• January 4th, 2018

    As you know, one month ago President Trump issued an unlawful order to repeal the Bears Ears National Monument and replace it with two smaller monuments—leaving nearly 80% of the original monument unprotected.

    That same day, Representative John Curtis (UT-03) introduced H.R. 4532, the “Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act” in the U.S. House of Representatives. This terrible bill would ratify Trump’s illegal repeal of the Bears Ears—and make his unlawful order permanent.

    Please contact your members of Congress and tell them to oppose this bill!

    White Canyon, one of the areas left unprotected by Trump’s repeal of Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Clay

    Rep. Curtis’s bill seeks to create a management scheme for the monument that would be dictated by parochial local interests—effectively taking all power away from the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes.

    Help us stop this bill by taking action now!

    This horrendous legislation is being given a hearing on Tuesday, January 9th, and may move quickly through committee and onto the House floor. If it passes both chambers and becomes law, it will be even worse for Bears Ears than Trump’s executive order last month.

    Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Contact your representative and senators today!

  • January 3rd, 2018

    Federal Public Lands Targeted for Oil and Gas Development near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, and Culturally Significant Areas in Southeast Utah

    For Immediate Release
    January 3, 2018

    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991

    Salt Lake City (Jan. 3): Yesterday, a coalition of conservation groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) formally protested the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to auction off more than 51,400 acres of remarkable Federal public lands in southeast Utah for oil and gas leasing and development.  Included in BLM’s lease sale, scheduled for March 20, 2018, are public lands near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, as well as in the culturally rich Alkali Ridge Area of Critical Environmental Concern and along the Green and San Juan rivers.

    “BLM’s short-sighted decision threatens Utah’s red rock wilderness as well as significant cultural and archaeological resources,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “BLM’s ‘lease everything, lease everywhere’ approach to oil and gas development needlessly threatens iconic red rock landscapes and irreplaceable cultural history in the ill-conceived push for ‘energy dominance.”

    “We won’t sit idly by while President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke auction off America’s cultural and public lands heritage to the oil and gas industry,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This lease sale flies in the face of historic preservation and environmental laws that Congress put in place to make sure that BLM thinks before it acts; not ‘lease first, and think later.’”

    In addition to offering leases near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, BLM plans to auction off culturally and ecologically significant public lands throughout southeastern Utah including:

    • Several tracts in a culturally rich part of southeastern Utah known as Alkali Ridge. In 2015 BLM briefly considered leasing in this area before acknowledging that it did not have enough basic information about the cultural resources in the area and backed away from that proposal.  BLM still lacks this information but nevertheless is now willing to put these cultural sites at risk;
    • Several tracts along segments of the Green River and San Juan River popular with families, recreational business, and tourists for river running, as well as home to several endangered fish species; and
    • Several tracts near Moab, Utah, including in the Goldbar Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon proposed wilderness areas.

    “It is shameful that the Trump administration is attempting to sell off our cherished wild places for the benefit of the oil and gas industry,” said Lena Moffitt, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We will continue to pursue all legal options to protect America’s public lands from the greed and recklessness of this administration.”

    “Through lease sales like this one, Interior Secretary Zinke is handing the reins of our public lands to his pals in the oil and gas industry, despite their proximity to iconic national parks, monuments, and archeologically-rich canyons,” said Marc Thomas, with the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “This unfortunate giveaway is taking place even though the industry has already stockpiled more than 1.7 million acres of leased, but unused, BLM-managed lands in Utah.  This is not the sort of stewardship Americans, including those of us living in southeast Utah, want for our special places.”

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s environmental assessment for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Colorado (protested two lease parcels near Colorado border), Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society (protest available here).  BLM’s environmental assessment is available here.

    The following groups protested the Canyon Country District’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy for the March 2018 lease sale: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Green River Action Network, Living Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club (protest available here).  BLM’s Determination of NEPA Adequacy is available here.

    At the end of BLM’s 2016 fiscal year, there were approximately 2.9 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect). At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production—less than forty percent of the total land under lease (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases).  This disparity makes clear that there is no need to sacrifice any of these remarkable areas for oil and gas leasing and development.

    Click here for photos of areas to be auctioned off by BLM in southeastern Utah for fossil fuel development.


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  • December 7th, 2017

    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Jen Ujifusa, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (202) 266-0473

    This week, following the outrageous and illegal repeal of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments by President Trump, Utah’s representatives in Congress doubled down on the effort to unprotect these iconic landscapes by introducing two bills that would essentially ratify Trump’s actions.

