Conservationists petition for protection of the Greater Canyonlands Region
"Many of the proposed closures are meant to preserve desert waterways where both wildlife and Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites concentrate, and to restore a more primitive experience for float trips in Labyrinth Canyon.
'Not only is this a fabulously beautiful place,” said SUWA attorney Heidi McIntosh, “but it’s a place with a rich human history.'” Read more - The Salt Lake Tribune
"SUWA identifies 'Greater Canyonlands' as the area including Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Notable landmarks in the area it wants restricted include Butch Cassidy's Robbers Roost and Labyrinth Canyon, McIntosh said.
'Protecting the Greater Canyonlands would knit these 'crown jewels' together in a complementary system of land management, which protects the most threatened resources, permits native plants and wildlife to migrate freely in response to climate and environmental changes, ameliorates conflicts among ORV users and others, and facilitates a more comprehensive management approach based on watersheds and water conservation,' the petition says." Read more - Deseret News
Wild Lands policy is part of "multiple choice" decision making
"What the BLM’s new wild-lands policy is not is a federal land grab, a charge frequently leveled by Utah’s politicians. How can you 'grab' something that is already yours — in this case, property belonging to the citizens of the United States?
In the end, doesn’t it make long-term economic and conservation sense to plan long-term uses for federal land ,just as those of us who own homes do with our property?" Opinion - The Salt Lake Tribune
The Greater Canyonlands area is a landscape of plateaus, stunning geologic formations, 10,000 year-old archeological sites, and unmatched natural beauty -- including iconic Utah landmarks such as Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Fiddler Butte, Robbers Roost, Lockhart Basin and the Dirty Devil River. Today, we are releasing our Petition to Protect the Greater Canyonlands, which includes 1.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands surrounding Canyonlands National Park.
To protect these scenic landscapes, the petition -- a formal request to the Secretary of the Interior under the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution -- requests that Secretary Salazar bar off-road vehicle (ORV) use on 1,050 miles of route in sensitive habitat, streams, wetlands, riparian areas, archaeological sites and other vulnerable areas until it can conduct further studies on the impacts of the activity and determine whether it is, in fact, a sustainable use. Please join us by sending an email to Secretary Salazar in support of this petition. The petition would leave open 1,400 miles of ORV route within the petition area, and about 13,000 miles of route in the four BLM field offices surrounding Greater Canyonlands.
The petition targets damage caused by ORV use as a first step in protecting this iconic landscape. ORV use in the area has too frequently proven unmanageable, with increasing soil erosion, noise, crushed vegetation, degraded streams, and fragmented wildlife habitat. Those who do not use ORVs, and who comprise the vast majority of visitors to Greater Canyonlands, are finding it increasingly difficult to experience the natural quiet, solitude and beauty of the area.
Protecting Greater Canyonlands would also facilitate a complementary and consistent management approach for lands managed by the BLM, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. Giving heightened protection to the most valuable and vulnerable places will give these ecosystems their best chance at long-term health, especially in an era of rapidly changing climatic and environmental conditions. Please take a moment to let Secretary Salazar know you support protection for the treasured landscape of Greater Canyonlands.
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
Redrock advocate travels to D.C. in support of Utah wilderness
"Gelatt was in D.C. to advocate for America's Red Rock Wilderness Act on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. SUWA has worked for two decades to secure permanent protection of a vast area of red rock canyon country in southern Utah, a landscape that includes massive cliffs and domes, deep broad canyons, as well as narrow slot canyons." Read more - Grand Junction Free Press
Over-the-top rhetoric from Gov. Herbert and House members
"Five hours into the testimony, the committee finally gave BLM Director Bob Abbey a chance to respond. His clarity and calm were a stunning contrast to the anger and untruths spewed by the most radical members of the committee. He made clear that Salazar had simply reinstated a policy in place for 25 years before the backroom deal between then Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Gale Norton." Letter-to-the-editor - The Salt Lake Tribune
Bryce-area coal mine receives notices of violations
"In March 2010, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and some other environmental groups filed a complaint stating the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining Board had some members who should recuse themselves from the permit process because they have a financial interest in the mine-reclamation plan.
Steve Bloch, an attorney and the conservation director for SUWA, said the complaint is scheduled to be heard by the Utah Supreme Court.
Mine critic Bobbi Bryant, who runs a store in Panguitch, said last week that since mid-February, trucks have intermittently been hauling their loads past her store on Highway 89 on their way to the coal-fired power plant operated by Intermountain Power Service Corp. just outside Delta, nearly 200 miles away in Millard County." Read more - The Salt Lake Tribune
Last Friday afternoon the “Congressional Western Caucus” – a group of Republican lawmakers from the west (or who are “western” in spirit) – issued a press release attacking the Obama administration’s energy policies, misleadingly linking the current high price of gas at the pump with federal oil and gas leasing and development policies. The clear intimation is that if we only leased and drilled more, gas prices would come down. If only these sorts of claims were true.
