Archive for the ‘development’ Category

(Don’t miss the coverage of last year’s event from Unicorn Riot!)

“The whole earth is in jail and we’re plotting this incredible jailbreak.”

Online fundraiser live!

We are very happy to announce that, for the 8th year running, the Wild Roots Feral Futures (WRFF) eco-defense, direct action, and rewilding encampment will take place in the forests of Southwest Colorado this coming June 18-26, 2016 (exact location to be announced). WRFF is an informal, completely free and non-commercial, and loosely organized camp-out operating on (less than a) shoe-string budget, formed entirely off of donated, scavenged, or liberated supplies and sustained through 100% volunteer effort. Though we foster a collective communality and pool resources, we also encourage general self-sufficiency, which lightens the burden on communal supplies, and which we find to be the very source and foundation of true mutual sharing and abundance.

We would like to begin by acknowledging that Wild Roots Feral Futures takes place on occupied/stolen indigenous territory, primarily of the Nuutsiu (occasionally spelled Nuciu or Nuchu, aka “Ute”) people, as well as Diné [“Navajo”], Apache, and others. In recognition of this reality and as a first step in confronting it, we seek to establish proactive working relationships with those whose stolen land we gather upon, and open the space we temporarily gather in to the centering and amplification of indigenous voices and struggles. Our understanding is that any community of resistance that doesn’t center the voices of indigenous people and put their leadership in the forefront is a movement that is part of the problem. [Read more here…]

We would like to invite groups and individuals engaged in struggles against the destruction of the Earth (and indeed all interconnected forms of oppression) to join us and share your stories, lessons, skills, and whatever else you may have to offer. In this spirit we would like to reach out to frontline community members, local environmental groups, coalitions, and alliances everywhere, as well as more readily recognizable groups like Earth First!, Rising Tide North America, and others to come collaborate on the future of radical environmentalism and eco-defense in our bio-regions and beyond.

We would also like to reach out to groups like EF!, RTNA, and the Ruckus Society (as well as other groups and individuals) in search of trainers and workshop facilitators who are willing to dedicate themselves to attending Wild Roots Feral Futures and sharing their skills and knowledge (in a setting that lacks the financial infrastructure to compensate them as they may have come to expect from other, more well-funded groups and events). We are specifically seeking direct action, blockade, tri-pod, and tree climbing/sitting trainers (as well as gear/supplies).

Regarding the rewilding and ancestral earth skills component of WRFF, we would like to extend a similar invitation to folks with skills, knowledge, talent, or specialization in these areas to join us in the facilitation of workshops and skill shares such as fire making, shelter building, edible and medicinal plants, stalking awareness, tool & implement making, etc. We are also seeking folks with less “ancestral” outdoor survival skills such as orienteering and navigation, etc.

Daily camp life, along with workshops, skill shares, great food, friends, and music, will also include the volunteer labor necessary to camp maintenance. Please come prepared to pitch in and contribute to the workload, according to your abilities. We encourage folks who would like to plug in further to show up a few days before the official start of the event to begin set-up and stay a few days after the official end to help clean up.

Site scouting will continue until early June, at which point scouts and other organizers will rendezvous, report-back their scouting recon, and come to a consensus regarding a site location. We are also planning on choosing a secondary, back-up site location as a contingency plan for various potential scenarios. Email us for more info on getting involved with scouting and site selection processes.

WRFF is timed to take place before the Earth First! Round River Rendezvous, allowing eco-defenders to travel from one to the other. Thus we encourage the formation of a caravan from WRFF to the EF! RRR (caravans and ride shares can be coordinated through our message board at feralfutures.proboards.com.

We are currently accepting donations in the form of supplies and/or monetary contributions. Please email us for details.

Please forward this call widely, spread the word, and stay tuned for more updates!

For The Wild,

~The Wild Roots Feral Futures organizers’ collective

Email: feralfutures(at)riseup(dot)net

lynx_rendezvousimagesmall squared

For the sake of comprehensiveness, we are including below our original call-out as used in years past, which is a living document, changing and evolving as we ourselves learn and grow:

We are looking for folks of all sorts to join us and help facilitate workshops, talks, discussions, skill shares, direct action and medic trainings, wild food walks, conflict transformation, and much more! We will be focusing on many things, including but by no means limited to anarchist theory and praxis, unpacking privilege, decolonization, rewilding, ancestral skills, indigenous solidarity, direct action, forest defense, earth liberation, animal liberation, security culture, civil disobedience, hand to hand combat, survival skills, evasion tactics, green anarchism, anti-civ, post-civ, star watching and navigation, maps and orienteering, shelter building, permaculture, and whatever YOU care to bring and provide. But we need everyone’s help to make this as safe, positive, and productive a space as it can be. Our own knowledge, skills, and capacities are limited. We need YOUR help!

(more…)

Advertisements

Join us this summer as we take direct action to stop tar sands mining in Utah and work to heal the land.

