Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

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

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Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1.
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!

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO:


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.


change.orgSign the petition to save Greater Canyonlands

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Testimony of Karen Shepherd, Former Member of Congress, on the Oil Shale Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

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Since I grew up in southern and eastern Utah, I have a very special feeling for the lands that oil shale and tar sands development in Utah would disturb.  These are not only beautiful places, they are also fragile and ancient places, home to some of the most extensive wildlife habitat left in the West.  The wildlife can be there because they live where the water runs predictably and because it does, the trees and plants still grow according to the cycles of nature.

Utah is a place where large islands of people live in a vast ocean of desert.  Even the mountains are dry mountains.  We think of that desert as inexhaustible but it is not.  It provides us with much of what we have come to depend on as our quality of life.  It is where we have our farms and our ranches.  It is where we hike and camp, and find dozens of other ways to play and enjoy the outdoors.  Without it we would not be happy.  What makes the desert inviting is water.  Without that water the Utah desert would be unlivable for any form of life.

Unfortunately, what makes oil shale and tars sands come out of the ground is water.

The BLM says that large scale development of oil shale could require up to 378,000 acre feet of water per year.  This is more than the Salt Lake Metro Area uses annually.   The April 26, 2011 Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Colorado River Basin will likely lose about 9 percent of its annual runoff by midcentury because of climate change.  That means that we should be doing everything and I mean EVERYTHING we can think of right now to conserve precious underground water reserves and to conserve our use of the Colorado River allocation.  We should not even be thinking of developing industries of any kind which are heavily dependent on water because these are industries that will hurt not enhance Utah’s future.

As a former Member of Congress, and Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I learned a lot about the making of public policy while I was in office.  This is a critical decision coming at a critical time.   I commend you on this process and I urge you to think long and carefully about taking a step that once taken has the potential not only to destroy the health of some of the most vital desert landscape in the West forever but also to use up important water reserves for the people who live in the islands of this vast desert ocean.

Respectfully,

Karen Shepherd
Former Member of Congress

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Utah Wilderness News, April 25, 2011

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“Wild Lands” funding limitation should not be included in the 2012 budget

“The amendment, like much from the House, was based on demagoguery. Western Republicans claimed the policy would pre-empt Congress’s right to designate permanent wilderness on federal lands. That isn’t true. What the Interior Department does, and has done until Ms. Norton came along, is identify lands with “wilderness characteristics” and manage them carefully — preventing rampant motorized vehicle use, for instance — until Congress can decide whether they deserve permanent protection.”  Editorial – The New York Times

Compromise: A curious trend in Utah’s canyon country

“Skeptics may have written that deal off as an anomaly, never to be repeated. But SUWA and a couple other environmental groups were back at it this month, this time finding common ground with Enduring Resources, another gas company, over a drilling plan for the Uinta Basin.”  Read more – High Country News

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Want to give away millions of acres of taxpayer lands to one of the dirtiest fuels on earth? Please attend the upcoming oil shale/tar sands hearings and tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “NO!”

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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.

A view of the tar sands triangle near the Dirty Devil River Photo by Ray Bloxham


The BLM is initiating a planning process for the future of oil shale development in the West, based on Secretary Salazar’s decision in February to take a fresh look at the oil shale plan that was released in 2008 by the Bush administration, which opened up 2 million acres of western public lands to oil shale. Oil shale has yet to be successfully developed at commercial quantities, but independent scientists project that commercial development would fundamentally transform water supplies, air quality and wildlife habitat in the West. The BLM wants to know what you think, and now is your chance to tell them.

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.

And please submit comments on the plan directly to BLM.

The potential negative consequences if oil shale and tar sands are developed in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are enormous – it is up to us to make sure that the BLM is considering them.

Oil shale’s triple threat:

WATER – BLM predicts that large-scale development of oil shale alone could require up to 378,000 acre feet of water per year. This is 50% more water than the Denver metro area uses annually.

ELECTRICITY – Oil shale requires a huge amount of electricity to heat it enough to extract liquid from the rock. The BLM estimates that producing 1 million barrels per day would require ten new coal-fired power plants, each with a capacity to power a city of 500,000 people.

AIR IMPACTS/GREENHOUSE GASES – Oil shale has the potential to release 20% more sulfur dioxide and 16% more nitrogen dioxide than was emitted by all electrical generating units in CO, UT and WY combined in 2002. It also emits 23% to 73% more greenhouse gases than conventional liquid fuels from crude oil.

Let your voice be heard — say no to oil shale and tar sands development!

Thanks for all you do!

Deeda Seed

Utah Wilderness News, April 20, 2011

1:06 pm

Off-road riders have plenty of space

“That’s exactly why Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) asked the BLM to protect some of its most vulnerable and valuable lands, those surrounding Canyonlands National Park, from ORV damage. In our petition (which includes the stats listed above), we asked the BLM to go back and do its homework before allowing excessive ORV use in this remarkable country. That includes taking another look at protecting the magnificently scenic places that are so important for wildlife, water and our own heritage.”  Op-ed – Deseret News

Is natural gas really the ‘savior’ of fossil fuels?

“Natural gas has a reputation as the least environmentally damaging fossil fuel, but a new study from Cornell University paints a slightly different picture. Study leader Robert Howarth told the BBC that, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, gas from shale rocks — undergoing a boom in production in the U.S. — is ‘quite likely as bad [as] or worse than coal.’”  Read more – HuffPost Green

Utah air pollution loophole threatens air quality, public health

“At issue is a rule governing about 1,200 businesses that operate under state-issued air pollution permits. The state rule allows polluting industries to avoid sanctions for spewing more emissions than their permit allows if they claim to be exceeding the limit because of a breakdown in equipment or operation. In other words, the state takes the side of polluting industries against the well-being of Utahns.”  Editorial – The Salt Lake Tribune

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