For the Wild: NEPA update, BLM drilling along Kokopelli Trail & Bears Ears & Grand Staircase Escalante Final Management Plans
NEPA Update: Submit a comment
By March 10th, submit your comments here on proposed changes to NEPA, so that agencies continue to consider public input and cumulative environmental impacts.
Background from our January blog:
Early this year, the Trump Administration announced its intention to change the rules guiding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of our bedrock environmental laws. Since it was passed as law 50 years ago, NEPA has mandated that the federal government review the potential environmental impacts of proposed decisions and projects before proceeding. NEPA ensures the federal government is transparent with the public about its plans and decisions, is methodical when it researches the consequences, alternatives, and methods of implementing a project, and is mindful of the public’s input into the decision making process.
By changing the rules, the Trump Administration aims to expedite development on public lands. This objective will be accomplished by limiting public input opportunity, reducing environmental analyses, and eliminating consideration of projects’ ramifications on future climate change. Fortunately, the Trump Administration is required to accept public input before making these changes. We have until March 10 to voice our request to uphold NEPA’s foundational regulations and preserve our ability to be part of a public review process
NEPA regulations apply to federal and federally funded projects, including transportation, energy, and water infrastructure, and to decisions about the management of public lands. These management decisions include authorization and leasing of resource extraction, grazing, and logging, as well as recreation and trail infrastructure projects. NEPA impacts bikepackers by regulating development on federal land to minimize negative impacts on local communities and the environment. Through the processes required by NEPA, landscapes are protected from hasty, unresearched development or disruption. At the same time, NEPA and its regulations were written some time ago, and they can be responsible for long, drawn out timelines for all projects, including recreation and trail infrastructure projects.
The recently-stated intention of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), an executive agency within the White House, is to reform the NEPA regulations to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and timeliness of development projects. We believe that while these objectives are worthwhile in many instances, there are critical elements of NEPA that must be protected, because they uphold protections for the health of our environment and our communities. If you would like to see NEPA regulations that ensure public input, thorough, scientifically supported environmental impact statements, and analyses that consider a project’s potential impact on the climate , we urge you to write a short letter to the CEQ sharing your views. Here are some messages you could include:
Comments must be submitted on or by March 10.
You may submit comments via any of the following methods:
Pictured: Bikepacking south of Green River, Utah in the Mancos shale, backed by the cliffs of the Mesa Verde Group. These rock layers were deposited between 64 and 144 million years ago in shallow water coastal environments. These rock formations are known for their oil and gas deposits. And today, the USGS estimates approximately 24% of United States greenhouse gas emissions are related to energy development on public lands.
BLM tried to auction off parcels in Sand Flats Recreation Area outside Moab, UT for drilling: the victory and elephant in the room.
In late January the BLM shared plans to auction parcels of public land across Utah for energy development. Two of these parcels fell within the Sand Flats Recreation Area just outside Moab, Utah and would have impacted the iconic Slickrock Trail, as well as rock climbing and camping in Muleshoe Canyon. The Kokopelli Trail, a classic bikepacking route, starts at the Slickrock Trailhead. Businesses that rely on the recreation economy of tourism linked to the Slickrock Trail and Muleshoe canyon, plus thousands of individuals, flooded the BLM with opposition to the leasing of those parcels even before any public comment period about the plan opened up. Grand County and Moab officials and the Utah Governor unanimously rejected the proposed parcel leases voicing concern about visitor experience and impacts on the local water supply. These reactions demonstrate a broad recognition of the incompatibility of energy leasing and quality recreation experiences.
In response to the flood of opposition to drilling on these popular and iconic landscapes, the BLM withdrew the two parcels closest to the Slickrock Trail from the upcoming oil and gas lease sales. This is a victory for the public process, however the root of the issue remains present. The Trump Administration is pushing an energy development agenda that is leasing public lands for drilling. Drilling on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and the Trump Administration is offering public lands for energy development leases on an unprecedented 461 million acres of public land and waters. How America’s public lands are auctioned off to drilling and the range of related impacts must be addressed for the future of the American West.
Pictured: Bikepacking through Bears Ears. This landscape was designated a National Monument in 2016 for its significant cultural and archeological resources. The Trump Administration has dramatically reduced the protections granted by National Monument designation.
Final Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument management plans released and face legal scrutiny.
On February 6th the Bureau of Land Management released its final management plans to open Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to new mining, drilling, grazing, and logging. The reduction of these National Monuments is currently in litigation challenging Trump's unprecedented and illegal erasure of National Monument protection, and the new management plans fail to protect the monument objects as is required by the National Monument designation requires.
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