Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: December 2011

By Amy Brunvand

Coal strip mine threatens Bryce Canyon; public lands=resilient economies; Utah congressmen attack Utah public lands; roadless areas upheld; help the Parley/Pratt trail.

Coal strip mine threatens Bryce Canyon

In 2009, Governor Gary Herbert accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from Alton Coal Development and held a closed-door meeting with coal company representatives. Shortly after that, the State of Utah gave regulatory approval for Utah’s first-ever coal strip mine on private property near Bryce Canyon National Park. We all knew then that the mining company wouldn’t be content stay on private property. Sure enough, Alton Coal has requested to expand the strip mine into 3,581 acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in November, and the public can comment on the project through January 6, 2012. The huge mine expansion would fill the air with toxic coal dust, destroy wildlife habitat, and hurt the local tourist economy that is already suffering impacts from the existing, much smaller mine. Organizations working to oppose the mine expansion are the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association and Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Public meeting on the Alton Coal Draft EIS: Salt Lake City, December 7, 2011, Salt Lake City Library, 210 E 400 S. Public comments will be accepted until January 6, 2012. http://tinyurl.com/altoncoaldrafteis

Public lands = resilient economies

While Utah’s Congressional delegation keeps trying to jump-start Utah’s economy with more and more extractive development, a research study from Headwaters Economics suggests that is exactly the wrong approach—public lands tourism and recreation are more likely than boom-and-bust extraction to support economic resilience. The report on public land economics in Grand County says, “Finding ways to sustain and develop tourism and recreation that appeals to a wide mixture of visitors and residents is paramount to long-term well-being and economic resilience.” The report says that hiking on BLM lands has the largest economic impact, followed by nature viewing, biking and motor vehicle use. 


Ski area report card

The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition ranks ski resorts for environmental responsibility. Here are the SACC rankings for Utah’s resorts in order from best to worst: 

(A) Park City Mountain Resort 

(A) Deer Valley Resort 

(A) Sundance Resort

(B) Alta Ski Area

(C) Snowbird Ski Resort

(C) The Canyons

(C) Brighton Ski Resort

(C) Snowbasin Ski Resort

(C) Brian Head Resort 

(C) Solitude Mountain Resort


Utah congressmen attack Utah public lands

Utah’s congressional delegation is on the attack against Utah’s wildlands and endangered species. Here are some of the particularly awful laws that have been recently introduced in Congress:

• Protecting Public Safety and Sacred Sites from the Utah Prairie Dog Act of 2011 (H.R. 2973/S1580 Matheson/Hatch) follows the terrible example of congressional meddling with science in order to attack western wolves by exempting threatened Utah prairie dogs from the Endangered Species Act. 

• To provide for the sale of approximately 30 acres of federal land in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Salt Lake County, Utah H.R.3452/S.1883 (Bishop/Hatch) circumvents the public comment process that developed the Wasatch Canyons Master Plan, in order to sell public land to a private developer who wants to build a “SkiLink” tram between The Canyons and Solitude. 

• Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2011 (H.R. 1126/S. 635 Chaffetz/Lee) proposes to eliminate pretty much all federal public lands by offering them up for sale. 

Contact your elected officials: tinyurl.com/contactpublicofficials

Roadless areas upheld

President Clinton implemented the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to preserve the remaining roadless areas in U.S. National Forests, and the rule has been under attack by Republicans ever since. In October, the public interest law firm Earthjustice successfully defended the rule in federal court, which is great news for water quality, wildlife and everyone who likes to hike in the woods. 

Help the Parley/Pratt trail

The project to create a bike/pedestrian connection between Sugar House Park and the business district has run into financial trouble. Excavation for the project uncovered huge chunks of concrete and webs of rebar that had been dumped as landfill around 1960. The cost to remove the garbage means there won’t be enough money left for artistic elements designed by environmental artist Patricia Johanson. The PRATT Coalition is accepting contributions to help make the project beautiful. The mission of the PRATT is to assist city, county, state and federal agencies and other public and private partners in completing a multi-use trail along I-80 via Parley’s Creek Corridor and the Sugar House Rail Spur to connect the Bonneville Shoreline Trail with the Provo-Jordan River Parkway. 

This article was originally published on November 30, 2011.