Submit Scoping Comments by March 3rd to Influence San Rafael Swell Travel Planning Process
Federal law requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources when designating motorized vehicle routes. Despite this, the agency is considering a travel management plan that would designate over a thousand miles of new routes in the heart of the San Rafael Swell. These new routes include wash bottoms, cow paths, and simple lines on a map. Inundating the Swell with new motorized vehicle routes would forever change this iconic area from one with diverse recreational opportunities to essentially a motorized playground.
The BLM is currently in the “scoping” phase of its travel planning process, which identifies issues the agency must consider in that process. It is vital that the agency hears from members of the public that blanketing this area with new motorized vehicle routes is unacceptable.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
SUWA Appeal Wins Reprieve for Lands within Historic Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
The U.S. Department of Interior’s Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) recently set aside two late-summer 2020 decisions by the BLM’s Kanab field office to uproot vegetation on two post-fire landscapes within the original boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and subsequently seed the areas with non-native livestock forage.
SUWA and Western Watersheds Project had encouraged the BLM to consider a more environmentally-sound alternative treatment plan that would only use native species for seeding and would not use chaining—the most invasive and soil-disturbing method—as part of the agency’s restoration plans. The IBLA determined that the agency violated federal law by failing to consider such alternatives.
Unfortunately, the agency had already started on-the-ground operations, including chaining and seeding with non-native plant species. All further activities for both projects are prohibited per the IBLA order, and the BLM confirmed earlier today that its heavy equipment is being moved offsite.
>> Read our full press release
Photo © Jack Dykinga
Utah Supreme Court Hands SUWA an Important Win on Cases Related to Dismantling of Monuments
Late last week the Utah Supreme Court issued two related opinions that clear the way for SUWA to proceed with litigation over private meetings held between three Utah counties and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The meetings concerned Secretary Zinke’s report on the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments and preceded then-President Trump’s unlawful dismantling of those monuments.
Our lawsuits argue that Kane, Garfield, and San Juan Counties violated Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act by meeting privately and in secret with Secretary Zinke (and in the case of San Juan County, other Interior Department officials) to discuss the fate of the monuments. The Supreme Court reversed the district courts’ decisions to dismiss the cases at their earliest stage and ruled that SUWA has both legal “standing” and sufficient arguments to proceed with the litigation. It also reversed lower court rulings requiring SUWA to cover the county attorneys’ fees in both cases and reversed one of the judge’s orders sanctioning SUWA as improper.
“We’re grateful the Supreme Court has cleared the way for these important lawsuits to proceed,” said SUWA Staff Attorney Laura Peterson. “SUWA members and the broader public had every right to know what these commissioners were saying behind closed doors about the fate of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.”
Photo © Tim Peterson
Ask Your Reps to Cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 117th Congress!
Very soon, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) will reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 117th Congress. This legislation is the grand vision for protecting Utah’s deserving wilderness and could play a key role in the Biden administration’s goal of protecting 30 percent of American lands and waters by 2030.
The bill would protect as wilderness 8.4 million acres of the magnificent redrock landscapes we all love—places with evocative names like Labyrinth Canyon, the Dirty Devil, and the Book Cliffs. It would also advance efforts to combat climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, achieving 5.7 percent of the carbon mitigation needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Renew Your Commitment to Stewardship
Our 2021 Stewardship Season begins this month and registration is now open for all posted projects. Whether you’ve joined us before or this is the first you’ve heard of our program, visit our Stewardship Program online to learn more and apply!
We have several opportunities for Utahns and nearby residents of the Colorado Plateau this spring, summer, and fall—from hands-on ORV restoration work near Moab, to archaeological surveys in Bears Ears National Monument, to monitoring excursions in the wilderness study areas west of the Wasatch. Check out our “Upcoming Projects” schedule for the latest information, then check back regularly for new project postings throughout the season. Submit a general application to receive monthly updates on new opportunities. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stewardship Scholar Essay Contest Winners Announced
SUWA is pleased to announce the three winners of our 2020 Stewardship Scholar Essay Contest: Laci Begaye (Grand Prize), Ruby Valencia, and Alex Sanchez. Congratulations to these bright and promising young scholarship recipients! Click here to learn more about them and read their winning essays.
Recognizing that people of color have historically been left out of the U.S. public land conservation movement, SUWA is committed to the goal of raising up diverse conservation voices from across the Intermountain West. Our essay contest was launched in 2020 as an opportunity for underserved communities to explore concepts of public land appreciation and stewardship at a time when we were unable to offer our usual field scholarships due to COVID-19 concerns. Undergraduate students were invited to write a 750-1250 word essay for a chance to win a cash scholarship toward their ongoing education.