• January 27th, 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

    Contacts:

    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Steve Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (801) 428-3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT (January 27, 2021) – President Biden today issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which, among other things, places a pause on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and commits the United States to a ten-year goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

    In response, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director Steve Bloch issued the following statement:

    “We are grateful that President Biden is following through on his commitment to reassert our nation as a climate leader, not a climate denier. 

     “The President’s decision to order a pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands is a common sense and desperately needed step to right the ship and chart a more thoughtful, climate conscious path forward as our nation Builds Back Better. 

     “Over the past four years, the oil and gas industry stockpiled millions of acres of oil and gas leases and drilling permits across the West. In Utah alone, the industry is sitting on more than 1.7 million acres of unused federal oil and gas leases on some of our nation’s wildest and most culturally significant public lands. At the same time, drilling is at a historically low rate. In this landscape, the Biden administration’s pause on new leasing will not impact the oil and gas industry’s bottomline.”

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  • January 25th, 2021

    Immediate Opening: 1/25/2021

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has an immediate opening for a full-time Wildlands Attorney. Interested applicants should email a cover letter, resume, law school transcript, 3–5-page writing sample, and 3 references to Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, at hiring@suwa.org. The deadline to submit your application is February 28, 2021.

    Job Description

    SUWA’s Wildlands Attorney is a non-litigation position with a focus on monitoring Bureau of Land Management activities throughout Utah—including Bears Ears National Monument, the San Rafael Swell, and the West Desert—and challenging project proposals that would adversely impact wilderness-quality lands. The position is unique in that it involves a combination of policy, advocacy, legal research and writing, on-the-ground expertise, relationship building with federal agency staff, and coordination with Tribal and conservation partners. The Wildlands Attorney drafts and submits comments on proposed federal land actions, including site-specific projects and land use planning processes; files administrative appeals, including legal research, briefing, and coordination with expert witnesses; and interacts with federal agency staff, project proponents, scientific experts, state and local elected officials, and Tribal and conservation partners. The Wildlands Attorney is also involved in legislative efforts, strategic organizational decision making, and issue-specific campaigns, working closely with colleagues in SUWA’s Moab, Salt Lake City, and Washington, D.C. offices.

    Responsibilities

    • Track proposed projects on Bureau of Land Management lands throughout Utah. Engage with agency staff, draft comments, and develop strategies in order to modify or challenge projects that would adversely affect wilderness-quality lands.
    • Cultivate expertise on lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act­. Defend these lands through strategic policy and legal actions while advocating for permanent protection as designated wilderness.
    • Develop professional relationships with agency staff through regular communication, meetings, and field tours.
    • Organize field tours with agency staff, Tribal and conservation partners, media, and legislative staff.
    • Represent SUWA in administrative appeals before the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals. Conduct legal research, document review, and draft legal filings. Negotiate with opposing counsel.
    • Develop media strategies and represent SUWA in the media.
    • Support SUWA’s litigation and legislative efforts through on-the-ground expertise.
    • Assist SUWA’s efforts to organize activists in support of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act and other SUWA campaigns.

    Requirements

    • Demonstrated interest in environmentalism or conservation—passion for wilderness and public lands preferred.
    • Interest in building professional relationships with agency staff, and Tribal and conservation partners—including frequent communications, meetings, and field tours.
    • Willingness to travel throughout Utah one or more times per month for meetings with colleagues, federal agency staff, Tribal and conservation partners, and to conduct fieldwork—including in remote, backcountry locations.
    • Excellent writing, analytical, and legal research skills.
    • Ability to communicate complex issues to the media and public.
    • Good nature, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for working on a team.
    • Initiative, self-direction, attention to detail, and an ability to meet deadlines.
    • Ability to handle a substantial and ever-changing workload that will, at times, require working nights and weekends.
    • High degree of professional integrity, courtesy, and respect.
    • Willingness to make a minimum two-year commitment.

    Education, Experience, and Salary

    • 0-5 years of experience—admitted to practice law in Utah, or willingness to sit for or waive into the Utah State Bar
    • Salary range: $48,000—$70,000 (dependent on experience). SUWA provides vacation, holiday, and sick leave; health insurance; retirement benefits; and disability. Relocation reimbursement provided.

    Location and Start Date

    Moab (preferred) or Salt Lake City. Anticipated start: April 5, 2021
    *Due to COVID-19, relocation date is flexible

    SUWA is committed to workplace diversity and inclusion. SUWA is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in hiring or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law.


    SUWA is a non-profit organization dedicated to 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 character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Park and National Wilderness Preservation Systems, 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.

  • January 25th, 2021

    State of Utah’s sprawling litigation claiming more than 12,000 dirt paths and stream bottoms as “highways” threatens redrock wilderness across the state

    Contacts: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981, steve@suwa.org 

    Phil Hanceford, The Wilderness Society, 303.815.3158, phil_hanceford@tws.org

    Brian Fletcher, Stanford Law School Supreme Court Clinic, 917.453.9477, bfletcher@stanford.edu 

    Salt Lake City – Today, the US Supreme Court denied requests by the US Solicitor General and the State of Utah to overturn a 2019 decision that granted two conservation groups, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society, the right to intervene in a sweeping series of lawsuits that threatens to riddle the state’s wildest public lands with roads.

    In what are known as petitions for writ of certiorari, the United States and Utah attempted to overturn a decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals by contending that the conservation groups’ undeniable interests in southern Utah’s remarkable red rock wilderness were insufficient to permit intervention in the litigation. The Supreme Court denied the petitions in an unsigned order issued this morning.

