Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Victory! Protection for Salt Creek in Canyonlands NP

1:57 pm
Salt Creek
Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park

Last Friday, in a major victory for the Greater Canyonlands Region, a federal judge ruled against San Juan County and the State of Utah in their bid to open an off-road vehicle (ORV) route in Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.  The route was closed over a decade ago to stop engine oil and grease from polluting the stream and the destruction of wildlife habitat.

Salt Creek is an integral part of one of the most spectacular roadless areas on the Colorado Plateau, which includes our Butler Wash and Bridger Jack proposed BLM wilderness units (it’s all one area, but divided by jurisdictional boundaries).

We began this fight in 1989 when the National Park Service (NPS) decided jeep use could continue in Salt Creek despite the water pollution, soil erosion and damage to native stream-side plant and animal life. In 1995 we sued the NPS and won – and the agency eventually reversed its decision. Plants grew back, the water was clean, bears returned to the upper reaches of the canyon, and peace and quiet prevailed. Then San Juan County and the State of Utah sued, claiming an RS 2477 right-of-way existed up the canyon.  If the politicians had prevailed, it would have opened the door to claims by anti-wilderness forces on countless other remote and primitive ORV routes across the state.

Now two decades later we’re thinking bigger about protecting the entire Greater Canyonlands Region. This court decision is an important step towards accomplishing that.

Many thanks to Heidi McIntosh, SUWA’s associate director, who skillfully shepherded this case though the courts over the past two decades.  And thanks to you, for being a supporter of Utah’s redrock wilderness.

Protecting our public lands requires perseverance and together, we will succeed.

P.S. Help us continue to win victories for Utah’s redrock wilderness – please consider donating to SUWA today!

Scott Groene

BREAKING NEWS: Federal judge issues landmark decision in our favor

12:34 pm

Great kick-off to Memorial Day Weekend!  Federal Judge Bruce S. Jenkins issues landmark decision in our favor!  Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park is NOT a County Highway!  It’s a great day for Utah wilderness!

Click here to read the decision.

Heidi McIntosh

Contact Sec. Salazar today and ask him to stand firm on Wild Lands policy

10:16 am

The Wild Lands policy, which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced late last year, sent a crystal clear message that wilderness protection of deserving BLM lands should be a high priority.  It finally reversed the much-maligned Bush administration’s “No More Wilderness” policy which wrongfully opened up scenic canyons and plateaus to off-road vehicle use, roads, and oil and gas drilling.  With his Wild Lands policy, Secretary Salazar restored wilderness to its rightful place among the many resources that BLM manages and we thank him for that.

Since then, wilderness foes in Congress with visions of industrial development in Utah’s spectacular redrock country have rabidly attacked the Wild Lands policy and succeeded in stripping the BLM of funding to implement it.

But Congress has plenty of wilderness friends, too.  This week, 44 congressional representatives wrote to Secretary Salazar expressing their support for the Wild Lands policy on behalf of the millions of Americans who want more wilderness lands protected, not less.

Please add your voice to those congressional representatives by calling or emailing Secretary Salazar today to tell him that you support the Wild Lands policy and that he should stand firm in the face of those who use intimidation tactics and bare-knuckled politics to deprive current and future Americans of their wilderness heritage.

Call Secretary Salazar at (202) 208-3100
OR send him an email through our online action center.

Thank you for all you do to protect Utah’s wild lands!

P.S.  If you’d like to take further action, please consider the following:

Heidi McIntosh

44 Representatives ask President Obama to stand up to anti-wilderness forces in Congress

9:59 am

Yesterday, forty-four members of Congress, led by wilderness champions Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Diana Degette (D-CO), called on President Obama to ensure that the Department of the Interior’s Wild Lands policy receives full funding in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.

This important letter comes in the wake of a recent backroom deal on the federal budget that stunningly left our wild public lands on the cutting room floor when radical Republican funding limitation language (also known as a rider) blocked implementation of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Secretarial Order 3310 – the Wild Lands policy.  Salazar’s long awaited policy announcement reinstated and confirmed long-standing authorities to guide BLM staff in how to manage some of the most remarkable lands under its authority such as those in the Greater Canyonlands region, while Congress continues to consider wilderness legislation such as America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

I’m thrilled to report that members of Congress from around the nation are standing up to the anti-wilderness forces behind the Wild Lands rider with yesterday’s letter to the President.  This comes at a time when our wilderness heritage is under unprecedented attack from those who would prefer to see all public lands open to oil & gas drilling, mining and off-road vehicles.  One need look no further than the recent introduction of companion bills in the House and Senate entitled “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act,” that would permanently repeal the Wild Lands policy and remove existing protections on over 40 million acres of public land throughout the nation, to see this radical agenda at work.

As noted in the Congressional letter, the Wild Lands policy is a sensible, legally justifiable approach to balance the various uses on public lands.  Opponents of the policy misleadingly complain that the policy runs counter to BLM’s multiple-use mandate.  What they leave out, however, is that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 says that the BLM, “where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition.” Clearly, the Congress did not intend to provide for every use on every acre.  However, Congress did intend for robust public involvement in this sort of decision-making, which is an important component of the Wild Lands policy.  This amounts to sound governance and fair processes to determine the future of our public lands – a process that we hope will bring needed protection to remarkable red rock landscapes in the Greater Canyonlands region like White Canyon.

There are surely still more threats coming to wilderness this Congress and we’ll continue to need help from the likes of those who signed the letter to the President yesterday.  If your Representative signed the letter to President Obama, please be sure to thank him/her today and let them know how important this issue is to you!  You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be directed to your Representative’s office.

44 House Members Call on President to Enforce Law to Protect Wild Lands

7:22 am

From the office of Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY):

BLM Still Obligated to Enforce FLPMA Despite Policy Rider in Recent Continuing Resolution

Washington, DC - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) were yesterday joined by 40 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama requesting that he enforce the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and preserve our nation’s pristine wild and public lands. The recently passed long term continuing resolution, H.R. 1473, included a policy rider which defunded enforcement Secretarial Order 3310, the administration’s wild lands policy, for the remainder of the fiscal year.

“Without the wild lands policy, many of our nation’s pristine wild and public lands remain at risk. The policy is popular with the millions of Americans who are committed to the preservation of our wilderness heritage and we strongly support it,” urged the 44 House members. “Despite the passage of H.R. 1473, the Bureau of Land Management is still legally obligated under FLPMA to manage the wilderness resource as one of several multiple uses.”

While H.R. 1473 defunded the Secretarial Order 3310, the underlying FLPMA statute still requires the administration to put forth rules to protect wilderness resources. Late last year, the Obama Administration Issued Secretarial Order 3310, overturning the legally flawed decision by former Interior Secretary Gail Norton that barred the BLM from identifying and protecting BLM lands possessing wilderness characteristics as “wilderness study areas.” The so-called “Norton Policy” was an abdication of the Department’s legal obligations under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), as well as other statutes, to inventory and manage public lands with wilderness characteristics. In addition, it was an unprecedented departure from a long history of agency management of wild lands which preserved Congress’ ability to designate lands as wilderness.

Click here for the full text of the letter and the list of signatories.