Environews: January 2017

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news around the state and the West.

Brownfields grant for Centro Civico Mexicano

Environmental justice and social justice came together when the Centro Civico Mexicano (CCM) on Salt Lake City’s west side received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program to clean up toxic waste left behind on their property by historic industrial uses. It’s a problem everywhere that low-income people suffer from disproportionate exposure to environmental pollution.

CCM was formed by Mexican immigrants to Utah in 1939. “Long before the term ‘environmental justice’ surfaced, our community was unable to rent facilities for community events from non-Hispanic owners,” according to the grant. In 1956, the Hispanic community raised money to buy the low-cost formerly industrialized property where the CCM now stands.

Unfortunately, when the Centro wanted to expand the community center and build a senior housing project, the property was found to be contaminated by coal, chemicals and other hazardous materials. People who live in the CCM neighborhood earn only 54% of Utah’s median household income. They could not afford clean-up costs by themselves. The EPA grant will not just improve community health by removing hazardous waste; CCM plans to build a sustainable, transit-oriented project using Enterprise Green Communities standards which “help ensure that people living in affordable housing are healthier, spend less money on utilities, and have more opportunities through their connections to transportation, quality food and health care services.”

Centro Civico Mexicano (155 S. 600 W. SLC):


Thumbs up for Moab Master Leasing Plan

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new Moab Master Leasing Plan for about 785,567 acres of public land in Grand and San Juan counties which will help balance conservation and recreation with industrial development associated with oil/gas and potash leasing.

The new plan is an example of citizen activism and stakeholder input working together to achieve better environmental policies.

Back in 2008 during the Bush Administration, an environmentally terrible Moab Resource Management Plan was released that prioritized energy development and expanding off-road vehicle recreation. Environmental groups led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance filed a lawsuit opposing the plan, and when BLM auctioned oil and gas leases on the boundary of Arches National Park, Tim DeChristopher bid on them, an act of civil disobedience that drew national attention to conflicts between development and conservation.

The Obama administration eventually recognized a need for oil and gas leasing reform, and a BLM news release says that the new Moab plan was needed “to address a leasing system that was close to the breaking point with nearly half of all proposed parcels receiving community protests and a substantial proportion resulting in litigation.”

The landscape-level plan considers cumulative impacts and identifies areas where industrial development is incompatible with other land uses. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel praised community and stakeholder involvement in the new plan and said, “As the first Master Leasing Plan in Utah, the collaborative process is a model for how communities can work together to support thoughtful development while protecting world-class environmental, cultural and recreational resources.”

Moab Master Leasing Plan: go.usa.gov/xksyS

San Rafael Master Leasing Plan comments due Jan. 20

The San Rafael Swell is getting a new Master Leasing Plan, too. As part of the 2010 oil and gas leasing reform initiative, the BLM Price and Richfield field office seeks public comments on a San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan to guide decisions related to oil and gas leasing on approximately 525,000 acres of public land in the San Rafael Desert in Emery and Wayne Counties, Utah. This plan will provide a framework for determining which areas are appropriate for responsible oil and gas exploration and development and also provide direction for resolving resource conflicts, protecting important conservation resources, supporting outdoor recreation, and other activities that benefit local communities and other public land visitors.

Public comments are due by January 20 to BLM Price Field Office, 125 S. 600 West, Price, UT 84501 or email comments to: BLM_UT_PR_MAIL@blm.gov. San Rafael. Desert Master Leasing Plan: go.usa.gov/cJcPw


San Rafael Swell: state park or wilderness?

Should the San Rafael Swell become a Utah State Park? In 2014 the State of Utah proposed a federal land trade to expand Goblin Valley State Park, but that idea fell though. Now the State and Emery County are proposing to form a cooperative management partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), but the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) calls the deal an “under-the-radar land grab.”

The area in question includes the Crack Canyon Wilderness Study Area with the popular Little Wild Horse Canyon slot canyon hike. BLM currently manages this part of the Swell as a Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA), but overcrowding has become a serious problem. While a State Park expansion might help control crowds, environmentalists are worried about what kind of recreational development the State and County have in mind. Goblin Valley is one of a few Utah state parks that already consistently makes a profit, and the State and County have indicated that their priorities for the area are increased tourism development including expanded off-road vehicle trails and revenue generated through entry fees and campground fees. Rather than turning the area into a highly developed motorized recreation park, SUWA says the BLM should develop a recreation management plan that would preserve the wild character of the area and protect existing Wilderness Study Areas.

Temple Mountain and Goblin Valley Recreation Area Management Plan: go.usa.gov/xkzwv

Utah’s newest National Monument: Bears Ears!

On December 28, 2016 (as we go to press) President Obama responded to a formal request from sovereign Native Anerican Tribes to use the Antiquities Act to declare a new Bears Ears National Monument. The 1.35 milion-acre site south and east of Canyonlands National Park contains 100,00 documented cultural and archeological sites recording thousands of years of human history and provides an unprecedented level of Native American tribal leadership on the management team. Thanks to all the people who labored many years to deliver this land to safety.

Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition: bearsearscoalition.org

Glen Canyon Dam: 20 more years

At the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting in Las Vegas, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell finalized a management plan for the Glen Canyon Dam over the next 20 years. The plan calls for continuing high-flow releases to restore sand bars and fish habitat in the Grand Canyon. Predictably, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) griped, saying, “The plan creates undue imbalance that undermines hydropower generation.”

A study released by Glen Canyon Institute in July says that electric energy generated by the Glen Canyon Dam “represents only a small fraction of regional electric production [and] can be easily replaced if lost.

In fact, hydropower is not the main issue. Lake Powell is a huge water waster. The huge surface area means that an average of 86,000 acre/feet of water annually are lost to evaporation and seeping into porous rocks (that’s enough to supply the Salt Lake Valley for five years). The Glen Canyon Institute advocates filling Lake Mead downstream before storing water in Lake Powell; Other environmental groups advocate permanently draining Lake Powell in order to conserve water and restore the Grand Canyon ecosystem.

Glen Canyon Dam LTEMP: ltempeis.anl.gov/


This article was originally published on December 31, 2016.