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: