‘Keep It in the Ground’ Victory: BLM Utah Halts Oil and Gas Lease Sale

Celebratory Rally in front of the BLM offices in Salt Lake City.

Celebratory Rally in front of the BLM offices in Salt Lake City.

November 17th, 2015
SALT LAKE CITY— Elders and climate activists are celebrating today as the Bureau of Land Management made a last-minute decision to halt an oil and gas lease sale owing to a “high level of public interest.”

Dozens of citizens were planning to protest the auction on Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City.  Instead, they will now celebrate the Bureau’s decision to postpone the auction of 73,000 acres of publicly owned oil and gas in Utah — which harbor an estimated 1.6 – 6.6 million tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. The planned protest had been led by elders calling on the BLM to act to prevent catastrophic climate change and to ensure a livable future for generations to come.

The victory is the latest from a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans – a step that would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere. Similar “Keep it in the Ground” protests were held in Colorado and Wyoming in recent weeks and more are planned for upcoming lease sales in Reno, Nev., and Washington, D.C.

A number of national and local groups are coming together to demand that fossil fuels stay in the ground, including ‘Elders Rising’ – a group of seniors concerned for their children and grandchildren in an age when catastrophic climate change is destroying the possibility of a livable future. Elders Rising is joined by national groups Rainforest Action Network, the Center for Biological Development, the Women’s Congress for Future Generations, Canyon Country Rising Tide, and WildEarth Guardians in calling for inter-generational justice and an end to fossil fuel development.


Kathy Albury, Elders Rising

“It has been said that when the elders rise up, it is a real crisis.  Well, here in Salt Lake City the elders only needed to talk about rising to protest the leasing of our public lands to fossil fuel companies, and thousands of acres have been saved from destruction. We are grateful for the postponement of this auction and are making plans to be at the rescheduled auction.  We will be bidding for the preservation of our wild areas to slow the progress of climate change and provide a livable future for our children and grandchildren.”

Lauren Wood, Canyon Country Rising Tide

“The BLM’s cancellation of the lease sale proves the strength of our movement. The BLM is learning that the people of Utah won’t allow our public lands to be sold off to the fossil fuel industry. We’ve seen the destruction they cause first-hand, and our movement will keep growing until we see a just transition from fossil fuels for all of Utah’s communities, urban and rural.”

Kaitlin Butler, Women’s Congress for Future Generations

“Community groups are standing up and withdrawing their consent to a toxic future. A powerful ethic is (re)emerging based not only on the right to a healthy environment, but also on the responsibility to act on behalf of the planet and future generations who are inheriting our debts. Currently, government protects private property and financial capital, instead of protecting the commons — the air, land, water, cultural heritage – the things we all share.”

Valerie Love, Center for Biological Diversity

“The BLM knows the public is watching and that they don’t want our lands and our climate auctioned off to the highest bidder,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We forced the BLM to stop this lease sale, and we won’t rest until all new fossil fuel lease sales on America’s public lands are ended.”

Ruth Breech, Rainforest Action Network:

“Thanks to the people powered resistance, BLM is backing off and reassessing the corporate giveaway of our public lands. It is going to be community leaders stepping up in Utah and all over the country that will help end the fossil fuel leasing of America’s most precious resources. A delay on this lease sale in Utah means less public lands doomed to industrialization and a glimmer of hope to break the corporate stronghold on our future.”
Tim Ream, WildEarth Guardians

“The decision by the Obama Administration to cancel today’s Utah oil and gas lease sale is a possible turning point. Earlier this year the Utah BLM office was denying that climate change was even happening. Today, they heard the huge uproar of people across the U.S. and responded in a way we can all be proud of. If we all push hard enough this next year, the end of federal coal, oil, and gas leasing might be just around the corner.”


The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public lands like national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges that make up about a third of the U.S. land area — and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard. These places and fossil fuels are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. An August report by EcoShift consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry — an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

More than 400 organizations and leaders in September called on President Obama to end federal fossil fuel leasing. They included: Bill McKibben, Winona LaDuke, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dr. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Michael Mann, Tim DeChristopher, Dr. Stuart Pimm, Dr. Michael Soule, United Auto Workers Union, Unitarian Universalist Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Protect Our Winters, 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, REDOIL, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Waterkeeper Alliance, WildEarth Guardians and hundreds of others.

