wilderness conservation and restoration


By Sharon St Joan


On Thursday, May 19, the Department of the Interior will hold a public hearing in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the Salt Palace, from 10 am to 4 pm – on the future of coal on public lands. This follows an announcement by the Obama administration in January, 2016, placing a moratorium on new coal extraction on public lands. The moratorium will be up in three years, and these federal hearings, being held in six cities, will help determine coal’s future. Forty percent of U.S. coal is mined on BLM land.


Coal is a dying industry, as is every other fossil fuel sector. Always a finite resource, fossil fuels are now fast nearing their end. We have only to look at the recent demise of the nation’s largest coal companies. Alpha Natural Resources filed for bankruptcy in August of 2015, and Arch Coal followed in January of this year. Just last month, in April, the largest U.S. coal company, Peabody, filed for bankruptcy.


According to a 2015 Blumberg news story, “The combined market value of U.S. coal company shares shrank to about $12 billion in late July (July of 2015) from $78 billion in 2011.” This is a decline of 83% in four years.


Continuing to rely on coal is not going to work. It is a mirage, shimmering in the distance, soon to vanish — for investors, for consumers, for coal workers, for our economy, and for all Americans.


This means that it is time for us as a society to undertake a full transition to clean energy. If we wait to do this or postpone the process, we will be risking nothing less than economic and social calamity.


All of us bear a responsibility for the use of fossil fuels. We drive our cars. We heat and cool our houses. We fly in airplanes. And we elect the leaders responsible for our current energy policies.


In other words, our energy policies are not the fault of coal miners, and plans for a clean energy future must include a just transition for coal workers.


By cutting out subsidies to the fossil fuel industry – estimated at $20 billion a year – we can invest instead in a just transition on two fronts.


We need to re-train coal and other fossil fuel workers, create new, cleaner, healthier, good-paying jobs, and assist them and their families in this transition.


And now is the right time to invest in clean, sustainable energy. This means putting our full intention behind creating programs that incentivize clean energy – that bring down the costs of solar energy and reduce toxicity in solar components, as well as planning solar plants so that they are placed on land already occupied by human activity, not on wild lands. It means re-designing wind mills so that they do not harm birds. Forty geo-thermal plants are already operating in California, and many more can be built all over the country.


As we also tackle much-needed rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure of decaying bridges, roads, and substandard airports — while stopping the hidden subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel giants — and find safe, clean ways to move forward – these steps will create the conditions for an economic upswing.


On the other hand, if we procrastinate, blindly continuing down the road towards this deadend that is the coal industry, we risk upheaval in our economy, hardship for coal workers, and grave trouble for all of us – as coal finally shudders to a permanent halt.


Right now, as the earth runs out of fossil fuels, dying industries employ desperate measures to eke out some profitability – leveling hundreds of once-beautiful mountains and placing at risk all the unspoiled lands of the earth.


If coal is dying anyway, why not just let it grind its way onwards towards its inevitable end?


Two reasons – first, we need to transition now to clean energy to be ready for the future.


Secondly, nothing will be gained and everything will be lost by allowing coal, in its dying years, to continue to pollute our air and water, contaminate our rivers and steams, poison our wildlife, destroy trees and sensitive plants, and ruin our weather patterns – leaving a desolate wasteland behind them as coal companies fall into bankruptcy, dragging our health and our economy into the ground along with them.


Coal needs to stop, starting with permanently banning all new coal on American public lands.


A fundamental change is going to happen one way or another. Either precipitously – or, if we plan well, and begin now, in a way that is life-giving and life-sustaining.


Planning for this just transition can invigorate our economy, providing new hope, new jobs — and the possibility of a brighter future.


A just transition – benefitting workers, renewing our infrastructure, and re-aligning our economy to face inevitable change will – perhaps most importantly — go a long way towards saving the natural world – the trees, the rivers, the mountains, wild species, and our planet.


There are no guarantees. This will not solve every problem we face in a complicated world, and no one knows what the future holds.


But it will be a good step we can take towards protecting the earth we live on and laying the foundation for a kinder, more aware, more prosperous era for our children and grandchildren.


Photo: Valerius Tygart / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.” / The Monongahela National Forest; photo taken from slopes of Back Allegheny Mountain looking east


What you can do

Written comments will be accepted until July 23. To send a comment on the future of coal on public lands to the Department of the Interior,



For more information on the BLM website, click here.



A natural stream in the Uinta Wilderness, in an area where there is no sheep grazing.


The Uintas Mountains run through northern Utah, south of the Wyoming border. In the center is the High Uintas Wilderness, where the highest peaks rise.


The Ashley Forest and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Forest are being severely damaged by the grazing of domestic sheep. The Forest Service is now thinking about allowing sheep grazing to continue in these Wildnerness areas.


Unlike Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep are not native; they are farm animals. They do not belong on this Wilderness land, which is meant to be wild. The grazing of thousands of domestic sheep destroys the habitat for wolves, cougars, bears, and wolverines – and the rest of the eco-system. The plant life is harmed along with streams and rivers, and trees disappear. The Wilderness then is no longer wilderness in any true sense of the word.


