Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Impassioned defense of wildlands

10:12 am

In the morass of anti-environmental, anti-wilderness, anti-clean air and anti-clean water initiatives that have defiled the appropriations process for funding the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service, it’s nice to see that some members of Congress are still interested in preserving America’s natural resources.

In response to a politically-motivated rider on the appropriations bill that would have forbidden the Department of Interior to spend any money on the Wild Lands policy issued by Secretary Salazar last December, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) resolutely offered an amendment on Wednesday to strip the bad language, restoring the Bureau of Land Management’s authority to manage lands based on their inventoried values, including wilderness characteristics. Watch him here:

The amendment failed in a voice vote (which means votes were not tallied), but before it did, Rep. John Garamendi of California and Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington made impassioned floor speeches defending the merits of the Wild Lands policy, of wilderness, and of preserving our natural heritage. Our hats go off to these representatives, who are on the Hill defending the lands we love.

Thank you Rep. Moran, Rep. Garamendi and Rep. Dicks, and keep up the great work.

House champs stand up to “Great Outdoors Giveaway”

12:24 pm

The next great American deficit will be in open space if House Republicans get their way.

Nearly 60 million acres of protected public lands were put on the chopping block yesterday, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s “Great Outdoors Giveaway” Act, HR 1581, received a hearing in the Public Lands Subcommittee. The bill proposes to release millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Area—including iconic treasures in Utah like Fiddler Butte, Labyrinth Canyon and the Dirty Devil—as well as Forest Service Roadless areas nationwide. (For a map of the carnage, visit

This bill is a breathtakingly obvious kowtow to industry. Forty percent of the BLM lands in Utah currently protected as WSA’s—a staggering 1.3 million acres—would be released from their use as pristine camping, hiking, fishing and hunting lands to be opened for development. If it were to pass, 82 percent of America’s public lands would be exposed to the ravages of short-term greed.

Testifying before the subcommittee, former Clinton Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called the bill “a wealth transfer from the American people to the oil and gas and mining and timber industries.

“If you scratch the surface of this bill, you find drill, baby, drill,” Babbitt said.

Drill, baby, drill, and a whole lot of nonsense.

On hand to explain why we would surrender America’s outdoor heritage to industry was Utah state legislator Mike Noel, whose illustrious “involvement” in public lands policy includes inciting an illegal off-road vehicle ride up Paria Canyon in Utah.

Dusting off the dog-eared playbook of the Sagebrush Rebellion, Noel asserted having federal lands in Utah made it difficult for the state to fund the schools because the state can’t collect enough property taxes. He completely forgot to mention the Secure Rural Schools payments Utah receives from the federal government—more than $12 million in fiscal 2010.

Noel did mention, however, that Utah has spent “untold millions” of its own trying to reopen ghost routes under an archaic mining law that allows counties to claim historical “highways.” Unfortunately the highways Utah tries to claim using taxpayers’ “untold millions” are ghost routes that look like this. No wonder the schools are hard up—Utah’s lawmakers clearly failed their basic family finance test on prioritizing expenses.

Fortunately, there were a number of House champions on hand to defend America’s public lands— and reality.

Responding to an assertion that nobody wants to hunt in wilderness or roadless areas because it’s hard to pack out the animal, Rep. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico pulled out a photograph of an elk he hunted in a roadless area and packed five miles to the nearest road.

“The reason I was able to harvest an elk on the first day of hunting season was because I was in a roadless area,” Heinrich said, explaining that  such protected lands make the best habitat, and therefore make the best game.

Rep. Raul Grijalva railed against the bill, which would “deprive future generations of the chance to enjoy our country’s rich natural heritage.”  Rep. Ed Markey noticed that while McCarthy’s supporters are eager to release the WSAs the BLM did not recommend for designation in the early 1990s, they are reluctant to designate the millions of acres that were recommended by the agency at that time. How strange.

Indeed, HR 1581 would have a devastating impact on our nation’s wild places. Of the 221 wilderness areas that have been designated on BLM land since the passage of the Wilderness Act, a staggering 98 of them would have been released under this bill. Even the Cedar Mountain Wilderness—proposed and designated by Rep. Rob Bishop—would have been released under its myopic vision.

Fortunately, as yesterday’s hearing showed us, there are still a few in Congress who can see what a bad idea McCarthy’s bill is.

Urgent: Help stop this week’s double assault on wilderness!

5:56 am

Take Action ButtonIt’s “the most egregious assault on our nation’s environment in the history of our country.”

