News on Utah Greater Canyonlands campaign


Filmmaker Debra Anderson on location in Canyonlands Photo by Laura Kamala

The Grand Canyon Trust is producing a film to advocate for protection of the spectacular Greater Canyonlands Region surrounding Canyonlands National Park; a wild, unbroken landscape that is currently threatened by oil and gas drilling, potash and uranium extraction, tar sands strip-mining and unregulated off-road vehicle impacts. We’ve partnered with filmmaker Debra Anderson of Red Rock Pictures LLC, producer of the Emmy Award-winning documentary film “Split Estate,” and we are currently in production. We are also at work on a national, multimedia campaign to bring attention to the region and gain public support for its protection.

When Canyonlands National Park was established by Congress in 1964, the original million acre boundary proposal, which followed the hydro-geologic basin of the area, had been whittled down in political wrangling to 257,400 acres. In 1971, the Horseshoe Canyon annex, also a compromise proposal, increased the park’s size to its current 337,540 acres. But the vast unprotected landscape surrounding the park has been viewed as a dumping ground or sacrifice zone for industrial and extractive uses instead of a national treasure rivaling the Grand Canyon. In 1980 the Department of Energy proposed siting a nuclear waste repository at the borderlands of the park and, the following year, exploration for tar sands development began west of the Canyonlands Basin. Six years of lobbying by the National Park Service, the State of Utah, and others opposing the proposed nuclear waste repository eventually eliminated the Davis Canyon site from consideration and inspired then Utah Congressman Wayne Owens to work with the National Parks Conservation Association to propose adding 500,000 to 750,000 acres to the park. At that time, as today, there was no support from the Utah congressional delegation to expand protective designations across these federal lands, which belong to all people of the United States. As a result, they remain open for industrial development.

Needles Overlook in Utah Photo by Laura Kamala

The Utah Land Sovereignty Act currently before Congress is emblematic of the Utah delegation’s position on federal lands. Introduced by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, the bill would remove the president’s ability to declare national monuments in Utah. This is just one of six bills before Congress that would gut the Antiquities Act. Utah’s junior senator Mike Lee, a tea party affiliate, has granted veto power over any U.S. legislative proposals dealing with federal land management in Utah to a state representative, Mike Noel, effectively ending any such initiatives at this time. Mr. Noel has stated, “I am for taking control of all federal lands in Utah and allowing the state of Utah and its citizens to control those lands, not some federal bureaucracy in D.C.”

Grand Canyon Trust is working to bring this magnificent landscape, and the impending threats to its integrity, directly to the attention of the Obama Administration. We are also working with coalition partners on a national media campaign to gain support from the American public for protection of this politically and environmentally imperiled landscape. Please contact Utah Program Director Laura Kamala if you would like to support this work.

The White House has a new petition site called “We the People” and a Greater Canyonlands petition is now posted there. If we get 5000 signatures in the next thirty days the White House will respond to the petition on the website.

Please sign and share with friends to help us bring attention to the Greater Canyonlands Region. Thank you!

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