Summer Happenings

Permanent Protest Vigil at Tar Sands Mine


In May,  tar sands resisters new and old gathered in the Book Cliffs of so-called Eastern Utah, at PR Springs, site of one of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States. This gathering marked nearly three years of observation, law suits, and direct action against the project, and signaled the beginning of a permanent protest vigil inside the boundaries of public lands leased for strip mining.

This permanent protest vigil provides interested people with an opportunity to tour an area slated for destruction and to participate in an experiential “field school” exploring topics such as direct action planning, consensus decision making, ecology, and public land management.

If you have a couple free days this summer, consider coming up for one of the themed campouts or contact us ( to find out how to find the campers any time.

People at the  one of the sites of extraction for tar sands in Utah, PR Spring.

People at the one of the sites of extraction for tar sands in Utah, PR Spring.

Family Campout at PR Spring

June 21-22 Solstice Weekend

Join us for an intergenerational campout, bringing together families to protect future generations from the Utah tar sands.

This is a unique opportunity to camp out in the scenic Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah with your family and friends and a group of people dedicated to climate justice.

Fun and informative activities will be planned throughout the weekend for adults and children of various ages.


Family Campout 2013 Photo Credit: Steve Liptay

Family Campout 2013 Photo Credit: Steve Liptay

Last year a group of families converged at PR Springs, site of the first proposed tar sands mine in the United States. While there, everyone from a 2-year-old, pre-teens, and Grandparents spent time exploring the land with local organizers, hiking, bird watching, water-testing, and, most importantly, learning about US Oil Sands’ project, and witnessing the devastation already being wrought by their 9-acre test site.

The School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), the State of Utah, and US Oil Sands would have us believe that the tar sands & oil shale projects moving forward in Eastern Utah are all for the benefit of the children. For, they would say, isn’t all the money from the Trust Lands being leased for extreme fossil fuel development going towards education? No. SITLA’s annual contribution to education accounts for less than 2 percent of the state’s $3 billion-plus education budget. With every parcel of stolen land leased for development and extraction, and every acre sacrificed, the more the land is devastated, the water put at risk and polluted, and the air filled with dust and toxins, the future of our children, and of future generations, becomes more and more bleak.

The short term gains from destroying the Book Cliffs, and turning Colorado Plateau into a sacrifice zone, is not worth the future of our children. Come see what’s at risk. Come take a stand.


Summer for Climate Justice Action Camp

July 15-22 on the Tavaputs Plateau

This July, students and other young people throughout the Western region of the U.S. will be converging to halt one of the first tar sands extraction operation in the U.S., located in Utah, and we want you to be one of them!  During the week, you will learn first-hand what’s at stake with tar sands development, cultivate a deeper analysis of existing power structures, and discover how you can be a catalyst in transitioning our energy system to a just and stable reality. The camp will culminate in direct action, and serve as a galvanizing platform for students and young people to build networks and leave equipped to take principled and concerted action on their campuses and in their communities.

Mass action shutting down preliminary construction at PR Spring in 2013. Photo Credit: Emily Wilson

Mass action shutting down preliminary construction at PR Spring in 2013. Photo Credit: Emily Wilson

Camp curriculum will be taught by experienced organizers from the Western region, primarily from grassroots organizations, Peaceful Uprising, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and CanyonCountry RisingTide. The camp curriculum and structure will honor a climate justice framework, viewing the climate crisis as the most widespread exacerbation of already-existing systems of exploitation, emphasizing the need to dismantle such systems, and delving into ways to do that.

For more information, visit You must apply to attend.

Questions? Email

If you’re interested in volunteering to help make this event possible please contact Sarah at We will need folks interested in participating in kitchen duties, logistics, travel coordination, food shopping, and set up.

Please consider donating (money or time) to us to help make these events possible! Check out our calendar for other upcoming events.

Citizen’s Meeting on Bishop Land Bill Process

The Canyonlands Watershed Council will be hosting a citizens meeting next Monday, May 5th, at the MARC concerning the County’s alternatives proposed for the Bishop lands bill process.

6:00 PM


The purpose of the meeting is to provide facts from an objective level on the potential effects of the proposals.

I will do my best NOT cater the information for either side of the political spectrum, but to present the facts and ask people to come to their own conclusions. Come, especially if you’re on on the fence. The information provided will be balanced and rational.

There is a tremendous amount of misinformation and hype going around from both liberals and conservatives alike. This meeting aims at cutting through all that.

