Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Utah Wilderness News, April 9, 2012

9:36 am

Interior is “making the wrong move”

“But on one new project, the Interior Department is making the wrong move. It has tentatively approved a huge, overly aggressive natural gas drilling project in northeastern Utah. Gasco, a Denver-based company, plans to sink 1,298 wells in the next 15 years on 206,000 acres. About 200 of these wells would threaten Desolation Canyon, a wild, spectacular and fragile landscape.”  Editorial – The New York Times

A trend towards reasonable compromise could be coming to an end

“The problem is not that there will be new gas wells in eastern Utah. The problem is that neither Gasco nor the BLM has shown any inclination to slow down and talk to the conservation groups — as Bill Barrett and Enduring Resources responsibly did — about some tweaks that would minimize environmental damages.”  Editorial – The Salt Lake Tribune

A win-win scenario

“The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced its intention to approve a major Uinta Basin drilling expansion that seemingly has something for everyone — 3,675 wells to continue the boom, air-quality controls to limit ozone and river canyon protections that environmentalists like.”  Read more – The Salt Lake Tribune


It’s not too late

1:13 pm

In SUWA’s e-newsletter last month (click here to read), we told you about the Obama administration’s proposal to drill 215 new natural gas wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.  But it’s not too late for the Obama administration to change its mind.

Click here to tell Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to protect the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.

An alternative plan for the Gasco natural gas project would allow for significant energy development while also protecting the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness from drilling.

We have until April 16 to convince the Obama administration to adopt this alternative proposal.  Please send a message to Secretary Salazar today!

To amplify your message to the Obama administration, please also sign our petition and spread the word on Facebook and your other social networks.

change.orgTell the Obama Administration to take Desolation Canyon out of its Crosshairs

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 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 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 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 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.


BLM to Approve Disastrous Development Project in Desolation Canyon Proposed Wilderness

9:23 am

Desolation Canyon (looking west/northwest to the Badland Cliffs, where Gasco wells are proposed). Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

WASHINGTON (March 16, 2012) — The Obama administration’s decision today authorizing nearly 1,300 new natural gas wells in Utah’s Desolation Canyon wilderness and other remote areas will degrade the pristine region’s air quality and hurt the state’s tourism industry, according to a coalition of environmental groups.

In approving the so-called Gasco development project, the Department of the Interior also 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. This alternative would have allowed for significant development while protecting the department’s plan to designate Desolation Canyon as wilderness and reducing the overall footprint and impact of the project.

“Secretary Salazar is making the wrong decision to approve the Gasco project in a way that creates irreversible risks to Desolation Canyon,” said Peter Metcalf CEO/President of Black Diamond, Inc.  “This decision is particularly disappointing in light of the fact that conservationists, and the EPA (with support of the leading companies in the American outdoor industry) endorsed an alternative drilling plan that protected the sanctity of the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness, while allowing for robust drilling to occur on a huge parcel abutted to the proposed wilderness area.  It is truly tragic that the BLM can’t show some small degree of balance.”

The Desolation Canyon region is important to Utah’s desert recreation and tourism, a $4 billion industry that generates approximately $300 million annually in state tax revenue and supports 65,000 jobs.

The Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness is 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. But now this remarkable place is once again in the crosshairs for destruction.

“It’s bewildering that Secretary Salazar – who has been such a strong advocate of conserving America’s great outdoors — would allow turning Desolation Canyon into an industrial wasteland,’’ said Sharon Buccino, director of NRDC’s Land and Wildlife program. “Desolation Canyon has some of the most stunning wilderness vistas found anywhere.  It is no wonder that EPA gave this proposal its worst environmental rating possible.”

Gasco – a Colorado-based natural gas company – wants to drill nearly 1,300 new gas wells in the area, including more than 200 new wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and gateway areas.

The administration analyzed two alternatives to the company’s proposed action, both of which would have barred drilling in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and while affording 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.

This approval comes at a time when natural gas prices are at near-record lows due to an abundance of gas supplies, and companies are idling drilling rigs in developed fields in the Uinta Basin.

“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. “There are more than 1,000 approved BLM drilling permits going unused by oil and gas companies in Utah alone. We should take the most responsible approach to developing this area in order to preserve the spectacular wilderness-quality lands, the rare and extraordinary rock art, and the threatened plant and wildlife species in Desolation Canyon.”

The BLM itself has described Desolation Canyon as “…one of the largest blocks of roadless BLM public lands within the continental United States.  This is a place where a visitor can experience true solitude – where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape.”

Eastern Utah has experienced several years of record high winter-time 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.

“Secretary Salazar’s approval of the controversial Gasco project stands in stark contrast to the agreements worked out over the past few years between industry, the Interior Department, and conservation groups over several natural gas projects in eastern Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “There is a proven, better way to bring parties together and produce a win-win solution.  It is inexplicable why the Secretary is turning his back on this approach.”

“The Desolation Canyon region is one of the most iconic landscapes of wildness that Utah is known for,” said Tim Wagner of the Sierra Club. “People from all over the world come to Desolation every year for the many outdoor experiences. To permanently mar this area over 200 new natural gas wells is a serious error in land management decision-making.”

# # #

Steve Bloch

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