If You Live Near Salt Lake City, Kanab, or Escalante…

Please come to an Open House…about Cows????

One of the few ungrazed areas in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

One of the few ungrazed areas in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

How and where will cattle graze in the 1.8 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument during the coming decades?  It’s in part up to you. Though the Monument has existed for almost 20 years and is 96.4% open to cattle grazing, there has never been a grazing plan. But nowa first-ever grazing plan is in the works, and your  input is needed to help decide what cattle will be allowed to do in this special desert Monument in the coming decades.

If you live near Salt Lake City, Kanab, or Escalante, Boulder, Teasdale, Torrey, or Loa, please consider coming to one of three December open houses to talk with Grand Staircase managers (BLM) about the range of alternatives that are on the table for the upcoming grazing plan Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).


Dec. 2    Salt Lake City
Utah State Capitol Building, 350 North State Street, 5pm-8pm
Dec. 3    Kanab
Kane County Search and Rescue Facility (located beside the airport on South Highway 89A), 5pm-8pm
Dec. 4    Escalante 
Interagency Visitor Center, 755 West Main Street, 5pm-8pm


One grazing alternative (probably “Alternative C”) will be a conservation alternative.

At the open house, please tell the BLM:

  1. YES—analyze all 5 grazing alternatives.
  2. YES—finish the Draft EIS in 2015. Without a grazing plan for 20 years, the     Monument is like a busy intersection without traffic lights for decades– it’s just not working well at all.

Here’s how the three open houses fit into the grazing planning schedule:

Dec. 1 
BLM posts on their website 5 alternatives that might be analyzed in the EIS for a Monument cattle grazing plan.

Dec. 2-4 Public open houses in Salt Lake City, Kanab, and Escalante.

Dec. 8 
Grand Canyon Trust posts a summary chart comparing the 5 alternatives with information to help you craft your comments.

Jan. 19, 2015
Deadline for emailing your comments to the Monument about the range of 5 grazing alternatives.

Headcut, Hole-in-the-Rock Road: One reason the Monument needs a livestock plan.

Headcut, Hole-in-the-Rock Road: One reason the Monument needs a livestock plan.

Late 2015  
The Monument will release a Draft EIS that will analyze the environmental impacts of a selected range of cattle management alternatives. At that point your input will again be needed. Why? There is a lot of local resistance to making any changes at all to the current unsustainable levels of annual grazing.

Your comments are critical! All Monument species thank you for speaking out.

Questions? Contact maryobrien10@gmail.com

Posted in Grazing Reform, Plateau-wide Issues, Utah Issues | Comments Off

Can Art Fight Global Warming?

A special guest post by painter and illustrator Chloe Hedden.
Betty Jane. Oil on Museum Wrap Canvas. 2013. 30x30 inches

Betty Jane. Oil on Museum Wrap Canvas. 2013. 30×30 inches.

November 20-28, 2014 the Grand Canyon Trust presents an online art auction featuring 17 original oil paintings by accomplished painter and illustrator Chloe Hedden, with half the proceeds to benefit the Trust’s work to protect southeastern Utah from oil and tar sands drilling.

As I see the heart-breaking effects of climate change beginning to unfold all around me, I feel a great urgency to contribute in some way to making a change.  Beyond my vote, I don’t have much to add to the legal and political fight against global warming.  But, what I do have as an artist is my body of work. So, in the spirit of each of us giving our best, I decided to make my paintings available for this online auction and donate half of the profits to the fight against strip mining and burning Utah’s oil shale and tar sands—the world’s largest deposits of these dirty fuels.  I hope you will help make this gesture of mine a meaningful one by purchasing a painting or by following my example and discovering your own best way to join the cause.  Thank you!

The artist at work.About the Artist—I was born and raised in Utah’s wild red desert, but have had the great fortune to call many amazing places around the world my home. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, I paint large oils and illustrate children’s books. My first children’s book, The Illuminated Desert, with words by Terry Tempest Williams, won The Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for Best Children’s Book of 2008. My oil paintings are shown at Walker Fine Art in Denver, Colorado.  My work is featured in numerous public and private collections.

