SUWA Praises Passage of Emery County Public Land Legislation

Feb 12th, 2019 Written by suwa

Utah’s Iconic San Rafael Swell Nears Wilderness Protection as Part of Public Lands Package Passed by U.S. Senate

Contact: Scott Groene, Executive Director, 801-712-5034,

Jen Ujifusa, Legislative Director, 801-791-2598,

Neal Clark, Wildlands Program Director, 435-260-1199,

Moab, UT (February 12, 2019) – In response to the U.S. Senate’s passage today of the Emery County Public Land Management Act as part of S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) executive director Scott Groene issued the following statement:

“We are excited by the passage of this legislation, which protects 663,000 acres of Utah’s iconic San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons in Emery County as designated wilderness.  It’s a tremendous step forward for the redrock and a validation of SUWA’s more than 35 years of advocacy.

“While this agreement came with some difficult choices, it brings long-term protection to this spectacular landscape.

“This bill was possible only because of Senator Dick Durbin, who has championed America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act for 20 years and was instrumental in brokering the agreement with Senator Hatch. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Alan Lowenthal challenged an earlier, flawed version—flaws which have now been largely addressed. These lands belong to all Americans and wilderness bills like this one can only succeed if Utah politicians recognize the national significance of their protection.

“We thank our steadfast allies in the Utah Wilderness Coalition- the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council- who each held strong with us for legislation that truly protects these lands.

“We appreciate the efforts of Sen. Hatch, Rep. John Curtis, and their staffs for seeing the bill through and keeping the lines of communication open. Likewise, we offer thanks and respect to the Emery County officials who brought sufficient flexibility to the table to create a bill that is a win for all Americans.

“At a time when our nation is deeply divided, this legislation brought together differing views for a result that is good for Redrock wilderness. Passing this legislation involved compromises, and landscapes deserving protection were left out. Nonetheless, this bill is good for Utah, and good for the United States.”

The Senate lands package now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

Additional Resources

More information, including maps and photographs of the protected region, is available here. A story map of the bill and region is available here.

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