You’ll have 2 days to draft and deliver letters to the Council after this meeting.

We hope to see you there.


Chris Baird
Executive Director

Canyonlands Watershed Council

Film Screening Tomorrow!


Spring Update

Science CampoutP4111094

The April Science Campout was a resounding success. We found a new spring in the area, visited the ranch at the base of the strip mine, and were presented with the new study on ground water by a team of scientist from the University of Utah that will hopefully help in legislation to protect the ground water in that area for the Ranchers and river runners who rely on it.

Public Hearing on County’s Alternatives to the Bishop Process

Thanks to the hundreds of people who showed up and to those of you who spoke to encourage the County Council to adopt a stronger alternative for protection of this area. The council will be accepting letters on the subject until May 2nd.

If you haven’t already done so, please send a letter to:cartoonmap

Grand County Council
125 E Center Street
Moab, UT 84532

Also send a copy of your letter to:
Fred Ferguson
Legislative Director, Rep. Rob Bishop
123 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Consider mentioning including protection of Forest Service wilderness (our aquifer), excluding the Book Cliffs highway connecting the tar sands mine to I-70 and a potential refinery in Green River, increasing the amount of wilderness protected in all the alternatives, and taking out the Antiquities Act exemption. Thanks!

Comments accepted on
A new oil refinery in Green River

When: Until May 2nd
Utah Division of Air Quality

Recently conservation groups appealed the state of
Utah’s approval of Emery Refining’s planned facility near Green River because it risked significant air pollution and violations of environmental law.
In response to the appeal, Emery redesigned the facility, and on March 25, 2014, the state issued a new “Intent to Approve.” The state is now seeking public input in writing by May 2nd, and also conducting a public hearing in Green River on April 30th. Your voice is needed now!

Emery Refining’s redesign, Utah’s Division of Air Quality’s analysis, and the state’s quick Intent to Approve combine to
cause us concern:

- The state is allowing Emery to build their newly designed refinery under the old, flawed permit. In effect, they’re
allowing Emery to construct a facility before environmental reviews are complete, and before final permitting;

- The state has not completed models of the facility’s hazardous air pollution and its environmental and human health impact;

- Based on independent expert review, the state’s initial impact models underestimate the refinery’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This new plan comes as Grand County officials are promoting an oil transportation corridor through Sego Canyon that would connect Green River to the oil, oil shale and tar sands deposits atop the Book Cliffs. Increasingly, the refinery appears to be part of a bigger scheme to industrialize Utah’s wildlands for high-carbon fossil fuel extraction.

Please take a moment to write the state and express your views about their refinery plans. And if you’re local, please consider speaking at the public hearing too:

Remember that the state’s deadline for public comment is May 2,
2014. You can send a letter to:

Alan D. Humpherys, Manager
New Source Review Section
Utah Division of Air Quality
P.O. Box 144820 * Salt Lake City, UT 84114- 4820

**The information on the hearing is from Tim Wagner at the Sierra Club

The PR Spring Tar Sands mine as of April 2014.

The PR Spring Tar Sands mine as of April 2014.







Public Hearing on Grand County’s proposals for the Bishop Process

Wednesday April 23rd
6:00 PM at the Grand Center (182 N. 500 W.)BookCliffTarSandsOilShale

Now is the time to have your voice heard! It’s very important that we all show up to this meeting to tell the County Council that none of their alternatives is good enough. It looks like the Council is catering to industry at the expense of residents health, well being, and against our wishes. Let’s show them who they are supposed to be representing!

In all three of the County’s proposal is an area set aside to build a highway through the Book Cliffs. Exercising our power as a county to stop this “Hydrocarbon Highway” from connecting tar sands mines to a refinery in Green River is crucial. This is our last legal opportunity to intervene in the extraction of the world’s dirtiest fuel, tar sands.

SUWA points out:
Unfortunately, even the best alternative (Alternative #3) proposed by the Working Committee would roll back environmental protection in Grand County.

Protects just over half (58%, or 484,446 acres) of the proposed wilderness in Grand County — and then riddles that “protected wilderness” with ORV routes.
Would punch a hole through the heart of the Book Cliffs — one of the largest remaining roadless areas in the lower 48 states — to build a “Hydrocarbon Highway” for fossil fuels extraction.

Leaves open to oil and gas drilling the entire viewshed east of Arches National Park, including the world-famous view from Delicate Arch, and allows oil and gas drilling and potash mining on the rim of Labyrinth Canyon (upstream from Spring Canyon).

