Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Grand County’s Proposed Public Lands Plan: How Bad Is It?

5:07 pm

We expected bad, but this is far worse.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. Image credit: Josh Myers, winner of National Parks Photo Contest on Trails.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. Image credit: Josh Myers, winner of National Parks Photo Contest on Trails.


Background: On April 9, 2014, the Grand County Council Public Lands Working Committee identified 3 alternatives, along with maps, for long term designations of public lands in Grand County as part of Representative Rob Bishop’s proposed land use bill for eastern Utah.

Unfortunately, even the best alternative (Alternative #3) proposed by the Working Committee would roll back environmental protection in Grand County.

All the alternatives ignored the public input that the county received. Of the 182 letters received by the Council from Grand County residents and business owners, nearly 90% favored strong wilderness and public lands protection.

And yet, the County’s best alternative (Alternative #3):

  • Protects just over half (58%, or 484,446 acres) of the proposed wilderness in Grand County — and then riddles that “protected wilderness” with ORV routes. The Working Committee decided that places like Porcupine Rim, Mary Jane Canyon, Fisher Towers, Goldbar Rim, the Dome Plateau, and most of Labyrinth, including Mineral, Hell Roaring, Spring, and Tenmile canyons, were unworthy of wilderness protection.
  • Would punch a hole through the heart of the Book Cliffs — one of the largest remaining roadless areas in the lower 48 states — to build a “Hydrocarbon Highway” for fossil fuels extraction. The county proposes a mile-wide “transportation corridor” (proposed as 2 miles wide in the other alternatives) to ship fossil fuels from the Uinta Basin and proposed tar sands mining in the Book Cliffs to dreamed-of refineries in Green River, or to the railway.
  • Leaves open to oil and gas drilling the entire view shed east of Arches National Park, including the world-famous view from Delicate Arch. The Working Committee rejected proposed wilderness areas east of Arches. This is the same area that caused a national uproar and sent Tim DeChristopher to prison when the George W. Bush administration sold the famous 77 oil and gas leases in its waning days. Under the county’s best proposal, leasing and drilling in that region would be allowed.
  • Allows oil and gas drilling and potash mining on the rim of Labyrinth Canyon (upstream from Spring Canyon). The lack of real protection in the greater Labyrinth Canyon area in all three proposals is a glaring and curious omission.
  • Supports continued off road vehicle abuse and offers zero concessions on ORV routes designated in the Bush-era BLM travel plan — even though the planning of those routes likely failed to follow the law. The county would codify the BLM’s Bush-era route designations even though a federal judge recently set aside a nearly-identical travel plan in the Richfield BLM office for failure to comply with legal mandates to protect archaeology, riparian areas and other natural resources.  It is likely just a matter of time before the Court overturns the challenged Moab travel plan.
  • Fails to protect Moab’s watershed. There is no wilderness proposed for the La Sal Mountains on US Forest Service land.
  • Prohibits the use of the Antiquities Act in Grand County — the same act that was used by three different Presidents to protect what is now Arches National Park. Although protection of Arches was opposed by Utah politicians, today Arches National Park injects more than $116 million into the local economy each year and supports more than 1,700 jobs in Grand County.

Alternatives 1 & 2 are even worse.  Both would impose a 2-mile wide transportation corridor for the Hydrocarbon Highway through the heart of the Book Cliffs.  This is wide enough to build an entire city within the corridor.  Alternatives 1 & 2 provide even less protection for Grand County’s proposed wilderness and less protection from oil & gas and potash development.

(more…)

Mathew Gross

Another Attack on Our Parks and Monuments

3:08 pm

Bryce Canyon National Park was originally designated as a national monument.  Copyright James Kay.

Bryce Canyon National Park was originally designated as a national monument. Copyright James Kay.


Here we go again.  Congress is attacking special places this week, this time by trying to dismantle the Antiquities Act, the mechanism that has safeguarded some of our nation’s most beloved national parks and monuments for future generations (nearly half of our national parks began as national monuments).

Tell Congress: hands off our national parks and monuments!

The Antiquities Act was Teddy Roosevelt’s idea, and has been used consistently by presidents of both parties to quickly protect America’s threatened special places.  In Utah alone, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks all started as national monuments, and Natural Bridges, Timpanogos Cave and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments all remain popular family destinations and economic drivers to this day — not to mention natural and cultural wonders.