    “We’re pleased the Supreme Court denied these petitions and look forward to vigorously defending our members’ and the United States’ interests in the wildest, most remote corners of southern Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The State’s litigation, claiming highways in stream bottoms and cow paths, has always been about who controls federal public lands in Utah, with the goal to riddle these landscapes with roads and make them ineligible for congressional Wilderness designation. This absolutely cuts to the core of our mission.”

    A State of Utah R.S. 2477 claim in the Paria River streambed (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Paria-Hackberry Wilderness Study Area). Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    “We are focused on using science and common sense to protect our land, our air, and our water for the health of our communities and for future generations,” said Phil Hanceford, Conservation Director at The Wilderness Society. “Today’s decision not to review our participation in this important case recognized that our input is valuable when decisions are made about the impacts development could have on our shared public lands. There are appropriate places for roads, but cutting through Utah’s spectacular red rock wildlands and creek beds are not those places.”

    The conservation groups had sought to intervene in the litigation to defend the United States’ title in so-called R.S. 2477 rights of way, referring to an obscure provision in the 1866 Mining Act that authorized the construction of highways across the western frontier to support settlement and development. Utah has weaponized this long-repealed law to file more than 20 lawsuits alleging more than 12,000 rights of way totaling more than 32,000 miles across federal public lands in the state. Rather than constitute any kind of a reasonable rural transportation network, the vast majority of these claimed highways are in fact unmaintained dirt two-tracks, cow paths and stream bottoms. Thousands of miles of Utah’s claimed highways are located in national parks, national monuments, designated wilderness areas, and other wild Utah lands.

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society are represented by Jeffrey Fisher, Brian Fletcher and Pamela Karlan at Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic; Chad Derum and Trevor Lee at the Salt Lake City law firm Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar; and Stephen Bloch and Michelle White at the Utah-based Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

  • January 13th, 2021

    Contacts:
    Scott Lake, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 299-7495, slake@biologicaldiversity.org
    Kya Marienfeld, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, (435) 259-5440, kya@suwa.org
    Paul Ruprecht, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 421-4637, paul@westernwatersheds.org
    Connie Howard, Sierra Club, Toiyabe Chapter, (775) 224-3916, constancehoward58@gmail.com 

    Lawsuit Launched Over Trump Plan to Accelerate Clearcutting, Herbicide Spraying, Fuel Breaks Across Six Western States

    RENO, Nev.— Conservation groups filed formal notice today of their intent to sue the Trump administration for violations of the Endangered Species Act stemming from two last-minute decisions authorizing widespread clearcutting, herbicide spraying, grazing, plowing and prescribed fire across 223 million acres of Bureau of Land Management public lands in the Great Basin. 

    The plans will have potentially devastating consequences for the imperiled greater sage grouse and other wildlife that call these vast landscapes home. They also will exclude the public and the scientific community from key land-management decisions across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho and Utah. 

    “The Trump administration’s reckless, 11th-hour decision authorizes the Bureau to use highly destructive methods to remove millions of acres of native trees and shrubs,” said Scott Lake, Nevada legal advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency hasn’t even considered the consequences of these highly destructive actions on dozens of threatened and endangered species. It’s a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act, and we won’t allow these plans to become reality.”

    The administration is using two environmental impact statements to circumvent local environmental analysis and public comment. They authorize the Bureau to remove massive amounts of vegetation anywhere within the 223 million-acre analysis area, which is home to more than 130 threatened and endangered species. Many of these species are endemic to local environments and found nowhere else on Earth. 

    “These two decisions have incredibly far-reaching implications for future management of fragile native ecosystems throughout the American West,” said Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Science, transparency and public input are meant to be the backbone of managing Western public lands, but instead, these decisions improperly substitute anecdote for evidence while cutting off all normal channels of public notice, review and future accountability.”

    The plans are part of a larger Trump administration program of forest and shrubland destruction underway across the West. Other components include categorical exclusions that sidestep environmental analysis and public accountability for pinyon pine and juniper clearcutting projects up to 10,000 acres and logging projects up to 3,000 acres. 

    Although the Interior Department admits many of the proposed methods, such as so-called “targeted grazing,” are experimental or unproven, there are no plans for long-term monitoring or maintenance to avoid significant, long-term damage to public lands and native ecosystems. The potential for these projects to spread invasive weeds, like fire-prone cheatgrass, make them particularly problematic.

    “Using cows to mow down vegetation to dirt level to reduce fuel won’t work,” said Paul Ruprecht, Oregon-Nevada director for Western Watersheds Project. “Intensive grazing destroys the soil crusts and removes the native bunchgrasses that are nature’s two best defenses against cheatgrass. Targeted grazing will only increase cheatgrass, and ultimately backfire.”

    “The Sierra Club believes these Trump administration deforestation programs would effectively destroy the healthy ecosystems of much of the western United States known as the National System of Public Lands,” said Connie Howard, chair of conservation and public lands for the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The sagebrush biome accounts for a large component of these lands, and the pinyon, juniper and sagebrush plants targeted for removal are home to over 350 wildlife species and play a critical role in sequestering carbon in the face of climate change. We are pleased to join our conservation partners in efforts to stop this assault on our public lands that is not based on science or any long-term thinking as to consequences to endangered and threatened species, ecosystem health or climate change and resiliency.”

    The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has more than 15,000 members from all fifty states and several foreign countries. SUWA’s mission is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness and other sensitive public lands at the heart of the Colorado Plateau and to advocate for management of these lands, and the associated natural and cultural resources, in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.

    Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization with over 9,500 members dedicated to protecting and conserving the public lands and natural resources of watersheds in the American West.

    The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.