With seeds, shovels, and hands we will rewild a site that had been condemned to fossil fuel development. Come regrow the mine June 17-19!

We will be physically replanting land on the East Tavaputs Plateau that is part of an ongoing tar sands strip mine. In doing so, we will cultivate resistance, biodiversity, and beauty in a space that has been destroyed by strip mining. The gathering will celebrate life, water, and resistance on the Colorado Plateau through music, storytelling, art, and action. Each day we will share the skills and techniques needed to continue building the world we want to see. The events are being hosted by the Tavaputs Action Council, a regional alliance of grassroots activists.

Join us as we fight for an immediate start to PR Springs mine reclamation, an escalation of mine clean up efforts along the Colorado River watershed, and  a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Lace up your boots, bring your shovels, and let’s get to work this June.

Sign up HERE to help us in this great restoration effort.

Greetings!

The attached PDF file is an Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire for the last three years of action camps resisting tar sands mine development on the Tavaputs Plateau in southeastern Utah, which were organized, in varying capacities, by Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance. Autonomously crafted by camp participants to foster the growth of our movements and communities of resistance, this is a lengthy, information-dense survey created with a unique format that includes an Outline, Security Culture, Healing and Emotional Support, About, and Feedback Form. This format may be confusing with a few imperfections, so please ASK questions to minerals [at] riseup [dot] net and seek out another action camp participant to find clarity with.

Please seek out the full version before answering the feedback form. Within the full version please skip around based on your own unique personal needs.

From the many experiences shared we will create a summary presentation of the responses outlining patterns, major and minor accomplishments/areas of improvement, creating transparency of experiences, and help organizers create future focal points for their on-going efforts. The presentation will be open source and available to all interested in an effort to foster wider community growth.

This is an accountability and transparency process giving you the opportunity to express your honest personal experiences. This process seeks diversity of responses. Please include experiences of feeling safety/endangerment, uplift/hinder, compassion/anger, value/disdain, wisdom, and much more. Please understand that prioritized intentional space is needed to read, comprehend, reflect and then reply to the feedback form.

If you are interested in being emotional support FOR individuals engaging in this process and/or helping create a neutral factual examination of participant experiences, email minerals [at] riseup [dot] net

It is vital that you forward this survey on to anyone you know that has participated in a Utah tar sands action camp..

We are all wounded, we are all healing! To Shadow, the neglected or repressed parts of our being, which are both essential, consistent places of struggle, and our magnificent potential. Acknowledging and honoring Shadow as a guide for how to heal, move towards vulnerability, and compassion with insight as our ally. Giving visibility to Shadow we become mirrors for ourselves and for each other, energizing prayers for releasing those patterns and creating new neural pathways of our beings and our togetherness.

I want to Thank EVERYONE who helped and is helping in this process, We are awesome!

This accelerating journey is in need of more helpers!

Reply to minerals [at] riseup [dot] net for EVERYTHING regarding the Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire.

Action Camp Feedback Questionnaire [PDF]

For more information about this year’s action, click here…

Wolf_Creek_Pass_and_Ski_Area

By , San Juan Citizen’s Alliance

By law Environmental Impact Statements are intended to be robust and transparent.  Very little in the nearly 30-year saga of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek Pass has met those expectations. Sadly, 2015 has been no different.  Today the Forest Service amended and finalized it’s Record of Decision granting the Wold Creek Land Exchange.  They did so without independent review and continue to conceal 13,000 pages related to the undue influence and manipulation of the analysis in violation of a Federal Court Order.  The exchange violates the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment and the Forest Service admits to ‘appreciable’ impacts to Rocky Mountain Elk. This decision was based on a flawed analysis and the public deserves full transparency to understand why this decision was not made in the public interest. See our full joint press release below.

For Immediate Release:

Matt Sandler, Attorney, Rocky Mountain Wild, matt@rockymountainwild.org, 303-579-5162; Christine Canaly, Director SLVEC, slvwater@fairpoint.net, 719-589-1518; Jimbo Buickerood, San Juan Citizens Alliance, jimbo@sanjuancitizens.org, 970-560-1111; Monique DiGiorgio, Executive Director, Chama Peak Land Alliance, chamapeak@gmail.com, 970-335-8174

Forest Service Issues Final Decision Granting Wolf Creek Land Exchange: Agency ignores court orders and continues to illegally conceal 13,000 pages of emails related to undue influence and manipulation of the analysis

GOLDEN, CO — The Forest Service, amending and finalizing its Record of Decision, is paving the way to provide Texas billionaire Red McCombs with public land to develop the private inholding known as the “Village at Wolf Creek.” The Forest Service has largely ignored concerns raised by numerous organizations and individuals that continue to plague this decision. A large part of this controversy centers around how the Forest Service has illegally limited its National Environmental Policy Act decision making process by narrowing the scope of impacts and options it analyzed and disclosed to the public and decision makers.

