• October 2nd, 2014

    055Thanks to a terrific team of six Utahns, protecting Greater Canyonlands was on the agenda this week in Washington D.C.!

    For two days, volunteer activists representing young people, archaeology, veterans, health professionals, and local Moab residents met with key offices of the Obama administration.

    Loaded up with an armful of items showcasing public support for protecting Greater Canyonlands, the activists spoke eloquently about the need for presidential action.

    2014 GC Fly-In (Jerry Spangler)Archaeologist and author Jerry Spangler shared our new publication showcasing the cultural treasures of Greater Canyonlands, emphasizing that without action this outdoor library containing 12,000 years of human history will be inevitably degraded.

    Veteran Michael Cumming described how climbing in Greater Canyonlands allowed him to heal from the trauma and loss of war, explaining that this landscape now brings similar healing to other vets through the therapeutic climbing program he then founded, Operation Climb On.

    Presenting a letter signed by over 750 health professionals (including 350 from Utah) to President Obama, social worker Tom Laabs-Johnson explained how protecting Greater Canyonlands would benefit the physical, emotional and public health of all Americans.

    2014 Greater Canyonlands Fly-In (DC)Local Moab resident Edgar Fuentes described how growing up with Greater Canyonlands in his backyard “kept me out of trouble” and how Moab’s economic well-being would benefit from a monument proclamation.

    Brigham Young University student Sarah Karlinsey and Colorado College student Brooke Larsen implored the Obama administration to act for the next generation, describing how young people find spiritual renewal, inspiration and adventure in Greater Canyonlands and presenting 5 videos created by youth about the area.

    2014 Greater Canyonlands Fly-In (DC)Meetings included the Council on Environmental Quality — the office that advises the president on monument proclamations — and advisers to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    The message was clear: local Utahns from many different backgrounds cherish Greater Canyonlands for many reasons and want the president to act.

    We suspect some of the activists may have left a bit of red sand from their shoes in the carpets of the people they met with. We know they left an impression with their eloquent arguments and personal stories!

  • September 23rd, 2014
    Paleoindian Images from Secrets of the Past

    Click image to learn more

    12,000-year-old encampments of ice age mammoth hunters.  Ghostly, life-sized figures staring down from towering sandstone cliffs.  Hundreds upon hundreds of stone ruins clinging to canyon walls.

    These are just some of the remarkable artifacts that make Greater Canyonlands a treasure trove of scientific and historical knowledge.

    Tell President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands and its extraordinary historical resources.

    Today, SUWA and the Greater Canyonlands Coalition have released a new publication, “Secrets of the Past in a Rugged Land.”

    Written by noted archaeologist Jerry Spangler, the publication takes the reader through the 12,000 years of human history embedded in Greater Canyonlands, offering highlights of the artifacts left behind by ancient inhabitants.

    Making the “archaeological case” for proclaiming Greater Canyonlands a national monument, the publication calls for presidential action to protect the area’s cultural treasures from harm.

    On our website, you can read the publication (opens in PDF) or watch a slideshow featuring highlights from the publication.

    Then, send President Obama an email asking him to protect Greater Canyonlands to preserve this irreplaceable outdoor museum.

  • September 17th, 2014
    143-052-2290

    Corona Arch. Copyright Tom Till.

    In order to preserve the unforgettable experience provided to visitors at Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges, BLM is proposing a temporary restriction on “roped activities” in these areas.  The recent adrenaline-driven fad of rope swinging, rappelling, slacklining, and highlining is negatively affecting the experience sought by the majority of visitors – families, hikers, sightseers and photographers – to these two very popular destinations near Moab.

    Please let the BLM know you support the proposed restrictions on these activities.

    Both Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges are impressive and unforgettable geologic formations, each located in a spectacularly scenic setting.  According to the BLM, these two geological features are the most popular such features on public lands near Moab.  An estimated 40,000 people hike to Corona Arch and 50,000 people hike to Gemini Bridges each year to savor the view and enjoy the quiet reverence of the areas “as they grasp the enormity of the views.”    As a recent New York Times article put it, the antics of a few have turned “Moab’s unique collection of ancient stone arches into death-defying swing sets . . . filling a once-solitary canyon with whooping screams and long lines of adventurers.”

    In an effort to protect the integrity of the arches and to continue to provide a quality experience to the majority of the visitors, BLM is proposing to restrict roped activities in the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.  There are many other locations on public lands in the Moab area that are available for roped activities, and the proposed temporary restrictions are in keeping with BLM’s current management plan, which directs the agency to enhance hiking opportunities at the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.

