Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

San Juan County Dispatch #6

11:50 am

After all the speculation and runaway rumors surrounding the future of the San Juan County process since Sen. Bennett’s loss in the Republican Caucus, we got some clarity yesterday. We received word that Sen. Bennett has determined that moving public lands legislation on the scale and importance of what a San Juan County bill could potentially be–will be–impossible this year. As it stands he will continue to direct the process he started back in April, moving it as far as he can before passing it off to Senator Hatch, whose staff met with San Juan County officials this past week.

We think this is the right decision and we want to thank Senator Bennett for making it.

This is all in keeping with comments made in a KUER interview aired June 21st. (Here’s the link if you missed it.

Besides Senator Bennett’s remarks on the San Juan process, this interview also includes those of SUWA Executive
Director, Scott Groene, who reiterated the importance of field trips, which were included in the original plans for San Juan County process and have played an important role in the on-going work in Emery County. Groene made the point that resolving these issues requires moving beyond the ideology surrounding wilderness, and the act of bringing all stakeholders together on-the-ground may be the only way this is possible.

We hope that the Senator’s decision not to “fast-track” this process– allowing it the necessary time to get it right–means thoughtfully planned field trips.

At the last scheduled meeting in late May, SUWA Attorney Liz Thomas presented Senator Bennett’s staff with a prioritized list of thirteen areas we would hope to visit during field trips based on existing conflicts. The top three areas —Arch Canyon, Moqui Canyon, and Nokai Dome—all have unique natural characteristics which are threatened by ORV’s using routes that should have never been included in the BLM’s Travel Plan and should be closed. We believe that this will be obvious to most stakeholders who are able to experience these places firsthand.

Brooke Williams

Redrock Report: June 2010

10:01 am

June 2010

Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1.  Final hearing held on proposed Alton coal mine.
2.  Tell the Obama administration to protect Utah’s wild lands!
3.  Activists share ideas at the SUWA grassroots retreat.
4.  New redrock bill cosponsors include Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)

Threatened Places: Update on the Proposed Coal Mine near Bryce Canyon 

Friday, the Utah Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining held its final hearing on the
proposed Alton
coal mine near Bryce Canyon National Park.  SUWA, the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Natural
Resources Defense Council, and the National Parks Conservation Association have
been litigating to stop the mine in hearings before the Board since last
December.  We feel confident that our lawyers and our experts in hydrology
put forward a very strong case.  The Board is expected to rule on our case by the
end of July.  No matter what happens, an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court
is likely.

The mining
operations would have disastrous effects in southwestern Utah.  The mine and associated truck traffic
would degrade the air quality and pristine night skies around Bryce.  They
would launch a stream of coal trucks—one every five minutes
along State
Highway 89 through the historic town of Panguitch.  Some area residents
wisely fear for their health and livelihoods.  “Ninety-five percent of my
customers are tourists and I don’t want the truck traffic to drive them away or
the mine to pollute the clean air and water we enjoy here,” says Bobbi Bryant,
a small-business owner.

existing proposal is to mine privately-owned coal on private land.  That
may be just the beginning: the Bureau of Land Management is analyzing another
proposal by Alton Coal to lease a much larger area of surrounding public land
for development, compounding the environmental and human impacts and further
contributing to climate change.

There is
one more official opportunity for you to express your opinion about the
proposed mine.  The Utah Division of Air Quality is evaluating the coal
company’s air pollution permit now and we’ll let you know when the public
comment period opens.  We’ll also keep you
updated on the litigation, the proposal to expand mining onto BLM land, and
how you can make your voice heard.  Stay tuned.

This Summer, Your Chance to Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness

In conjuction with President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative, this summer administration officials are holding listening sessions throughout the country to hear what you have to say about land conservation in the United States.  This is a great opportunity for folks around the country to help elevate the issue of protecting Utah’s redrock wilderness in the eyes of the Obama administration. 

On June 2, Utah wilderness activists attended one of the first listening sessions in Bozeman, MT.  You can read activist reports on the session by activists Carolyn Hopper and Ron Craighead on SUWA’s blog.  The next sessions are scheduled for Annapolis, MD (click here for more information), Charleston, SC, and Seattle, WA, and more are expected to be put on the calendar for the coming months. 

If you are interested in attending a listening session on behalf of Utah wilderness if one is scheduled in your area, please fill out this form or email  Let’s show the Obama administration that people across the country want Utah’s wild lands protected!

If you can’t wait for a listening session to be scheduled in your area, you can get involved in the America’s Great Outdoors initiative by visiting this website, sharing your ideas about land conservation, and “promoting” the other ideas that have been submitted.

And rememberthe summer is also an excellent time to speak with your members of Congress about Utah wilderness.  If you are interested in dropping off information at your Senator’s or Representative’s district office, or would like to organize or attend an in-district meeting with one of your members of Congress, please fill out this form or email

Activists Strategize at the SUWA Grassroots Leader Retreat

Wild Utah grassroots leaders gathered at
the Canyonlands Field Institute this May to
strategize about the Utah wilderness campaign.

