Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Utah Wilderness News, September 23, 2011

8:40 am

LETTER TO THE EDITOR–Keep Antiquities Act

Re “GOP bills would block new monuments on public land” (Tribune, Sept. 14):

I’ve run a business in Kanab for 17 years, since before President Bill Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Throngs of visitors approve of that application of the Antiquities Act, and so do I… Read more–Salt Lake Tribune

LETTER TO THE EDITOR–Protect our precious lands

In a recent article (“Federal landlord robs Utah’s kids,” My View, Sept. 20), Rep. Christopher Herrod wrongly argues that protecting Utah’s precious public lands harms our school kids.

Consider the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Because of the GSENM, Utah was able to trade off scattered, remote and difficult to develop property in the monument and other areas.

In return Utah gained $50 million for education, millions more from unleased coal, more than 160 million tons of coal, 185 billion cubic feet of coal bed methane and 139,000 acres of land and minerals in nine counties. Gov. Mike Leavitt lauded the deal, as did Utah’s School Trust Lands Administration, the PTA and Rep. Jim Hansen… Read More–Deseret News

Poll shows Utahns approve of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

A new poll shows most Utahns believe the creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been a good thing, even as Congress debates a proposal that would require lawmakers’ approval for future designations.

Created in September 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, the 1.9-million acre monument in southern Utah’s Kane and Garfield counties drew 800,000 visitors last year… Read more–Salt Lake Tribune

Millions of acres of land you inherited are at risk

Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.

That’s right. Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures. It’s one of the greatest benefits of being an American, and it’s one reason we are celebrating Great America Outdoors Week… Read more–Huffington Post


Full of worms: APPLE is the definition of a “land grab”

1:28 pm

Starting hearings with historical tidbits is a hobby of former history teacher Rep. Rob Bishop. Often, it’s charming. But in this morning’s hearing on his own APPLE bill, which allows Western states to seize federal lands to fund schools, it proved also to be illuminating.

Apparently, Bishop’s H.R. 2852 takes cues from the murderous, tyrannical King Henry VIII.

“Henry the VIII took holdings of the Catholic Church and gave it to the aristocracy on the condition that they maintain the schools established by the church,” Bishop said in defense of his bill in his opening statement.

And “took” is clearly the operative word. Henry VIII confiscated assets, gave them to his friends, and did so, in Mr. Bishop’s reading of history, for the schoolchildren. For a guy with six wives—four with heads—it was par for the course. For modern school policy? Let’s do better.

The APPLE bill allows states to “claim” five percent of the “unallocated” federal lands in their jurisdiction to increase the tax base for schools. Unallocated means anything not already designated a national park, wilderness, wilderness study area, national monument, etc.—any BLM or Forest Service land not in protected status, which, in Utah, is most of it. Saturday is National Public Lands Day—a great opportunity to head out to enjoy a hike or a picnic on your federal lands, and look around at where you are. It’s likely most of your weekend enjoyment will be brought to you by such “unallocated” lands.

At a time when all eyes are on the federal deficit, the APPLE bill takes somewhere between 24 and 30 million acres and billions of dollars of federal assets and—poof!— simply gives them away. Harris Sherman, undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, testified against the bill this morning, saying it would polarize stakeholders, transfer national assets to states and counties, diminish multiple uses and recreation and “complicate rather than improve the federal deficit problem.”

Bishop claims this is necessary because the U.S. promised Utah at statehood that the federal land would be eventually sold. That’s both a misinterpretation of Utah’s founding documents, and a tired old talking point—especially for a history buff.

David Alberswerth of the Wilderness Society testified that by that logic, “…any Member of Congress from the State of Utah who sponsors this legislation is breaking Utah’s ‘solemn compact’ with the United States of America…because Utah’s enabling statute states that, ‘… the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof…’”

Forever’s a long time. We’re not there yet.

Fortunately, there are proven ways to improve the straits for our schools. But because federal lands are not the problem, giving away federal lands is not the answer. As this excellent letter to the editor pointed out, one of the best means of gaining revenue from the State lands already set aside to fund schools in Utah (which comprise over 10 percent of Utah’s land base) is to consolidate them through land swaps, furthering both conservation and development.

Combining the diaspora of state lands that languish in remote, hard to access places would gain thousands of acres of developable land for the state, thousands of acres of wild land for future Americans to enjoy and thousands of dollars of new revenue for Utah’s school kids. I may be a K-through-college product of Utah schools, but that’s what I call smart thinking.

In defense of Desolation Canyon – Redrock Report September 2011

2:40 pm

Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1. Desolation Canyon is threatened by proposed natural gas development.
2. Take action for Greater Canyonlands!
3. Redrock events are happening across the country.
4. We have 6 new cosponsors of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act!

