• February 17th, 2017

    Utah politicians are continuing their rabid attack on Bears Ears National Monument—but not without consequences.

    Yesterday, after a disastrous phone call between Utah Governor Gary Herbert and outdoor recreation industry leaders, Outdoor Retailer—the huge outdoor rec convention held twice a year in Salt Lake City—announced that they would be leaving Utah as soon as possible, citing Utah’s anti-public lands policies and its efforts to convince President Trump to rescind Bears Ears National Monument. Outdoor Retailer’s decision will cost the state tens of millions in annual revenue.

    Still, Governor Herbert and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop continue in their blind zeal to attack the new monument. These attacks on Bears Ears are out of step with mainstream Utah values.

    That’s why SUWA has launched a new statewide TV ad campaign to defend the monument—and to remind Utahns that despite the ideological rhetoric coming from Utah politicians, Bears Ears National Monument is good for Utah.

    Watch our new TV ad here:

    Bears Ears Ad Screenshot

    There’s no question that the Utah delegation will continue to wail about Bears Ears. And there’s no question that SUWA will be relentless in defending the monument. Please help us keep the pressure on by making a contribution today.

    Click here to contribute to the defense of Bears Ears.

    Thank you.

  • February 2nd, 2017

    After widespread public outcry from hunters, anglers, recreationists, and public lands enthusiasts across the country, Congressman Jason Chaffetz has promised to withdraw HR 621 — legislation that would have sold off millions of acres of public lands across the West. (There is no mechanism for withdrawing a bill once it’s been introduced, so we assume this means that, while it will remain on the books, he does not intend to advance it.)

    HR 621 identified 3.3 million acres of federal land across 10 states for disposal and subsequent sale (based off a dusty, 20-year-out-of-date Interior Department report), including 132, 931 acres in Utah. What Chaffetz’s bill neglected to mention is that the report also specified that many of those parcels contain a number of “impediments to disposal,” including the presence of cultural, historical, and paleontological resources as well as endangered plant and animal species. Thankfully, citizens across the country who treasure these public lands flooded the congressman’s office with calls and hosted two rallies in Montana and New Mexico to voice their outrage at what would have been nothing short of a land grab, leading the congressman to withdraw the legislation late Wednesday night.

    This is a major victory for public lands and a testament to the power of grassroots activism, but the broader fight surrounding the fate of our nation’s natural treasures is far from over.

    In disavowing HR 621, Congressman Chaffetz said nothing about another piece of legislation he introduced last week. HR 622, the “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act,” would eliminate roughly 300 law enforcement officials at the BLM and another 700 at the Forest Service and replace them with deputized local officials. Such actions would effectively curtail the agencies’ ability to ensure public safety as well as protect the critical wildlife, ecosystems, cultural sites, and other important resources of our nation’s most beloved landscapes.

    In the backdrop of all of this, the Utah delegation continues to wage war on our national monuments and the very law that made them possible, the Antiquities Act of 1906. Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz have repeatedly lobbied the Trump administration to overturn the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument and eliminate sizeable portions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well. These incredibly special landscapes—places of recreation, inspiration, reflection, joy, and discovery—remain in grave danger.

    In short, the battle to protect our public lands in the 115th Congress has only just begun. SUWA will fight our opponents every step of the way and we’ll keep you posted as new threats emerge. In the meantime, let’s continue to remind Congressman Chaffetz that public lands should be preserved for the benefit of the many instead of sold off for the sake of a few.

    If you live in Chaffetz’s district, call his office (DC: 202-225-7751, UT: 801-851-2500) and thank him for doing the right thing on HR 621, but insist that he must also withdraw HR 622 and support the Bears Ears National Monument!

  • January 18th, 2017

    Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), President-elect Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, finished his ‘How Do You Do?’ hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday. The results, as is often the case in the public lands universe, are coming up Utah.

    ct-ryan-zinke-interior-secretary-confirmation-hearing-20170117
    Do you want the good news or the bad news? Or both? In the hearing, Rep. Zinke said more than once that visiting the Beehive State was his “first order” should he be confirmed—even confirming that to Sen. Manchin, who was fishing for West Virginia as the answer.

    SUWA, naturally, welcomes any new secretary of Interior who proposes to visit us in what he called our “Great State of Utah.” Utah’s public lands are the crown jewels of those managed by the secretary—some of the last unprotected wildernesses in the lower 48—indeed, the last to be mapped because of their rugged and untamable beauty.

    But, we have serious concerns about Zinke’s nomination. His record is partly cloudy on its fairest days. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool fossil fuel booster, and he lauds industry deregulation. He has occasionally made a point of resisting public lands giveaways of the kind that extremists in Utah champion, and he did defy Rep. Rob Bishop’s attempts to dismantle the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But these qualifications were once the cellar for an incoming Interior Secretary—not the ceiling.

    That President Obama just designated 1.35 million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument only underscores the importance of Zinke’s promised visit. If confirmed as DOI boss, Zinke will be the head liaison between the U.S. government and the many sovereign tribes of this nation. Because an unprecedented coalition of tribes—the Navajo, the Zuni, the Hopi, the Ute Mountain Ute and the Ute Indian Tribe—came together to request the monument in honor of the heritage they all share in this landscape, it will be mandatory for the next DOI Secretary to meet with them and understand their role in protecting this place. Anything less is a total sham. And Zinke’s hedges on the next administration’s intentions were a red flag.

