• August 28th, 2018

    Welcome to the new SUWA podcast, Wild Utah!

    In this episode, Dave Pacheco interviews SUWA Wildlands Director Neal Clark about the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, introduced by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative John Curtis. The devil is in the details of this bill, which affects nearly 1.4 million acres of BLM land, including one of the largest unprotected blocks of wild public land remaining in southern Utah. Among its many flaws, the legislation would make off-road vehicle abuse worse by enshrining an illegal travel plan (currently under court-ordered review) while failing to provide wilderness protection for more than 900,000 acres of deserving BLM land.

    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, 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.

  • August 21st, 2018

    Last fall, SUWA filed a lawsuit to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from destroying pinyon-juniper woodlands through “chaining” and “bull-hog” projects in an area of Utah’s West Desert called Hamlin Valley. Click here for more information on these types of projects.

    These projects arose out of an analysis that the BLM’s Cedar City field office completed in 2014, which broadly considered how vegetation removal projects would impact public land across an almost 200,000-acre area. The BLM’s analysis did not describe how many of the 200,000 acres would be manipulated, nor where projects would actually occur on the ground. As the analysis stated, the emphasis was “on analyzing the cumulative effects of multiple future activities rather than the direct and indirect effects of a single activity.”

    In seeming direct contradiction of that statement, the BLM started approving and implementing projects without analyzing the direct and indirect effects.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The first of these projects was done without public notification. After we realized the BLM was proceeding this way, we immediately contacted them and demanded that they live up to their commitment to perform additional site-specific analysis. When the BLM wouldn’t agree, we filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that it had a duty under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze and disclose the direct and indirect effects of these projects, which it had failed to do.

    Even though two projects were completed while the case was progressing, we continued litigating, hoping to prevent this type of devastation from occurring through potential future projects.

    And now, after months of back and forth between us and the agency, the BLM has finally backed down and agreed to prepare new site-specific analyses for any additional projects in the greater Hamlin Valley area. With the BLM’s commitment in hand, and made expressly to the court, we agreed to dismiss our lawsuit.

    We hope that this helps the BLM begin to rein in its devastating chaining and other vegetation removal projects. We’ll continue to hold the agency accountable while pushing them to make better informed, more transparent decisions.

    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA


    Hamlin Valley Chaining Project, photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

  • August 20th, 2018

    This Wednesday, August 22nd, the “Not-so-Swell” bill proposed by Utah’s Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Emery County Public Land Management Act, which affects places like Desolation Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon, and the San Rafael Swell, is crammed into a hearing with a massive slate of 13 other bills, and no opposition witness will be called.

    This means the ONLY WAY your congressional members are really going to hear about this bill is if you contact them!

    Muddy Creek proposed wilderness, copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    We’ve been working for months to try to improve this bill, but it remains a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. It’s the brainchild of a tiny county political body whose members openly admit their goal is to prevent meaningful wilderness protections for some of Utah’s most spectacular and remote public lands. Just for starters, this bill:

    • Leaves more than 900,000 acres of proposed wilderness out of the running for protection, including much of the iconic Muddy Creek and Labyrinth Canyon areas
    • Seeks to codify an illegal travel plan that we’ve already settled in court
    • Turns federal lands over to the State of Utah
    • Releases a Wilderness Study Area to facilitate a coal mine expansion
    • Fails to protect significant priceless cultural resources in the San Rafael Badlands

    Sen. Hatch is trying to dazzle Congress into thinking this is a good bill. Tell them the truth!

    This is the biggest legislative fight we’ve had in years. The good news is we have many allies in Congress, they just need to hear from you!

    Thank you for taking action.

  • August 15th, 2018

    For Immediate Release
    August 15, 2018

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Legal Director, 801-428-3981

    Salt Lake City, UT – In response to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) release of draft management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, which were illegally reduced by President Trump in December of last year, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Legal Director Stephen Bloch released the following statement:

    “The BLM’s proposed management plan for the lands President Trump unlawfully carved out of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is not only illegal, but sets the stage for the destruction of this unique landscape that has been protected for more than two decades. The BLM’s preferred alternative would open this remarkable place to new oil and gas leasing, mining, and off-road vehicle damage.”