In order to understand how the Forest Service made this decision, Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on two separate occasions (February and November, 2014), requesting correspondence between the Forest Service, other agencies, the project proponent, and the consultants hired by the developers. The Forest Service has gone to great lengths to conceal the communications that altered the structure and narrowed the scope of the environmental review. The Forest Service is in open violation and defiance of a Federal Court Order requiring weekly releases of these documents during May.

The Record of Decision (ROD) released today, is also wrought with internal conflict since the reviewing officer for the Objections, Maribeth Gustafson, Deputy Regional Forester, was also heavily involved in developing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) content, the draft decision, the objection response, and most likely, the Final Decision itself. The Forest Service has not subjected these decisions to independent review within the agency. Documents obtained in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation confirm that Ms. Gustafson served as reviewing officer of her own decision.

“Without federal judges enforcing our FOIA rights, nobody would know that the Forest Service selected Ms. Gustafson to conduct a superficial review of objections. The obvious conflict of having Deputy Forester Gustafson resolve the objections on a process she oversaw confirms that the Forest Service has not provided an independent review,” states Matt Sandler, Attorney representing Rocky Mountain Wild. “Many of the same problems involving undue influence and bias that resulted in an Injunction last time have still not been addressed. It seems Federal Court is the only place our comments and objections will get a fair and independent review. These documents, and discussions with agency personnel, provide evidence that the developers continue to exert undue influence over this project, particularly through the Forest Service’s Denver office.”

Portions of the National Forest are being provided to a development group led by Red McCombs that plans to construct a city the size of Aspen, housing 6,000-10,000 people, rotating through 1,700 units. This high-altitude location receives an average of 428 inches of snow annually, and is an important wildlife corridor for many species. This development has been at the center of controversy since 1986 when the Forest Service first confirmed that the Village proposal and land trade would not serve the public interest.

This Forest Service Decision gives the Forest Supervisor permission to trade approximately 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest. As a part of this exchange, the U.S. Government is also paying Texas billionaire Red McCombs $70,000 as a “cash equalization payment.” The land exchange intends to connect the private land to U.S. Highway 160, thus securing the ability for a larger population to access the developer’s private inholding.

Instead of repairing flawed analysis from the draft ROD, Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas uses the Record of Decision to justify why he did not and will not follow existing Lynx protections in deciding to approve the land exchange. Conservation groups identified the lack of lynx protections in their Objection to the Forest Supervisor’s decision to promote and approve the land exchange.

“This land exchange decision violates the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment and the planned development is in the middle of a lynx corridor that connects habitat critical to lynx survival and recovery,” said Christine Canaly, Executive Director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) successfully reintroduced lynx to the Southern Rockies beginning in 1999, selecting the San Juan Mountains core area as the reintroduction site owing to its status as the largest contiguous block of high quality lynx habitat in Colorado. Wolf Creek Pass bisects the San Juan Mountains core area and consequently serves as the principal linkage for lynx moving between the South San Juan Wilderness and the main body of the San Juan Mountains core area. CDOW has documented heavy usage of the Wolf Creek Pass linkage by lynx since reintroduction, and considers it as vital to the recovery of lynx in Colorado.

“It will forever compromise and destroy good lynx habitat and impair the chances for this threatened species to recover to a full, secure population in Colorado. The Forest Service response has already confirmed that the development is not compatible with the lynx,” noted Canaly.

No attempt was made to address concerns of opponents to the land exchange, who continue to point out that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that provides the basis for the Forest Service decision is inadequate and incomplete. The records obtained through FOIA confirm that undue influence on the analysis was key to allowing the developer’s proposal to remain too vague and conceptual to support a full analysis of the anticipated impacts. Concealment of the real impacts of the project has defined the Forest Service handling of the proposal since 1986.

“How is this decision in the public interest? The Forest Service’s Record of Decision and Objection review refuses to acknowledge their legal standing to curtail this grotesque project and is relying on Mineral County to protect federal lands through zoning,” adds Jimbo Buickerood, Public Land Coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Maintaining the integrity of the National Forest on Wolf Creek Pass is not just important to lynx, it is important to skiers, hunters, fishers, tourists, and residents who enjoy this unique landscape. The Forest Service is committed to accommodating the developer’s demands, even though the Forest Service admits that impact on Rocky Mountain Elk would be ‘appreciable.’”

“Climate change is reducing snow pack in western North American mountains and shifting distribution of forests northward and up mountain slopes.  High elevation linkage zones like Wolf Creek Pass, known for its concentration of snow pack, will become critical areas to maintain and protect water quality and supply for our south western rivers and agricultural lands. We need these intact ecological zones to be able to buffer and adapt to changing conditions in order to maintain our water quality and wildlife habitat that are critical economic drivers to local, rural communities,” said Frank Simms, Chair of the Chama Peak Land Alliance. The Chama Peak Land Alliance are conservation minded private landowners working collaboratively to practice and promote ecologically and economically sound land management in the southern San Juan Mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. These landowners responsibly manage and cooperate with partners on 1.4 million acres of land directly south and adjacent to the Wolf Creek Pass Linkage, creating a continuous, intact landscape being managed with conservation in mind.

