• July 29th, 2014

    Contend that state law bars Attorney General from bringing Tooele County RS 2477 lawsuit


    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.859.1552 (cell) or 801.428.3981 (office)
    Brent V. Manning & Jess M. Krannich, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, 801.363.5678

    (July 29, 2014) Salt Lake City, UT: Today a Tooele County resident and taxpayer, along with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, filed a lawsuit in Third District Court (state court) alleging that the State Attorney General acted illegally when he brought a federal lawsuit claiming more than 2,400 miles of alleged RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County. The lawsuit asks the court to bar the State from pursuing or funding its federal lawsuit seeking title over RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County and to declare that the Attorney General acted illegally when he brought the case in the first place.


    Cedar Mountain Wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    “The State’s lawsuit threatens some of Tooele County’s wildest places, including the Cedar Mountain Wilderness and North Stansbury and Indian Peaks proposed wilderness areas,” said Michael Abdo, a Tooele County resident. “These are places I go with friends, family, and Boy Scouts to appreciate their natural beauty and quiet. The State’s attempt to establish ‘roads’ in these areas is misguided, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

    In the past decade the State legislature has spent millions of dollars in an ill-advised effort to claim that alleged “roads,” including faded two-tracks and stream bottoms, are actually State highways that can be improved and paved to a minimum width of 66 feet. Some are virtually impossible to locate. Often the routes lead to no landmark or destination, and are not part of any reasonably described transportation network.   The legislature funds its RS 2477 litigation campaign from millions allocated to the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, the Constitutional Defense Council, and the Attorney General’s Office.


    Dugway Mountains proposed wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    “The State’s RS 2477 litigation is part of its larger effort to take control of public lands and block congressional wilderness designation,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “If successful, this lawsuit will bring an end to the state’s expensive and senseless campaign.”

    State law bars the State from bringing a lawsuit claiming title to real property unless its right or title accrued within seven years of the filing of the case. Here, the State’s alleged title to RS 2477 rights-of-way accrued no later than 1976, when Congress repealed that statute. Thus, the State’s power to bring a lawsuit seeking title over RS 2477 “roads” in Tooele County lapsed more than 25 years before the State filed its case.

    The State’s and Toole County’s lawsuit is brought directly contrary to Utah law and the constitutional requirement that the State Attorney General act in accordance with Utah law. According to the plain language of the applicable Utah statute: “The state may not bring an action against any person for or with respect to any real property, its issues or profits, based upon the state’s right or title to the real property, unless: (1) the right or title to the property accrued within seven years before any action or other proceeding is commenced […]”Utah Code Ann. § 78B-2-201 (emphasis added). Nonetheless, the State is disregarding its own laws to pursue an anti-wilderness agenda.


    Cedar Mountain Wilderness. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    It is popular in this state to criticize the courts if they do not follow the plain language of the law as enacted by the Utah legislature. Here, the language chosen by the legislature is clear: “the state may not bring an action … unless the right … to the property accrued within seven years…” Notwithstanding this clear prohibition, the Attorney General and Toole County are spending millions of dollars in direct violation of Utah law to pursue what Public Land Policy Coordination Office Director Kathleen Clarke recently described as “the largest litigation ever taken on by the State of Utah.” With this lawsuit, Mr. Abdo and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance seek to stop the wasteful and illegal expenditure of taxpayer money, the apparent object of which is to disqualify lands for Wilderness designation.

    The State’s RS 2477 lawsuit in Tooele County is one of more than twenty-five (25) lawsuits filed by the State of Utah and its counties claiming more than 14,000 rights of way totaling nearly 35,000 miles of dirt trails and routes on public lands. Taken together, this massive litigation threatens several national parks and monuments as well as iconic Utah wilderness landscapes.


    Click to view  map of RS 2477 claims


  • July 23rd, 2014

    Suzanne Stensaas, a professor of neurobiology and anatomy, did a great interview on Salt Lake City’s FOX13 about the letter from health professionals urging President Obama to create a Greater Canyonlands National Monument.

    Also be sure to check out the Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the letter.

    Are you a health care professional? Add your name to the letter to Obama.

  • July 22nd, 2014
    Mother & Daugher (Lin Alder)

    Copyright Lin Alder.

    More than 200 health and well-being professionals from Utah released a letter today asking President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands – the magnificent wild region surrounding Canyonlands National Park in Utah – as a national monument because of the health benefits to all Americans.

    The letter states “Protecting this world-class landscape would not only preserve an area of unparalleled scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage, it would also foster a healthy America. That is a goal anyone can support.”

    The list of signers included doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, physical and occupational therapists, medical aides and technicians, public health specialists, health educators, dieticians and other healers and well-being practitioners.

    The letter stressed that protecting Greater Canyonlands would provide physical, psychological and public health benefits.

    “We need big beautiful landscapes like Greater Canyonlands to inspire people and their families to get outside and be active,” said Mark Oliver, M.D., father of two children and an avid outdoorsman. “Americans’ increasingly sedentary lifestyles exacerbate conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes which plague huge numbers of our population.”

    “Large wild places like Greater Canyonlands can be critically important to the emotional healing and rejuvenation of people who have suffered trauma, struggle with anxiety or depression, or simply face emotional challenges,” said Travis Mickelson, M.D., and specialist in Pediatric Behavioral Health Psychiatry. “Studies also show that time in natural settings enhances people’s problem-solving skills, concentration and creativity.”

