• June 10th, 2020

    Contact:
    Liam Kelly, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT – The Trump administration has released its proposal to open up more than 110,000 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling, most of which lies in southern Utah near Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef national parks.

    • In total, the administration is opening up 114,050 acres of public land to oil and gas drilling.
    • Leases are within 0.4 miles of Canyonlands National Park, 4 miles of Arches National Park, 3 miles of Capitol Reef National Park, and 0.7 miles of the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.
    • Leases are also within 5 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park, and within 0.1 miles of the Green River.
    • Leases also encompass lands with wilderness characteristics including Duma Point, Goldbar Canyon, Hatch Canyon, Horse Thief Point, Hunters Canyon and Labyrinth Canyon areas. These are areas that appear natural (i.e., are free from signs of human development), and provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive types of recreation (e.g., hiking, camping, and hunting).

    A map of the area is available here

    Photographs of the area are available here

    At more than 114,050 acres across 77 separate parcels of public land, the scale of the lease sale is the largest seen in the area since the oil industry giveaways at the end of the George W. Bush administration in December 2008, which ironically also included 77 parcels.

    The nature and scale of that Bush-era lease sale was so controversial that it prompted a lawsuit from conservation groups that blocked the sale and led to long overdue and common sense reforms to the oil and gas leasing process. The Trump administration overturned those reforms shortly after taking office, setting the stage for a repeat of the disastrous December 2008 lease sale.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pressing ahead with its plans to proceed with the lease sale by beginning the public comment period, ignoring numerous calls for the agency to pause or extend comment periods until after the pandemic.

    The BLM made the right decision last month to extend the comment period on a planning process for oil and gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, where many communities are focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping their members safe. The agency should also take community needs into consideration here and extend the comment period.

    The U.S. Geologic Survey and other government and academic reports predict that southeastern Utah will warm more rapidly over the coming decades than nearly any other part of America.  By proposing to sell these leases to oil and gas extraction the Trump administration is ignoring the climate crisis and working to seal the fate of this area to be hotter, drier and less ecologically sustainable.

    “This supersized lease sale will hand over oil and gas lease rights to famous Utah red-rock landscapes and lead to heavy industrial development and emissions that will degrade air quality and dark night skies, permanently mar the land, and exacerbate the climate crisis,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It’s plain to see that the Trump administration is trying to sell as many leases as it can before the November election; we’ve stopped this kind of short-sighted public lands fire sale before.”

    “This is a huge expansion and a real threat to nearby national parks and monuments, as well as enormous amounts of the extraordinary red-rock landscape that Utah is famous for,” said Erika Pollard, associate director southwest for the National Park Conservation Association. “The public have a right to have their say about oil and gas drilling plans, and especially those as reckless as these. Forcing this through in the middle of a pandemic while people are preoccupied with keeping their families and communities safe demonstrates a complete disregard for the public. The Bureau of Land Management urgently needs to reconsider this entire oil and gas drilling plan and at the very least should postpone the process until the public can participate properly.”

    “Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks are among the crown jewels of America’s National Park System, attracting over 2.5 million visitors to Utah in a normal year,” said Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “But this is not a normal year.  Leasing public land for oil and gas drilling on the doorstep of these national parks will always be a threat to these irreplaceable resources. And right now, there is no good reason for BLM to push through a lease sale as communities across the country continue to deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. We urge BLM to defer the leasing proposal until the fall, when the public will be better able to submit their comments on this questionable lease sale.”


    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

    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. SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique wilderness character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Wilderness Preservation System, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation. www.suwa.org

  • June 3rd, 2020

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently accepting public comments on a proposed coal mine expansion on the western slope of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.

    The proposal would allow Utah American Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest (and now bankrupt) coal company—to expand the Lila Canyon mine into an additional 1,272 acres of public land.

    It would also allow the company to mine an additional 9.1 million tons of coal, extending the life of the mine by approximately 3 years—with the accompanying increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The BLM’s approval of the coal mine proposal will push us further down the path to climate disaster. In a recent study, the United States Geological Survey concluded that fossil fuels extracted from public lands, including coal, account for nearly 24 percent of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

    Tell the BLM to stop all new coal development on public lands.