Other Wolf Creek Posts

Forest Service ignores objections to land exchange at Wolf Creek Pass
Forest Service paves way for pillage at Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek development enters act 5
Wolf Creek village battle rages on

From Chaparral respects no borders:

(A follow-up to last year’s piece Plunder Road: CANAMEX and the Emerging Impact of NAFTA, TPP on Western North America)

The Resolution Copper land grab is also a water grab, with a projected use of millions of gallons per year and contamination of more; and during what could be a mega-drought. Water is often compared to gold as its value increases the more scarce it becomes, which means we may soon be fighting not only the increasing privatization of land, but also of water. Despite the fact that the Resolution Copper deal, having been snuck into a defense bill, involves an exchange of land, it is being done to the advantage of a transnational mining corporation and to the detriment of the Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel/Oak Flat/Apache Leap area and the people who hold it sacred. This land grab represents a continued prioritization of economic development in so-called Arizona, which means more resource-extraction and increased international trade (specifically with or through Mexico). Mining and other industries shaped by trade-related demand bring not only risk to water, but also more roads like Interstate 11 and rail (which require land acquisition), and increased border militarization. US trade policy is largely culpable for the violence on the border and south of the border.

Economic development is portrayed as bringing more jobs, but these “free-market” policies, as in the case of NAFTA, are meant to redistribute wealth to the hands of the rich. Because of their trade relationship and connecting infrastructure, Arizona and Sonora have a shared fate as land, water, safety, indigenous ways of life and sacred sites are all at risk. The state governments enable resource-extraction and other infrastructural projects, lucrative to those who would build them and those who would finance them, through subsidization and protection with our tax dollars.

Arizona’s connection to a port in Guaymas, Sonora is crucial to the Arizona mining industry. Copper is one of the fastest growing US exports, and much of what is and would be mined in Arizona would be transported down to where mining companies such as BHP Billiton (of Resolution Copper) and Freeport McMoran do business at this Mexican port on the Sea of Cortez. Guaymas is also significant because shipping companies can have lower standards for working conditions in Mexico versus the US. This port is the southernmost point of the CANAMEX Corridor, the NAFTA trade route connecting Canada and Mexico through five US states including Arizona. The Port of Guaymas has been expanding over the years and brings along its own set of problems in the vicinity, requiring its own energy sources and water, damaging the environment, impacting the local communities, etc. Arizona is counting on the continued growth of the Mexican economy, yet the importance of the Port of Guaymas also signifies that a lot of exports from the US are meant to cross the Pacific ocean (especially if the Trans Pacific Partnership goes into effect), not stay within its favored trade partner’s borders.

The CANAMEX Corridor already exists, but will be considered complete once Interstate 11, which is in the study phase (aside from the Boulder City Bypass which is scheduled to break ground this year) has been constructed, connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix with a route fit for freight traffic. Interstate 11 may eventually refer to the entire trade corridor reaching from Mexico to Canada, or at least is intended to span from the Mexican border and beyond Las Vegas. Parts of it maybe multi-modal including rail and other infrastructure possibly including water pipeline. This massive project will cut through communities and damage the environment. Conceptualized as the entire trade corridor, it is currently also referred to as the Intermountain West Corridor–basically CANAMEX but with a more updated, more western route where it would run north of Las Vegas. South of the border, the Mexican government has recently agreed to the request by Arizona officials to improve Route 15, which is part of this Corridor, for freight traffic.

(more…)

A new oil pipeline that would quadruple oil production in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin threatens the internationally recognized Chaco Cultural area and the Lybrook Badlands wilderness.

From The Sierra Club

Denver-based SaddleButte LLC has applied to the Bureau of Land Management for a permit to build the 130-mile Piñon Oil Pipeline that would cut between Chaco National Historical Park and outlier Pueblo Pintado from Lybrook down to I-40.

The pipeline would permanently cut through federal, state, Navajo, and private lands, opening the floodgates to thousands of new oil wells, millions of gallons of contaminated groundwater, damaged archeological sites, diminished recreation economy, dangerous accidents and further climate disruption.

The BLM has agreed to hold additional public meetings and extend public comment on the proposed Piñon Pipeline.

Make your voice heard by using this form to ask the BLM Farmington Office to reject the Piñon Pipeline permit. Please edit the subject line of the sample note and, if you can, edit the note with your own first sentence — personalized messages are often taken more seriously.

Share this action on Facebook | Share this action on Twitter

EF! Note: We have little faith in online petitions and public appeal processes. Direct action gets the goods!