Earlier this month Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (D-Vt.) and others introduced legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama cancelled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Oil Shale Conference Attendees get Rude Awakening to the End of Fossil Fuels

October 5th, 2015

Blazing fire barrels and singing disruptions by Canyon Country Rising Tide (CCRT) and Utah Tar Sands Resistance (USTR) welcomed attendees to the 35th annual Oil Shale Symposium this morning, sending a clear message that extreme energy development is unwanted, unsustainable, and driving climate chaos.

CCRT activists, looking the part of oil shale developers, snuck into proceedings and interrupted plenary speaker Laura Nelson, energy advisor to governor Herbert and former Vice President of Red Leaf Resources. Disruptors pointing to the revolving door between industry and government and stated that oil shale development spells game over for a safe climate for all.

USTR members gathered around a fire barrel and symbolically burned money and diplomas, signaling that investment in oil shale and tar sands is not only wasted money, but also offers no certain job prospects in a turbulent extreme energy market. Oil shale and tar sands are dirty fossil fuels that strip the land beyond recognition. These fuels are extreme polluters in that they 1) Perpetuate climate change because they require massive amounts of energy to produce, 2) Require tremendous amounts of water, 3) Strip mine vast areas of land whose ecosystems will not return for millennia, and 4) Massively impact the public health of nearby communities via air and water contamination. The State of Utah subsidizes extreme fossil fuels via projects such as the $3-million-per-mile Seep Ridge Road, which leads to tar sands and oil shale strip mines in the Book Cliffs and received over $54million in government subsidies. Business-people turned government employees such as plenary speaker Laura Nelson exemplify the scandalous revolving door that exists between oil and government.

UTSR campaigner Raphael Cordray says: “Oil shale development is dirty, risky, and needs to be ended immediately if we want to see a livable future free of catastrophic climate change. Companies like Red Leaf are playing dice with the climate and investor money.” CCRT campaigner Bradley DeHerrera says: “The shameless revolving door between industry and government is drowning out the voices of ordinary people. Today, we took the mic from industry-rep turned government advisor Laura Nelson to say that we do not want oil shale and other extreme fossil fuels in Utah, or anywhere else.”

Fueling Climate Chaos: Government Board Pours Millions into Industry Coffers


October 1st, 2015

Salt Lake City, UT: Today, Community Impact Board (CIB) members were greeted by banners and signs from climate justice group Canyon Country Rising Tide (CCRT), who was present at this month’s meeting to protest the flagrant use of public money for private companies that are fueling climate change.

The CIB, who claims its role is to alleviate communities impacted by fossil fuel development, allocated $53 million for the construction of a coal export terminal in Oakland, CA in April, in a brazen move to funnel public money into industry coffers. The Board is set to strike again – this time funnelling another $1.35 million for a power line project from Green River into an extraction zone scarred with drilling rigs and mines. While the Board has hitherto been shrouded in bureaucratic anonymity, these recent misallocations of royalties intended for communities has put a magnifying glass onto the CIB and their dirty-secrets.

Dirty, above all, is the right word for the type of development the CIB has fostered: the export terminal in Oakland stands to revitalize the coal industry that is pushing the world further towards climate chaos, while CIB-funded projects such as Seep Ridge Road ($54 million in CIB loans and grants) have catalysed the expansion of extreme fossil fuels oil shale and tar sands in Utah. CCRT asserts that with the increasing economic instability of coal and the looming realities of climate change, the State of Utah needs a serious overhaul of how public money is allocated.

CCRT campaigner Kate Savage asks: “Why are we continuing to prop up a dying industry causing some of the biggest problems we face, when the state could be using these funds to transition our communities towards a renewable energy future? What rural communities in Utah need are secure, healthy and abundant jobs they can count on, not pie-in-the-sky export-terminals.”

CCRT campaigner Sarah Stock says: “There is a revolving door between the CIB and industry, and present and former board members such as Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee and Transportation Commissioner Jeff Holt stand to profit greatly while the people they represent lose out. It’s time to put people before profits, and start thinking about what will be beneficial for Utah in the long run.”


Thoughts After a Recent Trip to the Tar Sands

Recent expansion of the PR Spring tar sands mine.

by Sarah Stock

I feel powerless. I feel beaten down. I hear heavy machinery in my sleep. I see torn up earth when I close my eyes. Piles of mangled trees, still green from the life they just had, pulled up and pushed down into heaps at the bottom of a strip mine by the force of mindless greed that fuels the destruction of this earth. I see a tunnel bore into the side of the earth, oozing out a slow stream of black sticky tar, the remnants of ancient life that when burned unleash toxins and greenhouse gases that are dooming the world that I know now. Migratory birds that mark the seasons slowly stop coming back. I see a buck in the aspens and then notice that he has a large circular hairless growth on his side. When I swim in my river, the water that’s always brought me a deep calm, awe, and connection to the life force, I now wonder what is in it. I think of the fracking upstream. I think of the tailings ponds and impoundments of “waste water.” As if water isn’t essential for life, sacred.