    Please send a short letter to the Moab BLM Manager, Beth Ransel, supporting BLM’s proposed restrictions on roped activities in the Corona Arch and Gemini Bridges areas.

  • September 12th, 2014
    Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands National Park.  Copyright Ray Mathis.

    Gooseneck Overlook, Canyonlands National Park. Copyright Ray Mathis.

    Get ready for some celebrating—Canyonlands National Park is turning 50 today! That’s 50 years of gorgeous sunsets, tranquil hikes, and family exploration in one of the wildest, most beautiful parts of the United States—all thanks to a handful of Americans who had the foresight to recognize Canyonlands as one of Earth’s treasures, and sought to protect it from degradation.

    Thank goodness for them.

    But the work begun 50 years ago is not yet done. While we love Canyonlands, the boundaries of the park do not reflect the totality of the place, and much of what deserved protection was abandoned on the cutting room floor. Already, Big Flat, just north of Canyonlands, is under siege as more and more drill rigs mar its wild vistas. What’s next? Lockhart Basin? Labyrinth Canyon? The Dirty Devil corridor?

    We can’t let that happen. Ask President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands now!

    Together, we can finish the job begun by our predecessors by protecting the rest of Canyonlands—Greater Canyonlands—from the development of dirty fuels and rampaging off-road vehicle abuse. President Obama, like many great conservationists before him, should use the Antiquities Act to designate Greater Canyonlands a national monument, thereby safeguarding the plethora of special places, priceless cultural artifacts and wild rivers that still exist there, unprotected.

    Be a part of the next chapter for Greater Canyonlands by writing to the president today!

    Together, we can ensure that the next celebration is even bigger, and even better.

  • September 9th, 2014

    Rejects Once and For All State of Utah and County Claim that Streambed in Salt Creek Canyon Is State “Highway”

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981 (office)
    Heidi McIntosh, Earthjustice, 303.996.9621 (office)

    (September 8, 2014) Salt Lake City, UT: This morning the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied petitions filed by San Juan County and the State of Utah which had sought rehearing or rehearing en banc of the Court’s April 2014 decision that Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park is not a state highway.

    In a brief written order, the court explained that no active member of the court asked that the whole court be “polled” to vote on whether to rehear the case.  In other words, the county and state’s arguments were rejected out of hand.

    “This order is a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canyonlands National Park.  And it should  be the end of the line for the State of Utah and San Juan County’s claim that the stream bottom of Salt Creek Canyon is a state highway,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

    “With the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, Salt Creek will remain a place of quiet beauty, with healthy wildlife habitat and clean water, unpolluted by the hundreds of jeeps that used to churn through the stream every year,”  said Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney at Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office who represented conservation groups that participated in the case.

    This order and the circuit court’s April decision will have important implications beyond the facts of this case.  The State of Utah and its counties are pursuing more than 20 similar cases asserting that approximately 36,000 miles of dirt trails and cowpaths are state highways.

    The next case to come before the circuit court is an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups’ 2013 ruling in favor of Kane County and the State of Utah that recognized highway rights of way to twelve routes in Kane County.  Several of those routes are primitive jeep routes and one is inside a wilderness study area.  Some of the issues in the Salt Creek decision, especially the circuit court’s ruling that use of a route by ranchers does not meet the law’s requirement that the route be used by the broader public, are also at issue in the appeal of Judge Waddoups’ ruling.

    Background:

    Salt Creek Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Canyonlands National Park.  It contains the only perennial stream in the Park (besides the Green and Colorado rivers) and is home to the Salt Creek National Register Archaeological District, the area with the highest recorded density of archaeological sites in the park.  Jeep use had polluted the water with engine fluids and degraded wildlife habitat for bears, fish and a host of other species.  All these impacts were well documented and resulted in the National Park Service’s decision to close the canyon to such use in 2004.

    The State of Utah and San Juan County relied on an 1866 law to argue that occasional jeep use and cattle trailing in Salt Creek Canyon created a public highway.  The Circuit Court’s April 2014 unanimous decision rejected these claims and affirmed the district court’s findings that this was not so.

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Wilderness Society were amici (friends of the court) in the case before the Tenth Circuit.  They were represented by attorneys from Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Earthjustice, and the law firm of Jenner & Block.

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    >> Read the Tenth Circuit ruling

    >> Read the 9/9/14 Salt Lake Tribune article, “Ruling sticks: Salt Creek not a county highway”

    >> Read about the original Tenth Circuit ruling on April 25, 2014