H.R. 1459, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), throws up roadblocks to protecting places like these by arbitrarily capping where and when the Antiquities Act can be used.  It also requires congressional review of proposed monuments when the purpose of the Act is to allow the President to move quickly to protect threatened cultural, archaeological, natural and scientific sites of national interest.

Tell your member of Congress to vote no on H.R. 1459!

At a time when the House of Representatives is stalling on countless conservation bills, it’s a pity they can find the time to bring legislation like this to a vote.

 

A monumental error about monuments

10:34 am

Yesterday, in the Sun Advocate – the Carbon County local newspaper – the following was published by contributing writer Dennis Willis:

When I read Carbon County Commissioner John Jones’ testimony to Congress on the Antiquities Act, I was stunned by his statement; the people of rural Utah, “live in fear,” of the presidential power to create National Monuments. Further in his testimony, Commissioner Jones described how the designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, “devastated the economies of Kane and Garfield Counties and the lifestyles of the people live there.” In the devastating twelve years after the designation their population rose by 8%, jobs rose by 38% and per capita income increased by 30%.

By comparison Carbon County should be in the chips since the 1996 monument designation. Along with not being encumbered by a monument, Carbon enjoyed a net loss of federal land within the county. Several thousand acres of mineral rich BLM lands in Carbon County were transferred to the State of Utah. Since the designation, Carbon has seen the development of four coalbed methane fields, a conventional gas field, some limited oil drilling. The Lila Canyon Coal Mine opened just across the line in Emery County. The nearest population center, coal shipping facility and mine service companies are all in Carbon County. While the monument is closed to oil and gas development, 78% of the public lands in Carbon and Emery Counties are available for leasing.

While the population around the GSENM was growing, Carbon County population declined and has just recovered to the 1996 level. Jobs grew by about 3%. Per capita income grew by just 11%. In 1996 both Kane and Garfield counties had lower per capita income than did Carbon. The reverse is now true despite all the extractive industry development in Carbon.


Read more by clicking here.

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A big deal for Greater Canyonlands – Redrock Report March 2013

11:52 am

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

1. Thank President Obama for designating new national monuments.
2. Take action to protect the Gunnison sage grouse!
3. Ask your members of Congress to support Utah wilderness protection.
4. Activists overcome a storm to advocate for the redrock in DC.
5. See a Utah wilderness slideshow near you and get involved this spring!



Obama protects first large-scale landscape. Is a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in his future?

Roobers Roost Seth Andersen
Camp inside the South Fork of Robbers Roost in
the proposed Greater Canyonlands National
Monument. Copyright Seth Andersen.

Did you hear the news?  On Monday, President Obama designated the largest new national monument of his administration in New Mexico – El Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

This is a big deal for those of us in Utah calling for the protection of the Greater Canyonlands region, as this is the first time the President has used the Antiquities Act to protect a large threatened landscape like those we’re working to protect in Utah’s redrock canyon country.

Please thank President Obama for using the Antiquities Act to protect public lands and then urge him to protect Greater Canyonlands!

1) Click here to send an email message to President Obama.

2) Click here to thank President Obama publicly by sending a letter to the editor of your local paper.

The more he hears that the public supports greater land protections, the more likely he is to protect the wild Utah landscapes that we love — including Greater Canyonlands.  Please take a moment to send a thank-you to President Obama today!


Help protect the Gunnison sage grouse!

Spring is coming and soon the Gunnison sage grouse, one of the most imperiled species in the United States, will be dancing at sunrise southeast of Moab to attract mates.  Meanwhile, these fascinating birds may be about to get the protection they need to avoid becoming extinct, but they need your help.

Take action!  Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that you support protecting the Gunnison sage grouse.

Gunnison Sage Grouse
Photo: BLM

Fewer than 5,000 Gunnison sage grouse remain, occurring in less than 10 percent of their historic range.  The remaining small and isolated populations are at risk due to poorly managed development and other threats.

Take action!  Please tell the USFWS that the Gunnison sage grouse needs protection immediately.

The USFWS has a chance to save the Gunnison sage grouse from extinction by protecting this bird under the Endangered Species Act and designating the habitat that the birds need to survive as “critical habitat”.  In Utah, roughly 3,000 acres of redrock wilderness overlaps with the proposed critical habitat designation.

Decisive actions like these could put these birds on the road to recovery, but the USFWS needs to hear from you.  Take action!  Please send USFWS director Dan Ashe an email in support of protecting the Gunnison sage grouse.

Thank you for helping to make sure that future generations can marvel at the Gunnison sage grouse.