Supports continued off-road vehicle abuse and offers zero concessions on ORV routes designated in the Bush-era BLM travel plan.

Fails to protect Moab’s watershed.

Prohibits the use of the Antiquities Act in Grand County — the same act that was used by three different presidents to protect what is now Arches National Park.

Alternatives 1 & 2 are even worse.

The Beehive Design Collective Presents: ¡Mesoamérica Resiste!

Come one! Come all! The Beehive Design Collective presents their new poster ¡Mesoamérica Resiste!

Join us 6:00 Friday May 9th
at the pavilion outside at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center (156 N 100)

The Beehive Design Collectivemesoamerica-resiste1 is a wildly motivated, all volunteer, activist artist collective that has gained international attention for their collaboratively produced graphics campaigns focusing on globalization, resource extraction, and stories of resistance. “Mesoamérica Resiste” is their most recent project, a culmination of 9 years of story gathering in Mesoamérica, research, and illustration. The intricate, double-sided image documents resistance to the top-down development plans and mega-infrastructure projects that literally pave the way for resource extraction and free trade. It highlights stories of cross-border grassroots social movements and collective action, especially organizing led by Indigenous peoples.

For more detailed information and images on this project we recommend checking out their website youtube video and Facebook event.


Tar Sands Spring Science Campout

Join us for a family friendly camp out in the Book Cliffs on the weekend of April 12th & 13th.

Rainbow over the Tar SandsWe encourage especially Scientist, students, and nature enthusiasts on this particular outing.

We will be hiking around area leased for tar sands mining, doing stream flow monitoring, water sampling,  bird and plant cataloging, and monitoring “progress” on the active mine and road. There will be discussions about strategic resistance and opportunities to network with folks from other areas in the region.

We will camp at PR Spring, a BLM campground on the Tavaputs Plateau **

Be prepared for high elevation camping and bring your own food. The weather is tumultuous this time of year, so be prepared for anything (snow, foot deep mud, wind, hail, or HEAT!)  There is a spring at the camp area. 4WD is necessary, though there are options to car pool with someone going up already.

**RSVP for detailed directions and carpooling options! email or call Sarah at 435 260 8557

The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands: Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Allies Confront Tar Sands and Oil Shale Road Development on the Colorado Plateau

As part of the Fearless Summer week of solidarity actions against extreme energy, Utah Tar Sands Resistance and allies confronted road construction crews on Seep Ridge Road, and expressed determination to stop both the road itself and what it is literally paving the way for–tar sands, oil shale and fracking across the Colorado River Basin (at an estimated cost of $3 million per mile).


Photo by Max Wilbert

Seep Ridge, formerly a small dirt road, is now becoming a site of immense devastation as areas of Uintah County are clear cut, leveled, and ultimately pave from just south of Ouray, Utah, to the Uintah/Grand county line atop the Book Cliffs, a distance of some 44.5 miles. Eventually, this road may connect to I-70, though development of the Grand County leg has not been approved and is already meeting with resistance.

Construction of this “Road To Nowhere” is destroying wildlife habitat, and the road itself, once complete, would facilitate the growth of a potential energy colony which would only serve to wreak more destruction of this already fragile ecosystem.

This action took place after a family campout, which gathered adults and children of various ages at the proposed site of the first tar sands mining in the United States–PR Springs, in the scenic Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah, on the Tavaputs Plateau.

UTSR was joined by members of Peaceful UprisingCanyon Country Rising TideDGR Great Basin, the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, and others.

Check out these amazing kids:


Photo by Max Wilbert

Photo by Max Wilbert
Photo by Max Wilbert

An Earth Day Ode to Greater Canyonlands

by Emily S.

The second annual Moab Earth Day Bazaar: an Ode to Greater Canyonlands was once again a great success. Organized by Canyon Country Rising Tide and SUWA, this year’s festivities brought hundreds of locals and visitors to Moab’s Swanny City Park to enjoy live music, art and craft vendors, food vendors, and many children’s activities. Local non-profits shared their visions with the community, with topics including wildlife rehabilitation, Utah tar sands mining, uranium mining and milling, oil and gas extraction and, of course, the continuing campaign for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. We’d like to thank all of the people who came and supported the event and look forward to the third annual Bazaar next year!


