Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Help us protect the Glen Canyon wilderness

10:43 am

Tucked between the rivers slowed by Lake Powell, a wilder, more unpredictable
set of wonders can be found.  Here, in the still unprotected Glen Canyon wilderness, sandstone domes and
mesas rise beyond the reaches of the Colorado and San Juan rivers – reminders of
the pristine beauty that once dominated this entire region.

Upper Red Canyon (small)
Upper Red Canyon, copyright
Ray Bloxham/SUWA.  Click image for more

Look up to see Mancos Mesa, the largest isolated slickrock mesa in southern
Utah, a 180-square-mile table rising 1,500-feet high above the surrounding
desert.  Here, one of Utah’s few relict plant communities of pinyon, juniper,
blackbrush and yucca thrives undisturbed – save for the hoofbeats of bighorn
sheep and mule deer.  Moqui and Red canyons meander below, but ORV use is
eroding the delicate sand formations that provide access to them.

Now peer around a bend in White Canyon, which carves cool, dark, labyrinthine
slots so narrow that a human wingspan is enough to touch its sides, and see the
upper walls adorned with the honeycomb, grottoes and alcoves of erosive art.
Here, remnants of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings remain mostly untouched,
the difficulty of the terrain thus far safeguarding them from vandals and
thieves.  Without wilderness designation, however, these prehistoric structures
and artifacts may soon be accessed by looters with bigger and more powerful ORVs
before they can be fully studied.

Envision a future where the treasures of the Glen Canyon wilderness are
protected for generations to come.  That’s what we’re working on at SUWA with
our partners in the Utah Wilderness Coalition, and you can help.

Have you been to any of these places in the Glen Canyon wilderness?  We would
love to hear your story, see your pictures, and share them with those who can
help us protect these treasures for good.

Write us today!
(Story and photo submissions will constitute permission for SUWA to post
them on our website and online networks and use them in our written materials,
unless the individual requests otherwise.)

Deeda Seed

Utah Wilderness News, April 5, 2010

5:07 pm

Sec. Salazar brings rock-solid sense to management of Nine Mile Canyon

"Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar continues to make good on his promise to restore much-needed
balance and common sense to the regulation of oil and gas drilling in
the West. And, so far, Utah has been the centerpiece of Salazar's
campaign to roll back the "drill at all costs" policy of the previous

The latest advance in Salazar's campaign came Wednesday with
announcement of a legal settlement that effectively ends the
application of so-called "categorical exclusions" giving energy
companies a shortcut around regulations designed to protect sensitive
natural and cultural resources from damage inflicted by drilling
operations." Read more–Salt Lake Tribune


Utah Wilderness News, April 1, 2010

3:54 pm

No more slick permits: The return of clarity and transparency to drilling policy

Thanks to a successful
partnership of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society
and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, it was announced yesterday that oil
companies will no longer be able to skip needed environmental assessments in
sensitive areas, cinching up a Bush-era loophole that allowed the messy rubber-stamping
of drilling permits. Yesterday’s settlement with the Bureau of Land Management
means “categorical exclusions,” which allowed new drilling to be approved without
first conducting a thorough environmental analysis, will no longer be allowed
in cases where there are cultural resources, wetlands, wilderness and other
highly sensitive factors.

This fight started in Nine Mile Canyon in Utah,
where more than 10,000 archeological sites were being destroyed by drilling
dust and chemicals, but the victory will protect natural resources nationwide,
ensuring that oil companies and the BLM do their homework before breaking
ground and that the public knows what the impacts will be.

This is something to
celebrate, and SUWA, along with our partners in the settlement at The
Wilderness Society and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, is pleased the oil and
gas reforms promised by Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar continue
to make progress. No objection has been made by the Bill Barrett Corporation, which
held the 30 wells in Nine Mile Canyon that triggered the suit.

In fact, the only
objection has come from Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who issued a statement Wednesday saying
he is outraged at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance for what he calls a “secret
deal.” But unlike the shortcuts it curtails, there’s nothing murky about this
settlement. SUWA was just one of several groups in a wide spectrum of
environmental and historic preservation advocates that brought this justice to
bear. In fact, after our groups took action in 2008, the government’s own
General Accountability Office took issue with the categorical exclusions in a
2009 report, pointing out that the BLM was out of compliance with the law, and
28 percent of drilling permits over two years had been issued with the loophole.
Use of categorical exclusions has shut the public and the agencies responsible
for monitoring public lands out of the conversation for years. This settlement marks a return to accountability and transparency in the issuance of
drilling permits.

Read the press release issued by SUWA, The Wilderness Society and The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition here.

–Jen Beasley, Legislative Advocate, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance