Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: January 2012

By Amy Brunvand

2011 environmental heroes; bicycling is hip in SLC; activists at work on clean air and dirty coal; Bonneville cutthroats restocked; congressmen dis EPA grant; Utah to squander $$$ on roads lawsuit.

 We want jobs, but not as gravediggers for the planet. 
—Roger Toussaint, head of Local 100 of the Transport Workers of America

2011 environmental heroes

Tim DeChristopher, Salt Lake City climate activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising was recognized as one of Yes! Magazine’s Breakthrough 15 and also as Bioneer of the Year by Salt Lake City Bioneers. Since he is currently serving time in prison for civil disobedience, his Bioneers award was accepted by Joan Gregory, who won the same award last year. Gregory, coordinator for the Environmental Ministry of First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, was also honored with a Guardian of the Future Award from the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth.


Bicycling is hip in SLC

Are you are noticing more bicycles on the roads these days? The second annual Salt Lake City bicycle count showed a 27% increase in the number of bicyclists over last year. Salt Lake City Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Becka Roolf attributes the increase to “Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s commitment to bicycle infrastructure, higher gas prices and a growing ‘hip’ factor for bicycling among urban 20- and 30-somethings.” The top locations for bicycling are near the University of Utah, in the heart of downtown, and on the Jordan River Trail.


Activists at work on clean air and dirty coal

On December 7, members of Occupy SLC and Peaceful Uprising staged a “mic check” demonstration at a Utah Air Quality Board meeting. Mic check originated in the Occupy Wall Street protests; in the absence of electronic amplification, audience members repeat a speaker’s words so they can be heard in a crowd. The clean air demonstrators chanted, “We breathe the poison you permit. We envision a cleaner community, but you actively prevent it. Our government must represent us. It must protect our health, but you do not represent us.” Appropriately, December 8 was a “red air” day when breathing Salt Lake City air can be hazardous to your health, and children are advised to play indoors.

On the same evening, other members of Peaceful Uprising led another mic check at a public open house regarding the proposed expansion of the Alton Coal strip mine near Bryce Canyon National Park. Afterwards former BLM director Pat Shea led a “people’s hearing” that the Salt Lake Tribune described as an eruption of “guerilla bureaucracy.” The only way to comment on the mine proposal was to write on little pieces of paper, and mine opponents wanted to allow citizens to speak. Shea offered to hold a hearing himself and promised to send the public comments to the BLM. “I wanted to allow people to express themselves tonight as there’s no danger in hearing people’s opinions. The danger lies in secret deals, when .001% decide what the 99.9% are going to live with,” Shea explained.

Public comments due January 27, 2012. UT_Kanab_Altoncoal­@blm.gov. Include “Alton Coal Lease Environmental Impact Statement” in your correspondence. http://tinyurl.com/altoncoaleis

Bonneville cutthroats restocked

Utah’s state fish, the Bonneville cutthroat trout, survived the last ice age but a Chevron pipeline oil spill in June 2010 wiped out the Red Butte Creek Bonneville cutthroats and the aquatic bugs they eat. In November, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources restocked the creek with 3,000 baby Bonneville cutthroats. Let’s hope they grow and thrive!

Congressmen dis EPA grant

You’d think Utah politicians would be proud of Repertory Dance Theater (RDT) for getting a $25,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in order to build on their “Green Map” program using the arts to help students understand the impacts of air pollution on the environment and their health. Instead Congressman Rob Bishop (R-1) complained that RDT is the “wrong kind of organization” to get EPA funds, and Jim Matheson (D-2) questioned whether it is an appropriate use of tax dollars.

Besides RDT, the Utah Society for Environmental Education also received money from the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants program for a Rose Park recycling project.

EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program accepts grant applications from community-based organizations through February 29: http://tinyurl.com/epajusticegrants. http://www.rdtutah.org/GreenMap.html

Utah to squander $$$ on roads lawsuit

Talk about wasting tax dollars! The State of Utah has launched what promises to be a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, seeking county control of 18,784 dirt roads that cross land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Many of those roads are unquestionably roads (never mind how county governments plan to pay for maintenance if they win the lawsuit), but 16,594 of them are so called “Class D” roads, which are unconstructed jeep tracks not generally recognizable as roads by any standard. These are wash bottoms, abandoned seismic lines, hiking trails, cow paths and surface damage caused by uncontrolled off-road vehicle recreation. Anti-environmental politicians believe they can grab control of public lands by claiming Class D roads are “highways” under R.S. 2477 of the 1866 Mining Act, which was repealed in 1976. The State of Utah has to prove each claimed road was in continuous use prior to 1976 in order to gain ownership.

Despite years of trying and millions of tax dollars already spent, Utah has never succeeded in proving ownership of a single Class D road (though they recently made a big deal about claiming some uncontroversial Class B roads in order to save face). As far as R.S. 2477 claims go, former BLM director Pat Shea remarked, “The State of Utah has spent over $9 million trying to defend the indefensible and they still keep on losing.”

http://tinyurl.com/roadslawsuit, www.suwa.org

This article was originally published on December 28, 2011.