Vote for the environment! Utah General Election Day is Tuesday, November 4, 2014.
—by Amy Brunvand
Illegal ATV riders charged
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and four others have been charged with misdemeanor conspiracy and operation of off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles. This past May, Lyman (apparently inspired by the antics of anti-federalist welfare rancher Cliven Bundy who claims a “right” to graze cattle on public lands without paying grazing fees) organized and led a parade of armed American-flag-waving ATV riders along a closed trail in Recapture Canyon near Bluff, Utah. Recapture Canyon was closed to motorized vehicles in 2007 after members of Great Old Broads for Wilderness discovered an illegally constructed off-road vehicle trail that had been built through the middle of several archaeological sites. A U.S. District Attorney news release points out that “Recapture Canyon contains unique archaeological resources, including ancient rock art and dwellings that are culturally significant and irreplaceable,” and that there are plenty of other places for ATV recreation since “there are more than 2,800 miles of OHV trails administered by the BLM in southeast Utah that are open to public use.”
Great Old Broads for Wilderness: http://greatoldbroads.org
“Bundy’s Buddies” include Utah congressmen
If you would like to vote against politicians who are trying to take the “public” out of Utah’s public lands, the Center for American Progress has compiled a list of “Bundy’s Buddies,” right-wing congressmen who are voicing their support for the radical idea that states should seize or sell off public lands to the highest bidder for drilling, mining or logging. The list includes Utah congressmen Rob Bishop (R-UT-1), Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) as well as former Mayor Mia Love (R) who is running to take over the 4th district congressional seat formerly held by Jim Matheson (D).
Bundy’s Buddies: http://www.americanprogressaction.org/series/bundys-buddies/view
Colorado River connected
A new coalition of environmental groups has come together under the name Colorado River Connected in order to focus on protection of the Colorado River watersheds that supports 35 million people and thousands of other species. Water in the river system is over-allocated due to the faulty assumptions behind the 1922 Colorado River Compact, and the river is also under threat from massive water diversion projects proposed in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, dirty energy development and reduced water flows predicted by climate change.
Founding members of the new group include Colorado Riverkeeper, Utah Rivers United, Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Glen Canyon Institute, Save the Colorado and Waterkeeper Alliance.
Colorado River Connected: http://coloradoriverconnected.org/
Grand bargain for High Uintas Wilderness?
As part of his “Grand Bargain” for Utah wilderness, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) asked Utah counties to develop their own wilderness proposals. So far only Summit County and Daggett County have obliged. Summit County proposes to expand the High Uintas Wilderenss Area into existing roadless areas in order to protect current recreational uses. Daggett County commissioners would like to make a trade. Daggett County has a tiny population of only 1,127 and nearly 90% of the land is managed by federal and state agencies. Therefore Daggett County would like to privatize U.S. Forest Service land near Flaming Gorge Reservoir in order to build a resort and maybe a ski area. In exchange, the County would support expansion of the High Uintas Wilderness Area and Wild and Scenic River designation for the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam which is a popular float trip with a world-class trout fishery.
Dog dies after toxic Utah Lake swim
In October a pet dog died after swimming in Utah Lake. Testing by the Utah Division of Environmental quality found elevated levels of mycrocystins, blue-green algae that acts as a liver toxin and skin and eye irritant. Mycrocystins thrive in warm temperatures and high concentrations of phosphorous and nitorgen—a toxic combination of climate warming and agricultural pollution.
Stericycle in trouble again
Stericycle, the North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator, is in trouble again. Last year the Utah Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) fined Stericycle for clean air violations. Now Utah Governor Gary Herbert has launched three criminal investigations into alleged misconduct at Stericycle after a video appeared on the web featuring a man disguised by sunglasses and a bandana who described being asked to deliberately burn radioactive waste left over from chemotherapy as “part of his job.” Closing the Stericycle facility is a priority issue for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment which says, “Incineration does not remove toxins and actually creates new ones by merely concentrating and redistributes existing ones.”
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment: http://uphe.org/priority-issues/
UDoT actually considers no-build alternative
Utahns for Better Transportation (UBET) is thrilled to report that the Utah Department of Transportation is giving a serious look at their proposed no-build alternative for the West Davis Corridor , a yet unbuilt 24-mile highway in Weber County. The no-build “shared solution” is a strategy to increase traffic capacity by modifying existing roads and adding mass transit. UBET says new highway construction would destroy housing, farms, businesses and points out that Utah is already in violation of the Clean Air Act so building a new highway would only make air pollution worse. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has threatened to deny permits for UDOT’s preferred plan due to destruction of globally important bird habitat in Great Salt Lake Wetlands.
Utahns for Better Transportation: http://utahnsforbettertransportation.org/
Get involved in longterm planning for Wasatch Mountains
Mark your calendar! Wasatch Accord public Open Houses are scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 2 & Wednesday, Dec. 3, time and location TBA on the Mountain Accord Website. Mountain Accord is a “systems approach to planning” that aims to develop a longterm plan for the Wasatch Mountains.
Mountain Accord: http://mountainaccord.com
Help plan Utah’s future
Envision Utah is seeking 50,000 Utahns to participate in a “Your Utah, Your Future” visioning project. On the Envision Utah website you can sign up to take a survey and also play with an interactive “build Your 2050 Utah” model that lets you test the outcomes of various decisions about how to meet future needs for energy, water, agriculture, transportation, housing, education and so on.
Envision Utah. envisionutah.org/
Tell DEQ: Clean up coal power
The federal Clean Air Act requires states to cut air pollution that causes regional haze over National Parks, but the Utah Division of Air Quality (DEQ) prefers not to. DEQ announced a do-nothing plan for the aging Hunter and Huntington power plants operated by PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power in Emery County. Christopher Thomas, Executive Director of HEAL Utah says, “It’s unacceptable to ignore Utah’s coal pollution problem while other states are moving forward and requiring deep pollution cuts.” A public comment period on the plan is open from November 1 to December 1, 2014 so you can tell DEQ to do the right thing and clean up Utah’s air.
Division of Air Quality; airquality.utah.gov
Changes at HEAL-Utah
Speaking of HEAL-Utah, changes are afoot at the organization’s headquarters. Executive Director Christopher Thomas, who joined the staff in 2006 as policy director, is stepping down at the end of this year to pursue further education.
Filling the void will be HEAL’s current Policy Director Matt Pacenza with longtime Development Director Sophia Nicholas becoming the new associate director.
During Thomas’s four years at the helm, HEAL has garnered the attention and respect of Utah governors and energy company CEOs and been Utah’s voice for clean air and a nuclear-free state.