For more information, read this recent New York Times op-ed urging the USFWS to protect the Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.


TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to protect America’s redrock wilderness!

ARRWA Facebook graphic

Later this spring, redrock champions Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will re-introduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, legislation that would protect over 9 million acres of spectacular public lands in Utah.

Having a long list of original cosponsors – those other members of Congress who sign on in support of the bill – from throughout the country at the time of introduction will help display our strength as Utah wilderness advocates.

Will you help us add to this list?

Here are 3 easy actions you can take:

1) Send an email to your members of Congress by clicking here.

2) Sign our new petition to Congress by clicking here.

3) Share our Take Action image on Facebook here.

Thank you for helping to protect America’s redrock wilderness!



Redrock activists make the difference in DC

Wilderness Week 2013
Wilderness Week activists from Utah meet with the White House Council on
Environmental Quality about protecting Greater Canyonlands.

We can never overstate how much grassroots support for protecting Utah wilderness has helped to advance the cause.  For the Utah Wilderness Coalition’s biannual Wilderness Week in Washington, DC, about 31 fabulous redrock activists traveled from Utah and across the country to ask members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA), a piece of legislation that would protect over 9 million acres of Utah wilderness.  Utah activists also met with administration officials about protecting Greater Canyonlands and urged members of Congress to defend the President’s authority to designate national monuments through the Antiquities Act.  They even perservered through a storm that resulted in many cancelled flights and extra days in DC.  Thanks to all of this year’s Wilderness Week participants!

Read more on our blog here.

Click here for more photos from the week.


Spring is here: time to get involved in the Utah wilderness campaign!


In addition to the inspiring activism by the Wilderness Week participants mentioned above, redrock activists throughout the country have been busy advocating for Utah wilderness protection.  Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Friends for Utah Wilderness collected 500 postcards in support of protecting Greater Canyonlands and America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act at a local event.  And the Mainers for Utah Wilderness have begun a letter collecting drive to convince their new senator to cosponsor ARRWA!

Click here to let us know how YOU want to help out with the Utah wilderness campaign.

The Moab Earth Day Bazaar will once again celebrate an “Ode to Greater Canyonlands”.  Click here to RSVP and invite friends on Facebook.

Also, SUWA’s grassroots organizers are back in action in the East and Midwest regions!

Click here for the upcoming schedule of presentations and events. To suggest a venue or group for a presentation in your area, please contact Clayton (clayton@suwa.org) in the Midwest and Jackie (jackie@suwa.org) in the East.


change.orgSign the petition to protect Greater Canyonlands

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Grassroots Activists: Utah’s Red Rock Stars

9:18 am

Wilderness Week activists from Utah meet with the White House Council on Environmental Quality about protecting Greater Canyonlands.


We can never say enough how much grassroots support for protecting Utah wilderness has helped to advance the cause.  For the Utah Wilderness Coalition’s biannual Wilderness Week in Washington, DC, about 31 fabulous redrock activists traveled from Utah and across the country to ask members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA), a piece of legislation that would protect over 9 million acres of Utah wilderness.  Utah activists also met with administration officials about protecting Greater Canyonlands and urged members of Congress to defend the President’s authority to designate national monuments through the Antiquities Act.

After receiving a thorough training from SUWA and Sierra Club staff, these Red Rock stars have already signed up a long list of original cosponsors for the introduction of ARRWA later this spring.  Even a storm that cancelled most flights home did not deter the Wilderness Weekers, who continued to attend meetings with congressional offices even though most of the government was shut down for the day.

Wilderness Week activist Kit Bowden with redrock supporter Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.


The event was also a great opportunity for Utah wilderness fans to meet and network with others who also love the redrock.  In a new twist for Wilderness Week, the Utah Wilderness Coalition held a grassroots strategy session so participants would be equipped with the tools necessary to continue their advocacy upon their return home.

Once again, Wilderness Week has proven the strength of citizen activism.  SUWA’s DC staff is grateful that such eloquent, knowledgeable and enthusiastic folks are willing to take five days out of their lives to advocate for Utah wilderness.  Putting faces and real-life stories to a cause for congressional offices is really a priceless attribute that no set of facts and figures can surpass.  Thanks to all of the Wilderness Week participants, both past and present!

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Help the Wilderness Week redrock activists with their mission!

1) Click here to send an email to your members of Congress asking that they cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

2) Click here to sign our new petition.

Wilderness Week activists thank our new redrock bill champion, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).


For more photos from the week, click here.

Jackie Feinberg