    On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Stewart introduced H.R. 4558, a bill that creates three new national monuments—Escalante Canyons, Kaiparowits, and Grand Staircase, respectively. These monuments match the 48 percent reduction of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument perpetrated this week by Trump’s Executive Order, but the language nullifies Trump’s proclamation in favor of that of the bill. The bill also creates the so-called “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve,” but puts management planning for that park and the three national monuments in the hands of local officials in Kane and Garfield County despite the fact that these are federal lands belonging to all Americans.

    All of the new designations prioritize recreation, hunting and grazing over conservation, and the bill reopens the lands not included in the Trump monuments to mineral leasing. The bill also includes a public lands giveaway, handing the Hole in the Rock Road to the State of Utah, and will likely reopen destructive off-road vehicle routes that have been closed for decades to protect sensitive resources.

    “This bill is a brazen handout to the extremist voices who wish to eliminate federal control of public lands that belong to all,” said Scott Groene, Executive Director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Though it purports to protect these landscapes, by handing control almost exclusively to development interests in Kane and Garfield County, it is clear the remnants of Grand Staircase-Escalante would become playgrounds for destructive recreation, poor lands management and dirty energy. The bill, with its throw away National Park designation, is a bait and switch. No one should bite.”

    The other bill, H.R. 4532, introduced Tuesday by new delegation member Rep. John Curtis, alongside Reps. Bishop, Stewart and Love from the Utah delegation, ratifies the new boundaries that Trump’s proclamation put forth for Bears Ears National Monument, replacing the Bears Ears with two significantly diminished landscapes: the 142,337-acre Shash Jáa National Monument, and the 86, 447-acre Indian Creek National Monument. These new boundaries are an 83 percent reduction in the original Bears Ears National Monument.

    Like the Escalante bill, Rep. Curtis’ bill creates a new management council comprised of the same local elected officials that sought the undoing of the monument, as well as members of Tribes who are picked not by Tribal governments, but by the Utah delegation. Furthermore, the bill excludes three of the five tribes who advocated for protection of Bears Ears from the council. This framework ensures that the protective status of the original Bears Ears National Monument will not be honored in these newer, decimated parcels.

    “The fact that these bills even exist is evidence that the Utah delegation knows Trump’s actions were illegal, and they are scrambling to set up a Plan B,” Groene said. “But the two million acres of lands that Trump stripped from the original Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments still belong to all Americans, and we will work with our allies in Congress, who are more motivated than ever, to ensure that neither of these efforts to hand over these national treasures ever see the light of day.”


    White Canyon in Bears Ears National Monument. Copyright Jeff Clay


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  • December 7th, 2017

    President’s abuse of authority strips protections from a priceless cultural and natural heritage that belongs to all Americans

    December 7, 2017

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981

    Copyright Tim Peterson

    Washington, D.C. — Three days after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Following in the footsteps of the Native American Tribes who have already sued the President, Earthjustice is representing nine conservation organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution by eviscerating the monument. The unprecedented act leaves rare archaeological sites and stunning wildlands without protection from looting, prospecting, oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, or off-road vehicle damage. Bears Ears was decimated by more than 1 million acres. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations.

    “By revoking Bears Ears National Monument President Trump will be remembered for coming down on the wrong side of history,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The federal public lands and significant cultural resources within Bears Ears National Monument are world class treasures that demand the highest level of protection and respect. President Trump’s broad attack on Bears Ears—the first by any President in the 111-year history of the Antiquities Act—puts these lands and resources at immediate risk of damage and destruction and cannot stand.”

    “Nearly three million Americans voiced their support for national monuments during Trump’s monument review, but he chose to ignore both the American people and the letter of the law to cater to the extractive industries who would gut our natural wonders,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office. “We stand with Native American Tribes to defend Bears Ears National Monument from this outrageous attack.”

    Because the president’s authority to create national monuments is delegated by Congress under the Antiquities Act, monument proclamations carry the force of law and cannot be reversed by later presidents. President Trump lacks the authority to gut a national monument that belongs to all Americans.

    Home to ancient cliff dwellings, sacred tribal cultural sites, and iconic wildlife, Bears Ears National Monument is a national treasure. Its buttes, cliffs, and canyons include over 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, some dating to 12,000 B.C.E. To ensure its lasting protection from looting, mining and other threats, an historic inter-tribal coalition of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, the Ute Indian Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni successfully advocated for its protection as a national monument.

