Conservation Groups Intervene to Protect Utah Monuments, Antiquities Act
On November 22nd, SUWA and several other conservation groups filed a motion to intervene in two lawsuits challenging President Biden’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Pueblo of Zuni had already moved to intervene.
The suits, led by the state of Utah, also attack the Antiquities Act itself as unlawful. Nearly five years ago, former President Trump controversially—and without lawful authority—shrunk the boundaries of Bears Ears by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 47%, stripping protection for world-renowned dinosaur fossils, remarkable geologic features, and important Native American cultural sites.
“The remarkable Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments are the crown jewels of America’s public lands,” said SUWA Legal Director Steve Bloch. “It’s terribly disappointing that, rather than embrace these monuments as the very best our state has to offer the world, Utah Governor Cox has attacked them and hopes to see the monuments undone. We’re going to work to stop that from happening.”
Conservation groups, along with Tribes who urged the Obama administration to establish Bears Ears National Monument, previously challenged President Trump’s 2017 dismantling of the monuments. Those cases remain pending in federal court for the District of Columbia.
>> Read our recent press release to learn more
Photo © Jeff Foott
Skutumpah Paving Plan Would Impair Grand Staircase-Escalante
As part of an ongoing RS 2477 court case, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has evaluated a recent proposal by Kane County to pave the southernmost 3.4 miles of the Skutumpah Road, a remote gravel road winding through the largely undisturbed natural landscape of the western section of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The proposed project is designed to support a high-volume paved road capable of handling thousands of vehicles per day and would irrevocably damage the remote and backcountry nature of these spectacular public lands.
Fortunately, the BLM decided that the proposed paving project is not necessary to facilitate safe travel and, therefore, does not fall within the scope of Kane County’s (and the State of Utah’s ) RS 2477 right-of-way to the Skutumpah Road. The BLM’s decision-making process included evaluating significant public comments, including SUWA’s, that were submitted as part of a draft environmental assessment. The agency’s ultimate decision highlighted (among other points) the lack of information regarding “how paving will fundamentally change the character of the road and may create new safety risks, which in turn may beget the need for more future proposed improvements.”
Although we believe the BLM has made the correct decision, this saga will undoubtedly continue when the district court reviews the BLM’s decision during an upcoming trial in December. SUWA will continue to defend the BLM’s decision at every step to ensure that the monument remains a remote and remarkable landscape.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
BLM Releases Long Overdue Revisions of Its Oil and Gas Leasing Policies
On November 21st, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released new policies to address some of the “significant shortcomings” in its oil and gas program. The new policies limit or close loopholes that the oil and gas industry has used and abused for decades in its push to lock up millions of acres of public land in Utah and across the West for development.
“These commonsense and long overdue changes are just the first steps that must be taken to fix the BLM’s broken oil and gas program,” said SUWA Staff Attorney Landon Newell.
Unfortunately, the BLM also released its plan to offer 18 parcels totaling nearly 32,000 acres of public land in Utah for oil and gas leasing and development. Four of the parcels are in the Fishlake National Forest, only a few miles west of Capitol Reef National Park. This leasing is unnecessary and will not lower oil and gas prices because companies and speculators have already stockpiled millions of acres of unused leases.
>> Read our recent press release to learn more about the BLM’s leasing policy reforms and what they mean for public lands.
Photo © SUWA
Wild Utah Podcast: The Year in Review
In our latest Wild Utah podcast episode, we’re taking a look back at 2022: the challenges we faced, the coalitions we helped build, and the lands we protected. We also take this opportunity to thank you, our steadfast members and followers.
In 2023, SUWA celebrates its 40th anniversary. As it has been since our early years in the 1980s, our members and supporters are the heart of the movement to protect Wild Utah. And as the day-to-day work to protect Utah’s redrock country grinds along slowly, sure progress is being made, step-by-hard-earned-step.
SUWA is Hiring!
We currently have open positions for a GIS Analyst, a Latino Community Organizer, and a Utah Organizer. Join our team of passionate and committed wilderness advocates and help shape the future of Utah’s public lands!
>> Visit our careers page to learn more
Get a Free SUWA Beanie with Year-End Gift Membership Purchases!
Tis the season for SUWA gift memberships! Purchase a $25 gift membership by December 31st and your gift recipient will receive a welcome packet that includes SUWA’s newest beanie, a subscription to our quarterly newsletter, the instantly recognizable “Protect Wild Utah” sticker, and a special letter naming you as the membership donor. Get your loved ones involved in the fight to protect Utah’s redrock wilderness! You can even buy a gift membership for yourself—we won’t tell anyone.
Give the gift of Utah wilderness this year by visiting our website at suwa.org/giftmemberships (please order by December 9th to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas).
Photo © Laura Borichevsky/SUWA