• September 21st, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Neal Clark, Wildlands Director, 435-259-7090, neal@suwa.org
    Judi Brawer, Wildlands Attorney, 435-355-0716, judi@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (September 21, 2021) – More than a dozen conservation organizations based in Utah and the surrounding region sent a letter today to the Bureau of Land Management (“the Bureau”), asking the agency to create a new working group to develop proactive management practices to address the rapid growth of non-motorized recreation and visitation on federal public lands in Utah.

    The letter follows a new report by Utah State University professor and recreation ecologist Dr. Christopher Monz, Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance, A Review of Research and Implications for Management of the Colorado Plateau Province. The report synthesizes more than 60 years of published scientific research to identify the lasting environmental impacts of rapidly expanding non-motorized recreation such as hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, hunting, and horseback riding on the Colorado Plateau.

    The report highlights the need for a proactive approach to planning for recreation growth on the Colorado Plateau, as opposed to the Bureau’s current reactive strategy that leads to the proliferation of damaged areas. “Activity types and behaviors that result in expanding recreation use from concentrated, high-use areas to new, less visited and undisturbed locations are perhaps the most serious consideration [for public land managers],” writes Dr. Monz. “Future management of public lands will have to be proactive in order to accommodate a likely continued increase in demand while also protecting the natural landscapes visitors seek.”

    The letter to the Bureau calling for the formation of a new recreation working group was signed by Colorado Wildlands Project, Conserve Southwest Utah, Grand Canyon Trust, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Latino Outdoors Salt Lake City, Living Rivers/Colorado Riverkeeper, Mormons for Environmental Stewardship, Utah Rock Art Research Association, Utah Chapter Sierra Club, Wasatch Mountain Club, Western Wildlife Conservancy, Wilderness Workshop, Wildlands Network, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.

    “The exploding growth of non-motorized recreation and visitation to Utah’s public lands is apparent to anyone who spends time outdoors. Urgent action is needed to ensure that public lands recreation is sustainable over the long-term for wildlife, wilderness, cultural and natural resources, and quality visitor experiences,” said Neal Clark, Wildlands Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), which commissioned the report. “The Utah Bureau of Land Management is in dire need of a new vision for non-motorized recreation and visitation management. To that end, we are calling on the Bureau to establish a working group of experts to help develop science-based management strategies that proactively address this growing problem. Individual recreationists and conservation organizations cannot solve this problem alone; we need leadership from land managers to address this clearly unsustainable situation on our public lands.”

    “The BLM’s current strategy is one of pushing recreation use further and further into remote, backcountry areas. But the science is clear: to address the impacts of climate change and the biodiversity crisis, these areas must be protected as safe havens for wildlife and intact ecosystems, and the BLM must manage recreation accordingly,” said Jason Christensen, Director of Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.

    “Wildlife face a growing number of threats, from the impacts of drought to expanding human communities,” said Michael Dax, Western Program Director for Wildlands Network. “It’s important that people are able to reconnect with the natural world through recreation, but we must do so in a way that protects the resources, such as wildlife, that we want to enjoy. Proactively managing non-motorized recreation to concentrate and minimize its impacts to wildlife will help ensure that wildlife populations continue to thrive in the future.”

    Based on the findings from the new scientific report, the letter from conservation organizations calls on the Bureau to establish a non-motorized recreation and visitation working group to address the significant ecological challenges facing public lands in Utah as a result of increased use. The working group should include representatives from Native American tribes, historically underrepresented community organizations, quiet recreation organizations, wilderness and public land conservation organizations, and scientific and academic experts in the fields of recreation management, biology, wildlife, soils, and cultural resources.

    Additional Resources:

    Full Report: Outdoor Recreation and Ecological Disturbance, A Review of Research and Implications for Management of the Colorado Plateau Province by Dr. Christopher Monz

    SUWA Recreation Letter to BLM

    SUWA: Recreation Management on the Colorado Plateau

    Sign the petition: ask the Utah Bureau of Land Management to create a working group for non-motorized recreation and visitation

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  • August 19th, 2021

    Sometimes referred to as “the science monument,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established 25 years ago to protect the objects of significant scientific value found in the area. Since President Trump illegally halved the monument in 2017, monument supporters including SUWA and Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners have been working hard to get it back. We speak with Sarah Bauman, Executive Director of Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, about the effort to restore the monument, and why this area is so deserving of restored protection.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Wild Utah’s theme music, “What’s Worth?” is composed by Moab singer-songwriter Haley Noel Austin. Our interlude music, “Chuck’s Guitar,” is by Larry Pattis. Post studio production and editing is by Jerry Schmidt.

    Listen on your favorite app!

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  • August 17th, 2021

    Last week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a devastating new scientific report detailing the dire consequences of the ongoing—and worsening—climate crisis. The United Nations Secretary General called the findings “a code red for humanity.” (Read the key takeaways from the report here.)

    The IPCC’s report is an urgent call to action and its conclusions are unequivocal: we have already pushed the climate crisis too far and now the only question that remains is how quickly we can act to keep things from getting worse.

    Immediately after taking office, President Biden took decisive action to reverse the prior administration’s reckless course on climate, quickly rejoining the Paris Agreement and subsequently committing to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is an encouraging start, but much remains to be done.

    In order to reach its emissions goal, the Biden administration must immediately halt all new oil, gas, and coal leasing on federal public lands. SUWA has called on President Biden to take this crucial step to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. According to the United States Geological Survey, producing and burning fossil fuels generates nearly one quarter of the nation’s total carbon dioxide emissions, as well as substantial amounts of methane―an even more potent greenhouse gas.

    Oil and gas development in southern Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA

    Fortunately, the Biden administration is listening. The Interior Department has launched a sweeping—and long overdue—review of the federal oil and gas leasing program and will soon release its recommendations for fixing the broken leasing system.

    But Washington, DC isn’t a one-horse town; Congress also has to do its part. And that’s where you can help.

    Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Passage of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act will grant permanent protection to Utah’s wildest public lands while shielding them from climate destabilizing fossil fuel leasing and development. According to a report released this year, these lands, if kept intact and protected from the threats of such development, can help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact, it’s estimated that passage of the Red Rock bill would permanently keep in the ground greenhouse gas emissions equal to 5.7 percent of the carbon budget necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These same lands are estimated to currently sequester and store 247 million metric tons of organic carbon.

    Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to take a decisive step toward protecting the climate by cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    Thank you!

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