• January 29th, 2019

    For Immediate Release
    January 29, 2019

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City — In a remarkable about-face following a protest from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) announced yesterday that it had dropped its proposal to sell twelve oil and gas leases totaling roughly 5,700 acres located on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument to the highest bidder.

    While these SITLA-managed lands contain the same irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources that are found on adjacent federal public lands, they are not formally part of the monument.  Two of the proposed leases were also immediately adjacent to Canyonlands National Park and several proposed leases were visible from the popular Anticline and Needles overlooks.  A number of the leases were also in the Lockhart Basin proposed wilderness area.

    Last Friday, January 25th, SUWA protested SITLA’s proposed leasing decision and urged the agency to defer leasing until the federal litigation challenging Trump’s unlawful rollback of the monument has been resolved.

    “SITLA made the right decision to withdraw the twelve protested oil and gas leases on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “We hope that SITLA will continue to defer leasing in Bears Ears until the federal litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the monument has been resolved and the agency can pursue a land exchange that benefits Utah’s schoolchildren and protects irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources.”

    Four of the twelve protested parcels received bids but SITLA announced yesterday that it had withdrawn the parcels from sale and would refund the high bidder monies.  SITLA also announced that none of the twelve parcels would be available for non-competitive leasing for the next several months, as is usually the case.

    On December 4, 2017, President Trump purported to dismantle Bears Ears National Monument and designate two much smaller monuments, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’. There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging President Trump’s unlawful action; the lead case is Hopi Tribe et al. v. Trump.  SUWA is a plaintiff in one of the other lawsuits, a case referred to as Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Trump.  Each of these lawsuits asks a federal judge to declare unlawful and invalidate President Trump’s December 4, 2017 proclamation. Such a decision would have significant bearing on access to any SITLA oil and gas lease sold within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, access which is subject to federal regulation and control.  SITLA’s solicitation for this lease sale contained no mention of the fact that the leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, nor did it advise potential bidders that Trump’s unlawful action is the subject of three lawsuits.

    The proposed sale of these leases was also contrary to SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands for both short and long term economic gain and, when necessary, to consider a land exchange which would preserve unique non-economic values (such as the cultural, paleontological, and biological resources in Bears Ears).  This is precisely why President Obama’s proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument called on the Secretary of the Interior to explore a land exchange with the State of Utah for all SITLA-managed lands in the monument.  Unfortunately, the State refused to pursue such an exchange.  SITLA’s mission is “[a]dministering trust lands prudently and profitably for Utah’s schoolchildren and other trust beneficiaries.”

    Resources for reporters:

    Photos of the leases are available for media use here.

    A map of the twelve leases is available here.

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

    # # #

  • January 28th, 2019

    Welcome to the SUWA podcast, Wild Utah!

    Dave Pacheco discusses the environmental consequences of oil and gas leasing on public lands with SUWA Staff Attorney Landon Newell. Millions of acres of public lands in Utah are still natural or in a wild condition. It’s these places, proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act, that SUWA works to defend. So, what happens when the BLM proposes drilling in those wild places?

    Among his portfolio of duties, Landon is SUWA’s go-to staffer when it comes to understanding, tracking, and challenging oil & gas industry activities on Utah’s wild BLM lands.

    Wild Utah is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” is written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin. Wild Utah is recorded at the studio of KRCL 90.9 FM, Listeners Community Radio of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our producer is Jerry Schmidt. We thank you all for generously donating your time, equipment and talent to Wild Utah.

  • January 25th, 2019

    For Immediate Release
    January 25, 2019

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City — In a remarkably shortsighted decision, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) is proposing to sell twelve oil and gas leases totaling roughly 5,700 acres located on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument to the highest bidder. While these leases contain the same irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources that are found on adjacent federal public lands, the SITLA lands underlying the leases are not formally part of the monument.  Two of the proposed leases are also immediately adjacent to Canyonlands National Park and several proposed leases are visible from the popular Anticline and Needles overlooks.

    Today, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) protested SITLA’s proposed leasing decision and urged the agency to defer leasing until the federal litigation challenging Trump’s unlawful rollback of the monument has been resolved.

    “We are calling on SITLA Director David Ure not to sell any oil and gas leases on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument until the federal litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the monument has been resolved and the agency can pursue a land exchange that benefits Utah’s schoolchildren and protects irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “At a bare minimum, SITLA should not sell any of the proposed twelve leases until it makes clear to potential lessees that the twelve leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, that Trump’s decision attacking the monument has been challenged in court, and that access to any leases will be highly controversial.”

    On December 4, 2017, President Trump purported to dismantle Bears Ears National Monument and designate two much smaller monuments, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’. There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging President Trump’s unlawful action; the lead case is Hopi Tribe et al. v. Trump.  SUWA is a plaintiff in one of the other lawsuits, a case referred to as Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Trump.  Each of these lawsuits asks a federal judge to declare unlawful and invalidate President Trump’s December 4, 2017 proclamation. Such a decision would have significant bearing on access to any SITLA oil and gas lease sold within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, access which is subject to federal regulation and control.  SITLA’s solicitation for this lease sale contains no mention of the fact that the leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, nor does it advise potential bidders that Trump’s unlawful action is the subject of three lawsuits.

    The proposed sale of these leases also flies in the face of SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands for both short and long term economic gain and, when necessary, to consider a land exchange which would preserve unique non-economic values (such as the cultural, paleontological, and biological resources in Bears Ears).  This is precisely why President Obama’s proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument called on the Secretary of the Interior to explore a land exchange with the State of Utah for all SITLA-managed lands in the monument.  Unfortunately, the State refused to pursue such an exchange.  SITLA’s mission is “[a]dministering trust lands prudently and profitably for Utah’s schoolchildren and other trust beneficiaries.”

    Online bidding for the twelve leases closes today at 5pm mountain time.

    Resources for reporters:

    Photos of the leases are available for media use here.

    A map of the twelve leases is available here.

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

    # # #

  • January 10th, 2019

    Moab, UT (January 10, 2019) – In response to the introduction by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) of the Protect Utah’s Rural Economy (PURE) Act, which would limit the ability of the president to protect landscapes in Utah through the use of the Antiquities Act, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

    “This bill is just the latest in a long line of extremist anti-conservation bills put forth by some members of the Utah delegation. The short-sightedness of the Act should be expected from Senator Lee, but it is extremely disappointing to see one of Senator Romney’s first acts in Congress be such unconsidered parroting of worn-out anti-environmental talking points.

    “Four out of five of Utah’s national parks started out as national monuments, and two of the crown jewels of our public lands — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments — were protected using the Antiquities Act. All of these protections were opposed by Utah politicians with no vision for the future.

    “SUWA will fight this bill and any attempt by the Utah delegation to undermine the right of Americans to protect their public lands.”

  • January 8th, 2019

    A new season is upon us and there is work to be done! Visit our Upcoming Projects listing to preview the year’s first round of service trips. Then check back regularly for new project listings. Planning a visit to Utah in 2019? Join as a crew member and serve with SUWA in the field!

    Wilderness Steward Initiative
    In February, we will host the second annual Wilderness Steward Training in Washington County. In 2019, we will expand the Wilderness Steward Initiative statewide. Join our team of dedicated volunteers monitoring protected lands in communities across southern Utah. Take recreation to the next level — reconnaissance — and work with us to ensure our wild and public lands are in keen and watchful hands. View the flyer below for an overview of 2019 volunteer positions, then visit our Service Program website to learn more and submit your application.

    To discuss scheduling a Wilderness Steward training in your county or community, contact volunteer@suwa.org or call (435) 259-9151.