Uintah County Sheriff’s deputies stand watch as other law enforcement officials in the background remove and arrest activists who had chained themselves to heavy equipment at a U.S. Oil Sands construction site on Pope Well Ridge Road in Uintah County on July 21. The Grand County Sheriff’s Department is seeking a permit to establish a command center near the site of the protests. [Photo courtesy of Utah Tar Sands Resistance]

By Eric Trenbeath / Moab Sun News

The Grand County Sheriff’s Department is asking a state agency for a “Right of Entry” permit to establish a command center in the Book Cliffs area near the PR Spring tar sands strip mine about 60 miles north of Moab, Utah.

According to the project report posted on the Utah State Public Lands Policy Coordination Office website, the proposed command center “will allow law enforcement officials to have a presence on the Bookcliffs when needed.”

The report anticipates the need to level the ground at the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) site. It also calls for the development of a septic leach field and the construction of a security fence. Development of the project is scheduled to begin on June 15, 2015.

SITLA resource specialist Bryan Torgerson said that the main purpose of the command center is to respond to environmental activists who have been protesting the development of the first tar sands strip mine in the United States.

“The protesters are doing illegal activity up there and they have caused damage to private property,” he said.

In June of this year, environmental activists from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) announced plans to establish a permanent “vigil” at the PR Spring tar strip mine site. They were joined by members of the Moab-based Canyon Country Rising Tide, and Peaceful Uprising.

In July, about 80 protesters clashed with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Department and 21 were arrested. The protesters blocked a road and locked themselves to earth-moving equipment in order to halt construction on the Canadian owned U.S. Oil Sands strip mine project.

Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen said that approximately 10 deputies from his office and three agents from the Utah Attorney General’s Office made the arrests. Members of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office also arrived at the scene just after the confrontation between the protesters blocking the road and law enforcement.

Laursen described the scene as one that escalated quickly from a peaceful protest to one that suddenly became physical.

“The folks who had chained themselves to the equipment were very polite and cooperative,” he said.

“But as we were removing them, the six other protesters who tried to block the road created quite a melee. There were some fisticuffs.”

Denise Davis, a spokesperson for UTSR, said that climate change protesters were peaceful and that they had suffered under “selective enforcement of laws designed to make peaceful protest a felony.”

Davis also denied allegations of property destruction.

“The protests have been brave and sustained but peaceful and nondestructive,” she said.

Grand County Sheriff Steve White acknowledged that protesters are part of the reason for the command center, but he said that law enforcement just wants to establish a presence in the area.

“There have been some oil field thefts and other activities going on up there,” he said. “As a matter of fact, this is something we’ve been thinking about for years.”

White said that the project is a joint effort with Uintah County and SITLA. He said they want to establish a camp trailer and a place to park some ATVs so they can have a base of operations should law enforcement personnel be needed in the remote area.

Davis said that she is “perplexed” by the sheriff’s request to establish a remote police post in the Book Cliffs when none of the protests have occurred in the Grand County portion of the mine site.

“It is very unfortunate that Grand County Sheriff Steven White is proposing to further step up surveillance and intimidation of peaceful protesters while continuing to ignore the air and water pollution that is resulting from leaking wells, tanks and toxic ponds of oil and gas waste that continue to threaten Grand County residents and visitors,” she said.

U.S. Oil Sands holds a lease to strip mine up to 32,000 acres of land – an area equivalent to approximately half the size of Arches National Park. A portion of the lease is in Grand County.

Environmentalists claim that the operation will severely impact the environment by polluting groundwater, displacing wildlife and destroying large swaths of wilderness.

“The Book Cliffs have been called the Serengeti of Utah and they are of significance to all Americans,” Davis said.

Living Rivers executive director John Weisheit said that the Utah Division of Air Quality never should have issued permits for the tar sands mine. His organization waged a legal battle on the grounds that sufficient water wasn’t available for the tar sands mine, and that what groundwater did exist was at risk of contamination.

Weisheit wants to know why the citizens of Grand County are paying for security up on the Book Cliffs, particularly as it relates to U.S. Oil Sands and the PR Spring Mine.

“The job of the Grand County Sheriff is to protect its citizens,” Weisheit said. “This is a foreign corporation. Power companies and other industries hire security guards, why aren’t they (U.S. Oil Sands)?”

Canyon Country Rising Tide spokesperson Sarah Stock agreed.

“This is yet another example of public money being used to facilitate tar sands development,” she said.

“The real danger to our community is tar sands, oil shale, and unregulated oil and gas development, not peaceful protesters. If the Grand County Sheriff’s Department has extra time and money to burn, they should help the understaffed BLM inspect and enforce regulations on the thousands of potentially leaking oil and gas wells in the state.”

Torgerson said that he respects the rights of people and their views, and he fully expects protesters to return to the site when the weather improves.

“We welcome the right of free speech,” he said. “We just hope they will respect private property.”

