Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

CONSERVATION GROUPS CHALLENGE DRILLING PROGRAM IN DESOLATION CANYON REGION

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NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * SIERRA CLUB
SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE *

For Immediate Release – January 22, 2013
Contacts:

Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.807.6918 (cell)
Sharon Buccino, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.289.2397

SALT LAKE CITY (January 22, 2013) — Last Friday, January 18, a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Salt Lake City challenging the Interior Department’s decision to allow nearly 1,300 new oil and gas wells in Utah’s Desolation Canyon region.

Approved last year, the “Gasco project” was heavily criticized in editorials across the country and whose calls for a compromise decision were rejected by Secretary Salazar.  The drilling project was also roundly decried by congressional leaders, representatives from the outdoor industry, and environmental leaders who called on the Interior Department to protect Desolation Canyon while allowing a reasonable level of development in less sensitive areas.

“Regrettably, Secretary Salazar made the wrong decision to approve the Gasco project which will result in significant, long lasting damage to the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness,” said Peter Metcalf CEO/President of Black Diamond, Inc. “This decision made no sense, particularly when congressional leaders, conservation organizations, the American outdoor industry, and tens of thousands of citizens endorsed an alternative drilling plan that would have allowed Gasco to develop the majority of the project area and at the same time protected the sanctity of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  This decision didn’t square with my understanding of President Obama and Secretary Salazar’s call for a balanced approach to energy development.”

“This is a drastic expansion of drilling in Utah’s proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness and frankly, it was a terribly misguided decision by the Department of the Interior,” said Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program. “Beyond threatening a remarkable landscape, this approval will aggravate the Uinta Basin’s serious ozone pollution levels; levels which right now are once again spiking well above federal standards. Americans hunger for wild lands, not another industrialized spot with bad air.”

“The Interior Department should have followed the Environmental Protection Agency proposal to reduce the project’s footprint and protect the Desolation Canyon wilderness, while still allowing the company to develop its leases,” said Stephen Bloch, General Counsel for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “By bowing to the company’s proposal, Secretary Salazar put one company’s profits above the protection of this world-class landscape.  Americans are worse off because of this short-sighted decision.”

“Desolation Canyon and Nine Mile Canyon along the Green River are some of the wildest places left in Utah, and they should be protected from drilling,” said Nada Culver, Director and Senior Counsel of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “The Interior Department’s decision to permit the drilling of 215 new oil and gas wells in this remarkable region is simply unacceptable, especially when there are other, better alternatives for this project.”

“Desolation Canyon is an essential part of one of the nation’s most important wildlife areas, the Book Cliffs,” said Mark Clemens of the Utah Chapter of Sierra Club.  “We call this area America’s Serengeti.  To mar this area permanently with 215 natural gas wells is a serious error in land-management decision making.”

Background on the Gasco project:

The BLM has described the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness as one of the largest unprotected roadless complex in the lower 48 states. Centered around the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River, the area’s spectacular solitude and endless vistas are awe-inspiring. In approving the so-called Gasco Energy, Inc. development project, the Interior Department authorized nearly 1300 wells, 215 of which are in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness area (along with roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure in an area that federal officials agree is a wilderness caliber landscape).  An alternative proposal supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, congressional leaders and tens of thousands of citizens from across the country would have allowed for more than 1,100 new natural gas wells while protecting the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.

The Interior Department considered two alternatives to the company’s proposed action, both of which would have provided ample drilling opportunities for the company but barred drilling in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and afforded greater protections for the Green River and Nine Mile Canyon badlands. But the administration ended up supporting the company’s plans to drill in all these sensitive places. Gasco – a Colorado-based natural gas company – has now begun the permitting process at a time when Eastern Utah has experienced several years of record high wintertime ozone levels that is largely linked to oil and gas development. According to Gasco’s own data, this project will add to those unsafe pollution levels.

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Steve Bloch

We’re going to court – Redrock Report January 2013

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Here’s what is happening this month with the redrock:

1. Moving one step closer to overturning the BLM Richfield land use plan.
2. Let Gov. Herbert know you support a public process for Greater Canyonlands!
3. Utah citizens rally outside of Gov. Herbert’s Energy Summit.
4. If you’re a student, show your support for Greater Canyonlands!
5. Read all about Greater Canyonlands in the news.




Opening brief filed against Bush-era land use plan

Last month a coalition of conservation groups led by SUWA moved one step closer to overturning the highly unbalanced land management decisions in the Bureau of Land Management’s Richfield field office resource management plan or “Richfield RMP.” As a direct result of this plan, world-renowned southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon complex (including Butch Cassidy’s infamous hideout, Robber’s Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states), and Factory Butte were put at risk from off-road vehicle damage.

On December 20, the groups filed their opening brief challenging the legality of the Richfield RMP and arguing that the BLM’s plan violated a host of federal land management, environmental protection, and cultural resource laws. The matter is being heard in the United States District Court for the District of Utah.

The next week, The Salt Lake Tribune called on the Obama administration to “withdraw these hurtful land-use plans and set about doing them correctly”:

“The environmental groups, led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, make a strong case that the Richfield plan reflects very little understanding either of the land it is supposed to be managing or of the federal laws, rules and executive orders that were supposed to guide the planning process. By leaving so much of the area open to energy development, and by authorizing what the lawsuit describes as a ‘spider web’ of OHV routes that, added up, would stretch from Atlanta to Anchorage, the agency has clearly failed to do its job.”




Make a call for Greater Canyonlands

Indian Creek
Indian Creek in the Greater Canyonlands
region. Copyright Tom Till.