    “The public health benefits of protecting Greater Canyonlands extend far beyond its borders,” said Suzanne Stensaas, a retired University of Utah professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy. “Greater Canyonlands is a clean air sanctuary from health-threatening air pollution for many of us living along the Wasatch Front and it helps to provide clean water for the millions of people who live downstream.”

    Read the letter here and add your name to the list of signers if you work in the health or well-being field.  Also check out the personal statements below for stories about how protecting large wild landscapes like Greater Canyonlands is vital to health and healing:



  • July 8th, 2014
    Anti-federal protesters join San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on an illegal ride through Recapture Canyon on May 10, 2014.

    Anti-federal protesters join San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman on an illegal ride through Recapture Canyon on May 10, 2014.

    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and our partners at The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust and Great Old Broads for Wilderness delivered a letter to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze requesting that his agency continue to protect the irreplaceable prehistoric cultural resources in Recapture Canyon. We urged the director not to abdicate his agency’s responsibility to comply with the BLM’s federal travel planning regulations by giving a right-of-way to San Juan County for the illegally constructed ORV trail through the canyon. We also called upon the director to ensure that, once the agency completes its investigation, it will take all appropriate steps to fully prosecute the individuals who violated the agency’s ORV closure in the canyon on May 10th during Commissioner Lyman’s illegal ORV event.

    We recognize the challenges facing the BLM in managing our public lands and preserving our cultural heritage, especially in response to recent acts of opposition to the agency’s authority.  However, failing to enforce federal laws that were enacted to protect priceless archaeological treasures merely opens the door for further vandalism and other illegal acts.

  • July 1st, 2014


    How Dust on Colorado’s Snow Could Ruin Your Salad

    Dust on Colorado Snow, San Juan Mtns“If your lettuce doesn’t get grown in California, you notice that in Washington, D.C.” So says Jayne Belnap, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in a must-read piece from Climate Progress on how increasing dust from industrial development on the Colorado Plateau (including Greater Canyonlands) is threatening the Southwest’s most critical watershed. “Dust has to become part of [our] land management goals,” Belknap says. One way to manage growing dust in an era of changing climate is to protect large landscapes like Greater Canyonlands. After you read the article, encourage President Obama to take action.

    BLM’s Moab Master Leasing Plan Begins to Take Shape

    Labyrinth CanyonThis spring the BLM released three preliminary alternatives of the Moab Master Leasing Plan (MLP) for public review and comment. This plan will determine what lands are available for oil, gas and potash leases and permits in large areas of public land close to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.  It also covers many outstanding proposed wilderness areas including Labyrinth Canyon, Fisher Towers and Harts Point/Shay Mountain.

    We support Alternative C, which would give the most protection to lands proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.  The BLM plans to release a draft of the plan and an environmental impact statement this fall; a final MLP should follow by fall 2015.

    >> Learn more about the Moab MLP on the BLM’s website.

    Senator Tammy BaldwinSen. Baldwin’s Red Rock Cosponsorship Ties Senate Record

    Just before Memorial Day, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin became the 23rd member of the Senate—and the seventh member of the crucial Energy and Natural Resources Committee—to cosponsor the bill in this congress. Her addition ties the all-time record for Senate cosponsors and fills the void of Wisconsin Senate support created when Sen. Russ Feingold was defeated.  Thank you, Sen. Baldwin!

    Needed: Health “Testimonials for Greater Canyonlands

    SUWA is working with a team of health and well being professionals in Utah on a letter to President Obama asking him to protect Greater Canyonlands because of the physical, emotional and public health benefits to all Americans.  We are looking for short one-page or less statements or “testimonials” by people (especially Utah residents)  who have benefited in terms of physical or mental health/well-being by spending time in wild nature.  This might be an individual (or family) who:

    • Hikes in the great outdoors as a way to stay physically healthy (thus reducing the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other conditions)
    • Found emotional healing by spending time in wild nature.  This might be someone who has suffered trauma or experienced emotional challenges and finds solace or rejuvenation in nature.
    • Has experienced the health benefits of living near or experiencing the clean air and water protected by large natural areas.

    Please contact Terri at terri@suwa.org immediately for more information or if you are willing to write a testimonial.

    Also, if you are a Utah-based health or well-being professional (doctor, nurse, health aide or technician, mental health worker, “alternative” well-being practitioner, body worker or healer of any kind) and want to add your name to the letter, please contact Terri at terri@suwa.org

    Crazy Continues in Carbon County

    Even though a Federal Judge struck down a similar state law last year, the Carbon County Commission passed a resolution on June 5th proclaiming “that any attempted law enforcement by an official of a federal land agency is not recognized by the county, and shall be deemed an imminent threat to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Carbon County.” Castle Country Radio reports that “the resolution advises that any federal official who intends to exercise law enforcement powers shall first declare to the Sheriff his [sic] intent to enter Carbon County and the intended action on a case by case basis.”  Further proof that crazy (and unconstitutional) ideas are alive and well among many elected officials in Utah.

    SUWA Website Gets a New Look

    We’re pleased to announce that SUWA’s website is now tablet and mobile friendly!  Plus, with lots of beautiful new pictures! Check it out on your phone, laptop or tablet at SUWA.org.

    New SUWA Website