Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1. Ask the BLM to protect wilderness-quality lands in Utah’s West Desert!
2. Help us thank departing redrock champion Sen. Russ Feingold.
3. The Santa Fe New Mexican is the latest paper to call for an end to “No More Wilderness.”
4. Get your new SUWA retro t-shirts while they last!
The far-flung lands west of Cedar City are some of the least traveled and most remote our spectacular state has to offer. In the southern portion of Utah’s West Desert, this unique basin and range environment is defined by a series of north-south trending mountain ranges with abrupt front slopes and more gentle back slopes that rise out of arid basins to form one of the most diverse ecosystems in Utah. One of the most noticeable attributes of these lands is the general absence of development and the “you can see forever” views across the islands of mountains and playas.
The San Francisco Mountains—a prime example of the wildness and solitude offered by the Basin and Range topography of the BLM’s Cedar City planning area. Photo © Ray Bloxham/SUWA.
BLM’s Cedar City field office is beginning a planning process for a new Resource Management Plan, or RMP. The RMP is a tremendously important document that will dictate how BLM manages the region’s public lands, resources, and activities for the next 15 to 20 years. Decisions made in the RMP will include: identification and management of potential wilderness areas, wildlife habitat areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild and Scenic river segments; designation of off-road vehicle trails and use areas; identification of areas for oil, gas, other minerals, and renewable energy development; and identification of areas where deforestation and livestock grazing can occur. BLM must consider the effects of its planning decisions on climate change, air quality, water quality and all the other public land resources.
The Cedar City planning process offers unique challenges and opportunities for BLM. For example, the area holds promise for all three of the major renewable energy sources—wind, solar, and geothermal—yet also has pristine wild lands worthy of protection. The Cedar City region also faces intense threats from increasing and dispersed off-road vehicle recreation. BLM must create a long-term plan that effectively and responsibly manages recreational activities, energy development and other uses, while preserving the lands worthy of wilderness protection, including the Paradise Mountains, Steamboat Mountain, the Wah Wah Mountains, the Mineral Mountains, and the Mountain Home Range.
It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to one of the Redrock’s greatest champions, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Russ, as his colleagues refer to him, lost his race for a fourth term in the anti-Washington frenzy of the recent election. Ironically, Russ is about as independent as they come in the Senate…but that’s a hard point to make in today’s electoral climate.
Hailing from the same state as legendary environmental figures Aldo Leopold and Gaylord Nelson, promoting environmental issues seems a natural fit for Russ. His involvement in federal wilderness issues began soon after a trip to southern Utah in 1999, when he founded the Senate Wilderness Caucus. Through the caucus, Russ hoped to educate other Senators who might not know the important role Congress plays in the protection of our special places – a formidable goal for the Senate.
Throughout his tenure in the Senate, Russ’ unwavering support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act was manifested through actions taken to defend the land and gain protections – including playing an important role in the improvement of the Washington County bill that passed early last year.
We bid Russ a fond farewell and wish him the best in his future endeavors – which we hope might include protecting wilderness.
Please take a moment to write a short thank you note to Russ. Please email your notes to firstname.lastname@example.org and our DC staff will print them out and hand deliver them to his office before the end of this Congress.
At the end of November, the Santa Fe New Mexican joined two other Intermountain West newspapers, The Salt Lake Tribune and the Denver Post, in recently calling on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to end the Bush-era “No More Wilderness” policy.
“The secretary appears to be twiddling his thumbs while the worst of policies from Bush and from Salazar’s predecessor Gale Norton rolls merrily along,” says this most recent editorial, adding that Salazar “must clarify Interior Department policy to say, loud and clear, that whatever deal was cut with Utah is not — repeat not — department policy.”
You can speak out against the “No More Wilderness” policy too — just send a message to Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration asking that they reject this egregious policy and begin protecting wilderness-quality lands once again.
Looking ahead to the spring and warmer weather? Our new SUWA retro t-shirts are the perfect addition to any redrock wilderness fan’s wardrobe. Men’s styles are available in either white/blue or tan/black, while the women’s version is a fitted white/black tee. All styles cost $20 each. Quantities are limited, so get yours while they are still in stock!