Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Wasatch Front residents: attend an April 3rd meeting on Moab area leasing plan

8:20 am

Let the BLM know you don't want oil and gas leasing in sensitive places like the Labyrinth Canyon area. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.


The BLM is holding scoping meetings for the public to learn more about Secretary Salazar’s oil and gas leasing reforms, specifically about something called the Moab master leasing plan or “Moab MLP.”  We urge you to attend the public meeting in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 3rd from 6-8pm at the Salt Lake City Main Library.

The BLM plans to take a closer look at what lands should be available for oil, gas and potash leasing over a large swath of Grand and northern San Juan County.  The goal is for BLM to make smarter decisions when it decides to offer lands for lease and to determine whether all the public lands identified in the 2008 Moab resource management plan should be open for leasing and development and if so, under what conditions.

This closer look should end up protecting public sources of drinking water, air quality, primitive recreational opportunities, and wild public lands.  This is also your chance to tell BLM to be sure that Arches and Canyonlands National Parks should be protected from the sight, sound and harmful impacts of oil and gas leasing and development.

While many local officials support the BLM’s Moab MLP initiative, we know that industry trade groups and others will be spreading misinformation about the current shape of energy development on Utah’s public lands.  Here are some useful facts:

  • Oil and gas production in Utah is at its highest level in 20 years and the number of producing wells statewide is at an all-time high.
  • In FY 2011, the oil and gas industry had more than 4.4 million acres leased for development in Utah but were producing on just under 1.1 million acres.
  • The number of drill rigs in Utah right now (38) is at the highest level in years.

Bottom line, the oil and gas industry is doing just fine.  Making smart decisions to protect Moab’s clean air, clean water, and recreation industry is the right thing to do.

Learn more details about the master leasing plan process, see a map of the Moab MLP, and view the public meeting schedule at: http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/MLP.htm.  Comments can be sent directly to the BLM at BLM_UT_Comments_2@blm.gov.

Steve Bloch

Capture Obama’s attention

7:06 am
Colorado Banner Brigade
A Colorado banner brigade greets Pres. Obama.

Want to help us capture President Obama’s attention?  We’re looking for some dedicated activists to hold up “Protect Greater Canyonlands” signs at Obama’s future appearances around the country.

If you’d like to participate, click here.

As you know, conservationists have launched a campaign to encourage President Obama to use his administrative authority to protect Greater Canyonlands – the breathtakingly beautiful region surrounding Canyonlands National Park.  We are utilizing many tools to send our message, including media ads, letters, postcards, photo messages, and phone calls.  But the more ways we can ask Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands, the better. So let’s greet Obama with a visible sea of “Protect Greater Canyonlands” signs all across the country!

Activists have already appeared on the streets at multiple events in Colorado.  The President and his retinue drove right past one of our “banner brigades,” smiling and waving!  Although the timing is unpredictable, we anticipate that Obama may be visiting your state in the coming months.  Even a small group can be an effective messenger with our large black and yellow signs.

Sign up on our website and we will let you know when Obama plans to visit your community and how you can join a banner brigade.

This is a great way to take action on behalf of Greater Canyonlands and have some fun with fellow redrock enthusiasts!

For other ways to get involved in the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands, please “like” the Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook page and visit www.greatercanyonlands.org.

Jackie Feinberg

THE FACTS ABOUT HB 148: Unconstitutional, Bad Public Policy and Won’t Help Utah Schools

1:18 pm

Governor Gary Herbert signed House HB 148 (Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study) Friday, March 23rd.  This bill is almost certainly unconstitutional, is bad public policy and won’t help fund Utah’s schools.

HB 148 requires, among other things, the federal government to transfer title of federal public lands in Utah to the state before January 1, 2015.  These public lands include lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.

  • They include, among others, sensitive sites such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and all national wildlife refuges in the state.
  • This would also include the overwhelming majority of remarkable red rock lands surrounding Moab, the San Rafael Swell, and Grand Gulch.
  • The Legislature has indicated that some of these lands would be sold outright to the highest bidder while others would be kept in state ownership but opened to oil and gas drilling, off-road vehicle use and extractive industries.
  • The bill does not require the transfer of national parks, wilderness areas, or certain national monuments and national historic sites.

The bill also instructs the Constitutional Defense Council to prepare proposed legislation for how the state should manage these lands.



Unconstitutional

  • Art. III, Section 2 of the Utah Constitution says in no uncertain terms that the people of Utah “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof.”  Likewise, Section 3 of Utah’s Enabling Act, the legislation which led to Utah’s birth as a state, contains this same disclaimer.
  • Rep. Ivory and other members of the Utah legislature and Utah’s congressional delegation acknowledge that the bill is almost certainly unconstitutional but are prepared to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in their quixotic quest to send the federal government “a message.”  That message appears to be that as a state we are prepared to squander millions, close access to millions of acres of public lands, and break our promise to the federal government not to take this course of action.

Bad Public Policy

  • The public lands that the Legislature demands be given to the state of Utah are places that Utahns and all Americans have loved and enjoyed for decades.  They include the Wasatch National Forest, our national wildlife refuges, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and thousands of other beloved locations throughout the state.
  • The legislature has chronically underfunded state parks.  There is no plan and no money for how the state would or could manage these millions of acres.