Fact of the matter is, there are tens of millions of acres of BLM managed lands across the west that are currently under lease, but not in development by oil and gas companies. In Utah alone, there are 4.99 million acres of BLM land in Utah under lease – but only 1.09 million acres in production (per BLM FY 09 figures).
In the Western Caucus’s press release, Rep. Bishop complained that the administration “continue[s] to perpetuate misinformation about their record on oil and gas production, one thing remains very clear-there is an abundant supply of domestic oil and gas resources that remain inaccessible and therefore unutilized.” The facts speak for themselves.
In Utah, 2010 drilling rates (975 wells started or “spudded”) in Utah were higher than any year between 2001-2005.
Also, the number of drill rigs in Utah and other western states has continued to rise. As of last Friday there were 31 rigs operating in Utah; at this time in 2010 there were 25 rigs – and in July of 2009 there were 16.
All the while, Secretary Salazar has worked to bring balance back to public lands management including reforming the oil and gas leasing process, issuing a Secretarial Order which established the BLM’s “Wild Lands” policy, and promoting renewable energy projects to wean our nation off fossil fuels.
At their core, these policies recognize that it is possible to have a strong domestic energy program, while at the same time protecting our nation’s wilderness landscapes.
The “westerners” in the Western Caucus do us all a disservice by promoting a false dichotomy of “drill everywhere” or pay high prices at pump. It’s just not that simple.
Beware of Rob Bishop if you fly between SLC and DC
"Bishop, who typically flies between Utah and Washington on Fridays and Mondays, says BLM actions can cause him to want to hit fellow passengers, bathroom mirrors and that for the safety of the flying public on Delta, the BLM should cease to tick him off." Read more - The Salt Lake Tribune
AGO Report deserves praise for including monument designation
"The Antiquities Act, one of our country’s most effective conservation laws, has been used by 14 presidents from both parties to protect scenic wonders and historic sites, many of which have subsequently been designated as national parks by Congress.
Used more than 100 times since its passage, the Antiquities Act has safeguarded many of America’s most beloved, iconic sites, including the Grand Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. The AGO Report outlines a collaborative process by which the public can identify and recommend potential sites on existing federal land for national monument status." Read more - The Hill's Congress Blog
Hey Rep. Bishop, western officials & businesses support protecting wild lands
"When Bishop took the opportunity to support Big Oil, he snubbed the other western elected officials and business owners that support the Wild Lands policy, including those from his own district and state. A letter thanking Secretary Salazar for the Wild Lands policy was signed by 67 elected officials from around the West. People in Colorado were so supportive of the policy that 73 elected officials signed their own letter, and seven businesses from Congressman Bishop’s own district asked him to stop his attack of the Wild Lands policy. That’s 147 businesses and elected officials from around the West that aren’t complaining. They’re saying thanks." Read more - The Wonk Room
Tar sands development in Utah not worth it
"All of this, then, to recover what nature didn’t finish cooking. Is it worth it? Not in my book. Let’s spend our energy development dollars on more promising technologies that leave wild country in peace." Op-ed - The Salt Lake Tribune
House Republicans will continue to try slashing environmental protections
"The legislation blocks a new Bureau of Land Management initiative to identify and protect pristine public lands in the West and withholds funding for a new Forest Service management plan that would restrict off-road vehicle use in national forests. It also removes Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies and eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars from a federal land acquisition program." Read more - Los Angeles Times
The redrock is particularly lucky to have a large number of articulate and passionate activists dedicated to achieving lasting protections for Utah wilderness. Last week, 20 of those folks (half from Utah and half from across the country) traveled to Washington, DC for Utah Wilderness Week 2011 to ask their members of Congress to support protecting America's redrock wilderness and to defend against anti-wilderness attacks in Congress.
The mission: Convincing Senators and Representatives to cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 112th Congress, and also to ask them to preserve administrative tools (the "Wild Lands" policy and the Antiquities Act) that could be used by the Obama administration to protect special places in southern Utah. After a full day of lobby training and learning about the issues in more detail, the activists were ready to take on Capitol Hill, proudly displaying their bright yellow and black "Protect Wild Utah" buttons.
Some of the highlights of the week:
Maryland activist Claire Gardner (pictured 2nd from left) met with her Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD, pictured 2nd from right), who did not cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act last Congress after supporting the bill in the past. Not only was she and her teammate John Hoener (UT, pictured first on right) able to meet with the Congressman himself, but emerged from the meeting with a promise to cosponsor the bill. Rep. Van Hollen followed up on his word and was one of the first Representatives to cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act in the 112th Congress.
The Utahns were able to meet with 3 members of their delegation personally: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT, pictured 4th from left). Although the Utah delegation does not often see eye to eye with Utah wilderness supporters, the meetings were productive and reminded these members of Congress that Utahns do support protecting the remaining wild lands in their state.
The activists were also able to attend a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the Bureau of Land Management's "Wild Lands" policy. While it was disappointing to see how wilderness foes on the committee had stacked the deck of witnesses against the policy, everyone was excited to display their yellow "Protect Wild Utah" buttons and listen to wilderness champions on the committee such as Reps. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ed Markey (D-MA), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ) defend the BLM's authority to manage lands for their wilderness characteristics.
