However, in the final days of the Trump Administration, the highway right-of-way was approved.

Conservation groups, including SUWA, appealed this approval, and in November 2023, the BLM announced it would reconsider the right-of-way. This reconsideration process—the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)—is underway right now and the BLM is accepting public comments on its revised analysis and possible decision through Monday, June 24. You can learn more in this Utah Public Radio piece or the Salt Lake Tribune’sMake use of the latest chance to weigh in on planned highway through Red Cliffs NCA” editorial.

>> Click here to take action for Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and the Mojave desert tortoise!

Photo © Bob Wick

Travel Plan Updates: Dolores River & San Rafael Swell

SpeakSWELL_simple.pngIt’s a busy season for travel management planning as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) works to fulfill its obligation to revise travel plans throughout eastern and southern Utah, which will determine where off-road vehicle (ORV) use is allowed for decades to come. Before you take the advocacy actions below, we encourage you to read “Looking for balance in Utah’s redrock country: The motorized vehicle dilemma” which is available on the Salt Lake Tribune, KSL, or the SUWA Website.

Dolores River: Home to Utah’s portion of the Dolores River, as well as Granite and Beaver Creeks, the 130,000-acre planning area (outside of Moab, close to the Colorado border) is exceptionally remote, rugged, and biologically significant. Its varied terrain–ranging from classic redrock cliffs and serpentine riparian canyons to forested plateaus–attracts hunters, mountain bikers, intrepid river runners, and those seeking solitude on public lands. Take action and tell the BLM to Protect the Dolores River Region!

San Rafael Swell: The Swell’s soaring redrock cliffs, sinuous canyons, and prominent buttes provide endless opportunities for hiking, camping, and relaxing with family and friends. But the BLM is under extraordinary pressure to expand damaging off-road vehicle routes across the Swell. Some proposals under consideration would significantly expand the number and mileage of ORV routes in the Swell, making it nearly impossible to escape the sight and sound of vehicles. Speak up for the Swell! 

Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

BLM issues lease in the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness 

Labyinth Canyon (Joshua Ladau)In late May, we received disappointing news: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it has reaffirmed Trump-era decisions to issue 51 oil and gas leases in Emery County, Utah – including one located within the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness (designated in 2019 as part of the Dingell Act).

As a reminder, in March 2019, just eleven days before the Dingell Act became law, the BLM issued a lease to drill in the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness. Next, despite congressional Wilderness designation, and with time quickly running out on the Trump administration, as a last-minute handout to its industry allies, BLM rushed through a decision to authorize drilling on this lease. SUWA, NRDC, and other conservation partners challenged that approval and initially stopped the drilling project, but the court eventually allowed the development to proceed; a well was drilled, which turned out to be a dry hole. With BLM’s recent decision, the lease remains on the books.

“This decision doubles down on one of the most controversial oil and gas leases issued during the Trump era – located within the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness,” said Landon Newell, SUWA Staff Attorney. “It’s baffling to see the Biden Administration give its blessing to a leasing decision so rushed and poorly conducted that it garnered national media attention and a groundswell of opposition. SUWA intends to closely review today’s decision and take the necessary steps to protect this iconic landscape.”

>> Read more in our press release and consider a donation as we review the decision.

Photo © Joshua Ladau

Save the Date: 2024 Summer Shindig!

DSC06923 (1).JPGWe took last year off to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, but one of our favorite member appreciation events is making its return: the annual Summer Shindig! Official invitations are going out soon—but you’ll only receive one if your membership is current, meaning that you’ve donated $35 or more in the last year. Curious if your membership is current or when your last donation was? Send an email to Membership Coordinator Kelly Burnham or give her a call at 801-428-3972.

In the meantime, add Wednesday, August 28th from 6-9 p.m. to your calendar! We’ll be at Fisher Brewing (320 W 800 S, Salt Lake City, UT), enjoying local beer, Bella Pizza, giveaways, and a silent auction featuring local artists and businesses. This will be a 21+ event. Bring your ID and wear your SUWA swag!

Photo © Kelly Burnham/SUWA

Senator Lee’s latest attempted handout to motorized recreation

ATVs in Labyrinth Canyon Area (Corie Spruill)Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining heard concerning testimony on S. 3148, a bill from Utah Senator Mike Lee “…to prohibit the use of funds by the Secretary of the Interior to finalize and implement certain travel management plans in the State of Utah.”

Beginning in 2011, the State of Utah and many of its counties filed more than 25 lawsuits in federal district court in Utah claiming title, via the long-repealed 1866 Mining Act known as “R.S. 2477,” to more than 12,000 alleged rights of way across federal public lands in the state (including in places like National Monuments, National Parks, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, and other fragile parts of Utah). Far from being essential aspects of infrastructure (as asserted by Senator Lee), the vast majority of these claimed rights of way are nothing more than faded two-tracks, cowpaths, and stream bottoms.

To date, of the more than 12,000 claimed rights of way, fewer than two dozen have been adjudicated by the courts. At this rate, it will take decades for Utah’s claims to be decided. S.3148 would both indefinitely tie BLM’s hands and prevent the agency from spending funds on the 8 yet-to-be-completed travel management plans and prohibit BLM from implementing the 3 recently completed plans until each of the State’s R.S. 2477 lawsuits is adjudicated. Motorized vehicle planning is a necessary and essential task of the BLM to ensure balance in access and protection of Utah’s public lands.

>> Read more in our press release.

Photo © Corie Spruill