Trouble on the Horizon: Desolation Canyon and the Dinosaur Area Need Your Help!

Desolation Canyon and Lands Surrounding Dinosaur National Monument Could Lose Big in Rep. Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative

While we await the release of Representative Rob Bishop’s proposal for the public lands of eastern Utah, we wanted to fill you in on recent developments in three Utah counties: Carbon, Daggett, and Uintah. Generally, we remain optimistic that this process could result in the best opportunity for land protection in Utah in decades. However, these three counties have put together proposals that are troubling. Utah’s wild landscapes could be the biggest losers, particularly the Desolation Canyon wilderness complex and the wild lands surrounding Dinosaur National Monument. Representatives Bishop and Chaffetz—who are both driving this process—need to hear from you if these places are to be saved.

First, Uintah County: ground zero for much of Utah’s energy production. Not surprisingly, the county has developed a proposal that is long on energy development and short on conservation. This means that the head of Desolation Canyon and the proposed wilderness surrounding Dinosaur National Monument (a place BLM is managing for conservation now) could be made available for oil and gas development. Such a result would sacrifice some of the few remaining wild lands in this heavily impacted county.

Desolation Canyon

Uintah County’s proposal would sacrifice the head of Desolation Canyon (above) to an Energy Zone. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Unfortunately, Carbon County has developed what may be an even worse plan. Just recently the county commission approved a development proposal for the county that would remove wilderness protections (i.e., wilderness study areas) for vast swaths of the Desolation Canyon complex. According to their vision, no float trip of Desolation Canyon would be complete without a symphony of oil and gas development played by scores of wells located on the immediate rim of the canyon. Ironically, the county actually proposed more land for protection in the 1990s than it does now. The county’s development proposal would result in a loss of more than half of the wilderness-quality land in its share of Desolation Canyon.

Finally, Daggett County. You will remember that last October the conservation community announced a landmark agreement with Daggett County, Rep. Rob Bishop, and the State of Utah. This compromise would set aside over 100,000 acres of wilderness and national conservation areas in this county. Rep. Bishop committed that this widely touted agreement would be included in his pending legislation for his public lands initiative in eastern Utah. Unfortunately, Daggett County has now developed cold feet and has reneged on its promises. Apparently, talk is cheap. We remain hopeful that Rep. Bishop and the state will honor the agreement but the potential for backtracking is deeply troubling.

In summary, Utah’s counties are seeking to suffocate Desolation Canyon—one of the nation’s largest remaining roadless areas—with oil and gas development and slice and dice currently-protected public lands around Dinosaur National Monument. Do not let the counties destroy these treasures—please take action today.

>> If you live in Rep Bishop’s or Rep. Chaffetz’ district, click here to send comments electronically.

>> If you live outside of those districts (in Utah or another state), click here to send your comments.

Thank you!