Traversing the Tavaputs Plateau



The air is thin up here at 8,000 feet. I’m sitting near the site of the first tar sands mine in the country, P.R. Springs. The sun’s strength diminishes as it approaches the western horizon–snow capped mountains behind layer after layer of high desert ridges.  Somewhere in those folds, the Green River tumbles though Desolation Canyon. I can hear a wild turkey gobble every now and again. The land continues to rise to the south. From that ridge I can make out the La Sals pointing me home, surrounded by miniature Fisher and Adobe Mesas. I could see a large crack in the rock that must be the almighty Colorado rushing through Horsetheif and Westwater. I could even make out the Abajos, Arches National Park, and Grand Junction lighting up for the evening. We saw 24 elk grazing on the ridge. Down below, between the Colorado River and Book Cliffs, is the Cisco desert and the I-70 corridor, fast becoming home to industrial development – evaporation ponds, a waste-water injection well, new home to the Atlas uranium tailings pile, a proposed nuclear power plant, a proposed tar sands refinery.

US Oil Sands test pit at PR Springs

US Oil Sands test pit at PR Springs

From up on top of the incredible Tavaputs Plateau, which sits upon an even greater Colorado Plateau, I am struck with how preposterous it seems that Uintah County is so removed from people’s realities in Grand County. From this vantage point, it is quite obvious that that all this destruction and pollution from fracking, oil, gas, and now tar sands and oil shale is just upstream and is wrapped in a grand plan that involves all of canyon country. My heart weighs heavy after this visit to the mine site. The buoyant notion that logical thinking leaves in me is slowly deflating. “It’s uneconomical, disastrous for the climate, technology is unproven, there’s not enough water”…Well, they’re paving the way quickly and surely.

This road construction stops right at the PR Springs tar sands mine

This road construction stops right at the PR Springs tar sands mine

The drive from the north was sickening. First Roosevelt and Vernal filled with fracking headquarters, brine mixing stations, chemical distributors, giant trucks toting gas and contaminated (or soon to be) water. Then, mile after mile of freshly paved highway through a freshly scarred landscape crisscrossed with pipelines and polka dotted with well pads. The road turned to grated dirt and signs of construction started to pop up. An empty bulldozer sat next to a newly blazed corridor through a hillside. Mile after mile of mangled old growth junipers and pinons lay dead on their sides. We passed small crews operating gigantic road eating machines. Why would they need a road over 100 feet wide? The four lanes lead right to PR Springs and the Red Leaf Resources oil shale operation. Are Uintah County tax payers paying for this? The upgrade of the high-speed, four-lane trucking route stops right at the county line. Are they anticipating that Grand County will continue the Book Cliffs highway and connect it to the planned energy infrastructure along I-70? Or are they content to truck everything to Salt Lake, already filled with industry’s toxic breath?

Seep Ridge Road Construction. Upgrading a dirt road to a four lane, high speed, trucking route.

Seep Ridge Road Construction. Upgrading a dirt road to a four lane, high speed, trucking route.

We hiked all over the drainage system just below the already huge tar sands “test pit.” The canyons are filled with elk trails, pinon, juniper, ponderosas, and Douglas Fir. Around all the seeps and springs we found groves of aspens and often abandon ranch structures. Water was flowing at some point in every drainage we checked.  US Oil Sands and the state engineer seem to agree that the PR Springs mine site has negligible ground water and thus water pollution cannot be a cause for concern. Getting baseline data for water quality in the area will be essential in this fight. A biologist accompanied us along the hike, counting and pointing out red tail hawks, flickers, chickadees, bluebirds, and starting an inventory of species.

Main Canyon, just below the tar sands test pit.

Main Canyon, just below the tar sands test pit.

We stumbled upon spots around the ridge that had been deforested already for various core samples and wells. In some places, the earth and vegetation had already been scraped off to expose the tar sands. They gray gritty cakes of tar and sand were hard in the cold spring air, very much like a crumbling parking lot buried just below the surface. P.R. Springs has some of the most accessible deposits.

Tar Sands Deposits at PR Springs

Tar Sands Deposits at PR Springs

Excitement and foreboding course through my veins. This fight is much bigger than stopping just one tar sands mine. It’s about also stopping oil shale, corporate manipulation of our public process, and the continued expansion of the extreme energy empire. We’re here, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing in strength. We believe a better way is possible and that the continued exploitation of these fossil fuels is destroying our ability to cope with the needed transition. Extreme energy extraction will no longer be tolerated. The costs are simply too high.