Won’t Help Utah’s Schools

  • HB 148’s supporters claim that Utah’s schools cannot be funded at the same levels as other states because we have so much public land.  This is plainly not the case. These arguments ignore the fact that on a per capita basis, Utah has a large amount of non-federal land (i.e. tax base and revenue-generating lands compared to population).  In fact, more than half of the states have less non-federal land, on a per capita basis, than Utah but manage to provide more funds for education.  For example, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all have less than one acre of non-federal land available per capita yet manage to more than double Utah’s level of per pupil funding for elementary and secondary public education.  Utah has roughly 6.5 acres of non-federal land per capita.  There is no correlation in the United States between per pupil public education funding and acres of non-federal lands (either per capita or absolute).
  • The Legislature has consciously decided time and again NOT to fund Utah schools at a higher level.  One simple choice the Utah legislature has made which limits public education funding is to give natural resource extraction companies favorable tax treatment.  Headwaters Economics recently released a report which found that in fiscal year 2011, Utah had the lowest effective tax rate on oil and natural gas activity of any western energy producing state.  Likewise, Utah has no severance tax on coal; Wyoming has a coal severance tax rate between 3.75% and 7%.
David Garbett

Obama Administration Puts Desolation Canyon Wilderness in Its Crosshairs – Redrock Report March 2012

11:47 am

Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:
1.  Take action to protect Desolation Canyon!
2.  Join Aron Ralston in giving back to Greater Canyonlands.
3.  New tar sands proposal is still too much.



Obama Administration Puts Desolation Canyon Wilderness in Its Crosshairs

Last Friday, the Interior Department issued the Gasco natural gas project final environmental impact statement and moved one step closer to approving this massive development project which would include 215 new wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  Incredibly, those 215 wells (only 7 less than the company asked for) would fragment the proposed wilderness 50% more than even Gasco proposed in its initial plans.

Looking north/northwest from the Sand Wash airstrip (Sand Wash road leading to the river put-in below). Wells would be drilled atop the Bad Land cliffs (background) and on the western (left) edge of the Wrinkle Road in the photo.


Under the BLM’s preferred alternative for this project – Alternative F — the Gasco natural gas development project will degrade wilderness and wild landscapes, further jeopardize the region’s air quality and hurt the state’s tourism.   In giving its tentative support for Alterative F, the Interior Department rejected calls by the Environmental Protection Agency and tens of thousands of citizens from across the country to approve an alternative to Gasco’s proposal that would have allowed for significant development while also protecting the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and reducing the overall footprint and impact of the project.

Fortunately, there is still time for you to weigh in and tell Secretary Salazar to protect Desolation Canyon!  The BLM hasn’t issued its ‘record of decision’ for the Gasco project and can still change its mind about which alternative to adopt.

Tell Secretary Salazar to protect the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness!

Also, sign our Change.org petition and spread the word — tell your friends to take action to protect Desolation Canyon!



Greater Canyonlands Campaign Heats Up

Packed house for Aron Ralston in Boulder, CO

“It’s not enough to go out in places like Greater Canyonlands and have fun.  You also need to give back.”

A year and a half ago, while filming 127 Hours in Salt Lake City, Aron Ralston called up the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and insisted on coming down to the office.  He wanted to talk about how he could help protect Utah’s redrock canyon country, including the landscape where his accident took place – Greater Canyonlands.

On March 8, Aron stood on stage at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO and not only shared his personal story, but also described the beauty and wonder of Greater Canyonlands and asked the audience to call on President Obama to protect the area by proclaiming it a national monument.

About 800 folks were in attendance, and redrock volunteers from CUWild at UC-Boulder and Coloradans for Utah Wilderness were able to collect 600 postcards and hundreds of photo messages to President Obama.  There was also some great press surrounding the event, including an op-ed in the Boulder Daily Camera.

Join Aron in the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands!


Cody Spyker was the lucky winner of the March prize — a Petzl headlamp.

1) “Like” the new Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook page and invite friends to “like” the page as well.

2) Send a photo message to President Obama like the one pictured at left.  Visit our Facebook app or greatercanyonlands.org to get started.  You’ll also be entered to win a prize in a monthly drawing — a Petzl headlamp is the prize for April!

3) Join a “banner brigade” and hold up “Protect Greater Canyonlands” signs when President Obama comes to your city!  Click here to view an inspiring video from past banner brigade activists.

4) Visit greatercanyonlands.org to find out other ways that you can amplify your message to President Obama.







Still Too Much Proposed Tar Sands Leasing


The BLM recently released its 2012 Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft PEIS), an effort by the BLM to determine what areas – if any – in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming should be available for dangerous and far-fetched oil shale or tar sands leasing and development.

In the recently-released Draft PEIS, the BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative 2b) proposes to make 252,181 acres available for shale leasing in Utah and 91,045 acres available for tar sands leasing.  This is still too much! For that reason we support a different alternative (Alternative 3) that would go even further toward shutting the door on this “unconventional” fuels nightmare.  Alternative 3 prohibits new oil shale leasing and most tar sands development.  Under this alternative, only existing oil shale research, development, and design leases would remain on public lands.  One commercial tar sands project just outside of Vernal could continue to undergo environmental reviews and permitting.  That’s it.

Written comments on the Draft PEIS should be submitted by May 4 using an online comment form on the Draft PEIS Website at http://ostseis.anl.gov. This is the preferred method for commenting. Comments may also be submitted by regular mail to: Oil Shale and Tar Sands Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, EVS 240, Argonne, IL 60439.

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Inspiring words & action from Colorado redrock activists

12:27 pm

On January 26, 2012, redrock activists from Colorado asked President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands by holding up banners at a presidential appearance at Buckley Air Force Base.

If you live in Colorado, you can sign up to volunteer for future Banner Brigades by clicking here.

No matter where you live, visit www.greatercanyonlands.org to get involved in the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands!

Terri Martin