Environews, Regulars and Shorts

Environews: March 2014

By Amy Brunvand

Environment beware! Utah Legislature in session; Utah Congressional delegation still anti-environment; Sage Grouse Initiative; Uranium mining on Cedar Mesa?; A mystery; Utah bald eagles falling ill; Mountain Accord for the future of the Wasatch Range.
by Amy Brunvand


Environment beware! Utah Legislature in session

The 2014 General Session of the Utah Legislature lasts until March 13, 2014 so be ready to contact your legislators on a moment’s notice (maybe put their phone numbers into your cell phone).

Some big environmental issues this session as of late February include air quality, restoring stream access, moving (or banning) the Stericycle medical waste incinerator, and increasing highway speed limits. But you never know what else might come up before it’s all over.

Utah State Legislature: http://le.utah.gov/

Utah Congressional delegation still anti-environment

The Utah Legislature is bad enough, but The League of Conservation Voters 2013 Scorecard shows that in 2013, Utah’s Federal Congressional delegation ranks among the lowest scores for all states in both the House and Senate. The score is based on key environmental votes and the top score is 100%.

The LCV 2013 Scorecard points out, “There is a jarring disconnect between the frightening climate change developments of 2013 and the results of the 2013 National Environmental Scorecard. As the scientific consensus around climate change and its impacts only solidified, climate change deniers ramped up their rhetoric, pushed harmful legislation that would exacerbate the climate crisis, and blocked all efforts to address it.”

Recently all four Utah Representatives (except Chaffetz who missed a vote) voted “yes” for two Republican-sponsored bills intended to undermine public lands conservation efforts.

The so-called “Sportmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” would allow motor vehicles in Wilderness areas, limit public input on wildlife management, permit the continued use of lead shotgun pellets that poison eagles and other carrion-eating wildlife, and permit hunters to import trophies of endangered polar bears that they shot in Canada.

The “Public Access and Lands Improve­ment Act” is an attempt to undermine the Endangered Species Act specifically to keep Sage Grouse from being listed, and also to promote environmentally unsound logging practices.

LCV 2013 Scorecard: http://scorecard.lcv.org

Sage Grouse Initiative

In 2010 a Sage Grouse Initiative working group was composed of organizations that represent agriculture, oil and gas, hunting and conservation. At a Sage Grouse Summit last month, the group got together to discuss how to keep the bird off the endangered species list. That’s a good goal, but the Wild Utah Project points out that the State of Utah is currently budgeting more money to hire lobbyists and lawyers than to implement conservation.

Sage Grouse Initiative: sagegrouseinitiative.com. Sage Grouse Dance for Survival: youtube.com/ watch?v=voVJOVnyq4k&feature=youtu.be

Uranium mining on Cedar Mesa?

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments on a plan to expand the Daneros Uranium Mine in San Juan County which is owned by the Canadian mining company Energy Fuels. Under the modified plan, total production of uranium ore is expected to increase from 100,000 tons over seven years to 500,000 tons over 20 years.

The Daneros mine is surrounded by large expanses of spectacular wild land: Natural Bridges National Monument, Cedar Mesa’s Grand Gulch, the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s Lake Powell.

More info: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, suwa.org/?s=daneros Public comments due by March 14, 2014: blm_ut_mt_minerals_comments@blm.gov

A mystery

It is not clear why Utahns continue to put up with the blatant anti-environmentalism of elected officials. The 2014 Conser­vation in the West poll conducted annually by Colorado College found that 66% of say they are more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who supports protection of public lands (and that conversely, 63% say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who proposes the sale of federal lands). 76% of Utahns in the poll favored water conservation over diverting water to cities. 96% of Utahns in the poll said that they had visited public lands in the past year.

2014 Conservation in the West Poll: coloradocollege.edu/other/stateoftherockies/

Utah bald eagles falling ill

Only a few bald eagles were seen at Farmington Bay on Utah Bald Eagle Day this past February. Usually the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources puts out dead carp, an invasive species removed from Utah Lake, attracting hundreds of the magnificent birds. This winter at least 54 eagles have been found sick or dead in Utah due to an outbreak of West Nile Virus and wildlife biologists were worried that the disease might spread further if the birds flocked together to feast on fish. Increased incidence of West Nile Virus is a predicted effect of warmer temperatures due to global climate change. Utah has one of the largest populations of wintering eagles in the lower 48 states.

Mountain Accord for the future of the Wasatch Range

A new process has begun to guide planning for transportation, clean air and water, recreation resources and land use in the Wasatch Mountains. This is not the first such planning effort.

Two studies in particular—Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow and Mountain Trans­por­tation Study—led directly to the creation of the Mountain Accord program. How­ever, Mountain Accord is an effort to involve all stakeholders in order to analyze various issues and how they affect each other.

Public input is essential to the success of the project. You can submit your comments and ideas on the Mountain Accord website.

Public comments due by March 7, 2014 to Mountain Accord: mountainaccord.com. Wasatch Canyons Tomorrow: envisionutah.org/projects/project-archive/item/download/20_76f9913d28ac1c720 301e0fb70ef71a1; Mountain Transportation Study: slco.org/pw/pdf/Mtn._Trans_Final_Rep.pdf

This article was originally published on March 1, 2014.