View the paintings: http://www.32auctions.com/chloe-notarsands

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Utah Issues | Comments Off

“Will this make us sick?” Radon Emissions & the Uranium Industry

A special guest post by Frankie Beesley, Citizen Advocacy Volunteer Coordinator, AmeriCorps
Monument Valley

En route to White Mesa.

The drive from Flagstaff to White Mesa, Utah takes you through reservation lands–flat expanses and high mesas, yellow cottonwood leaves peeking through the canyons—snaking through Monument Valley and redrock formations. Trust Energy Program director Anne Mariah Tapp and I took in the scenery when we hit the road late last month to attend a community meeting. The subject? The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed revisions to the National Emissions Standards for radon emissions from operating uranium mills – a regulation that applies to the White Mesa Uranium Mill, the only operating conventional uranium mill in the United States.  The EPA has proposed a revision that significantly weakens the existing standards and threatens public and environmental health across southeast Utah and communities in the region.  Of these, the small White Mesa community of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe is closest–only three miles from the White Mesa Mill.

We entered the gym at the White Mesa Community Center on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation not knowing exactly what to expect. How many people would come? Did we get the word out in time? Would members of the tribal council show up? In a community where subsistence hunting is common and the mill is one of the only employers, would we be welcome?

We set up our Power Point, laid out sign-up sheets, information on how to send a letter to the EPA, and a giant map showing toxic waste sites across the U.S. that ship their waste to the White Mesa Mill. Across from us was the gym’s scoreboard, a gift of Denison Mines Corporation, who sold the mill to its current owner, Energy Fuels. By 6 p.m. only about ten people had drifted in. Children horsed around, sliding on the gym’s waxy floor. But by the time we began the presentation at 6:30, over thirty people from local towns as well as surrounding areas like Moab, UT, and Cortez and Durango, CO were seated in the rows of fold-out chairs facing us. They included members of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, a family that works at the White Mesa Mill, concerned citizens from Bluff, Blanding, and Monticello, and representatives from the environmental department for the tribe.

Public meeting in White Mesa regarding EPA radon emissions rule

Concerned citizens from White Mesa, and the surrounding towns of Bluff, Blanding, and Monticello attended the meeting.

Anne Mariah, along with Sarah Fields of Uranium Watch , Jennifer Thurston of the Information Network for Responsible Mining, and Mike King of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Environmental Department, started off with a brief history of uranium mining across the Colorado Plateau before honing in on the White Mesa Mill and the proposed revisions to the radon regulation.  A brief explanation of radon followed.  The invisible, odorless, radioactive gas attaches to dust particles and is easily breathed in; it’s a known carcinogen.  Because it’s dangerous to human and environmental health, radon is regulated under the Clean Air Act as a hazardous air pollutant.  For the last few years, the White Mesa Mill has exceeded the emission standards for radon.  The sad part is that the EPA has acknowledged the violation, but has still decided to weaken the existing standards.

Mike King of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Environmental Department answers questions. Beside him: Sarah Fields of Uranium Watch.

Mike King of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Environmental Department answers questions. Beside him: Sarah Fields of Uranium Watch.

After hearing about the harm radon emissions can cause, one man, a tribe member living in White Mesa, wanted the straight facts:

“Does this or does this not cause cancer? If we hunt and fish in the nearby area and our game is drinking the water that is contaminated, will this affect our health?”

Probably, the panel said, but the man kept asking, “Will this make us sick?” Finally, he got a blunt “yes”.

In my opinion, the EPA should be strengthening radon emissions regulations, not weakening them. The public health of the people of White Mesa—those we met in the gym that night and hundreds of others—and the air they breathe are at risk.
The comment period on the new rule ended October 29th. The EPA is expected to issue a new rule sometime this spring.

Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on this and other related issues.

Posted in Energy, Native America Issues, Uranium, Utah Issues | Comments Off

“Oil Land in the Sky” Going Bust?

Could Fracking Be the Necessary Savior for an Oil Field adjacent to Canyonlands National Park?

Fidelity E&P prepares to drill for oil on Deadman Point outside Canyonlands.

