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Breaking News: BLM Cancel Auction of 85,000 Acres of Public Land around Moab to Oil and Gas Development

BREAKING NEWS: We just received word that the Bureau of Land Management has officially cancelled the planned auction of 85,000 acres of public lands around Moab.

Because of YOU.

Remember when we launched a campaign with Public Lands Solutions to gather public comments about the impending lease of public land for oil and gas development?

Remember when over 35,000 outdoorists added their names to the petition through our #ProtectMoab campaign?

Your advocacy worked.
Your voice matters.
We were heard.

We’re proud of you, and celebrating this big win for Moab public lands—but there are still nine parcels around Utah going for auction, a reminder that we still have much work to do. For now though, we happy dance (and then we get right back to scheming our next moves in the fight for good).

30,000 Outdoorists Speak Up to #ProtectMoab Public Lands from Oil and Gas Leasing

Last month, we learned that over 114,000 acres of land in Utah are being proposed for an oil and gas leasing sale by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Over 80,000 of those acres are located around Moab, and this lease sale could have heavy impacts on recreation and sacred land. Our team at Outdoor Advocacy Project partnered with Public Land Solutions to create a social media campaign to gather signatures for a petition by outdoor users–to support their larger movement of local Moab city officials, businesses and other concerned citizens. Check out the social media toolkit here.

Within two weeks, we gathered over 30,000 petition signatures from folks like you who want to stop this leasing sale. Here’s the petition we sent in, which we’ll be delivering to Department of Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Utah Governor Herbert:

Click here to download the full 381-page petition and find your signature.

The official Bureau of Land Management comment period closed on July 9th, but our efforts to #ProtectMoab will continue as the September leasing sale draws closer. Join us and continue following along as we share next steps and ways you can.

What is the Roadless Rule?

The Roadless Rule has worked in favor of conservationists since 2001. According to the US Forest Service definition of the rule, it was intended to “provide lasting protection for inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System.”

Image: Sam Ortiz

The rule protects roughly 58.5 million acres of roadless areas, ensuring that wild and undeveloped forests are safe from future development. There are many benefits to having large expanses of land that are undisturbed or unfragmented by human development. One benefit is that this undeveloped land can be utilized for various forms of human-powered recreation. In addition to the outdoor recreation perks, these lands protect many valuable ecosystem services like animal and plant biodiversity, clean air, fresh water, and even aid in climate stability through carbon capture and storage. 

Here’s a great infographic on the roadless rule and how it affects recreation via Outdoor Alliance– head to their website for an interactive map of Roadless areas in the US:


Where are we now and how can I take action?

Both Alaska and Utah are attempting to change or roll back roadless protections of National Forest Lands in their states. As soon as one state decides it is a good idea to create a state-specific Roadless Rule, it can be expected that many other states will follow suit. This is a slippery slope when it comes to conservation and protecting recreation spaces nationwide. Let’s look a bit further into what Utah and Alaska are proposing:

Utah: 

  • Utah is a fierce proponent of local control over public lands, so it was no surprise that the state petitioned the Forest Service to create a “Utah-specific Roadless Rule” in order to roll back protections on forests under the Roadless Rule.
  • Approximately 50% of Utah’s Forests are designated as “Roadless”
  • According to Outdoor Alliance: 9% of Inventoried Roadless Areas would be released from protections entirely, 79% would have protections from logging drastically reduced, and only 12% of existing areas would retain current protection, 0% would be given heightened protections.
  • The petition is vague, unspecific, and there is no site-specific analysis.
  • In response to a report published by Defenders of Wildlife, the organization’s Director of Federal Lands said it showed “how shortsighted it would be to accept the state’s proposal to sacrifice millions of acres of intact habitat and healthy watersheds for more logging and roadbuilding. Utah’s national forest roadless areas, like roadless areas across the National Forest System, are sanctuaries for fish and wildlife as well as magnets for human recreation.”

Sign the petition to protect Utah’s backcountry forests through Outdoor Alliance’s easy-to-use letter writing tool.

Alaska:

Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Photo: Sam Ortiz
  • Alaska is home to one of the largest coastal temperate rainforests, some of the world’s oldest trees, and a long history of logging
  • More than half of the Tongass’ 17 million acres of land are protected by the Roadless Rule
  • With the support of a powerful timber lobby, Alaska is hoping to release 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest for logging through an exemption of the Roadless Rule

Defend the Roadless Rule and the Tongass National Forest through the Outdoor Alliance easy-to-use letter writing tool: Comment by December 17, 2019.


Resources:

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news. 

What is the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act?

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

According to Central Wasatch Commission (CWC), the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is a “locally driven, consensus-based bill” that has been worked on over the past four years by a wide range of local government agencies, businesses, transportation officials, nonprofit and environmental groups, recreation interest groups, and residents. The act has several goals: 

  • “protecting water sources
  • preserving recreational opportunities for the future, 
  • and ensuring enjoyment of the Central Wasatch Mountains in the face of pressures from a growing population”.

Nestled between Salt Lake City and Park City, the Central Wasatch Mountains are a haven for recreationalists of all kinds, and the area is becoming increasingly more populated. Home to four world-class ski resorts, skiers, trail runners, hikers, and rock climbers, will travel to the Wasatch Front from all over the country in order to recreate on these lands. Not only is this area high trafficked by tourists, but hundreds of local recreationalists come into these mountains from Utah’s metropolitan hub to spend time on public lands on any given day. According to the CWC, “The Central Wasatch Mountains are more heavily used than all five of Utah’s National Parks combined.” If you have ever visited Zion National Park or Arches National Park during peak season, you can imagine how crowded that must make the canyons during the middle of the ski season. 


At this point, the act is still a working draft, but in its current state, it intends to preserve approximately “80,000 acres of US Forest Service land including watershed, scenic ridgelines, treasured landscapes, and recreation areas” while also helping ski resorts to better utilize and own more land in their established base areas. Some specific points made in the bill are outlined on the CWC’s website:

  • “All existing recreational uses and permits will continue;
  • Natural resources and watersheds will be protected;
  • Existing Wilderness Area boundaries will be adjusted for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail alignment and for transportation improvements.
  • Approximately 8,000 acres of wilderness will be added;
  • The U.S. Forest Service will maintain ownership and management of the lands;
  • Land exchanges between the U.S. Forest Service and the four Cottonwood Canyons ski resorts are authorized;
  • Ski resort permit boundaries on U.S. Forest Service land will be fixed permanently after some adjustments through the existing permitting process;
  • New roads for automobiles will be prohibited on U.S. Forest Service land;
  • No restrictions will be placed on U.S. Forest Service management for fire suppression, vegetation maintenance, avalanche control or other emergency measures;
  • Private land within the area or adjacent to the area being designated will not be affected;
  • Future transportation improvements are anticipated. The legislation enables transportation improvements to meet growing demand”

What’s happening now and how to take action:

While the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act is still in the drafting phase, state representatives John Curtis and Ben McAdams have been weighing in to tweak the language and help prepare the draft to be taken to Washington and shared with Congress. While the Act is on its way to being solidified and taken to Washington, there is still reason to act in support of the legislation. As a Utah resident living near the Wasatch, it is especially important to make yourself heard throughout this process. The easiest way to stay up to date on meetings that are accepting public comments is by following the CWC website as well as checking the Utah Public Notice Website. Keep an eye out for when this important public lands bill hits the floor of the House in the coming year. 

Resources:


NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

Amelia Howe
Amelia Howe

Amelia Howe is an environmental advocacy and policy professional based in Salt Lake City. She analyzes complex legislation, creating digestible summaries that inspire thoughtful engagement. Coffee and climbing fill her time when she isn’t nerding out over the latest policy news.