Enviro Update: October 2007

September 30, 2007

Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west. Also: A woodland sanctuary needs your help. TreeUtah's Vaughn Lovejoy talks about the Jordan River Restoration Project.
by Amy Brunvand
Utah public lands planning hits the fan

Back in 2001, one of the first actions of the Bush Administration was to launch an attack on public lands conservation by directing public lands managers to rewrite resource management plans to encourage oil and gas production, roads and development. Now a flurry of draft plans for the Vernal, Price, Richfield, Moab, Monticello and Kanab field offices of the Utah Bureau of Land Management are going public at nearly the same time. Each of these resource management plans is hundreds of pages long with multiple maps and numerous alternatives to compare, yet each has a public comment period of only 90 days. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance urges Utah citizens who care about public lands to contact Governor Huntsman and the Utah BLM office and tell them the public comment period is too short to evaluate plans that will have such a large impact on Utah's future. Ask for an extension of the RMP comment deadlines by at least another 180 days in order to provide adequate time to review lengthy documents and offer meaningful feedback.

Governor Jon Huntsman Jr: State Capitol Complex; East Office Building, #E220; PO Box 142220; Salt Lake City, Utah 84114. Tel. 538-1000

Selma Sierra (Utah BLM State Director), BLM Utah State Office; PO Box 45155; Salt Lake City, Utah 84145; tel. 539-4010. email: Selma_Sierra@blm.gov

Bear River: Last chance to change course

What would we lose by damming and diverting the Bear River as a water supply for the thirsty Wasatch Front? Craig Denton, professor of communication at the University of Utah, documents the current state of the river in his new book, "Bear River: Last Chance to Change Course," which follows the Bear River from snowfields of the Uinta Mountains through Wyoming and Idaho to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the Great Salt Lake. Along the way, he looks at the wildlife and people who currently depend on the river. The Utah Rivers Council says that there are more cost-effective ways to meet urban water needs than de-watering the Bear River, and Denton predicts that unless we can find a way to preserve the river in some semblance of its natural state there will be a stark future for the Bear River-and us.

Denton, Craig. Bear River: Last Chance to Change Course. Utah State University Press. $25.

Bear River Photo Exhibit (through December 31, 2007): Utah Museum of Natural History, 1390 E. President's Circle (Stadium TRAX).

Utah Rivers Council, River Defense Program. "Alternatives to Developing Bear River Water: Meeting Future Needs along the Wasatch Front Cost-Effectively" www.utahrivers.org/

2007 Bioneers Conferences in Salt Lake City and Logan

Sustainability: Bringing it All Home is the theme of the 2007 Bioneers conference to be held October 19-21 at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and also at Utah State University in Logan. Bioneers is a forum to highlight visionary solutions for restoring ecosystems and healing human communities. The Utah conferences feature a satellite link to the central Bioneers conference in San Rafael, California, and each Utah site also has local speakers who focus on regional and local issues. In Salt Lake City, the keynote speaker will be Cheryl Charles speaking on "The Ecology of Hope-Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature." Other SLC sessions include topics such as "Eating Locally in SLC," "Utah's Wild Lands: Can 'how we talk' affect their future?", "Choices for Reducing Our Ecological Footprint," and "Green Cities: The Role of Urban Planning." For registration information and a complete program, visit the website for the conference you want to attend.

Salt Lake City Bioneers Conference (Westminster College) tel. 832-2805 www.westminstercollege.edu/bioneers/

Logan Bioneers Conference (Utah State University) http://utahbioneers.org/

Moab area draft RMP

Would you like to see the BLM backcountry near Moab managed as a scenic paradise for hiking? An off-road vehicle playground? An industrialized oil field? Each of these scenarios could be emphasized by alternatives outlined in the Moab Area Draft Resource Management Plan. Alternative C, the one preferred by BLM, purports to balance conservation and resource extraction, but the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says that under the plan, 84% of Moab-area public lands would be within a mile of an offroad vehicle route, and areas surrounding Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Fisher Towers, Goldbar Rim and Labyrinth Canyon would be open for oil and gas development. Now is your chance to tell the Bureau of Land Management what you value when you go to Moab.

Moab Area Draft RMP: www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/planning.html

Comments due by November 30, 2007

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Moab Area RMP information: www.suwa.org/

Nuke power for Utah?

Nuclear power is controversial among environmentalists. Some see it as a cleaner alternative to coal, while others view it as Chernobyl waiting to happen. In any case, nuclear power is likely to be bad for Utah's environment, since increased interest in nuclear power has already caused a new uranium mining-claim boom in southern Utah, threatening to revive an industry that left behind lasting contamination and health problems. Utah has also been fighting off attempts to turn the West Desert into the nation's nuclear garbage dump, but if radioactive waste is produced right here it would become much harder to reject waste from out of state. The Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee of the Utah Legislature has proposed a bill that would promote nuclear power over other alternative energy sources by using state funds to construct a nuclear power plant, with no guarantee that the facility would ever even produce any electricity. If this sounds like a bad idea, the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) is gathering signatures of citizens who oppose building a state-subsidized nuclear power plant in Utah.

HEAL Utah petition: www.healutah.org/takeaction/actionalerts/073107