Fidelity E&P prepares to drill for oil on Deadman Point outside Canyonlands. Photo: © Tim Peterson

Just outside Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district, oil has been a booming business since 2012 when Fidelity Exploration and Production brought in a gusher of an oil well. Fidelity built on their success by drilling more wells, and the resulting heavy truck traffic, pipeline construction, and proliferation of new drill pads on the doorstep of Canyonlands National Park and Deadhorse Point State Park has led some Moab locals to dub the area “Oil Land in the Sky.” For a time in 2012, Fidelity’s star well had the highest production in the continental United States at more than 1500 barrels per day, but with production declining dramatically, fracking the wells has apparently become Fidelity’s plan for maintaining profitability.

In a show of how quickly things can change in the volatile oil business, rosy reports of skyrocketing earnings and increasing production from Fidelity’s wells near Moab in February 2014 had been dashed by September, according to trade publication Natural Gas Intel Shale Daily: “I would say the results from the [new] wells [outside Canyonlands] were disappointing, and we realize we have to change our completion design to make those wells economical,” Fidelity CEO Kent Wells said.

The Paradox Basin, as the area where oil is found near Moab is known, represents a complex geology for oil production. Until Fidelity’s success in 2012, production in the area had been relatively weak. Deep salt beds made reliable production unpredictable, but Fidelity claimed to have cracked the code with their horizontal drilling methods, and their high production numbers seemed to prove it. On a field tour in 2013, a Fidelity representative who is no longer with the company told a group of stakeholders, the Trust among them, that the wells had not been hydraulically fractured (fracked) because salt deposits in the Paradox made the technique risky.

By September 2014, flagging production from both old and new well had changed Fidelity’s outlook according to Shale Daily: “We’ve been very fortunate [in this basin], we have never had to frack a well, which is kind of rare in today’s world. We have been able to use our natural completions, and get very good wells, but in the future I think we will need to make a shift to stimulate the wells to get the production we’re looking for.” Said Fidelity CEO Ken Wells, “Whether that is fracking or some other technique, we don’t know yet. We’ve been working on this for quite a while.”

Fidelity’s decision to frack the wells was confirmed by a filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission on November 3, 2014 : “Recently drilled wells have yielded lower than expected results and include tighter rock than the previous drilled high rate wells. As a result, in November the company will test-fracture stimulation a well for the first time in the basin.” [emphasis added]

On November 3, MDU Resources Group, Fidelity’s parent company, announced that the Fidelity Exploration and Production arm of MDU was for sale. On November 7, more details on new fracking outside Canyonlands were published in Shale Daily: “The first fracking [in the oil field] is set for next week (Nov. 10-14), but these are not big massive fracks that we have to do in other places like the Powder River Basin or the Bakken,” Wells said. “We’re looking forward to doing that, and I am sure we’ll learn something on the first one, and we’ll probably look to do a second one shortly after that.’”

Locals report spotting fracking equipment bound for Island in the Sky late last week. Moabites are concerned about the potential impacts to water resources in the area – the oil field sits above the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers and the territory feeds Courthouse Wash, which flows east then north into Arches National Park. Locals would like the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to study the potential impacts of fracking, but it appears the frack is already underway.

Adding to Fidelity’s operating costs and a liability on their leger, in 2013-14, the Bureau of Land Management required Fidelity to construct a costly and controversial natural gas gathering pipeline to capture natural gas produced at the oil wells instead of flaring (burning) it off at the well heads. Flaring not only wastes a non-renewable energy resource, it creates air quality problems. Some Moab locals are not satisfied with the as-yet-incomplete gas pipeline, citing construction quality and durability concerns in the popular recreation area of Big Flat, outside Canyonlands..

With most of Fidelity’s oil play located in part of the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument, we are left to wonder, is fracking oil wells in some of the most scenic redrock country in southeast Utah worth the potential risk to water and local communities? What will the company leave behind if and when their operation is sold and the oil runs dry? With flagging production and dim prospects, is the sacrifice of an internationally renowned scenic resource worth a few short years of oil production?  We’ll keep you informed as the situation develops.

