Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Congressional Western Caucus Uses Fiction, Not Fact, to Attack Obama Administration

9:01 am

Last Friday afternoon the “Congressional Western Caucus” – a group of Republican lawmakers from the west (or who are “western” in spirit) – issued a press release attacking the Obama administration’s energy policies, misleadingly linking the current high price of gas at the pump with federal oil and gas leasing and development policies.  The clear intimation is that if we only leased and drilled more, gas prices would come down.  If only these sorts of claims were true.

Fact of the matter is, there are tens of millions of acres of BLM managed lands across the west that are currently under lease, but not in development by oil and gas companies.  In Utah alone, there are 4.99 million acres of BLM land in Utah under lease – but only 1.09 million acres in production (per BLM FY 09 figures).

  • How much oil and gas are we talking about in Utah? According to BP’s 2009 statistical review of world energy, the U.S. has 2.4.% of the world’s proved oil reserves and 3.6% of the world’s proved natural gas reserves.  According to the Energy Information Administration, Utah holds 1.2% of the nation’s proved oil and 2.7% of the nation’s proved natural gas.
  • Add to the mix a 2010 analysis which shows that technically recoverable undiscovered resources below proposed BLM wilderness in Utah amounts to less than 4 weeks of natural gas and 1 week of oil (at 2010 national consumption rates).  These figures are optimistic because they do not take into account the cost of recovering the resource.
  • Explained another way – drilling beneath all the proposed wilderness on Utah BLM lands won’t make a difference in terms of national energy prices or the price that Americans pay at the pump for a gallon as gas.

In the Western Caucus’s press release, Rep. Bishop complained that the administration “continue[s] to perpetuate misinformation about their record on oil and gas production, one thing remains very clear-there is an abundant supply of domestic oil and gas resources that remain inaccessible and therefore unutilized.”  The facts speak for themselves.

In Utah, 2010 drilling rates (975 wells started or “spudded”) in Utah were higher than any year between 2001-2005.

Also, the number of drill rigs in Utah and other western states has continued to rise.  As of last Friday there were 31 rigs operating in Utah; at this time in 2010 there were 25 rigs – and in July of 2009 there were 16.

All the while, Secretary Salazar has worked to bring balance back to public lands management including reforming the oil and gas leasing process, issuing a Secretarial Order which established the BLM’s “Wild Lands” policy, and promoting renewable energy projects to wean our nation off fossil fuels.

At their core, these policies recognize that it is possible to have a strong domestic energy program, while at the same time protecting our nation’s wilderness landscapes.

The “westerners” in the Western Caucus do us all a disservice by promoting a false dichotomy of “drill everywhere” or pay high prices at pump.  It’s just not that simple.

Steve Bloch

Utah Wilderness News, March 10, 2011

9:08 am

Beware of Rob Bishop if you fly between SLC and DC

“Bishop, who typically flies between Utah and Washington on Fridays and Mondays, says BLM actions can cause him to want to hit fellow passengers, bathroom mirrors and that for the safety of the flying public on Delta, the BLM should cease to tick him off.”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune

 

AGO Report deserves praise for including monument designation

“The Antiquities Act, one of our country’s most effective conservation laws, has been used by 14 presidents from both parties to protect scenic wonders and historic sites, many of which have subsequently been designated as national parks by Congress. 

Used more than 100 times since its passage, the Antiquities Act has safeguarded many of America’s most beloved, iconic sites, including the Grand Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and the Statue of Liberty.  The AGO Report outlines a collaborative process by which the public can identify and recommend potential sites on existing federal land for national monument status.”  Read more – The Hill’s Congress Blog

 

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Utah Wilderness News, March 9, 2011

9:10 am

Hey Rep. Bishop, western officials & businesses support protecting wild lands

“When Bishop took the opportunity to support Big Oil, he snubbed the other western elected officials and business owners that support the Wild Lands policy, including those from his own district and state. A letter thanking Secretary Salazar for the Wild Lands policy was signed by 67 elected officials from around the West. People in Colorado were so supportive of the policy that 73 elected officials signed their own letter, and seven businesses from Congressman Bishop’s own district asked him to stop his attack of the Wild Lands policy. That’s 147 businesses and elected officials from around the West that aren’t complaining. They’re saying thanks.”  Read more – The Wonk Room

Tar sands development in Utah not worth it

“All of this, then, to recover what nature didn’t finish cooking. Is it worth it? Not in my book. Let’s spend our energy development dollars on more promising technologies that leave wild country in peace.”  Op-ed – The Salt Lake Tribune

House Republicans will continue to try slashing environmental protections

“The legislation blocks a new Bureau of Land Management initiative to identify and protect pristine public lands in the West and withholds funding for a new Forest Service management plan that would restrict off-road vehicle use in national forests. It also removes Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies and eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars from a federal land acquisition program.”  Read more – Los Angeles Times

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Activists (Red)Rock Congress

9:19 am

The redrock is particularly lucky to have a large number of articulate and passionate activists dedicated to achieving lasting protections for Utah wilderness.  Last week, 20 of those folks (half from Utah and half from across the country) traveled to Washington, DC for Utah Wilderness Week 2011 to ask their members of Congress to support protecting America’s redrock wilderness and to defend against anti-wilderness attacks in Congress.


