Environews: September 2009

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand

Land Exchange improves Colorado River management options

Thanks to a federal land exchange bill sponsored by Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT 2), the BLM will receive parcels of state school trust land in Grand and San Juan Counties. These include portions of Westwater Canyon, the nationally-recognized Kokopelli and Slick_rock trails, multiple wilderness study areas and proposed wilderness areas and some of the largest natural rock arches in the U.S. In return, the Utah School Insti_tu_tional Trust Land Administration (SITLA) will receive BLM lands in Uintah County with the potential for oil and natural gas that could produce significant revenue for Utah schools. The “Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act of 2009” helps solve land management conflicts that originated in 1894 when the federal government plotted the entire state of Utah into a checkerboard of mile-square sections, and gave more than 7 million acres to Utah in order to raise money for public schools. Fast-forward to the present, and “school section” inholdings cause constant land management problems, since the SITLA priority of raising money usually conflicts with conservation or public-access interests. The Grand Canyon Trust worked for seven years to help identify 40,000 acres of land for exchange, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance praised the land swap, saying, “This legislation provides a good example of how to balance conservation and development needs in a mutually beneficial way.”


Ogden Critical Mass moves forward

Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey has promised to participate in the Ogden Critical Mass bicycle ride this month, after the August ride ended in confrontation with the police. The Standard Examiner reported the cyclists were unruly and “obstructing traffic” after they surrounded a woman in a car, but cyclists say they were trying to stop her from driving off after she deliberately hit a cyclist. On August 10, the Mayor released this statement: “In response to the unfortunate incident between cyclists and a motorist Friday night we want to affirm our commitment to the cycling community. We will bring all segments of the community together in order to deal with this specific situation and build positive relationships moving forward.”

Critical Mass is an event in which cyclists meet at specific location and ride together in an “organized coincidence” (much like rush hour car traffic) in order to demonstrate the principle, “We are not blocking traffic. We are Traffic.”

Salt Lake City Critical Mass: Last Friday of the month; gather at 5:30 p.m. on the north side of Gallivan Plaza Ogden Critical Mass: First Friday of the month; gather at 7 p.m., Skyline Cycle parking lot


Nevada Nuclear Test Site EIS

The National Nuclear Security Admini_stration (NNSA) is preparing a new site-wide environmental impact statement (EIS) for activities at the Nevada Test Site. Hundreds of anti-nuclear protests, many organized and attended by Utahns, were held at the site before the U.S. banned nuclear weapons testing in 1992.

Nevada Nuclear Test Site info: www.nv.doe.gov/main.htm


Snake Valley water war heats up

The Utah Department of Natural Resources has announced a draft agreement in the battle for water from the Snake Valley aquifer near Great Basin National Park. The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes rushing into a permanent agreement for fear that a Las Vegas water-grab could dry up agriculture west of Delta, Utah, impact wildlife and send dust storms towards the Wasatch Front.

Snake Valley Agreement: www.waterrights.utah.gov


New uranium boom?

Renewed interest in nuclear energy has raised fears that a new uranium mining boom could wreak destruction on Utah’s redrock desert. Now an Australian mining company has received the first BLM uranium mining permit issued in 30 years. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the citizens’ group Uranium Watch question whether proper environmental evaluation was done before the permit was issued.

Uranium Watch was formed in 2006 to monitor the health, safety and environmental issues associated with uranium mining and milling.

Uranium Watch: uraniumwatch.org



This article was originally published on August 29, 2009.