Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand
DeChristopher trial draws attention to climate justice
The trial of climate-change activist Tim DeChristopher has been postponed indefinitely in order to allow the judge to hold a hearing on whether DeChristopher is being selectively prosecuted. The hearing will take place on March 15 (the previously scheduled trial date), and after that a new trial date will be set. Although U.S. attorneys hoped to thwart what they called DeChristopher’s “intention to turn the trial…into a contest of perspectives on “climate justice,” the postponement came shortly after a widely distributed letter invited climate activists to gather in Utah in order to hold protests outside the courthouse. The letter, co-written by Terry Tempest Williams, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen (the respected climatologist, not the former Utah congressman) says, “We don’t want Tim on Trial—we want global warming on the stand.” DeChristopher’s action has already resulted in a review of federal leasing regulations and many of the protested leases have been withdrawn by the federal government.
Ironically, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson rejected DeChristopher’s original “necessity defense” in part because his action was supposedly not grand enough to have a large effect on the climate change crisis, as the November 2009 court decision says, “Unlike a person demolishing a home to create a firebreak, DeChristopher’s actions were more akin to placing a small pile of dirt in the fire’s path.”
Information and legal defense contributions: http://climatetrial.com
Small-scale agriculture on the rise
Wasatch Front population growth keeps eating up Utah’s working landscape, but nonetheless a University of Utah research report found that the number of farms in Utah increased to 16,500 in 2008, since bottoming out in 1975. In Utah’s urban areas most of the farms are very small, and the renewed interest in farming is attributed to consumer shifts to more sustainable food production: “Organic and locally produced foods have grown in popularity in recent years, both at restaurants and on grocery store shelves. Farmers’ markets too have grown in number and attendance. And with the economic downturn home gardens have gained popularity as a source of food. All of this has brought more attention to the role of agriculture.” The report also says that Community Supported Agriculture programs where consumers pay a lump sum for a share of farm produce have helped provide income security for local farmers.
Utah’s urban farmers: http://bebr.utah.edu/Documents/uebr/UEBR2009/UEBR2009no3.pdf
Wilderness activists to gather in Berkeley
A conference for Western wilderness activists will be held in Berkeley, California, April 8–11. The conference will bring together grassroots activists to build on the success of the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act and launch the next round of western wilderness campaigns. Terri Martin from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance will be there leading a panel on engaging faith communities and on the Utah wilderness campaign. Other familiar faces include Jim Catlin from the Wild Utah Project and Susan Tixier, founder of Great Old Broads for Wilderness and other tireless Utah wilderness champions you may have never heard of such as Mike Painter (Californians for Western Wilderness), Clayton Daughenbaugh (SUWA’s Midwest regional organizer), and Chris Arthur (former chief policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey, sponsor of America’s Redrock Wilderness Act).
Coal plant “Post-it note” review inadequate
The Utah Supreme Court yanked an air quality permit for NEVCO, LLC to build a new pollution-spewing coal-fired power plant near Sigurd, Utah. The Court decided that a yellow Post-it note does not constitute an adequate environmental review, and so the pollution permit must be sent back to the Utah Division of Air Quality to be redone properly.
Sierra Club news release: http://utah.sierraclub.org/NEVCO.asp
Mayor orders ecology review of Jordan River sports complex
On February 11 Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker responded to public criticism of the Jordan River Sports Complex plan, announcing that a draft restoration plan will be developed for the site in order to invite public comment. The proposed sports complex location is the last piece of undeveloped bottomland along the Jordan River, and the plan conflicts with the 2008 Blueprint Jordan River plan which recommends preserving the site as open space and wildlife habitat.
Press release: http://www.slcgov.com/mayor/news/2010/ 021110complex.pdf
New Utah monuments?
Utah congressional Republicans and Governor Gary Herbert were quick to launch into the usual anti-conservation rhetoric after the Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) leaked a document from the U.S. Department of the Interior that lists the San Rafael Swell and the Cedar Mesa region as nationally significant landscapes worthy of inclusion in the National Landscape Conservation System. The out-of-context list is an appendix to an unpublished document, so who knows what it really means, but it raises the possibility that President Obama could use the Antiquities Act to preserve these areas, as President Clinton did for the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument in 1996.