Overall, the week was very successful and we already have a list of Congress members who have officially signed on as cosponsors of America's Red Rock Wilderness Act. Thank you to all who participated!
How can you help?
1) Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and speak with your Senators' or Reprensentative's DC offices, asking that they cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.
2) Go to our Action Center and send emails to your members of Congress, asking that they cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.
3) Sign the petition asking Congress to protect America's Redrock Wilderness:
BLM policies should reflect Americans' high priority on wilderness values
"Affirming the BLM's ability to work with the public to protect lands with wilderness characteristics is not just a common-sense step, it also makes sound economic sense. Last year, hunting, fishing and other recreational uses of BLM lands generated $7.4 billion for local economies throughout the West. Conservation must be — and should be — on the table when making decisions about our public lands. It's what the American people expect, and it's also what the law requires." Op-ed - The Medford Mail Tribune
Boom and bust cycles are not caused by land-use policy changes
"More broadly, it is foolish to believe that any government policy can possibly drive economic changes as big as those experienced in Uintah County’s recent woes and more recent recovery. Rapid fluctuations in employment and growth are far more likely to be caused by global changes in commodity prices than by small alterations of public policy." Letter-to-the-editor - The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah wilderness activist shares her advocacy experience in DC
"I just returned from five days on Capitol Hill, another country altogether, where a group of twenty activists—half from Utah, half from everywhere else from San Francisco to Chicago to Brick, NJ—gathered to lobby for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation that’s been growing support since it was introduced in 1989 by Utah Representative Wayne Owens." Read more - Progwoman
Utah is slamming the door to public participation on environmental issues
"Here in Utah, it is inconsistent to argue that advocates for a cleaner, safer world should limit themselves to lawful means of challenge while simultaneous efforts are underway to restrict or eliminate those very processes. Those who benefit economically from environmental approvals have a cushy seat at the table, while those who raise questions must stand outside in the cold and protest in vain." Op-ed - The Salt Lake Tribune
Identifying lands suitable for conservation is a 'legal obligation'
"A day after telling a Senate panel that the policy does not seek to circumvent lawmakers' authority, Salazar told the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday that his department has a legal obligation, upheld by the courts, to identify lands suitable for conservation. He also said he would work with local communities on the best way to manage the lands." Read more - Great Falls Tribune
Preserving land can curb global warming too!
"In the absence of binding legislation mandating stricter carbon emissions standards, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, given the climate-related benefits of land conservation, may well be the most significant global warming bill Congress has passed to date. And environmentalists might have to take what they can get: With Republicans now in control of the House and gaining ground in the Senate, dedicated climate legislation may be even more elusive than analysts thought even a year ago." Read more - Blast
Who is really declaring a "War on Western Jobs?"
"The truth is that existing BLM Resource Management Plans are untouched by the administration’s new policy, which only affects future planning endeavors. The oil and gas industry is holding thousands upon thousands of acres of drilling leases without taking action, making the governor’s claims of “loss of natural resources” highly questionable. Furthermore, only 2,530 net new oil, gas, and mining jobs were created in Utah between the years of 1998 and 2008. Even during the Bush administration’s push for greater energy production, the extractive industries did not make up a large portion of the employment in Utah, and were dwarfed by the tourism sector." Read more - The Wonk Room
"Wild Lands" policy is beneficial to hunters and other backcountry users
"The national budget bill passed by the House of Representatives affects anyone who spends time in the backcountry — non-hunters and hunters. Anyone who cares deeply about wildlife and public access to wild spaces should be concerned about language in the legislation that prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from working with local stakeholders to conserve backcountry lands, as currently directed under the BLM wildlands order." Letter-to-the-editor - The Salt Lake Tribune
Hypocrisy abounds at the "Wild Lands" policy hearing
"This brings us back to the March 1st Wild Lands hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee. Maybe the most telling part of the criticisms that were reserved for the administration and their defense of the Wild Lands policy was not for the mechanics of the policy itself, but the fact that the two headliner witnesses – Governor Butch Otter of Idaho and Governor Gary Herbert of Utah – complained that as local officials in the region, they had not been consulted by the Obama administration before Secretarial Order 3310 was issued. An ironic place and time to utter such a criticism given how the committee was treating Director Abbey’s right to speak. But as Congressman Martin Heinrich from New Mexico pointed out to the two governors, he did not recall in his capacity as a city council member of Albuquerque, any ‘local officials’ in the West like himself, receiving similar consideration when the Bush administration decided to eliminate the longstanding wilderness protection policy. Furthermore, when Representative Edward Markey asked Gov. Otter whether he personally protested the lack of transparency when the Bush administration made their arbitrary decision in 2003. Tellingly, Otter responded, 'Of course not — I agreed with it.' Which really says it all…if the outcome was to one’s liking, process be damned." Read more - Switchboard (NRDC blog)