Submit Your Comments on the Grand Staircase-Escalante Draft Management Plan by November 9th
It was only two years ago when we celebrated the restoration of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Now, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a draft Resource Management Plan for the restored monument and is accepting public comments. It’s important that people like you, who know and love this wild landscape, take time to participate in the planning process.
More than 25 years after its original designation, the numerous benefits of protecting Grand Staircase-Escalante are clear: the monument preserves a remarkable ecosystem at the landscape-level and sets the stage for future discovery about human, paleontological, and geologic history on the Colorado Plateau.
The current planning process offers a rare opportunity to ensure that the monument is managed for its unique and extraordinary values as the plan won’t be revised again for decades. Please tell the BLM you support a modified version of “Alternative C” that protects wilderness values, upholds off-road vehicle route closures/restrictions from the original monument plan, prohibits large-scale vegetation removal, and involves Tribal Nations in resource management decisions.
The BLM is holding a final public meeting on the draft management plan on October 25th at 2pm Mountain Time. Anyone can participate as this is a virtual meeting. Click here to register.
>> Take Action: Submit your comments to the BLM by November 9th!
Photo © Jeff Foott
Revised Manti-La Sal National Forest Plan Will Impact Bears Ears and Proposed Wilderness
In August, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced the release of a draft revised forest plan for the Manti-La Sal National Forest, which is located across several mountainous regions in central and southeastern Utah. Much of the forest’s Moab and Monticello Ranger Districts abut lands proposed for wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, and the Elk Ridge region includes part of the restored Bears Ears National Monument.
Forest plans establish a framework for current and future management, describing both desired conditions and objectives for the forest and legal requirements for forest managers. This is one of the final steps in a many-year process of revising the Manti-La Sal’s current forest plan, which was last revised and approved in 1986! The USFS is taking public comments and hosting both virtual and in-person meetings about the plan (see planning page for details).
The revision of this forest plan is a critical opportunity to ensure the Manti-La Sal is managed to protect its ecological, cultural, recreational, and other important values. You can learn more about the forest plan alternatives by reading the draft plan and draft environmental impact statement and viewing the interactive alternative comparison map.
We’ll soon be sharing information on how to submit the most effective public comments. In the meantime, the Forest Service is holding a virtual public meeting on the plan revision on Wednesday, November 8th from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Mountain Time. Click here to join the meeting.
Photo © Scott T. Smith
Good News: BLM Releases Plan that Finally Protects Labyrinth Canyon and Surrounding Public Lands!
We’re pleased to report that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has taken meaningful steps to protect the world-renowned Labyrinth Canyon and Gemini Bridges area near Moab. On September 28th, the agency released a final motorized vehicle travel management plan for this 300,000-acre landscape which identifies areas and routes open and closed to motorized use for years to come. It will help protect cultural sites, riparian habitat, and the experience of non-motorized recreationists while allowing for motorized recreation on more than 800 miles of dirt trails and routes.
Thanks to decades of advocacy by SUWA and others, the west side of Labyrinth Canyon was designated as wilderness in 2019 and the river corridor itself is designated as a Scenic River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The east side has not yet been designated as wilderness, though America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would do so. In the meantime, this historic travel management plan will go a long way to ensuring that all of Labyrinth Canyon is managed in a way that does justice to this remarkable place.
For too long, the BLM has prioritized off-road vehicle use at the expense of Utah’s incredible natural and cultural resources. But this new plan represents an important step forward to guide the management of Utah’s public lands and reduce the excess density of off-road vehicle routes in this area. Thank you for helping us ensure this positive outcome!
>> Read our 9/28 press release
>> Take Action: Thank the BLM for protecting Labyrinth Canyon
Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA
Oil Spill Contaminates Waterways in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
An oil and gas operator with a long history of mismanagement and oil spills has fouled Utah’s waterways once again. In mid-September, a hiker discovered oil in Alvey Wash near the town of Escalante, Utah. The spill, which originated upstream in the Dixie National Forest, impacted public lands for more than seventeen miles, most of them inside Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. According to the Utah Division of Environmental Quality, the spill released 163 barrels of oil and approximately 6,200 barrels of oil-contaminated water. As several news outlets highlighted, this is just the latest in a series of spills by Citation Oil and Gas Corporation.
The company’s operations predate the 1996 national monument designation, so its activity has been allowed to continue despite the operator’s poor track record and the threat it poses to one of the most remarkable landscapes in the U.S. “There is no incentive from the operators’ perspective to shut down these nominally producing wells,” SUWA Staff Attorney Landon Newell told the Deseret News. “And that’s very problematic because they’ve been allowed to operate in this manner now for decades.”
This pattern and practice of spilling oil into the national monument highlights the need for the Biden administration to strengthen the rules and regulations that apply to oil and gas leasing and development. One such opportunity is the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed oil and gas rule which, if implemented correctly, could help avert these problems in the future.
Photo © SUWA
Last Call for Applications: Deadlines Approach for SLC Communications Role & DC Spring Internship
SUWA has two fantastic opportunities for anyone seeking to turn their love of public lands into a rewarding career.
The application period closes at midnight TONIGHT (Friday, October 20th) for our Digital Engagement Specialist position based in Salt Lake City. This role offers a chance to learn and grow with other communications professionals while making a real difference in the protection of Utah’s wild places. If you’re interested, we’d love to hear from you—but please don’t delay!
If a short course in public lands policy and advocacy is what you’re looking for, our DC internship runs from roughly mid-January to mid-May 2024 (flexible) and pays $17.00 per hour, with an expected 20 hours per week. Activities may include but are not limited to conducting research, dropping materials at congressional offices, helping plan our annual Wilderness Week event, and assisting our DC staff with preparation of educational materials, fact sheets, and testimony for congressional hearings. Applications are due by Wednesday, October 25th.
More information on both openings can be found on our website at suwa.org/careers.
Poll Shows Strong Support in Utah for Original Bears Ears Boundaries
In case you missed it: a recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll revealed that Utah voters largely favor keeping Bears Ears National Monument at its original (and current) size of roughly 1.3 million acres, even as Utah politicians aim to drastically reduce it.
This aligns with polling from earlier this year, which showed that 78% of Utahns “support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.”
Photo © SUWA