That’s what House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Ed Markey said on Monday of the agenda before Congress this week.  Just yesterday, the House started debating the rider-laden Interior Appropriations bill and today, the Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on yet another “Great Outdoors Giveaway” bill.

Please take a moment to email or call your Representative and tell him/her to stop the Great Outdoors Giveaway!  Use our online action center to send an email message or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s office.

Appropriations bills are meant to fund the government, but this Congress Republicans have decided it’s where laws will be written.

Among the programs, policies and authorities coming under fire in the spending bill are the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Lands policy, the President’s authority to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act, funding for conservation lands, the government’s ability to protect endangered species . . . and the list goes on.

Anti-conservation forces know that this might be the only train leaving the station this year, so they are set on junking it up with every imaginable polluter giveaway.

At the same moment, House Republicans are moving forward with committee action on the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act” which would strip protections from over 60 million acres of public lands nationwide – including 1.3 million acres of redrock wilderness in Utah!  This includes some of the redrock’s most iconic landscapes like White Canyon, King Top, Desolation Canyon and the Book Cliffs – all of which would be sacrificed to heedless development and new off-road vehicle trails.

This overreaching agenda, coming at a time when Washington has much more important things to consider, must not go unnoticed.  It’s up to you to let your Member of Congress know that these bills should not pass into law.  Please take action today!

Will your Rep. stand up for 60 million acres of wilderness?

12:04 pm

If your Representative is a member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands (click here for a list), give him/her a call today:

Next Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands will hold a hearing on the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act” – a bill that would remove protections from 60 million acres of roadless lands across the country, including 1.3 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in UtahPlease tell your Representative, to attend the hearing and speak out in opposition to this short-sighted giveaway of America’s great outdoors.

Here’s what you can do:

1)      Call your Representative (Capitol Switchboard is at 202-224-3121) and ask that he/she attend the hearing next Tuesday and OPPOSE H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011.

2)      Click here to use our online action center to send a message to your Representative.

Background on the “Great Outdoors Giveaway”

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), H.R. 1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, is the greatest attack on wilderness-quality lands that we have seen in decades.  If it should pass, 60 million acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas and Forest Service Roadless Areas would be opened up to potential oil and gas development, mining, off-road vehicle abuse, and road construction.  In Utah alone, over 1.3 million acres of BLM lands would have current Wilderness Study Area protections removed, including areas in the iconic Greater Canyonlands region such as Cheesebox Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, and the Dirty Devil river corridor.

Please tell your Representative to attend next Tuesday’s hearing and defend our nation’s wild heritage against this unprecedented attack!

Thank you for contacting your Representative!

Jackie Feinberg

Stop Vegetation Devastation

8:57 am

Take Action Button

Tell the BLM to stop vegetation devastation on Goslin Mountain (photo copyright Scott Braden)
This will only hurt a little – a bull hog mastication machine deforests the landscape.

In its relentless war against Utah’s native pinyon and juniper forests, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently set its sights on the proposed Goslin Mountain wilderness located just south of the Wyoming border in eastern Utah.  Unfortunately for these trees, the agency violated its own commitments in a headlong rush to ”chop first, think later.”  Please tell Juan Palma, BLM’s Utah State Director, to stop this vegetation devastation!

Deforestation projects, or as the BLM euphemistically calls them “vegetation treatment projects,” target native pinyon and juniper trees for removal from the landscape.  In the case of the Goslin Mountain project, the BLM estimates that it will annihilate approximately 110,700 trees with a “bull hog mastication” machine.  That’s right, over 100,000 trees.

SUWA submitted public comments in March of 2010.  However, the BLM approved the project pretty much as it was originally proposed.  We immediately appealed to the agency’s internal review board—the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA)—pointing out a number of legal violations.

Before the IBLA could rule on SUWA’s 2010 appeal, the BLM pulled the project back in for more analysis.  Then in May 2011, the BLM released a slightly revised analysis and gave the green light for the Goslin Mountain project before we could file a second appeal.  However, this was in direct violation of the BLM’s own stipulations that no treatment activities would take place between May 15 and June 30 in order to protect wildlife (elk calving and deer fawning). On June 17, SUWA discovered this violation and immediately requested that the BLM cease activity.  The agency agreed, but said it would only wait until July 1.  We then filed an emergency appeal and stay request.  But now there is a risk that the project could recommence any day and be completed before the IBLA has a chance to review SUWA’s appeal.

Please write to Utah BLM Director Juan Palma today and tell him that the BLM should stop approving these vegetation devastation projects in proposed wilderness areas.

Thank you for taking action!

David Garbett