Take action to protect America’s redrock wilderness! – Redrock Report April 2011

Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
Ask your congressional delegation to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!
2.  Say NO to sacrificing Utah wilderness to oil shale and tar sands.
3.  Budget deal puts a funding limitation on the “Wild Lands” policy.
4.  Agreement protects proposed wilderness along the White River.

Ask your members of Congress to support protecting America’s redrock wilderness

Harts Draw
Hart’s Draw, copyright Tom Till.

This May, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will re-introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, a piece of federal legislation that would protect over 9 million acres of incredible redrock wilderness in Utah.  Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor and support the bill today!


1) Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and speak with your Senators’ or Reprensentative’s DC offices, asking that they cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

2) Go to our Action Center and send emails to your members of Congress, asking that they cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

3) Sign the petition asking Congress to protect America’s redrock wilderness.

Make your voice heard — Say NO to sacrificing public lands to oil shale and tar sands

How do you feel about 2 million acres of land in CO, WY and UT being opened to oil shale development and an additional 430,000 acres potentially threatened by tar sands leasing and development?

In Utah, some of our most spectacular redrock country is being studied for potential tar sands development. The BLM is determining whether such an incredibly intensive and destructive activity as tar sands development would be permitted to destroy areas like White Canyon and the Fiddler Butte/Happy Canyon region in Utah. This analysis will also consider whether large-scale industrial processes to extract tar sands or oil shale should take place in the San Rafael Swell or high in the remote Book Cliffs.

Please attend an upcoming hearing to tell the BLM what you think of sacrificing public lands for potential oil shale and tar sands development! Hearing dates are:

• April 26 in Salt Lake City, Utah – Little America Hotel, 500 South Main, Salt Lake City, (801) 596-5800, Wyoming Conference Room, (1:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.)

• April 27 in Price, Utah – Holiday Inn Hotel, 838 Westwood Blvd, Price, (435) 637-8880, San Rafael/Skyline Meeting Room, (1:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.)

• April 28 in Vernal, Utah – Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center, 450 North 2000 West, Vernal, (435) 725-7100, Multi Use Rooms #1, 2, 3 (1:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

If you cannot attend, please submit your comments on the plan directly to the BLM.

Also, read former U.S. Representative (from Utah) Karen Shepherd’s testimony on the plan on our blog.

“Wild Lands” policy defunded until September in budget deal

As Congress wrapped up its budgeting for this year, an important public lands policy was axed for political expediency.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s “Wild Lands” policy, which tells the Bureau of Land Management how to inventory and manage lands with wilderness characteristics, was subjected to a “no funds” rider in the final agreement between the President and congressional leaders. It came as a shock to us and to many of the redrock’s Congressional champs that the President would sacrifice our nation’s cherished unprotected landscapes in such a way. The good news is that the current budget only lasts through September and the next budgeting process is already underway, leaving us with the important job of ensuring that the wild lands policy rider does not make its way into the final legislation funding the government for 2012. We’ll keep you all updated as we move forward on this and let you know how you can help out!

Agreement reached on protecting portions of the proposed White River wilderness

White River
White River, copyright Steve Mulligan

For some time, the southwestern portion of the White River proposed wilderness has been the in the crosshairs of proposed natural gas development (the northern portion has too, but that is a story for another day).  Between 2005 and 2007, SUWA fought back various iterations of a proposed “Rock House” project that would have resulted in a substantial loss of portions of the potential White River wilderness.  At the end of 2007, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Vernal Field Office approved the third version of the project, and on the Saturday before Christmas met with the company proposing the Rock House project to approve a right of way into the proposed White River wilderness.  The company acted immediately on BLM’s generous holiday spirit and bulldozed a new route deep into the proposed wilderness.

The culmination of these battles came in a showdown in federal court.  In 2008, SUWA, along with a group of other environmental organizations, brought a lawsuit to stop the Rock House project.  Fortunately, SUWA eked out a win, with the court agreeing that the BLM had not done its homework in approving the Rock House project (because of inadequate air quality analysis).

Unfortunately, we knew that facing off with a determined and well-financed company meant that this victory might only be short lived.  Seizing on the opportunity, we negotiated an agreement with the BLM and the company to substantially reduce the footprint of the Rock House project; to protect, as best we could, the White River corridor; and to eliminate disturbance altogether in certain areas.  This agreement comes at a cost—the loss of wilderness-quality lands on the southwestern portion of the proposed White River wilderness.  However, the protection of thousands of acres of the proposed White River wilderness, and the fact that the company had pre-existing federal and state leases, led us to the conclusion that the deal made sense.  In the end, a long-running battle has been resolved and some of the southern portion of the White River proposed wilderness has been spared.

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