*Want to volunteer for the redrock wilderness?  Click here to tell us how you would like to be involved.*

Outdoor Industry asks Secretary Salazar to protect Desolation Canyon

Desolation Canyon
Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

Last week, over 30 national outdoor brands, led by Black Diamond CEO
Peter Metcalf, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
in defense of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  Click here to read Black Diamond’s press release.

The letter to Secretary Salazar comes as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering approving the Gasco Natural Gas Development Project.  This ill-conceived proposal that would authorize over 125 new well pads in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and along the main access roads leading to the river put-in.  The outdoor companies asked that the BLM instead consider an alternative plan that would not destroy the Desolation Canyon wilderness, but would instead allow for a balance between wilderness protection and energy development.  This is the same alternative plan that the Environmental Protection Agency urged BLM to adopt in its comments on the company’s draft proposal.  Over 70,000 conservationists from around the country have urged the EPA and Interior Department to do the right thing and continue pressing for a development plan that protects Desolation Canyon while allowing the company to access the overwhelming majority of its existing oil and gas leases.

Want to add your voice to those opposed to natural gas development in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness?  Please email BLM Director Bob Abbey at, or send him a letter at:

BLM Washington Office
1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
Washington DC 20240

Tell Obama to stop defending the Bush plans for Greater Canyonlands

A few weeks ago, the Obama administration refused to host a public discussion on the future of the Greater Canyonlands region.  Even worse, it claims the management plans written by the Bush
administration already provide adequate protection.  These are the same
Bush plans that designated more than 3,000 miles of off-road vehicle
trails in proposed redrock wilderness.

Click here to tell President Obama to stop defending Bush’s environmental record and start protecting Greater Canyonlands.

Redrock supporters step up for Greater Canyonlands

Over the summer, redrock activists across the country have been collecting postcards asking the Obama administration to finally provide Greater Canyonlands with the protection deserving of such a unique and wild landscape.  With over 7,000 postcards already, we are well on our way to our goal of collecting 10,000 postcards by the end of fall.  You can view a map depicting the geographical distribution of Greater Canyonlands supporters on our website.  Thank you to all of you who have participated!

Google map
Over 7,000 people across the country have signed
postcards in support of protecting Greater
Canyonlands thus far.

If you have collected signatures, please remember to return the postcards to your SUWA regional organizer (see below for contact information).  We have been delivering stacks of postcards every week to the Department of Interior and will continue to do so throughout the fall.

Want to help us collect even more postcards?

To get involved, send an email to the SUWA grassroots
organizer in your region (contact information is below).  We will mail you the postcards and informational materials, and your role will be to collect signatures and mail them back to us.  Whether you think you can collect 5 postcards or 500, any help is greatly appreciated!

In Utah: Terri Martin,

In the Southwest and in California: Terri Martin,

In the Northwest: Brooke Williams,

In the Midwest: Clayton Daughenbaugh,

In the East: Jackie Feinberg,

Redrock events are happening in Utah and across the country

The 2011 SUWA Roundup is this weekend!

Don’t forget: The 2011 SUWA Roundup takes place this weekend, Sept. 23-25.  Please RSVP if you’re planning to come.  Visit the Roundup 2011 page of our website for more information, including hike descriptions, driving instructions and last-minute updates.  Hope to see you there!

Utah Wilderness Dialogues: George Handley

Please join us at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12, at Jane’s Home,
1229 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, for this free presentation.

George Handley
George Handley

George Handley is the author of the recent environmental memoir, Home
Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River, a book that is the
culmination of over a decade of thinking about and working on improving
the dialogue about the environment in the state of Utah. He has taught
at BYU since moving back to his state of birth in 1998 and has written
extensively on the intersections between literature, religion, and the
environment. He has also been active in several environmental
initiatives, including Faith and the Land, Utah Valley Earth Forum, LDS
Earth Stewardship, and Utah Interfaith Power and Light, where he serves
as Chair of the Executive Board. Appetizers for the event have been generously donated by Fresco Italian Café.

Please RSVP at
Invite friends using Facebook by clicking here.

Visit our website to see the full fall schedule for the Utah Wilderness Dialogues.

Not in Utah? See a slideshow, volunteer, or attend an event near you!

In the east:

Volunteer for wilderness if you live in New England and plan to attend the Common Ground Fair in Maine!  Email for more details on how you can help out.

If you live in the New York City region, on September 27 SUWA’s National Grassroots Organizer Jackie Feinberg and Legislative Director Richard Peterson-Cremer will be attending a gathering of Utah wilderness supporters in Manhattan.  Click here to RSVP.