    “The BLM is very open about its intentions.  To quote directly from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, their preferred alternative would ‘conserve the least land area for physical, biological, and cultural resources … and is the least restrictive to energy and mineral development.’ Places like the Circle Cliffs region along the Burr Trail and Wolverine Loop Roads and the Vermillion Cliffs east of Kanab are now in the crosshairs and at immediate risk of being irreparably destroyed. Even the lands that Trump left as national monuments would be managed in a way that is less protective than they currently enjoy.”

    The plan for Bears Ears National Monument is equally bad, prioritizing consumptive uses such as grazing and logging and failing to protect cultural resources and wilderness-quality lands.”

    “SUWA won’t rest until Trump’s unlawful orders are overturned and will do everything in our power to ensure that these plans are never implemented.”


  • July 26th, 2018

    203,000 Acres of Remote and Wild Lands Including in the San Rafael Desert and Dirty Devil Regions to be Auctioned Off for Oil and Gas Leasing and Development


    For Immediate Release
    July 26, 2018

    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.807.6918
    Carly Ferro, Sierra Club, 801.467.9294 x100
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Salt Lake City: Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plans to offer 109 leases, consisting of 203,321 acres of federal public land, for oil and gas development, including 158,944 acres of public lands in the heart of Utah’s San Rafael Desert and northern Dirty Devil region. BLM’s latest assault on Utah’s wild lands is entirely in lockstep with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda and will sacrifice some of Utah’s wildest and most remote landscapes in pursuit of this quixotic goal. Photographs of the San Rafael Desert are available here. A map of the parcels up for auction is available here.

    “This is a textbook example of what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah, a full-on assault against one of our state’s wildest places” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The oil and gas industry has been trying to get its hands on this remote, wild corner of Utah’s redrock country for years and we’ve fought them off. They’re not going to get it this time either without a fight.”

    At its September 2018 lease sale, BLM will auction off parcels overlapping (and adjacent to) Highway 24 the main access route to Goblin Valley State Parkas well as parcels less than two miles from the Horseshoe Canyon extension of Canyonlands National Park (and only a few miles farther from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park). The National Park Service has stated that Horseshoe Canyon “contains some of the most significant rock art in North America.” This includes the “Great Gallerya world-renowned panel of well-preserved life-sized figures with intricate designs.

    “BLM’s ‘lease-everything, lease-everywhere’ oil and gas agenda will have significant long-term impacts to Utah’s wild public lands,” said Landon Newell, Staff Attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The clean air, expansive vistas, quite stillness, and sense of wildness enjoyed in these areas will be lost to the sights and sounds of industrial development including pumpjacks, drill rigs, and natural gas flaring.”

    “BLM is focusing on leasing to the exclusion of all other multiple uses,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel and Director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “This process has shown a disturbing lack of concern for the invaluable resources and experiences that will be lost, and hasn’t taken into account input from the American public.”

    “Our public lands are being sold out with little to no concern for the public will or well-being, allowing oil and gas drilling to eat up wild places and encroach further on parks like Canyonlands. This foolhardy rush to mine and drill every possible acre could have irreparable consequences for our health, environment and climate,” said Ashley Soltysiak, Director of Utah Sierra Club.

    In its rush to auction off these remarkable public lands, BLM drastically reduced opportunities for public involvement. The agency allowed for only a fifteen-day public “scoping” period but provided little more than a few maps for public review. BLM provided no opportunity for the public to review or comment on the draft environmental assessments and reduced the public protest period (which started today) from 30 days to 10 days.

    There is no need to sacrifice Utah’s remarkable wild places for oil and gas leasing and development. Utah, like most western states, has a surplus of BLM-managed lands that are under lease but not in development—with only forty-five percent of its total leased land currently in development. There were approximately 2.5 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect) at the close of BLM’s 2017 fiscal year. At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here—follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). More information regarding BLM’s September 2018 lease sale is available here.