In May, redrock activists from across the country assembled at the Canyonlands Field Institute outside of Moab, UT for the annual SUWA Grassroots Leader Retreat.  Hailing from places as far as Massachusetts, Michigan, and Washington, and as close as Moab and Bluff, the group of activists spent the weekend hearing updates from SUWA staff about current Utah wilderness issues and strategizing about how they could help advance protection for the redrock once they returned home.  The location was inspiringthe group was surrounded by redrock, with views of Fisher Towers and Castleton Tower, and quick access to the Mary Jane Canyon hiking trail.  The setting was a constant reminder of what is at stake, and all of the activists left with game plans that are now underway.  Click here for more on the retreat.

*New Cosponsor Spotlight* 

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)

We are getting closer and closer to breaking the House cosponsor record for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!  Those recently signing onto to the bill are Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).  If you live in one of their districts, please thank your representative!

For a full list of cosponsors, click here.  If your members of Congress are not on the list of cosponsors, please ask them to sign onto the bill by clicking here!



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Utah Wilderness News, June 20, 2010

2:12 pm

San Juan County wilderness protection is vital to all Utahns

Wilderness stewardship is intimately intertwined with living
ethically, living mindfully and living with restraint. As the "Faith and
the Land" dialogues made clear, what makes good ecological sense makes
for good theology too. This idea can unite rather than divide us.

The wild lands of San Juan County are too
precious to allow a small number of people to settle their future. Give
all the people of Utah a chance to be heard.

Read more at the Deseret News 

Wilderness after Senator Bennett 

In the past, the Utah legislature
hasn't been friendly to the idea of wilderness, and it's an open
question whether a proposal similar to the Washington County bill could

Will Bennett's successor pick up the
wilderness issue? A question of ideology is important to one of the
candidates who defeated Senator Bennett at the convention. Mike Lee
cites a section of the U-S Constitution that he says lays out a critical
step in making public lands decisions.

Lee's opponent, Tim Bridgewater, is
less rigid on the legal structure, but he's also not ready to push ahead
immediately on wilderness bills.

Read (and hear) more at KUER


An Emery County Update

11:26 am

Of all southern Utah counties with large wilderness potential, Emery
seemed the best prepared to undertake a process to work through public lands
issues there.  They’ve been actively
involved in preparing a number of bills for legislation over the past decade,
including a National Conservation Area and a National Monument Proposal.  They have
an active Public Lands Council (PLC) to advise their commission and officials
from their public lands and economic development departments have spent a
considerable amount time for the past year developing a county plan to
incorporate as many of the needs of the numerous stakeholder groups as possible. 
They freely acknowledge that this plan
will include wilderness designation.

Two years ago, when we approached
county officials  about engaging in
wilderness discussions, they were well aware of SUWA’s record of stopping
legislation that we felt offered inadequate protection to the amazing and
unique wilderness in Utah, including Emery County.  Given this history, they
acknowledged our role and invited us to participate.

In the year we’ve spent in the “information gathering stage”—going to
monthly PLC meetings, viewing proposed wilderness on the ground, and driving
hundreds of dirt miles during what we’ve felt have been very productive field
trips—we’ve had many open and frank and productive discussions.

Throughout the process we’ve developed trusting relationships with
county officials and many PLC members.  We’ve all commented that were it up to this
small group, we could come up with legislation we could all stand behind. 
Unfortunately county officials have drawn heavy criticism from local wilderness
opponents for working too closely with SUWA, whose interests they see at odds
with theirs.  This has dampened any early optimism.

Today, the county is moving forward on crafting their own land use bill. 
We feel that our being directly involved at this point would put us in the
difficult situation of needing to object to everything we disagree with, which
could potentially be quite a bit.  We’ve recently sent the county a letter
advising them that since it seems that the process has moved beyond the
‘information gathering’ stage, while in no way are we abandoning the process, we are stepping back until their proposal
is complete.

Our interest is and always has been America’s
Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA)—protection of large wild landscapes in the San Rafael Swell, Desolation
and Labyrinth Canyons.  Once Emery County has completed their bill, we look forward
to comparing it to ARRWA and working directly with them to address the
differences.  Until then, we remain interested in their proposal and will fully
reengage whenever the county is ready to begin negotiations.

Brooke Williams

Utah Wilderness News, June 17, 2010

3:09 pm

Local reaction to governor's energy task force mixed

Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the formation of his 10-year
Strategic Energy Plan Task Force.

“It will be a diverse working group composed of people from education,
the energy industry, market consumers and other stakeholders,” said Rob Behunin, special assistant to the president at USU-Uintah Basin
and a task force member.

David Garbett, staff attorney for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance,
questions the wisdom of using market-based principles given the
composition of the working group.

“Of course we would hope that any commission would lead to a wiser
energy policy; however, given the makeup of the governor’s task force,
it’s kind of like hoping for a good result when you give a fox the keys
to the henhouse,” said Garbett.

Read more at the Vernal Express.

Udall may lead regional wilderness issue

The defeat of Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Republican, could have
repercussions that would put Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, at
the head of the regional wilderness movement.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance hasn’t given up on Bennett
being able to carry a wilderness bill through Congress, but
conservationists are looking for backstops, one of whom could be
Colorado’s Udall, said Terri Martin, western regional organizer for the
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Read more at the Daily Sentinel.