    “Five Native Tribes came together in an unprecedented way to protect Bears Ears National Monument,” said Bill Hedden, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Trust. “This remarkable area had been considered for national monument status for 80 years, and President Trump’s action to eviscerate the monument after a hasty review dishonors not only their heritage, but our shared American heritage as well.”

    President Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument on December 28, 2016 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that has been used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. Congress enacted the law in 1906, granting presidents the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors. Only Congress can do that.

    “The President has the unquestionable authority to create national monuments, and a monument like Bears Ears shows why this law should be respected,” said The Wilderness Society’s Senior Counsel Nada Culver. “We will fight to make sure that both the law and this place are defended.”

    The thousands of archaeological sites in Bears Ears are in dire need of protection from ongoing looting and desecration. No fewer than six serious cases of looting were documented in 2016 alone. These majestic lands are also threatened by uranium mining and oil and gas drilling.

    “The administration’s move to strip protections away from our treasured public lands leaves Bears Ears vulnerable to oil and gas development and looting of invaluable Native American cultural resources,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Bears Ears protects and connects the surrounding national park landscape that includes Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Natural Bridges National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. This place was deserving of its national monument designation, just as park sites like the Grand Canyon and Muir Woods were, and remains so today. An attempt to diminish these protections is a betrayal of the American people, and the more than 2.8 million American voices who asked that these incredible places remain protected as they are. We cannot and will not let this stand.”

    Bears Ears National Monument is home to bears, cougars, and bighorn sheep, and is dominated by two buttes that jut thousands of feet above canyon lands to form the region’s namesake, “Bears Ears.” Bears Ears National Monument continues to be used for pilgrimage, prayer and ceremonies to this day, and is a healing place vital to sustaining Native American culture and religion for the Tribes with sacred ties to these lands.

    “Overturning protections for critically important parts of the Bears Ears National Monument is an insult to people across the country who love and care about our public lands, and it’s a threat to the special places we leave as legacy for our children,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

    “President Trump’s executive order obstinately ignores the will of the American people and the value Bears Ears holds for Native Americans, local communities and wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Bears Ears National Monument supports a great diversity of plants, prized elk and bighorn sheep populations and 15 species of bat, yet the Trump administration would rather see this monument downsized and surrounded by oil and gas wells than protected for posterity.”

    “Some of America’s best-loved national parks, such as Grand Canyon, Olympic, and Grand Teton, started off as Monuments that were designated amid a storm of local controversy,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of the Western Watersheds Project. “Twenty years from now, if our suit is successful, Bears Ears will be famous and treasured and its opponents will look just as foolish and short-sighted as those who opposed the Grand Canyon’s designation.”

    “The Trump administration has crossed the line in attacking the clear authority of a previous president to declare a national monument,” said Shelley Silbert, Executive Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “President Trump lacks the legal authority to remove by fiat protection of any of the Bears Ears land for the enjoyment and use of future generations, and we stand ready to fight this in the courts.”

    “The sacred places and archeological treasures in Bears Ears will be devastated if Trump’s order is allowed to stand,” said Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program Director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve seen the wreckage on public lands from toxic mining, drilling and fracking. Trump wants to ramp that up. It’s unconscionable and we can’t allow it.”

    “It’s appalling that the president prioritizes the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry over protecting this incredible, vulnerable landscape that belongs to every American,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “The president somehow kept a straight face at the signing ceremony when he spoke of increasing public access, but his only concern was industry’s unfettered access to Bears Ears’ resources.”

    “President Trump grossly exceeded his authority in this shameful attempt to hand over sacred lands to private commercial interests,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “His order is not just illegal, it’s a serious affront to every American who values our country’s natural wonders. This landscape—with its petroglyphs, stone villages and sheer natural splendor—has been the homeland to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. We look forward to fighting in court to forever preserve these historical, natural, and cultural treasures that are held in trust for future generations.”

    About the lawsuit:

    Earthjustice represents nine groups challenging President Trump’s unlawful action: The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations.

    Resources for reporters:

    Read the legal document

    Photos & information on Bears Ears’ natural wonders are available for media use at “Defending Bears Ears”

    The giveaway to uranium, oil, and gas: map of potential oil and gas development and uranium development in Bears Ears

    Learn about the Five Native American Tribes working to protect Bears Ears

    More on the Antiquities Act:

    When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters—an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.

    The Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times by presidents of both parties.

    Every president since 1906—with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush—has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites—from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez’s family home—that tell the more complete story of our nation.

    The Congressional Research Service has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.
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