    That’s why, at the hearing, one of our great public lands champions, Sen. Martin Heinrich, made a point of reminding Rep. Zinke that even tribes in New Mexico are celebrating the new Bears Ears National Monument. It’s obvious that native people of many states, and diverse citizens of all fifty, are joining together to rejoice in this new designation, which will endure for generations.

    But we worry the nominee doesn’t truly see it that way. In justifying Utah as a priority visit at the hearing, Zinke drew on his Navy Seal background and called it a “five-meter target,” (i.e. the thing immediately in front of you) and proclaimed that “obviously we have a problem in the Great State of Utah.”

    That almost sounds like he sees our state as a threat, doesn’t it? It’s clear he needs some better intel.

    Rep. Zinke has vowed to visit with those “affected” by the Bears Ears and make a “recommendation” to President Trump about its future. That handshake tour requires at least two stops beyond what a bitter Utah delegation would show him:

    First, Zinke must meet with the tribes who so passionately worked for its protection and assist them in their goals—certainly they are affected.

    Second, as the local conservation group that has worked on Utah wilderness for more than 30 years, and knows these lands inside and out, Rep. Zinke needs to meet with our staff in Moab. Our folks in Moab are closer to parts of the monument than any town in San Juan County. We’ll gladly accommodate his schedule so we can show off what our nearly 13,000 members know to be true: that these public lands are among the nation’s most wild, most fragile and most precious, and that his job is one that will require true vision.

    In the hearing, Zinke repeatedly professed his admiration for President Teddy Roosevelt, who first designated the Natural Bridges National Monument, which the new Bears Ears National Monument adorns and completes with holistic, 21st Century boundaries. Zinke claimed today he hoped to be “bold,” to seek a vision for “100 years from now.” We hope the Montanan will live up to that professed dream, by looking to the possibilities and economies of the future instead of the past.

    After all, Teddy Roosevelt himself signed the Antiquities Act that made the Bears Ears National Monument possible. And, as the 26th president said, “Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”

    Posted by
  • January 13th, 2017

    SUWA, The Wilderness Society, Earthjustice, and a coalition of eight other conservation groups, along with the Bureau of Land Management and off-highway vehicle groups have taken an important step to settle longstanding litigation filed in 2008 by the conservation groups which challenged six land use plans and off-highway vehicle travel plans completed at the end of the George W. Bush administration.

    Read More »
    Posted by
  • January 12th, 2017

    Utah’s most popular National Park threatened by sight and sound of development

    For Immediate Release: January 12, 2017

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Cory MacNulty, National Parks Conservation Association, 801.521.0785

    SALT LAKE CITY – National Park advocates, local residents and conservationists are stunned over a just announced proposal by the St. George field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer two oil and gas leases less than two miles from Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  If developed, the two parcels could easily be seen from Utah’s most popular national park.  The parcels are also next to the rural residential gateway community of Virgin and dissected by the North Creek drainage – a perennial stream which flows into the Virgin River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River.

    DryCreek4

    Proposed lease area in Dry Creek proposed wilderness. Photo copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    “This is a completely inappropriate location for oil and gas leasing and development,” said Steve Masefield, former Chairman of the Virgin Planning and Zoning Commission and a town resident.  “Drilling on these leases would not only degrade the scenic vistas enjoyed by visitors driving to Zion.  Nearby rural neighborhoods would be devastated by industrial smells, noise, lighting and traffic.  Our water – and the water used by communities downstream – could be polluted.”

    “As a life-time resident and a retired owner of several hospitality and tourist-related businesses in Springdale, Utah, I know how crucial the greater Zion National Park area is to our visitors and local residents alike,” said Louise Excell.  “I cannot imagine how visitors will feel as they discover pump jacks and flares from oil and gas drilling are visible from both inside and outside the park.  Not only will the sight be jarring for visitors and residents, but other important natural resources and quality of life will be affected, including diminished air quality, loss of natural soundscapes, and night skies.”

    There are currently no producing wells in this region, and BLM is under no requirement to offer these parcels for lease.  Moreover, the oil and gas industry has roughly 2 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah already under lease that they have not developed.  Despite the extensive leased lands, in 2016 the drilling of new oil and gas wells in Utah reached a 30-year low.  There is clearly no need to offer these two leases for sale and put Zion National Park and the surrounding region at risk from mineral development.

    “With over 4 million annual visitors to Zion National Park, BLM should be working collaboratively with the National Park Service to protect – not threaten – the world class resources those visitors come to enjoy and be inspired by,” said Cory MacNulty, with the National Parks Conservation Association.  “The doorstep to one of America’s ‘Best Ideas’ is not the place for oil and gas leasing and development.”

    “BLM’s proposal to sell these two leases is déjà vu all over again.  Just like its proposal in 2008 to sell leases adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, this is an entirely ill-conceived plan that should be rejected,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This lease first, think later approach to oil and gas leasing has been rejected time and time again.  It’s hard to understand what would compel BLM to propose offering these parcels but whatever their motivation, BLM should rethink its proposal which threatens Utah’s most popular National Park.”

    The two oil and gas lease parcels near Zion National Park, as well as a third parcel located adjacent to the Black Ridge Wilderness Area, are proposed for sale at BLM’s June 2017 competitive oil and gas lease sale (environmental assessment available here).  BLM is accepting comments on its controversial proposal through February 10, 2017 (more information available here).

    The proposed lease parcels overlap lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics (i.e., outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation) and which are proposed for Wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 2430, S. 1375 (114th Congress).

    Photographs taken from the lease parcels are available here.

    ###

    About Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.  For more information, visit www.suwa.org.

    About National Parks Conservation Association
    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

    Posted by
Page 4 of 28« First...23456...1020...Last »