View of the drainage just below the test pit. If allowed to expand, US Oil sands would likely dump all of the "overburden" from mining into this canyon. Industry's term for this is "valley fill."

View of the drainage just below the test pit. If allowed to expand, US Oil sands would likely dump all of the “overburden” from mining into this canyon. Industry’s term for this is “valley fill.”

This tar sands mine was abandoned in 1983, unreclaimed. US Oil Sands has yet to pay their 1.6 million dollar reclamation bond and yet they are already deforesting and strip mining a test pit.

This tar sands mine was abandoned in 1983, unreclaimed. US Oil Sands has yet to pay their 1.6 million dollar reclamation bond and yet they are already deforesting and strip mining a different test pit.

On the Banks of the Green River where industry trucks come to fill up water and brine mix.

On the Banks of the Green River where industry trucks come to fill up water and brine mix.

Fracking Rig outside of Vernal

Fracking Rig outside of Vernal

The Tar Sands Triangle

Overlook in the "Tar Sands Triangle"Overlook in the “Tar Sands Triangle”

by Sarah S.

I just emerged from the windy, winding, wilderness that is referred to by industry as “the Tar Sands Triangle.” It’s a vast stretch of mesa tops bisected by steep, narrow canyon walls, only accessible by forty miles of washboard dirt roads after a barren stretch of highway. I was lucky enough to accompany a group of college students with the Wild Rockies Field Institute into the backcountry to give a lesson on unconventional fuels on the Colorado Plateau.

Historically this area was used by ranch families and was even a hangout for the notorious Wild Bunch when they were running from the law. Cattle, horses, pronghorn, and even wild burrows are scattered between the sand dunes, sage, and blackbrush. Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, mysterious Etta Place, Kid Curry, Elzy Lay, and the rest would herd stolen cattle up to these parts and corral them in tucked away pastures ringed with natural rock walls. They could see a posse coming from miles away because of the dust they’d kick up as they rode. In that time, the Wild Bunch would escape into the canyon maze and emerge 100s of miles away.  Recently this area was dubbed a “Region of Historical Significance,” which in the end will hopefully help protect it against the threat of tar sands mining.

Pronghorn in front of the Henry Mountains, the last explored mountain range in the lower 48.

Pronghorn in front of the Henry Mountains, the last explored mountain range in the lower 48.

The canyons cut steeply down, revealing layer after layer of ancient rock, exposing the past to our curious scrutiny. Navajo domes crown the canyon– peach, pink, ruddy. We followed a trail for a while that was hewn into this rock by ranchers or uranium prospectors. The kayenta layer emerged as we dropped. It’s composed of purplish slabs of fossilized mud from a shallow seashore gone by. Here one can sometimes find the detailed print of a dinosaur foot left on the ancient mud flats.

We hiked down to the canyon bottom where cottonwoods were just leafing out and smells of wet willow blew in spring gusts. It rained all day; there was lighting and thunder overhead. Hail came and went and then the sun shone in a blue sky right before it disappeared over the tall Wingate wall. It’s been dry this year, so the chilly moisture was welcome. As climate change progresses, it’s predicted that this area will become more arid with extremes in heat and drought.

Narrows in White Rim Sandstone. This is the layer that tar sands are found.

Narrows in White Rim Sandstone. This is the layer that tar sands are found.

The class was curious and engaged, they already knew about Alberta Tar Sands and they all believe in climate change. It was nice. Then we delved into details about oil shale and tar sands on the Colorado Plateau. Water use and industrialization of wild places were the main topics of discussion.  At some point one of the students stopped me, “Wait, the oil and gas industry doesn’t have to abide by the Safe Drinking Water Act?” No siree, thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, injection wells for fracking aren’t protected by this act.

It was good to be in that Desert. I hiked out the six miles alone the next day. I was reminded that I come from this place. I don’t own it, no one does, but it has shaped me none-the-less. It’s wild, untamed, inaccessible, un-ownable. It’s fierce, nurturing, resilient and fragile all at once. I am from the Colorado Plateau and if I don’t rise up to protect it, who will? As Edward Abbey nicely put it, “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” I will not let vast expanses of this wild desert be destroyed, the climate irreparably altered, and our communities bombarded with boom-town trouble for the prosperity of the oil empire. We can do better, and we will.

Rain on the Navajo slickrock.

Rain on the Navajo slickrock.

Wild Rockies Field Institute class hiking into the Dirty Devil River.

Wild Rockies Field Institute class hiking into the Dirty Devil River.


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