New Lawsuit Targets 145 Trump-Era Oil and Gas Leases on Utah’s Public Lands
On November 3rd, SUWA filed a federal lawsuit challenging four decisions by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2018-19 to issue 145 oil and gas leases encompassing 215,325 acres of public land in Utah. The leases are located in eastern Utah, primarily in the Book Cliffs and Uinta Basin.
The lawsuit aims to protect some of Utah’s wildest public lands, including important habitat for the imperiled greater sage-grouse as well as Graham’s and White River beardtongue (flowering plants). Many of the leases are located near the White River—a scenic tributary to the Green River which the BLM calls a “floater’s and paddler’s paradise.”
“Development of these leases was not and is not in the public interest,” said Hanna Larsen, staff attorney with SUWA. “The climate crisis has arrived. The extinction crisis is ongoing and worsening. Both are driven in large part by the BLM’s broken and outdated oil and gas program.”
>> Read our full release
>> See recent coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Comments Due this Thursday on Manti-La Sal Revised Forest Plan
The Manti-La Sal National Forest, which includes distinct units in the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab as well as the Abajo Mountains and a portion of the restored Bears Ears National Monument, is getting an updated management plan for the first time since 1986!
The forest spans a diverse and spectacular region that includes aspen groves, mountain lakes, stands of giant ponderosa pine, and rocky crags perched high above Utah’s canyon country. Most importantly, it’s a critical watershed of the Colorado Plateau.
The Forest Service has released a draft management plan for the Manti-La Sal and is accepting public comments through this Thursday, November 16th. Your input is vital to making sure this new plan implements smart, conservation-based management of these ecologically and culturally significant landscapes.
>> Click here to submit your comments on the forest plan by November 16th.
Photo © Tim Peterson
State of Utah and ORV Groups Appeal Labyrinth Canyon Travel Management Plan
In a disappointing but unsurprising development, the State of Utah and motorized recreation groups have appealed the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final motorized vehicle travel management plan for the Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area near Moab.
The plan, which conservationists hailed as a major step forward when it was released in September, will help protect cultural sites, riparian habitat, and the experience of non-motorized recreationists while allowing for motorized use on more than 800 miles of dirt trails and routes in the planning area.
“The BLM’s plan takes a thoughtful approach to managing recreation in this popular area, one that will protect the stunning Labyrinth Canyon river corridor and critically important riparian ecosystem while leaving thousands of miles of dirt roads and trails open to motorized use in the greater Moab area,” said SUWA Staff Attorney Laura Peterson. “SUWA is confident the plan will withstand scrutiny and intends to intervene to defend BLM’s decision.”
>> Read a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed on the plan by John Weisheit, conservation director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Litigation Continues Over Biden’s Restoration of Grand Staircase, Bears Ears
Last year, several plaintiffs led by the State of Utah and the Blue Ribbon Coalition (an off-road vehicle advocacy group) challenged President Biden’s restoration of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. SUWA and a coalition of conservation partners successfully intervened in these cases to defend the monuments. Four Tribal Nations have also intervened to defend Bears Ears.
Fortunately, the lawsuits had barely left the starting gate when a federal district court judge in Utah dismissed them outright. Undeterred, the state and other plaintiffs quickly appealed that decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ongoing litigation over Utah monuments sets a dangerous path that has not gone unnoticed by other anti-public-land politicians. Republicans in the Arizona legislature have already sided with Utah in this legal fight as they prepare to file their own lawsuit against President Biden’s August 2023 designation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. And several states, led by Idaho, have similarly weighed in at the Tenth Circuit against restoration of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears.
The good news is that Utah’s monuments remain in place, their unique and irreplaceable resources safe from threats like hard rock mining and irresponsible motorized vehicle use. The Bureau of Land Management is working on new management plans right now that will guide how these world-class landscapes will be protected for decades to come. We expect those plans will be finalized in 2024. Keep an eye out for information from SUWA about opportunities to weigh in on the draft Bears Ears plan.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Congressional Support for Red Rock Bill Continues to Grow
With help from SUWA’s DC-based staff, activists from around the country have been meeting with congressional offices to build support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R.3031 / S.1310), a bill that would designate more than eight million acres of wild public land in Utah as permanently protected wilderness.
We’re pleased to report that their efforts are paying off! Since our last update, nearly two dozen House members have officially endorsed the bill, bringing us to 80 cosponsors in that chamber. The total number of cosponsors in the Senate stands at 22. Click here to see the complete list.
Your advocacy drives congressional support for this visionary legislation! Please contact your representatives today and urge them to become cosponsors (or thank them if they already have).
>> Click here to take action or text ARRWA to 52886.
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Embrace the Spirit of Giving this Holiday Season
As the season of giving draws near, we are inspired by the abundance of generosity and kindness in our community. This holiday season offers a perfect opportunity to celebrate and share this spirit. We invite you to explore several meaningful ways to give and make a difference.
Giving Tuesday (November 28th): Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as “a day that encourages people to do good” through community engagement and generosity. Individual contributions play a vital role in enabling nonprofits to effectively meet their missions, so mark your calendar and support your favorite causes on this special day!
Gift Memberships: ‘Tis the season for SUWA gift memberships! Purchase a $25 gift membership during the month of November or December and your gift recipient will receive a welcome packet that includes a subscription to our quarterly newsletter, the instantly recognizable “Protect Wild Utah” sticker, and a special letter naming you as the membership donor. Click here to purchase.
SUWA Swag: This season, give the gift of unique apparel and accessories that are not only stylish but also express your love for wilderness. Ensure your gifts arrive on time by ordering before December 1st for Hanukkah and by December 8th for Christmas. Each purchase you make will support our mission to protect the redrock. Visit our online store.
Together, let’s harness the joy of giving, turning our collective passion into a season of meaningful action!