What the November Election Means for Utah Wilderness
In a nutshell, the outcome of the recent elections means the Senate will no longer act as the reliable counterweight to terrible anti-environment bills coming from the House — a role it has played since the 2010 election.
The good news is that Republicans don’t have the three-fifths majority needed to override Democratic filibusters and the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a presidential veto. The bad news is the Republican leadership has indicated it will operate by attaching riders to major spending bills that the government needs to pass in order to operate — and spending bills are not subject to filibusters.
On a brighter note, in Grand County, Moab residents sent a sharp rebuke to county council members hell bent on ripping apart the Book Cliffs with a highway to foster dirty fuels development. And lead Redrock champion Senator Richard Durbin won his fourth term.
San Juan County Wilderness Alternatives Fall Far Too Short
A few weeks ago we reported the good news that SUWA and our conservation partners had reached a positive agreement with Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) on land conservation in Daggett County. Now, San Juan County, which contains some of redrock country’s most magnificent treasures, is developing its own proposal in response to Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative.
At first glance, some of the alternatives may appear to provide meaningful protection to the wild lands and cultural treasures of San Juan County because they appear to provide protection for substantial acreage. However, the alternatives fall far short of protecting some of the most outstanding wild lands in southern Utah. Even the best of the alternatives (Alternative C), omits significant areas in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) and rolls back currently existing protection for some lands.
San Juan County’s ultimate proposal to Rep. Bishop should protect the remaining wilderness in the county, and with your help we will work toward that goal.
Photo: This stretch of the Green River through Red Canyon will receive a new Wild and Scenic River designation under the Daggett Co. agreement. © Ray Bloxham/SUWA.
BLM Approves Pipleline near Island in the Sky, Dead Horse Point
SUWA and the Sierra Club recently challenged the BLM Moab field office’s, approval of an approximately twenty-six mile natural gas gathering line system, located west of Moab, Utah, near Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. The gathering line system will connect to the twenty-four mile Dead Horse Lateral pipeline (approved by BLM in November 2013), which follows state highway 313 until departing to continue northward cross-country to meet and follow Dubinky Well Road, crossing Blue Hills Road, and then continuing on to a new natural gas processing plant near Blue Hills Road.
This approximately fifty mile spiderweb of new pipes, metal, and roads will scar the landscape and be visible to the millions of visitors who drive state highway 313 (a designated “Scenic Byway”!) on their way to Island in the Sky, Dead Horse Point State Park, or any number of the surrounding natural wonderlands, including Labyrinth Canyon, Dead Horse Cliffs, and Horsethief Point. BLM’s decision to approve the gathering line system violated its governing statutes and regulations; facilitates current and additional oil and gas development; threatens public safety; and, adversely impacts recreational opportunities in this unique and wild area.
List of ARRWA Cosponsors Continues to Grow!
Although Congress has not spent much time in session over the past couple of months, members are still joining the fight to protect Utah wilderness by signing on to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
Newest cosponsors of the legislation, which Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced in this Congress, include Reps. Rick Nolan (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO).
We now have 99 cosponsors in the House and 23 in the Senate (a number that ties our Senate record). We are well on our way to a banner Congress for ARRWA. To see a complete list of cosponsors visit suwa.org/cosponsors.
Utahns Advocate for Greater Canyonlands in Washington
In September, six citizen activists from Utah flew to Washington, DC to share with policymakers the reasons they value Greater Canyonlands and hope to see it protected. The group met with key offices within the Obama Administration, including the Council on Environmental Quality (which, among other things, advises the president on monument decisions) and advisors to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The activists’ perspectives were diverse: those of a Moab local grounded in the land; an archeologist intent on protecting the rich human history of Greater Canyonlands; college students who recreate in the area and learn more about themselves in the process; and, a health professional and a veteran, both aware of the capacity of protected lands to heal and keep us healthy.
Eloquent and engaging, our activists were an inspiration, helping to remind us all of the incomparable value of the region we work so hard to protect.
Photo: Greater Canyonlands advocates Edgar Fuentes, Brooke Larsen, Tom Laabs-Johnson, Sarah Karlinsey, Michael Cumming and Jerry Spangler. © Terri Martin/SUWA.
Utah Well Represented at National Wilderness Conference
SUWA joined 1200 people in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and calling for a renewal of robust action to protect our remaining wild lands, including Utah’s redrock canyon country, at the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque in mid October. In a workshop on working with your elected officials, SUWA organizer Terri Martin described how citizen activism over 30 years transformed the conservation community in Utah into a force to be reckoned with, creating the possibility today of potentially gaining protection for wild lands through Rep Bishop’s public lands initiative and the Greater Canyonlands campaign.
SUWA also hosted a booth on Greater Canyonlands in a collaborative effort with the Greater Canyonlands Coalition, educating and engaging hundreds of participants in that effort. Renowned writer and SUWA board member Terry Tempest Williams inspired young and old activists as she praised the fierce passion and activism of the rising generation and honored the staying power long-term wilderness defenders, calling on all to re-imagine creative strategies to win protection for wilderness.
Photo: SUWA’s Rachel Briggs at the National Wilderness Conference Greater Canyonlands booth.