I want my innocence back. But it is gone because I chose to open my eyes and my mind. It is gone because I was raised to ask questions. It is gone because my love of nature led me to study ecology and I learned that every single ecosystem on Earth is gasping for life in a rapidly changing and poisonous world. It is gone because I listen to my friends on the reservation when they talk about what colonization has done to their home and to their culture. It is gone because my parents taught me to look into the face of grief and acknowledge it. And now I want to look away, but I can’t because for some reason, through my tears, I still dream of a day when everyone cares enough to step out of the rushing stream that is the American Dream and stop working, so they can start feeling, so they can start daring to work together to make some deep changes, changes at every level. I can’t do it alone. It’s the same rugged individualism, the self sufficiency, the fear of others that drove my ancestors to the far reaches of civilization that stands in our way. It’s extraction, mindless consumption, single people in big houses, industrial agriculture, the endless search for profit and “growth,” the blind faith in an economy that only grows because it devours diversity, whether we’re talking about human cultures or species.

The hurdle I come up against again and again is our unwillingness to do the hard work of working together, of depending on one another. We have a tough job ahead. We must create something that doesn’t yet exist, we must find a new way of doing things that teases out the good from the past and uses imagination to transform the bad into a future that is better than the one being written by the fossil fuel empire. This won’t be done by a handful of non-profits, the president, or by new market mechanisms to curb green house gases. It will be done by people, using their strengths and their work to transform our relationship to the earth and to each other everyday. It will be done by regular people, getting in the way, disrupting business as usual, loosing their fear and reclaiming their power. These things are possible. Read some books, stay involved, change your life, grieve with me, and find strength in the power that we have when we organize.

On site processing facility in rapid construction phase.

On site processing facility in rapid construction phase.

Upcoming Earth Day Events!

Earth Day! Every Day!
Protect Our Rivers, Watershed, Health & Environment

WATER IS LIFE – An Earth Day Discussion and Dinner
6  PM At the MARC
(Moab Arts & Recreation Center, 111 E 100 N, Moab, UT)

An Earth Day discussion with tribal leaders, Elders, and community organizers confronting dirty energy production in the Colorado River Watershed. We will provide a free dinner.

Earth Day Celebration & Parade

11 AM @  at the Multicultural Center (156 N. 100 W.)
Walk with us for protection of the Colorado River Watershed. Rally starts at 11 am featuring Colorado River Indian Tribes and White Mesa Ute Community. We will parade around town shortly after with signs, banners, music, and an accompaniment of giant animal puppets.
Sponsoring Groups: Living Rivers, Uranium Watch, Greenaction, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Indigenous Action, White Mesa Concerned Citizens, La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle, Canyon Country Rising Tide, Peaceful Uprising, Sierra Club Glen Canyon Group

Art in Action!

In March there is an exciting opportunity for creative art in action. We will be constructing beautiful, wearable, giant puppets over the course of four weeks. There are millions of creative fun activist applications for these skills. Come one! Come all! Come even if you can’t make every single workshop.

What: Four Workshop Series on making giant puppets
When: Monday Evenings from 5:00-8:00
     March 9, 16, 23, 30
Where: Third Space Moab (225 S 400 E) The room behind the barbershop, around the side.
This art workshop is FREE! It is sponsored by CHEEAP Art.


Current Oil and Gas Lease in Grand and San Juan Counties

GrandCo_CurrentOandGLeases 10-8-14
41.7% of public lands in Grand Co (BLM, USFS and SITLA) are currently leased for O&G development
86% of SITLA lands in Grand Co. are currently leased for O&G
32.6% of BLM/USFS lands are currently leased for O&G development [note that BLM administers O&G leasing on Forest Service land)


From the Banks to the Bulldozers: Together and Everywhere We Rise Up For Climate Justice


Utah Tar Sands Resistance Shows Solidarity with Flood Wall Street and the People’s Climate March

This past weekend, people from various parts of Eastern Utah who are organizing to stop tar sands and oilshale development in the region came together to demonstrate their solidarity with Flood Wall Street and the People’s Climate March in New York City. The group, consisting of Uintah Basin oilfield residents, Moab community members living downstream from the proposed tar sands mine, and a handful of other folks from Utah and Colorado, marched to the site of the first commercial tar sands mine in the US, located at PR Spring on the Tavaputs Plateau. As the international movement for climate justice continues to grow, and as hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to challenge the logic of unchecked industrial development and fossil fuels extraction, people on the front lines, like those in Eastern Utah, are strategizing, networking, and taking bold direct actions to defend their communities from the profit-driven belligerence of the oil and gas industry.

