• October 6th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, (801) 428-3981, steve@suwa.org

    Moab, UT (October 6, 2021) – In response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s draft proposal released this morning to update the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) implementing regulations, which would restore many long-standing policies altered by the Trump administration, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) Legal Director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “This is an important first step to bringing common sense back to federal decision making that affects so many aspects of life in Utah. From analyzing the impacts to disadvantaged communities from uranium waste contamination to being clear eyed about the devastating consequences leasing, development and burning fossil fuels has to the climate, the Biden administration is rightly restoring transparency and science-based agency decision-making. Bottom line, these changes are necessary to ensure federal agencies are accurately disclosing all of the environmental and public health impacts of their decisions.”

    Additional Resources:

    Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) – Proposed Action for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Revisions

  • September 29th, 2021

    Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These climate-altering emissions are wreaking havoc on our natural world, resulting in massive wildfires, extreme drought, and catastrophic flooding events. The Colorado Plateau and Utah’s redrock wilderness are expected to suffer some of the worst impacts over the coming decades.

    Despite this scientific reality, the Biden administration is considering selling a new slate of oil and gas leases across the West, including in Utah.

    Tell Biden’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect our climate by keeping fossil fuel development off our public lands.

    In Utah, the BLM is proposing to sell six parcels covering more than 6,600 acres of public lands for oil and gas development. Development on these parcels would threaten wildlife, water resources, and recreation while exacerbating the climate crisis. Four of the parcels are located adjacent to the Green River in the Uinta Basin, while another is located adjacent to the San Rafael Reef Wilderness, just north of the entrance to Goblin Valley State Park.

    San Rafael Reef. © Tom Till

    The BLM is not required to sell these—or any parcels—for development. In January, President Biden issued an executive order pausing all new oil and gas leasing on public lands to allow the Interior Department to review its broken leasing program. And while a federal court in Louisiana set aside that order and instructed the Interior Department to restart a leasing process, the court explained that the outcome of that process remained entirely subject to the BLM’s broad discretion as the land management agency—that is, the BLM retains broad legal discretion not to lease these lands in order to protect public health and the environment, including our climate.

    Tell the BLM to exercise its discretion and defer its sale of these Utah lease parcels.

    The Interior Department has recognized that the current oil and gas program is broken because, among other things, it “fail[s] to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions” and “inadequately account[s] for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources.” The BLM should not offer any new parcels until these shortcomings are resolved and the agency can tell the American people that development of these parcels will not further exacerbate the climate crisis (spoiler alert: it can’t do that, and thus shouldn’t offer these parcels for sale!).

    The BLM is accepting comments on its leasing proposal through October 1st. Please submit your comments today.

    Thank you for taking action!

  • 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

  • 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.

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