Parts of U.S. Oil Sands mine site extend onto Ute tribal lands. The Environmental Protection Agency warned the company in June that it didn’t have permission to operate on Ute land. On July 21, 2014, fifteen people chained themselves to a fence and to machinery on the tar sands mine site operated by U.S. Oil Sands.

Parts of U.S. Oil Sands mine site extend onto Ute tribal lands. The Environmental Protection Agency warned the company in June that it didn’t have permission to operate on Ute land. On July 21, 2014, fifteen people chained themselves to a fence and to machinery on the tar sands mine site operated by U.S. Oil Sands.

By Anna Simonton, Oil Change International

Lauren Wood grew up in a family of river guides in the Uinta Basin region of Utah. She navigates tributaries of the Colorado River like her urban counterparts navigate subway systems. She learned to ride a horse, and then drive a car, on the Tavaputs Plateau. And she can name most any gorge or gully in the place she calls home.

After clear-cutting trees and sagebrush, U.S. Oil Sands digs open-pit mines to test their tar sands extraction process. If the company starts producing tar sands on a commercial scale, 32,000 acres in Utah’s Uintah Basin could be covered with these pits, along with tailings ponds that would store huge amounts of waste water and chemicals used in the extraction process. (Courtesy of Utah Tar Sands Resistance).

But this landscape so familiar to her has transformed over the past decade to one in which drill rigs are more common than cattle herds, and methane emissions have degraded the air quality in this wilderness region to rival that of Los Angeles.

New technologies like fracking––along with government subsidies––have ushered in an energy boom reliant on extreme extraction methods to produce oil and natural gas. Now the Uinta Basin is ground zero for what threatens to become the next phase in extreme energy extraction: strip mining for tar sands and oil shale.

Tar sands are a sticky mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen that can be processed into fuel, but require more refining than conventional crude oil, releasing more greenhouse gases and toxins in the process. Despite the fact that Canadian tar sands mining is pushing the Earth toward disastrous climate change, some companies are moving forward with tar sands mining projects in the United States.

Oil shale, not to be confused with shale oil (which is oil released by fracking), is a solid mixture of chemical compounds––called kerogen––inside sedimentary rock. When heated at high enough temperatures, it’s possible to break the kerogen down into liquid hydrocarbons and release them from the rock. This requires a whole lot of fuel just to make more fuel, and also promises to drastically worsen the effects of climate change.

Part one of this article delved into the history of how, in the past, taxpayers have footed costly bills for government-sponsored tar sands and oil shale development that never turned out to be commercially viable. The last of these projects fizzled out in the 1980s. Now, thanks in large part to a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005––written by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch––oil shale and tar sands are back on the table.

Red Leaf Resources and U.S. Oil Sands are two companies that have led the renewed crusade to develop oil shale and tar sands in the United States. Red Leaf leases Utah state land for its oil shale mine site near the Tavaputs Plateau in Uintah County. A few miles away, straddling the boundaries of the Uintah-Ouray Reservation, sits the tar sands mine site of Canadian-based U.S. Oil Sands.

In 2008, one of Red Leaf’s Vice Presidents, Laura Nelson, teamed up with a U.S. Oil Sands Executive to co-write a white paper for the Utah Mining Association (UMA), a lobbying group. In it, they spelled out the ways that state and federal governments should subsidize tar sands and oil shale development. Since then, several of their recommendations––including millions of dollars in tax breaks, leasing public land at rock-bottom prices, and government-funded infrastructure projects––have become reality.

(more…)

Action to shut down Utah tar sands mine, August 7, 2013. (Photo: Steve Liptay for 350.org)

By Rachael Stoeve, Truthout | Report

The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline has launched Canadian tar sands into mainstream American discourse, but few people seem to know that a tar sands mine is now being constructed in the United States. The project is being managed by former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root.

The mine will be excavated in PR Spring, a remote piece of wilderness on the Tavaputs Plateau in eastern Utah. Facing northeast from Arches National Park, 109 miles away, one can see the plateau stretching along the horizon. The mine will sit just above the spring that the area is named for; a BLM-managed campground is nearby.

The area is part of the Colorado River watershed, which supplies water to more than 30 million people. The land is owned by US Oil Sands, Inc., a Calgary-based company with a 100 percent interest in 32,005 acres of Utah tar sands leases. According to the company’s website, their leases comprise the largest commercial tar sands stake in the United States.

The company boasts of its “unique and environmentally friendly extraction process,” which uses a citrus-based solvent called d-Limonene to separate oil from the rest of the material brought up in extraction. But a 2012 report by InsideClimate News questioned the safety of the technique, noting that while the FDA lists small amounts as generally safe, “in large doses, laboratory rats got sick when exposed to the chemical.”

