November 2020 Newsletter Climate Action and a Look Back at 2020
In this Issue:
Pulling Back from the Edge: Time to Act on Climate!
2020 CSU Year in Review
Message from the Board
from Art Haines
vice-president, CSU Board of Directors
The work of conservation requires Conserve Southwest Utah (CSU) to manage the tensions between the immediate threats to our environment and the larger, longer term issues that represent future threats. We do this by staying focused on current critical challenges while at the same time keeping the big picture in focus.
In this issue of the Red Rock Advocate we explore Climate Change, an issue that will become increasingly important to all of us. CSU President Tom Butine has written an excellent article on the developments in Utah on climate change and the actions that individuals can take.
We also look back at CSU’s accomplishments during 2020. Board member Bryan Dixon has nicely summarized a year when our focus was on stopping the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Northern Corridor Highway. He also points to other areas where CSU has made real progress.
You will also find in this issue a recap of CSU’s revenue and expenses for the year.
Thank you for your support of CSU and the cause of conservation.
Pulling Back from the Edge: Time to Act on Climate Change!
by Tom Butine
Why is CSU interested in climate change? It’s simple: if we don’t take action soon, climate change will overrun all of our work to conserve and protect our water, lands and air.
The certainty of human-caused climate change was established over 50 years ago, and since then the scientific evidence has increased our knowledge of causes and effects (see videos by Utah’s Dr. Rob Davies). All major scientific organizations, universities, corporations and nations (except, currently, the US) support these basic facts:
Human activities are dramatically changing our climate, primarily by releasing carbon-based “green-house gases” from energy, transportation, and agriculture into the atmosphere.
If we don’t dramatically change our behavior in the near term – the next decade or so – we will be unable to stop extreme impacts to all life on Earth…including human life.
Americans are mostly responsible: we’ve emitted the most, we are the largest per capita emitter, and our consumer demand drive carbon emissions in other countries (like China).
Many places, including Utah, will become less desirable due to the heat. Many places will become uninhabitable.
In America and across the world, the poor will be hit hardest, because they’re unable to move.
Other countries and the vast majority of Americans and Utahns understand that climate change is real and dangerous. It cannot be addressed without American leadership, and that leadership cannot be exercised without a huge groundswell of support. The groundswell is building and we are making progress. The technology exists. Now is time for action. It will bring an explosion of economic development, and will change how we live.
Within Utah’s leadership, awareness is growing, planning is starting, but action is lagging and contradictory. In 2018, the Utah legislature passed a resolution on climate change. Two Washington County municipalities passed similar resolutions, but that small step was too much for others. In 2019, the Utah legislature charged the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute with creating The Utah Roadmap for climate action, published earlier this year. Yet Utah’s government still pushes fossil fuels, evidenced by the Uinta Railway project and Utah’s Energy Strategy. This summer, leaders of Utah’s business, government, faith, and civic institutions committed to implement the Utah Roadmap by signing the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact. As yet, no leaders from southwest Utah have signed.
Congressional action is close, and when America finally decides to act, other efforts around the world will be supercharged. The world is waiting.
Help our elected officials take action. Ask your mayor and state representative to support resolutions on climate/clean air, support the Utah Roadmap, and sign the Utah Clean Air Compact. Congress is on the verge. Utah’s congressional delegation is supportive but reluctant without your encouragement. Sign up for a monthly reminder and use the “Calling Tool”. Join the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, our partner in climate action. Find contact information for elected officials on CSU’s website.
This is a lot to ask as we’re buried in partisan rancor and reeling from a pandemic. Can’t we just get back to “normal”? Well, maybe we can take time to catch our breaths, but this next challenge cannot wait long. If we push this groundswell together, we can make all the difference.
The "Difference Makers", high school students from Logan, with Governor Herbert signing the 2018 Utah Climate Resolution, changing the state's direction on climate.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century American philosopher
2020 Year in Review: Focus on Water, Public Lands, Air/Climate, Smart Growth
by Bryan Dixon
2020 in a word? Busy! With complex proposals affecting water and public lands, pushed by Utah officials who have little imagination for a sustainable future. Despite the pandemic, you responded to our call for help, in spades.
The year started with two, simultaneous 30-day scoping periods, 1) Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and 2) Northern Corridor Highway (NCH) with the BLM. Together, we submitted thousands of scoping comments.
Both Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) came out in early June, with comments due in September. Then, 14,000 acres in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area burned in a wildfire started by teenagers setting off fireworks, killing many threatened Mojave desert tortoises outright and destroying habitat critical for survivors.
Both drafts showed that the agencies ignored the scoping comments. Neither DEIS provided adequate justification, nor did they analyze practical, effective, cost-efficient conservation alternatives. It was business as usual—biased justifications and alternatives creating unnecessary waste of our natural resources.
We wrote op-eds and letters to the editors of local and statewide newspapers. We also provided help in writing comments with position papers, a virtual online workshop (attended by more than 75 people), and a website that provided step-by-step help in crafting “substantive” comments. You sent in more than 14,000 comments on the LPP and more than 15,000 comments on the NCH.
After the comment periods, we learned we were not alone in our frustration. All of the other Colorado River Compact states sent a letter to the BOR objecting to the LPP and threatening legal action. The BOR had no choice but to put the DEIS on hold. New analyses are not expected until 2022.
The Final EIS on the NCH was released November 13th. The Trump administration is trying to rush the decision through before the inauguration. CSU and other groups opposing this destructive highway will be carefully watching developments after a formal decision on the Final EIS is announced.
On a positive front, using a grant from the Conservation Land Foundation, we’re engaging the Shivwits Band of the Southern Paiute Tribe to assess tribal lands for potential as Mojave desert tortoise relocation sites, a project known as “Pika'Aya TooVeep” (tortoise home). The tortoise holds a special place in Paiute culture, and we’re helping youthful interns from the tribe learn about science and wildlife protection on their own lands.
We’ve also organized volunteers to help with habitat remediation on the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area by planting native shrubs and protecting some of the young plants from herbivory until they grow big enough to survive.
Other activities included opposition to developments threatening Zion National Park and the proposed invasion by a road along the Southern Parkway in St. George into a BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
We continue to reach out to our community through weekly bulletins, quarterly newsletters, and an ever-updating website. We give presentations to local groups and agencies, and work with local, state and national news media to provide facts and editorial content.
Our membership and donations have increased dramatically. Thank you! We collaborate with more than 30 local and national groups, universities, local, state and federal agencies, and with local citizens and businesses on proposals that affect them.
It’s been a busy year! The challenges to a healthy natural environment are not likely to let up, and the annual Utah legislative session is just around the corner. So, stay tuned and participate where, when, and how you can. Our tent always has room.
*The diﬀerence between our 2020 income and expenses (shown in the charts above) forms the reserve for our planned 2021 campaigns, which include the critical phases of the LPP and NCH, continued and increased eﬀorts on water and public lands conservation, climate action and smart growth policies, and engaging students and our local Shivwits Band of Paiutes.
If you'd like to help and/or make a contribution please visit our website
(link below) to learn more,
or email Sarah Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org she will help match
your interests and skills to available volunteer opportunities.