Click here to sign the petition asking President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands.

Learn more:



Posted in Energy, Utah Issues | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Monumental Decision: Greater Canyonlands

Readers along the Wasatch Front and beyond were treated to a fine summary of public lands issues in this week’s Salt Lake City Weekly. Moab local Eric Trenbeath reports on Greater Canyonlands – the threats to the region, proposals to protect it, and how contentious and long-standing public lands issues in Utah’s redrock country might be solved in the coming years through congressional or presidential action. Enjoy: http://bit.ly/1ozdnXl

Environmentalists and recreationists warn that unless Obama designates Greater Canyonlands National Monument, state control and its love of oil will destroy Southern Utah

Posted in Utah Issues | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

A Hand Up, Not a Handout: USDA Grant Would Be Game-Changer for Navajo-Operated Family Farms

Leupp STAR School students show off fresh produce.

Leupp STAR School students show off fresh produce.

For nearly thirty years, North Leupp Family Farms, a sustainable community-based nonprofit located on the western edge of the Navajo reservation twenty-five miles east of Flagstaff, has worked to bring food security and economic development to this remote community.

Raise it or Lose it

Now, the farm has been awarded a competitive USDA grant that would allow it to explore growing beyond a subsistence operation to become a regional producer of milled blue corn. They’ve even found a buyer–Flagstaff-based manufacturer Local Alternative Inc. Jonathan Netzky, Local Alternative’s President, has agreed to buy tonnage of blue corn meal at a small premium, but first the farm must raise $13,134 in matching funds by December 1, 2014 or forfeit the grant.

“Milled blue corn sells for a much higher price than regular corn” says farmer and Chairman of the farm’s Board of Directors Stacey Jensen. “Right now, no one’s producing it in northern Arizona—it all has to be brought in from New Mexico.”

A Rez Model

Navajo men at work in the fields at North Leupp Family Farms.Using traditional farming practices, aided by solar power and drip irrigation, about thirty Navajo families tend small plots on the 100 acre farm, which also provides fresh vegetables to the Leupp STAR School, one of the first farm-to-school programs in Arizona. The farm is a model of sustainability and innovation on the Navajo reservation, where access to fresh produce is limited; the 18 million acre reservation (larger than Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Delaware combined) has only twelve supermarkets.

The farm would use the $26,268 USDA Value Added Grant funds to develop a business plan and feasibility study for 1) producing blue cornmeal from Navajo blue corn (a traditional crop also used in ceremonies); 2) building a solar-powered, portable cold­storage unit to reduce food waste and add value to harvested products; and 3) establishing a mobile market to increase its customer base.

“This is not just an opportunity for a new venture, it is an opportunity to utilize generations of traditional knowledge in farming and seasonal planning toward producing a product that is in demand in today’s business environment,” said mentor Jessica Stago of the Native American Business Incubator Network, who helped the farm apply for the USDA grant.

A Hand up rather than a Hand out

“Our farmers are feeding their families; if they have a little extra maybe they sell it at the side of the road, but a blue corn milling operation would take us to the next level, reducing the carbon footprint of the planet and bringing economic development to a population that needs a hand up rather than a hand out,” Jensen said. So far, Jensen and his collaborators have raised $4,620 in matching funds.

You Can Help

Leupp STAR  Navajo school child with cornThe Native American Business Incubator Network (NABIN), an initiative of the Grand Canyon Trust, has set up a donation page to help raise the remaining $8,514 cash ­match by the December 1, 2014 deadline. Click here to make your tax-deductible donation or send a check to: North Leupp Family Farm Donation c/o Grand Canyon Trust, 2601 N. Ft. Valley Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001.

“Our region is constantly bombarded with economic development proposals that don’t align with the values of our communities and the region,” said Natasha K. Hale, Native America Program Manager for the Grand Canyon Trust. “But the farm is in a unique position to create a business model that helps strengthen both the regional food market and the local economy. This is a great social entrepreneurship model the community can support.”

Help North Leupp Family Farms Grow.

Posted in Arizona Issues, Native America Issues | Comments Off