The mission: Convincing Senators and Representatives to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 112th Congress, and also to ask them to preserve administrative tools (the “Wild Lands” policy and the Antiquities Act) that could be used by the Obama administration to protect special places in southern Utah.  After a full day of lobby training and learning about the issues in more detail, the activists were ready to take on Capitol Hill, proudly displaying their bright yellow and black “Protect Wild Utah” buttons.

Some of the highlights of the week:

Maryland activist Claire Gardner (pictured 2nd from left) met with her Representative Chris Van Activists with Van HollenHollen (D-MD, pictured 2nd from right), who did not cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act last Congress after supporting the bill in the  past.  Not only was she and her teammate John Hoener (UT, pictured first on right) able to meet with the Congressman himself, but emerged from the meeting with a promise to cosponsor the bill.  Rep. Van Hollen followed up on his word and was one of the first Representatives to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 112th Congress.

The Utahns were able to meet with 3 members of their delegation personally: Rep. Jason Chaffetz UWC group with Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT, pictured 4th from left).  Although the Utah delegation does not often see eye to eye with Utah wilderness supporters, the meetings were productive and reminded these members of Congress that Utahns do support protecting the remaining wild lands in their state.

The activists were also able to attend a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the Bureau of Land Management’s “Wild Lands” policy.  While it was disappointing to see how wilderness foes on the committee had stacked the deck of witnesses against the policy, everyone was excited to display their yellow “Protect Wild Utah” buttons and listen to wilderness champions on the committee such as Reps. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ed Markey (D-MA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ) defend the BLM’s authority to manage lands for their wilderness characteristics.

Overall, the week was very successful and we already have a list of Congress members who have officially signed on as cosponsors of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.  Thank you to all who participated!

You can see more photos from the week on SUWA’s Flickr page, and read about the event from an activist’s perspective on participant Carolyn Jackson’s (NYC/Bluff, UT) blog.

How can you help?

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:

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Jackie Feinberg

Utah Wilderness News, March 7, 2011

9:26 am

BLM policies should reflect Americans’ high priority on wilderness values

“Affirming the BLM’s ability to work with the public to protect lands with wilderness characteristics is not just a common-sense step, it also makes sound economic sense. Last year, hunting, fishing and other recreational uses of BLM lands generated $7.4 billion for local economies throughout the West. Conservation must be — and should be — on the table when making decisions about our public lands. It’s what the American people expect, and it’s also what the law requires.”  Op-ed – The Medford Mail Tribune

Boom and bust cycles are not caused by land-use policy changes

“More broadly, it is foolish to believe that any government policy can possibly drive economic changes as big as those experienced in Uintah County’s recent woes and more recent recovery. Rapid fluctuations in employment and growth are far more likely to be caused by global changes in commodity prices than by small alterations of public policy.”  Letter-to-the-editor – The Salt Lake Tribune 

Utah wilderness activist shares her advocacy experience in DC

“I just returned from five days on Capitol Hill, another country altogether, where a group of twenty activists—half from Utah, half from everywhere else from San Francisco to Chicago to Brick, NJ—gathered to lobby for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation that’s been growing support since it was introduced in 1989 by Utah Representative Wayne Owens.”  Read more – Progwoman

Utah is slamming the door to public participation on environmental issues

“Here in Utah, it is inconsistent to argue that advocates for a cleaner, safer world should limit themselves to lawful means of challenge while simultaneous efforts are underway to restrict or eliminate those very processes. Those who benefit economically from environmental approvals have a cushy seat at the table, while those who raise questions must stand outside in the cold and protest in vain.”  Op-ed – The Salt Lake Tribune

Identifying lands suitable for conservation is a ‘legal obligation’

“A day after telling a Senate panel that the policy does not seek to circumvent lawmakers’ authority, Salazar told the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday that his department has a legal obligation, upheld by the courts, to identify lands suitable for conservation. He also said he would work with local communities on the best way to manage the lands.”  Read more – Great Falls Tribune 

Preserving land can curb global warming too!

“In the absence of binding legislation mandating stricter carbon emissions standards, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, given the climate-related benefits of land conservation, may well be the most significant global warming bill Congress has passed to date. And environmentalists might have to take what they can get: With Republicans now in control of the House and gaining ground in the Senate, dedicated climate legislation may be even more elusive than analysts thought even a year ago.”  Read more – Blast



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