On January 20, 2014, US Oil Sands announced in a press release that it had selected engineering firm Kellogg Brown and Root to manage the construction of the tar sands mine and facilities at PR Spring. KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, a private military contractor specializing in oilfield services that has been the subject of controversy for its ties to Dick Cheney, who served as the corporation’s CEO before becoming vice president of the United States, and for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

KBR is not without its own controversies. In March 2008, The Boston Globe reported that the company “avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies” based in the Cayman Islands.

In 2009, an investigation by the US Department of Justice led to charges that KBR had spent the past decade “authorizing, promising and paying” bribes to Nigerian officials to secure prime construction contracts. The company pled guilty and paid a $402 million criminal fine.

When it comes to environmental and health matters, of most concern is KBR’s alleged use of “burn pits” to improperly dispose of waste in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, 57 burn-pit lawsuits filed by soldiers across the United States were consolidated and brought before the US District Court in Maryland.

According to the website of Motley Rice, the law firm representing the plaintiffs in tandem with attorney Susan Burke, the lawsuit alleges that health problems suffered by the plaintiffs upon their return to the United States are due to their exposure to burn pits operated by KBR. “Plaintiffs also allege these contractors used open-air burn pits, as opposed to other, safer alternatives, to increase profits,” Motley Rice said on its website. “Items disposed of in burn pits may have included hazardous medical waste, hydraulic fluids, lithium batteries, tires, trucks and more.”

After the district court dismissed the case in February 2013, Motley Rice appealed. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit voided the dismissal in March 2014 and sent the case back to the district court for a retrial.

KBR’s construction quality has also been called into question. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been electrocuted by faulty wiring installed by KBR. According to an investigation by The New York Times, KBR’s management did nothing to rectify the issue, despite complaints from multiple employees. One employee, the Times said, “provided e-mail messages and other documents showing that he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.”

For Utah, the effect of KBR’s participation in mine construction remains to be seen. According to the Project On Government Oversight, a watchdog group that tracks and investigates government misconduct, the firm has committed 30 known instances of corporate misconduct both domestically and internationally in the past 18 years.

Given this track record, why did US Oil Sands select KBR to build the mine? In an email, Jack Copping, manager of corporate development at US Oil Sands, said only that “KBR was chosen through a bidding process based on the expertise of the local Salt Lake branch and the pedigree of the individuals involved.”

When asked how important KBR’s history of questionable practices were to US Oil Sands’ decision-making process and ultimate choice, Copping did not respond.

US Oil Sands has been engaged in preliminary construction of the mine throughout 2014. On November 18, 2014, the company issued a press release saying the mine is on track to begin commercial production of tar sands in 2015. Environmental advocacy groups in Utah have been fighting the mine’s development since 2009; though litigation and civil disobedience have not stopped the project, groups such as Utah Tar Sands Resistance continue to actively protest the mine’s construction.

 • Draft Record of Decision Village at Wolf Creek Access Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (Forest Service)

The San Juan Citizens Alliance released a statement:

Today’s decision by Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas to approve a land exchange on top of Wolf Creek Pass requested by billionaire Red McCombs is both a disappointing and absurd decision to “green light” a development that would deface the inherent wild beauty of the area and ignore the widespread public opposition to the huge development.

McComb’s snowy dream he envisioned almost 30 years ago, that has morphed to become his hoped-for Village at Wolf Creek, would constitute a city with thousands of residential units, parking for more than 4,000 vehicles, a dozen restaurants, more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space and storage for 25-30 million gallons of water. Oh, just how quaint a village that would be…..

Let’s be straight about the absurdity of Dallas’s Record of Decision (ROD) on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The ROD encapsulates the environmental and social impacts of the mega-development with this statement, “…negative effects appear to be minimal, limited in scope, and can be mitigated.” “(ROD, page 25, #4) And this is a statement meant to justify the “public interest” as reason to approve the land exchange which would facilitate highway access that the development must have to begin construction. One has to wonder how a professional natural resource specialist like Dallas can come to the conclusion that a city built for thousands of residents in critical wildlife habitat above 10,000 feet on the Continental Divide situated many miles from basic services can be described as “minimal” in its effects. We know that the resident Canada lynx are scratching their ears over that piece of logic.

Within the ROD the Forest Service has confirmed “the intent of the Forest Service in creating the private inholding adjacent to the Wolf Creek Ski Area was to create a village.” (ROD, page 11). Which of course leads to the question as to whether the Forest Service really served its role as a neutral decision maker on the relative merits of the land exchange. From our viewpoint, and the many thousands of locals on either side of the Pass that have written comments in opposition to the project, the agency did not prove to be a neutral and well-reasoned decision maker. This leads us to the obvious question, “Are politics and backroom deal-making a part of the decision making?”

It’s a reasonable question to ask given the history that there was collusion between the agency and McComb’s outfit during the last attempt at a viable EIS in the mid-2000’s. At that moment in the timeline of the controversy, the Forest Service displayed a pattern of withholding sensitive information and it was necessary for the conservation forces to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to bring forth details of collusion in the creation of the EIS.