In the midwest:

SUWA’s popular multi-media slideshow, Wild Utah: America’s Redrock Wilderness will be coming to Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the coming weeks.  Click here for the fall slideshow schedule.

In the west:

In October, attend a Utah wilderness presentation in Grand Junction and Aspen, Colorado.  Click here for the full schedule.

To host a slideshow, or to recommend a group or venue for a presentation, please contact:

Brooke Williams ( if you live in the NORTHWEST.

Terri Martin ( if you live in the SOUTHWEST.

Clayton Daughenbaugh ( if you live in the MIDWEST.

Jackie Feinberg ( if you live in the EAST.

New cosponsor spotlight

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R. 1916/S. 979) has now reached 106 cosponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate in the 112th Congress. Newly signed on Representatives include Richard Neal (D-MA), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Bill Keating (D-MA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), and Gregorio Sablan (I-MP).  Please thank your members of Congress if they have cosponsored the bill!

If your members of Congress are not on the list of cosponsors, please ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

change.orgSign the petition to save Greater Canyonlands


Outdoor Industry asks Secretary Salazar to protect Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness

8:16 am

Last week, over 30 national outdoor brands, led by Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf, sent the letter below to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in defense of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  Click here to read Black Diamond’s press release.

Honorable Ken Salazar
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20005

Re:  Gasco Energy Inc. Uinta Basin Natural Gas Development Project, Desolation Canyon, Utah

Dear Secretary Salazar,

I am writing to you, with the business support of many in the outdoor industry, regarding the proposed Gasco Natural Gas Development Project currently being considered for approval by the Bureau of Land Management in my home state of Utah. If approved as currently proposed, this project will be devastating to one of our nation’s wilderness crown jewels and river trip destinations – Desolation Canyon.

When I stood by your side in Denver last December to proudly support Secretarial Order 3310, Desolation Canyon was one of the places I spoke about as needing to be protected from reckless energy development. When I testified before Congress earlier this year in support of your wildlands policy, Desolation Canyon was one of the places I showcased as being so important to Americans and to the outdoor industry. This is truly one of the iconic gems that is a draw to river runners everywhere and that helps to globally define the uniquely American outdoor industry (one of the few industries that America still dominates globally and one that contributes over $750 billion to the US economy). We need your help and direct involvement to stop this looming threat.

The current version of the Gasco project being considered by the BLM would authorize over 125 new well pads in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness as well as along Sand Wash Road and Wrinkle Road, the main access roads traveled by thousands each year leading to the river put-in. This development will destroy the wilderness values on thousands of acres of land forever and bring the sight, sound and smell of industrial activity to this spectacularly quiet and remote place. When members of the outdoor industry flew over this area in Utah Governor Olene Walker’s plane some five years ago, she and her staff agreed with our assessment that this area needed to be protected from future oil and gas development.

Protecting Desolation Canyon not only makes sense because it is the right thing to do – it makes good economic sense. River recreation is an important aspect of Utah’s outdoor recreation industry, which according to the Outdoor Industry Association, adds $4 billion to Utah’s economy as well as supports 65,000 jobs and generates about $300 million in annual state sales tax revenue.

Destroying the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness is also completely unnecessary. An alternative in the draft environmental impact statement for the Gasco project evaluated a development plan that would preserve the critical Desolation Canyon recreational experience while still allowing the company to access the majority of the public’s natural gas reserves in the area. This alternative (known as “Alternative E”) should be the starting point for any proposed development on public lands in the area.  This is the alternative supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and tens of thousands of Americans who recognize that there can be a balance between energy development, protecting our wild places, and a vibrant and vigorous recreation industry. Black Diamond and our peer companies in the outdoor industry are seeking to maintain that balance as it’s integral to the vitality of our sustainable, clean and job creating industry.

I understand that the BLM hopes to approve Gasco’s plans by the end of the year. As we have supported you in your plans to protect America’s wildlands, we now need your help to ensure that cooler heads prevail and that Desolation Canyon is protected for current and future generations. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss this pressing matter.  Thank you.