In December, a coalition of conservation organizations sent a letter to Utah Governor Gary Herbert urging him to “support the creation of a
transparent, fair, public process” to discuss a potential Greater Canyonlands National Monument in southeastern Utah.

Here’s how you, too, can make a difference in advancing the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands:

Simply call 1-800-705-2464 and tell the receptionist that you would like to leave a message for Governor Herbert encouraging him to create a public process to protect Greater Canyonlands as a national monument.

If you live in Utah, you can also encourage Governor Herbert to begin a public process to protect Greater Canyonlands by clicking here.

For more ways you can help protect the Greater Canyonlands region, visit greatercanyonlands.org and “like” the Protect Greater Canyonlands page on Facebook.



Utahns rally for clean energy and protected public lands

Clean Energy Now! Rally
Photo by Kathlene Audette.

Warmed against a bitter chill and a darkening sky by their passion and esprit de corps, more than 200 enthusiastic citizens rallied outside Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s Energy Summit last week to demand leadership for a clean energy future that also protects Utah’s spectacular public landscapes.

Speakers argued that Utah’s political leaders are selling the state’s world-class landscapes to extractive industries looking to exploit fossil fuels. They pointed to the Governor’s public land grab as a tool to facilitate that energy development – a tool that would decimate some of Utah’s most precious wild places and harm Utah’s recreation economy.

“The single biggest threat to our beautiful public lands and multi-million dollar outdoor recreation economy is our Governor’s one-sided dirty energy policies,” said Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club. “When the Governor talks about the state taking ownership of millions of acres of federal lands, make no mistake: the intent behind this loony idea is to make as many acres as possible available for pump jacks, strip mines, pipelines and roads.”

Inside the summit, Governor Herbert exhorted that “Utah is open for business in energy development. We aren’t playing favorites. We want all our resources made available.”  But the focus was on fossil fuel-based energy, including tar sands, oil shale and nuclear power. Members of Utah’s congressional delegation called for the weakening of federal decision-making processes (like NEPA and the Endangered Species Act) to facilitate development of oil shale and tar sands.




Students, take action!


Are you part of a student group that supports protecting Greater Canyonlands?  With our coalition partners, we have begun to collect names of student organizations that are willing to urge President Obama to designate Greater Canyonlands as a national monument as part of our effort to display broad support for action from throughout the country.

Click here to read the letter from students to President Obama.

If you are part of an organization that would like to be added to the list, please send an email to Clayton at clayton@suwa.org.



In the news


Redrock supporters from Utah and across the country (and even the world!) have spoken out about their support for protecting Greater Canyonlands in the media through opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor (LTEs).

Click here to view recent media from Utah citizens.

Click here to view recent media from supporters outside of Utah.

To join our LTE team or volunteer in other ways for Utah wilderness, fill out our grassroots survey!



change.orgSign the petition to protect Greater Canyonlands

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It’s time to talk about Greater Canyonlands

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Greater Canyonlands activists
Activists hold signs urging protection of Utah’s Greater
Canyonlands region.

Just before the holidays, a coalition of conservation organizations — the Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Grand Canyon Trust, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness — sent a letter to Utah Governor Gary Herbert urging him to “support the creation of a transparent, fair, public process” to discuss a potential Greater Canyonlands National Monument in southeastern Utah.

“We support the call for executive action to protect Greater Canyonlands,” the letter states.  “We also support the creation of a transparent, fair, public process to achieve this.  Such a process is something your office should encourage.”

The letter continues: “An open process must include public hearings along the Wasatch Front and in communities closest to Greater Canyonlands and must also welcome input from all Americans, whose stake in this landscape is equal to that of Utahns. It must invite meaningful input from the general public and all stakeholders . . . [and] it must include an experienced, credible and neutral facilitator.”

We’re waiting to hear back from the Governor’s office.  Can you take just a few moments of your time to call Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office today and tell him that you support a public process to discuss protecting Greater Canyonlands as a national monument?

Simply call 1-800-705-2464 and tell the receptionist that you would like to leave a message for Governor Herbert encouraging him to create a public process to protect Greater Canyonlands as a national monument.

The receptionist will patch you through to a message machine. State your name, where you’re calling from, and let the Governor know that an open public process that includes all Americans to discuss protecting Greater Canyonlands as a national monument is a good idea — and one he should follow through on.

That’s it!  Your call today could make a tremendous difference in advancing the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands.

If you live in Utah, you can also encourage Governor Herbert to begin a public process to protect Greater Canyonlands by clicking here.

Thank you for everything you do.

Clean Energy Now! Rally on Thursday, Jan. 10

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From our friends at HEAL Utah:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

12:30pm MST

Salt Palace Convention Center
100 S West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101


Please join us as we rally outside of Governor Herbert’s Energy Summit to demand that our elected officials invest in Utah’s bountiful supply of renewable energy. Inside the summit, lobbyists and state officials will be plotting how they can exploit dangerous resources like tar sands, oil shale and nuclear power — even though those will drain our precious water, destroy wildlife, spoil our fragile wilderness, pollute our air and contribute to the ongoing warming of our planet. Hundreds of Utahns will gather to protest the Governor’s 19th Century dirty energy policies, highlighting how Utah is falling behind other states and countries which are making solar, wind, and geothermal resources affordable and available right now. Bring your friends, family and neighbors to help send a message to our state leaders. Utahns deserve a clean energy future! Now! One voice! One message!

RSVP and invite friends on Facebook by clicking here.

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