Environews: October 2008

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand
Matheson jumps on oil-shale bandwagon
Congressman Jim Matheson has jumped onto the oil-shale development bandwagon, inserting language into a broader energy bill that lets Utah wiggle out of the current federal moratorium on public lands oil shale leasing. The bill, which passed in the House, allows federal oil-shale leasing if, "the State has enacted a law approving of Federal oil shale leasing in the State." The governors of Colorado and Wyoming, the other two oil-shale states, both support the current moratorium in order to slow the rush to development and better evaluate social, environmental and economic effects. That means if the "Comprehensive American Energy Security & Consumer Protection Act" passes the Senate, Utah is poised to become the sacrifice zone for an oil shale energy boom.
The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club has outlined the case against oil-shale leasing:
There are already over 3 million acres of oil shale leases in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, and they are not currently producing any oil
Oil-shale processing requires massive amounts of water, and Utah is the second driest state in the nation.
Producing 7 minutes worth of oil for U.S. consumption would require the energy of 1 large coal-fired power plant.
The Book Cliffs and Desolation Canyon, which would be open to strip mining leases for oil shale, contain some of Utah’s largest populations of elk, black bear, cougar and big horned sheep.
Fuel from oil-shale would have no appreciable effect on the price of gasoline.
Congressman Jim Matheson: (202) 225-3011 or (801) 486-1236
Governor Jon Huntsman Jr: (801) 538-1000 or 1-800-705-2464
Wilderness film festival, October 9 at Brewvies.
Enjoy two hours of environmentally themed short films at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Festival sponsored by Patagonia and hosted by Save Our Canyons. Films include "Save our Snow" in which two snowboarders spread awareness about climate change; "A Land out of Time" about oil and gas drilling on public lands; and many more. Also, live music by The Radio Rhythm Makers from 6-7 pm, a raffle, and a keynote speech by Doug Scott from the Campaign for America’s Wilder_ness.
Wilderness Flim Festival. Th. October 9th. 6-10pm. Brewvies Cinema Pub (21+, must have ID) 677 S 200 W.

Bison restored to Book Cliffs
In August the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources working with the Ute Tribe, released 14 bison in the Book Cliffs hoping to start a new free-roaming herd in their historic range. American Bison were near extinction by the early 1900s due to overhunting and habitat alteration. Other Utah bison herds live in Antelope Island (transplanted in 1893) and the Henry Mountains (transplanted from Yellowstone in 1941).
BLM Resource Manage_ment plans cater to off-roaders and oil
Seven years ago the Bureau of Land Management began the process of revising six Resource Management plans for 11 million acres of public lands in the Moab, Richfield, Price, Vernal, Monticello and Kanab planning areas. These RMPs will guide how Utah’s public lands are managed for the next decade or so, including issues such as oil and gas leasing, off road vehicle control, and protection of roadless areas, wildlife, water and historic sites.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration directed that the new plans should favor oil and gas and off-roading over conservation. Worse, all six draft plans were released within a two-month period one after another specifically in order to confuse members of the public who wanted to comment and to overwhelm environmental groups trying to review the plans.
Now all six proposed final plans have been released, and they are as sloppy as you might expect from such a bad-faith process. Essentially no effort was made to limit off-road vehicle damage, and areas such as Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, Upper Kanab Creek and Parunuweap Canyon could be turned into unmanageable motorized playgrounds. 80% of the 11 million acres would be available to oil and gas development.
The BLM is under pressure to make a final decision on the plans before the election in November 2008. The best way for citizens to protest the proposed sacrifice of Utah’s redrock country is to contact your congressional representative and senators, or work with your favorite organization that is part of the Utah Wilderness Coalition.
Utah Wilderness Coalition: www.uwcoalition.org/

Women Protecting Wilderness seeks your story
Wilderness activism can become contentious and political but the reasons people want to protect wilderness are personal. Women Protecting Wilderness is a new project to encourage women to use their voices, stories and diverse talents to celebrate love of wild places and to call for their protection. The group is currently working on a "Wilderness Quilt" composed of hundreds of photographs of women who love wilderness and short (50 words of less) testimonials about why Utah’s wild land heritage is important to them. The Quilt will be on display this November, and Deeda Seed and Terri Martin who are organizing the project hope it will continue to grow as a tool for eloquent, heart-felt, and poignantly honest dialog about wilderness.
www.suwa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=WPWWildernessQuilt, deeda@suwa.org

Salt Lake County considers Killyon’s Canyon open space
Salt Lake County is considering the purchase of 240 acres of open space in Emigration Canyon. The Killyon’s Canyon property has Douglas firs, redrock cliffs and a stream inhabited by Bonneville Cutthroat trout (Utah’s state fish). If the County Council approves the purchase, taxpayer money would cover $1.5 million, and the rest would be raised by Utah Open Lands.
www.utahopenlands.org, www.slco.org

This article was originally published on September 30, 2008.