Get involved this fall!

Film Screening: Our Canyonlands
Friday Sept. 12th
8:30 pm at Star Hall (159 E. Center St. Moab)


Join us for a reading on wilderness by Terry Tempest Williams and a special film screening of Our Canyonlands, a film by Justin Clifton in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust, to be followed by a panel discussion with GCT Executive Director Bill Hedden, former Canyonlands National Park Superintendent Walt Dabney, and our own Emily Stock of Canyon Country Rising Tide.

Watch the trailer! Invite friends to the event!

County to hold “Public Forum” on Seven County Infrastructure Coalition
Wednesday, Sept. 17th
6:00 pm at the Grand Center (182 N. 500 W. Moab)

From the Moab Sun News:
Grand County will conduct a public forum on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Main Hall of the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West concerning the “Interlocal Cooperation Agreement Establishing the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition.”

The purpose of the forum, according to the county, is to share information and answer questions regarding the coalition and to more fully discuss the short- and long-term advantages and disadvantages of the county’s potential membership. read more

Film Screening: Last Rush for the Wild West – Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the American Frontier
Friday, Sept. 19th
7:30 at Star Hall (159 E. Center St. Moab)whiteguysonmine

Join us at the International Film Festival in Moab for the debut of this new film. The film exposes how impending tar sands and oil shale mining would destroy massive landscapes in Utah and put the already imperiled Colorado River Watershed at risk. It would jeopardize drinking water quality and quantity for thirty-six million people downstream. It would increase air pollution in Salt Lake City, where air quality is already the worst in the Nation. Get tickets and see the trailer here.


Fall Campout in the Bookcliffs
Saturday and Sunday, the 20th & 21st

Join CCRT, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, and folks from Vernal and Grand Junction for a weekend of stories, camping, and connecting with the land near the active tar sands mine in the Book Cliffs.    This will be a time for folks from the Uintah Basin, Moab, Grand Junction, and other surrounding areas to meet, visit the land, and share stories about regional struggles.

Fall-CampoutThere will be fireside chats featuring stories about important regional movements such as the nuclear test site protests and past efforts to halt tar sands mining on the Colorado Plateau. We’ll also have bird watching, animal tracking, and plant identification walks as we get to know the land better, and we’ll talk about the indigenous history of the Tavaputs Plateau.

The trip up there takes about three hours. Dinners provided. Email us to see about car pooling and to get directions to the camp site.

National Environmental Groups Stand With 21 Arrested Utah Land Defenders

In July, twenty-one people were arrested while engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in protest of a controversial proposed tar sands mine in northeastern Utah, which would threaten local land and water, as well as contributing to the global climate crisis. National environmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the protesters. The protest was the culmination of a week long Climate Justice Summer Action Camp organized by students and young people from around the country (Utah included!).

“This could be the first large-scale tar sands strip mining in the Unites States, and this filthy industry threatens our air, water and wildlife,” said Valerie Love, No Tar Sands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was one of the 21 arrested at the site.  “We staged our protest on behalf of the millions of people who will be affected by this dirty fossil fuel mining. Over 40 million people and many wildlife species depend on this watershed. We need to say no to tar sands mining.”

SONY DSCRainforest Action Network stands in solidarity with the Utah anti-tar sands protestors whose commitment to protecting our air, water and climate—at the expense of their own freedom—is inspiring,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “Our movement is already working hard to prevent the Keystone XL from delivering tar sands oil across our borders; we can’t allow the practice itself to be imported to our cherished wild places. We applaud the local Utah campaigners for fighting to stop the first-ever tar sands mine in the United States.”

“Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. By shining a spotlight on these dangerous projects, protestors in Utah are doing the world a service–they deserve our support, not jail time. If the government won’t act to keep tar sands in the ground, then the people will. The power of nonviolent direct action has helped block tar sands pipelines and mines from Nebraska to Maine to Alberta. This resistance is strategic, it’s effective, and it’s ultimately going to carry the day,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave people in Utah who are risking themselves to protect us all,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, of Friends of the Earth. “We’ve seen from Canada that tar sands production is incompatible with environmental sustainability, land rights, and the public health.”