    The science is clear: climate change requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new coal leasing and development on public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate.

    However, with this proposal the Trump administration’s BLM is barreling in the opposite direction, digging us into a deeper hole.

    Click here to submit your comments by June 8th.

    The world does not need more coal. The climate crisis has already arrived, threatening humanity and the environment upon which all life relies. We must act now to ensure that current and future generations not only survive, but thrive in this rapidly changing world.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • May 26th, 2020

    As you know, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been destroying native vegetation like sagebrush, pinyon pine, and juniper for decades. But in recent years, your voice and input has played a critical role in stopping or delaying many of the worst large-scale mechanical vegetation removal proposals on our public lands.

    In response, the BLM is now proposing to cut out a majority of both public oversight and scientific review of its vegetation removal activities across the West.

    Please keep the pressure up by submitting comments on the BLM’s latest attack on public lands and the public process.

    A pinyon-juniper forest chaining project on public lands in Utah.

    The agency just released a draft “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration in the Great Basin” (PEIS), which, in its current form, would serve as the only legally required review before the BLM can move ahead with a range of vegetation removal projects across 223 million acres, spanning six states, including Utah.

    Once this “programmatic” document is finalized, the BLM would be able to plan and execute massive vegetation removals anywhere within the 223 million-acre analysis area with little more than a checklist before pulling the trigger, and without any public review or input.

    Tell the BLM not to cut public input from its public land clearcutting plans. Click here to submit your comments by June 2nd!

    If this feels familiar, it is. Just one month ago, the BLM was busy making plans for a new “categorical exclusion” that would exempt pinyon pine and juniper clearcutting projects as large as 10,000 acres from environmental analysis and public accountability. Now the BLM is doubling down in its efforts to cut the public from its land-clearing decisions.

    The BLM’s PEIS for “Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration in the Great Basin” is particularly inappropriate for several reasons:

    • Despite calling for removals in the “Great Basin,” the PEIS inexplicably encompasses nearly all of Utah, including most of the Colorado Plateau, a drastically different ecosystem. It even covers potential removals on more than 1.4 million acres proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
    • The BLM sets no desired conditions for what the areas should look like after projects are completed. In other words, there will be no actual criteria for the agency or the public to measure “progress” or “success.”
    • The PEIS does not discuss specific projects, including where they will occur, which actions they entail, or what site-specific resources may be affected, putting all cultural and historic resources, wilderness-quality lands, and rare (including federally-listed threatened and endangered) plant and animal species that can be found within the hundreds of millions of acres in the crosshairs.
    • The BLM does not discuss the efficacy (or lack thereof) of various treatment methods (including chaining, mastication, chain harrowing, herbicide, and prescribed fire) or disclose results of past removals using these heavy-handed tools, essentially providing no evidence that any of the methods proposed will actually work, when the best available science actually demonstrates otherwise.
    • The PEIS calls for the use of targeted grazing as a treatment method throughout the analysis area. This method is not only scientifically unproven, it will likely contribute to continued degradation and loss of sagebrush habitat.
    • There are no plans for long-term monitoring or maintenance of the treated landscapes to ensure that the removals are successful and are not causing significant, long-term damage by destroying biological soil crust or further spreading invasive species like cheatgrass.

    Click here to submit your comments to the BLM by June 2nd!

    Comments may also be emailed directly to BLM_PEIS_Questions@blm.gov.

    This is the second time in just over a month that the BLM has tried to cut the public out of decisions to chain, masticate, and clearcut our public lands.

    Your input has made a difference before—so please take action again today. Thank you!

  • May 8th, 2020

    Michael Johnson, Senior Policy Advisor for Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), discusses the resolution Sen. Udall is sponsoring in the U.S. Senate to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030, known as the “30 by 30” campaign. This urgent push represents America’s contribution to avert catastrophic collapse of the planet’s natural systems. Our conversation lays out some of the underlying science and need for such broad action, as well as current congressional efforts to lead the way. We’ll also turn to SUWA Organizer Terri Martin to explain the role that America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act plays in the broader national and international “30 by 30” campaign.

    Wild Utah is produced by Jerry Schmidt and is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” was written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin. 

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