Most Sincerely,

Peter Metcalf

Joined by the folliowing supportive businesses:

Frank Hugelmeyer
Outdoor Industry Association
Boulder, CO 80301

Peter K. Worley
Teva Brand President
Deckers Outdoor Corporation
Goleta, CA

Casey Sheahan
Ventura, CA

Travis Campbell
President & CEO
Far Bank Enterprises
Bainbridge Island, WA

Bill Kulczycki
General Manager
Gregory Mountain Products
Salt Lake City, UT

Jenn Orgolini
Director of Sustainability and Strategic Development
New Belgium Brewing Company
Fort Collins, CO

Scott W. Kerslake
Vista, CA

Dan Nordstrom
Outdoor Research
Seattle, WA

Jim Osgood
Klean Kanteen
Chico, CA

Andy Vecchione
President & CEO
Polartec LLC
Lawrence, MA

Auden Schendler
Vice President, Sustainability
Aspen Skiing Company
Aspen, CO

Jonathan Lantz
La Sportiva N.A., Inc.
Boulder, CO 80301

Mark Soderberg, CEO
Boa Technology
Denver, CO

Tom Jennings
General Partner
Atmosphere Studios
Salt Lake City, UT

Gary Heward
Liberty Mountain
Salt Lake City, UT

Ty Measom
Camp Chef
Hyde Park, UT

Canice Harte
Park City, UT

Penn Newhard
Backbone Media LLC
Carbondale, CO

Rock Thompson
Rock Exotica Equipment LC
Clearfield, UT

John Le Coq
Dillon, CO

Chris Steinkamp
Executive Director
Protect Our Winters
Pacific Palisades, CA

Mark (Roody) Rasmussen
Petzl America
Clearfield, Utah

Ashley Korenblat
Western Spirit Cycling
Moab, UT

Julie Schaffner
Global Brand Director
Foothill Ranch, CA

Marit Fischer
Communications Manager
Park City, UT

Bill Gamber
Big Agnes, Inc.
Honey Stinger, Inc.
BAP, Inc.
Steamboat, CO

Janet Ross
Executive Director
Four Corners School of Outdoor Education
Monticello, UT

Jules Lambert
Salt Lake City, UT

Patrick Carland
Bamboo Bottle Company
Portsmouth, NH

Greg Easton
Easton Mountain Products
Salt Lake City, UT

Steve Bloch

The Wrong Side of History: House Attacks on Antiquities Act Continue

1:29 pm

The shameless onslaught of the Great Outdoors Giveaway continued this morning in the House of Representatives when six bills all designed to undermine the Antiquities Act received testimony before the Public Lands Subcommittee.

One of them, Rep. Rob Bishop’s so-called “Utah Lands Sovereignty Act,” would prevent any future president from designating national monuments in the state, eliminating one of the finest scientific and conservation legacies President Teddy Roosevelt left us: the ability to protect from pothunters, vandals, exploitative industry and indiscriminate off-road vehicle users the rich cultural inheritance left to us by the Ancestral Puebloans and the early pioneers; the ability to engage in scientific discovery on our public lands; and the ability to pass that heritage to our children.

But there’s one more benefit to national monuments that frequently gets overlooked by Rep. Bishop and his cohorts: they are a boon to the communities that surround them. Indeed, far from the “unnecessary hardships” Bishop claimed resulted from the 1996 designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the economies of nearby communities are actually thriving in the years since.

According to the non-profit, non-partisan testimony of Ray Rasker of Headwaters Economics, from 1996-2008 in Garfield and Kane Counties, the two counties with direct access to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:

  • Population grew by 8 percent
  • Jobs grew by 38 percent
  • Real personal income grew by 40 percent
  • Per capita income grew by 30 percent

Rasker said areas with protected lands attract businesses, workers and retirees because of their quality of life, and tourism follows as well. While he could not state a direct cause and effect between monument designation and economic growth, there was one thing that was definite.

”In no case did we find that the creation of a national monument led to an economic downturn,” Rasker said, after reviewing 17 national monuments, all greater than 10,000 acres, all designated after 1982.

The Antiquities Act has been used time and again since 1906—128 times by 15 presidents of both parties—to preserve treasures unique to the American story. Arches, Bryce and Zion were all national monuments before they became national parks. The Grand Staircase-Escalante and Dinosaur National Monuments each propelled scientific discovery in paleontology, yielding countless new species of dinosaurs and integral clues to the past. All of these provide untold scenic and recreational values to visitors, who flock from all over the country and the world to see them.

Indeed, on its own tourism website, Kane County touts the fact it offers “access to more national monuments and parks than any other place,” and says the “Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a dramatic, multi-hued landscape that is rich in natural and human history.”

Fortunately, our own recent history has included the vision to protect those places with the Antiquities Act, and an attempt to defund the Act this spring was swatted down by a bipartisan force in the House of Representatives that included 213 Democrats and 34 Republicans. We hope this sensible protection of one of our nation’s best tools will continue, so please contact your representatives to ask them to stop the attack on national monuments.

As Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona put it in the hearing, those who would do so “are on the wrong side of history.” And, as it turns out, the wrong side of economics.