With that as the backdrop, the Alliance and its partners filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in February 2014 requesting that the public record regarding the creation of the EIS, including related communications, be brought forward. The agency provided some of the documents, however, there were redactions (omissions) of significance and later the Forest Service admitted to violating deadlines that necessitated the need for them to explain the withholding of requested documents. The agency then ignored our administrative appeal related to the FOIA, which necessitated our lawsuit of September 9, 2014 to force the agency to be forthcoming to the citizenry with the full story.

The Forest Service could aid the effort towards complete transparency by simply providing all the public records related to the EIS development. Without such transparency, and in light of the absurdity of the decision that the project would have only “minimal” negative effects on the Wolf Creek Pass area, the question hangs like a cornice on the pass, “was there collusion again?”

The Alliance will continue to adamantly oppose McComb’s proposed development, just as we have for more than 15 years. The hundreds of bumper stickers still seen throughout the territory proclaim the true story of McComb’s perverse vision for the forests and meadows on the east side of the Pass – their greed would result in the Pillage at Wolf Creek. If we continue to stand together we will indeed succeed in guaranteeing that there will never be a Pillage on our beloved Wolf Creek Pass landscape. Amen. Alynx.

Rocky Mountain Wild also issued a statement:

For Immediate Release:
November 20, 2014

Matt Sandler, Attorney, Rocky Mountain Wild, matt@rockymountainwild.org, 303-579-5162
Christine Canaly. Director SLVEC slvwater@fairpoint.net, 719-589-1518
Jimbo Buickerood, San Juan Citizens Alliance jimbo@sanjuancitizens.org, 970-560-1111

Monte Vista, CO – Today the U. S. Forest Service, in spite of widespread opposition, announced its intention to approve a land exchange that would allow construction of a city of 10,000 people near the top of Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado.

‘The effects of this approval could be devastating”, stated Christine Canaly, Executive Director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. “An important migration route for the threatened Canada lynx could be destroyed. There would be strong negative impacts to habitat for other wildlife, and to wetlands, scenery, and winter traffic safety as well”.

The proposal would trade approximately 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest. Part of the federal land exchange proposal would connect the private land to U.S. Highway 160, thus securing more convenient access to the developer’s private inholding.

“With snow covering this area above 10,000 feet for up to eight months of the year, this is certainly not an appropriate locale to build a city of any size”, noted Jimbo Buickerood, Public Land Coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance.  “For this locale near the top of Wolf Creek Pass, the public has expressed a strong interest in allowing the area to remain a refuge to wildlife with some recreational visitation,” Buickerood noted, “rather than a trophy-style development accessed through a major new highway interchange that would be wildly out of character with the surrounding landscape.”

“The City at Wolf Creek is not a good idea.  It’s the wrong kind of use for Wolf Creek Pass which is perched atop the Continental Divide and is surrounded by wilderness, unroaded areas, wetlands, and irreplaceable wildlife habitat.” says Matt Sandler, Attorney with Rocky Mountain Wild.

Forest Service approval of the proposal is especially inappropriate given its history.  The Rio Grande National Forest determined that a land exchange was not in the public interest next to the Wolf Creek Ski Area back in 1986. However, due to political interference, the local Forest Service office was forced to reverse this decision and approve the creation of a private inholding desired by the developer. The same political pressure is now pushing the Forest Service to approve another land exchange, one that would connect the developer’s property created via the earlier exchange with Highway 160.

“The exchange is still not in the public interest.” says Christine Canaly, Director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council.  “Political pressure is what made this happen back then, and is what keeps pushing it forward.”

The Forest Service continues to thwart the full disclosure of information concerning the project. The Forest Service has again withheld the public record of interaction between themselves and the project proponents. In response to a lawsuit filed September 9, 2014, the Forest Service has admitted that it violated deadlines that required further explanation of the withholding of documents requested on February 27, 2014 under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. The Forest Service continues to withhold requested records, which it also did in conjunction with the previous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), where agency documents revealed political influence, including offers of Washington Redskins’ tickets for EIS preparers.  The Forest Service’s refusal to comply with FOIA in 2014 suggests the pattern of improper dealings between the Forest Service and Texas billionaire Red McCombs’ team may plague the new decision.

This project is a net loss for the people who know and love this region.” says Canaly. “Not only is the proposed ‘Village at Wolf Creek’ not likely to substantially help local businesses, but it also has the potential to be economically harmful to local business by drawing away from existing businesses in South Fork and Pagosa Springs.  It is a political land exchange that further damages the public interests.”

Unfortunately, the Forest Service has so far dismissed many other possible alternatives suggested by local citizens and organizations such as the federal government buying the private land parcel and placing it back into public lands.

“We will continue to challenge the proposed approval of the land exchange”, stated Sandler.

Stay updated with information at: