Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Into the Canyonlands: Hatch Point

11:52 am

East of Canyonlands National Park, Hatch Point is best known for its majestic redrock cliffs and vast views of the Canyonlands basin.  Lucky visitors can spot the pronghorn, desert bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, and other high desert wildlife that make the area their home.

Hatch Cliffs. Copyright Tom Till.


Existing oil and gas development and potash mining on state of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) parcels located on blocks of land within the Hatch Point area threaten the integrity of the landscape.  In December 2008, the Bush administration attempted to offer oil and gas leases on BLM wilderness-quality lands in Hatch Point – which thankfully were cancelled by current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  But without meaningful protection, there is no guarantee that future administrations will not again attempt these and other leasing proposals.

By protecting Greater Canyonlands, we can help prevent Hatch Point’s spectacular cliffs and wildlife habitat from being further spoiled by increasing development.  Visit www.greatercanyonlands.org and www.facebook.com/greatercanyonlands to take action!

Jackie Feinberg

Cliffs, Canyons & Climbers

11:35 am

The majestic cliffs and towers of southern Utah’s Greater Canyonlands region have long been a draw for climbers.  On May 17, renowned climbers Lynn Hill and Steve “Crusher” Bartlett spoke to a crowd of about 150 at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO about the love climbers have for Greater Canyonlands, why the area should be protected and how climbers and others can take action to help protect the region.

The crowd at Neptune Mountaineering asks President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands!

The night was full of laughter, beer (thanks Avery Brewing!), a celebration of desert climbing and a recognition that climbers can play an important role in advancing the protection of Greater Canyonlands.

After some light-hearted stories about the Utah wilderness from the event’s emcee Malcolm Daly,  a general discussion followed about the threats facing the various areas within Greater Canyonlands – off-road vehicle conflicts with sensitive areas, tar sands mining, and oil and gas development.  Then, Lynn started off with a clip of her climbing in Indian Creek to remind the audience about why climbers feel that the area is such a special place.  Almost everyone in attendance had climbed in or at least visited Greater Canyonlands – I think only about 3 people raised their hands when I asked who hadn’t been to southeastern Utah!

Desert Climber. Copyright Chris Noble.


Crusher followed with a slideshow climbing tour of Greater Canyonlands, complete with entertaining accounts of his own first ascents of desert towers, as well as some of the other historic ascents in the region.

“Canyonlands National Park encompasses some of the most colorful, otherworldy scenery on Earth. What makes this park so special are the vast, empty, inhospitable vistas–as of 2012, still amazingly pristine–that extend far into the distance in every direction. These fragile landscapes have barely changed in tens of thousand of years, yet today they are under threat. We need oil, we need gas, we need roads. But perhaps some places are worth leaving alone, worth preserving for the future. This is one such place. The lands around Canyonlands National Park should be protected so that future generations can experience the same clear skies, hear the same eerie silences, climb to ascend to summits that have never been stepped on, explore canyons never before visited by humans.”

Next came an inspiring speech by Fran Bagenal calling on the crowd to ask President Obama to use his authority to designate Greater Canyonlands as a national monument, followed by a raffle of Patagonia swag and Sharp End guidebooks.

Lynn closed the evening with a talk and video about the change occurring in the sport of climbing from an outdoor adventure to a growing number of participants almost solely climbing on plastic in the gym.  Growing up, she explained, she developed an early love for the outdoors through family camping trips and other excursions – something that is often missing from many childhoods today.  While the audience had fun with the movie of Lynn taking some of the strongest gym boulderers in the world out crack climbing in the Utah desert, the underlying message that it remains important to develop an appreciation of the outdoors was clear.  And that some special places, such as Greater Canyonlands, “should be just left as wild” and were worthy of protection.  To finish, Lynn urged everyone to visit greatercanyonlands.org to take further action.

The enthusiasm that night for protecting Greater Canyonlands was incredible.  We collected about 140 postcards to President Obama and a number of photos for the Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook campaign.  We hope that Lynn and Crusher have inspired climbers to get involved in the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands, and to spread the word that this is a place deserving of protection!

Jackie Feinberg, Lynn Hill, Fran Bagenal, and Crusher Bartlett


The event was cosponsored by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Boulder Climbing Community and Coloradans for Utah Wilderness.  We thank Avery Brewing Company, Patagonia, and Sharp End Publishing for their generous donations and support, and Neptune Mountaineering for hosting the event.  And, of course, a special thanks to Lynn and Crusher, and to Malcolm for emceeing!

Visit www.greatercanyonlands.org and the Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook page for more on how you can get involved in the campaign to protect the spectacular region surrounding Canyonlands National Park.

Jackie Feinberg

Thumbs up in Colorado Springs

6:10 am

On May 23, waking up early in the morning in order to beat traffic and set up a Banner Brigade right on the road in Colorado Springs, CO was well worth it!  It was a slightly breezy, blue bird sky morning as a group of Greater Canyonlands supporters found parking in a crowded lot and assembled outside the entrance to the Air Force Academy.  There were military personnel already filing into the Academy by 7:00 a.m. and by 7:30 there were thousands of cars on the road making their way past the entrance checkpoint.  Almost everybody waved, threw up a thumbs-up, honked, and even cheered!

Around 9:00am a couple of cadets met with our brigade and reminded us of our limitations and the shoulds and should-nots.  While having a fun time as we were, the cadets commended us for being respectful and adhering to their parameters.  We had clearance to demonstrate from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. and by about 9:30 the road was empty of cars with a police car up the way, parked with his lights flashing.  We speculated amongst ourselves that the unit may be there preparing for President Obama’s motorcade to roll through and we started to get excited.  By about 9:45, when we were beginning to worry we would have to depart before the motorcade drove by, it arrived.  President Obama’s limousine was closed tight with the windows up, though a number of his staff waved to us and gave more thumbs-ups!  What a banner brigade success to display our cause and see so much support for protecting the wilderness and Utah’s Greater Canyonlands!

A special thanks to the Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club for helping to let people know about this opportunity to tell the President to protect our western wildlands.

- Reported by Eli Lane, Colorado Intern

Terri Martin

Into the Canyonlands: Indian Creek

10:14 am

The Indian Creek area, located on the east side of Canyonlands National Park, south of Moab, Utah, is famous for its dramatic and sheer Wingate Sandstone cliffs, and is an internationally-known and treasured rock climbing destination.

Rock climbing on 'Scarface'; one of the classic climbs in the perfect Wingate sandstone of Indian Creek Canyon, Utah. Copyright James Kay.

While about 6,000 acres of Indian Creek is protected in the interim as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), the remaining wild lands currently have no meaningful protective status.  Recently, San Juan County, UT (where Indian Creek is located) officials have been pushing the Bureau of Land Management to approve an off-road vehicle trail “to provide an exclusive recreational opportunity for ATV enthusiasts . . .”  The proposed ATV trail, approximately 4 miles long, would bisect a roadless area and could adversely affect this stretch of Indian Creek – a desert stream that supports a variety of wildlife species including desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and golden eagles as it meanders through the redrock and high desert grasslands on its way to the Colorado River.

By protecting Greater Canyonlands, we can help preserve Indian Creek’s world-famous scenery and critical riparian habitat.  Visit www.greatercanyonlands.org and www.facebook.com/greatercanyonlands to take action!

Jackie Feinberg

Tell Retiring BLM Director to Spare Desolation Canyon

5:54 am
Desolation Canyon - proposed drilling area
Desolation Canyon.  Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

The current director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bob Abbey, recently announced that he plans to retire at the end of this month.  Please write him and urge him not to authorize approval of the disastrous proposed Gasco development project as one of his final acts as director.  This devastating natural gas project at the doorstep of Desolation Canyon is not the legacy he should be remembered by.

Over the last few months we have updated you about the alarming progress of this ill-conceived plan that would put over 200 wells inside of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  Your efforts in this matter are making a difference.

In March, the BLM released a final environmental impact statement indicating that it intended to approve this ruinous gift to industry (despite the fact that it had before it an alternative—Alternative E—that would have allowed for the drilling of over 1,100 wells while still protecting the proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness).  Like a child on Christmas morning, Gasco had visions of dollars and drills dancing in its head as it anticipated smooth sailing to project approval.  Not quite.  The Gasco project has been roundly panned in editorial pages across the nation and by thousands of citizen activists just like you.[1] Due to these efforts the record of decision (the final approval of the development) has hit some turbulence and has not been finalized.

With the project not yet finalized and Director Abbey retiring, we have an additional opportunity to help the BLM change course.  Please take advantage now by writing Director Abbey and telling him to think of his legacy.

Director Abbey can leave a legacy of a tarnished Desolation Canyon, sacrificed on the altar of one company’s greed, or a spared Desolation Canyon, saved for creatures and recreationists alike.  Please write him today and ask him to select Alternative E, the conservation alternative, for the sake of the wilderness and his legacy as BLM Director.

You can also add to your impact by signing our Change.org petition and spreading the word.



[1] These editorials include the New York Times, the Akron Beacon Journal, and the Salt Lake Tribune (twice).

Steve Bloch