PR Spring Test pit on bottom with newly cleared area for mining above. Photo courtesy of Chris Baird

PR Spring Test pit on bottom with newly cleared area for mining above. Photo courtesy of Chris Baird

“Mining tar sands in Utah would be disastrous for local communities and the water, and would be a major setback for the country’s efforts to stop climate change,” said Kendall Mackey, National Tar Sands Organizer for Energy Action Coalition. “Youth activists across the country stand with those opposing tar sands mining in Utah and stand ready to use our political and financial power to stop it.”

“Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on the planet.  We’ve seen the destruction being caused by tar sands everywhere–from the strip mines in Canada to the ruptured pipelines that dump tar sands crude into American waterways and neighborhoods,” said Marion Klaus, a Sierra Club volunteer leader who lives in Utah. “The Sierra Club stands with citizens everywhere who are fighting dirty fossil fuels and getting to work creating the clean energy prosperity this country needs.”

“The Utah 21 are not alone.  These brave and principled nonviolent activists are only the most recent to take their turns on the front lines against extreme energy extraction and for a safe climate and clean energy future. Many have preceded them and more will surely follow.  Our movement is already winning as we have effectively limited tar sands production by blocking its export out of North America.  The oil industry and the Obama and Harper governments should expect more protests, marches, and civil disobedience until energy policy is brought in line with what climate science demands – anything less is climate denial which we, and activists around the country, will not tolerate” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International.

“Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the brave activists who have put their freedom on the line to prevent the construction of the first-ever US tar sands mine. We can’t hope to solve the climate crisis if we continue to extract and burn the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In the face of devastating droughts, floods, and fires, non-violent direct action is a necessary tool to confront injustices where governments and corporations have failed to act,” said Gabriel Wisniewski of Greenpeace.



Request for Sheepherders and Human Rights Observers on Black Mesa

unnamedFor four decades these communities have fought to stop the U.S government and Peabody Energy Company’s exploitation of their homelands and communities. Today families remain, steadfastly resisting the mine, colonialism, and forced relocation. Families’ resistance to forced relocation puts them on the front lines of the struggle against resource colonialism in the form of large-scale coal mining.

In the face of colonial laws that undermine sovereign economies and relocation laws that seek to prevent younger generations from living with their parents and grandparents, elders request additional support. You are being invited to the resistance communities’ lands and homes, to assist in daily chores tending livestock and the homesite, and to act as a human rights observer. In this last month, families have gotten letters and visits from government authorities threatening livestock impoundments and herd reductions. As livestock are at the center of traditional life and economy, people are asking for support in maintaining their herds. Your presence as a human rights observer can help deter impoundments. While extended family provides the most consistent and crucial support for their elders, outside supporters are asked to herd sheep so families can more easily go to meetings, medical appointments, organize, weave, visit family…

Come for several weeks, to a month, or longer if you can. Support is appreciated all year round and especially wanted right now in the face of impoundments.

By choosing to offer direct on-land support, you honor not only these elders, but the dedication of their extended families, and the continued legacy of resistance.

Community members are specifically requesting local Dineh youth’s involvement. BMIS will work to prioritize local youth’s participation by providing travel stipends and supplies. Please consider donating to support this work.

Read about the BMIS collective here.  BMIS can assist you in the essential process of being self-sufficient on the land. We are happy to speak with you over the phone or email and we offer important online resources like the Cultural Sensitivity & Preparedness Guidebook, as well as a wealth of archives documenting the resistance, all found on our website. We ask volunteers to read the guidebook and register with BMIS to ensure the safety of supporters and as well as families.

People’s Climate March and People’s Climate Justice Summit

New York City – September 17th – 24th

On September 23rd, political and corporate leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York City for the Climate Summit 2014. This summit represents yet another step towards the corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations, and the privatization of land, water and air resources under the guise of a global climate compact.

OPC-frontpage_ittakesroots-600x600From Mesa to Mountaintop, from Hood to Holler – join us as we meet the scale and urgency of the crisis by standing in solidarity with all frontlines of resistance and resilience around the world, and taking non-violent direct action against the corporations driving the extractive economy. We call on our allies to:

  • Join CCRT, Rising Tide North America, and the Climate Justice Alliance in the streets of NYC for a week of creative non-violent actions for Climate Justice
  • Organize a delegation to join the People’s Climate March & People’s Climate Justice Summit in NYC
  • Organize a creative action in your home community that highlights local solutions to climate change

Our demands of local, national and international decision-makers are simple: Support us in building Just Transition pathways away from the “dig, burn, dump” economy, and towards “local, living economies” where communities and workers are in charge! Join us in solidarity – in the streets of New York City, in your own community, and around the world!


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