These wild forest areas need to be restored and renewed, and this can only happen if the grazing of sheep in these forests is halted. Please send an email before April 23 asking the Forest Service to end the grazing of domestic sheep on these beautiful, sensitive wild lands. There is a sample email below. – Editor


Domestic sheep grazing threatens Utah Wilderness


By Dr. John Carter,


Yellowstone to Uintas Connection

High Uintas Domestic Sheep Grazing – In May, 2014, the Forest Service released a scoping letter to reauthorize grazing by 12,850 ewe/lamb pairs of domestic sheep on ten allotments covering 156,950 acres of the Wilderness, closer to 170,000 acres if the adjacent West Fork Black’s Fork allotment were to be included, which we have requested, since it is also used as a sheep driveway.

This means that between 25,700 and 38,550 sheep actually are permitted to graze, depending on the number of ewes with single or twin lambs. We submitted initial scoping comments in June, detailed comments in July followed by supplemental comments addressing wilderness issues. Important issues we are addressing include bighorn sheep, Canada lynx, cutthroat trout, watershed health and recreational impacts. Bighorn sheep historically occupied the Uintas, but are killed by disease, particularly pneumonia, transmitted from domestic sheep.



A Uintas Wilderness stream damaged by sheep grazing.


Canada lynx historically occupied the Uintas and have been documented recently as radio collared lynx from reintroductions in Colorado moved into the Uintas and north, following the historic corridor we address (see below).


Much of Utah’s water supply also depends on the watersheds in the Uinta Mountains, which are heavily degraded and losing their storage capacity due to loss of ground covering vegetation from sheep grazing. Sediment from eroding watersheds impairs spawning habitat for cutthroat trout and is accelerating the filling in of the lakes in these areas.


We, with the assistance of our akitas – who carried food, camp gear and equipment, spent many years documenting the damage to wilderness values here. A powerpoint presentation of some of that effort is available for viewing or download. We prepared and submitted a report to the Forest Service with data, analysis and photo-documentation of the damage.  The Forest Service has been unable or unwilling to acknowledge the damage as they move monitoring locations to avoid those most damaged while blaming gophers and other causes for the barren soil and erosion.


We have organized a coalition of concerned organizations and individuals and have met with the Regional Forester’s Office, the Forest Supervisor for the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest and the Supervisor of the Ashley National Forest to discuss our concerns and obtain their Bighorn Sheep Risk Analysis, which has become a political hot potato due to allotment closures in the Payette National Forest. We are obtaining agency data for analysis and further comment as we press for removal of domestic sheep from the wilderness. Most recently we submitted additional scoping comments to meet a December 2015 deadline.  The Forest Service has again opened a scoping period and those scoping comments are due on April 23. The Gallatin Wildlife Association has submitted its comments for this scoping period and those were excellent comments.


John Carter, Manager

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection

PO Box 62

Paris, Idaho 83261



Sample email re sheep-grazing in Uintas

Comments are due April 23, 2016.   Please send an email or letter to the Forest Service expressing your opposition to continued domestic sheep grazing in the Wilderness.  Here is a sample email, which you may send as is, or you may add your own thoughts. Many thanks!


Dave Whittekiend, Supervisor

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

857 West South Jordan Parkway

South Jordan, UT 84095


Re:  Uintas Domestic Sheep


Dear Supervisor Whittekiend:


Please issue a decision discontinuing domestic sheep grazing in the Uinta Wilderness.  In addition to the 10 allotments named in your February 16, 2016 scoping letter, we urge you to issue a decision also closing the West Fork Black’s Fork to continued grazing. Domestic sheep are impairing our watersheds and water supply, creating accelerated erosion, degrading fish and wildlife habitat and are a threat to bighorn sheep, and other wildlife who historically depended on this area. People who travel to this area to experience the wilderness are met with tens of thousands of sheep, smells of sheep, their noise and threatening guard dogs. You can end this conflict by retiring these allotments.


Thank you for your consideration,


Your signature.


Photos: Dr. John Carter / Grazed and ungrazed streams in the Uintas Wilderness.


Utah bill SB246, introduced in the final days of the legislative session, would provide $53 million, from Utah funds, to go toward the building of a coal port, along with accompanying infrastructure, in Oakland, California, so that Utah coal, other fossil fuels, and other products can be shipped to California, then on to foreign markets. This would help prop up Utah’s struggling coal industry, but would lead to more irreparable damage to Utah’s wild lands and eco-systems.


Many thanks to Lindsay Beebe – the Organizing Representative, in Salt Lake City, of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign for sending their Fact Sheet on SB246, as well as this link to their on-line message to send to your Utah representative.


To sign and send the Sierra Club’s message opposing the SB246 bill, click here.


The Sierra Club Fact Sheet on SB246:


  1. Because the coal export market is disappearing, SB 246 is a bad gamble for Utah taxpayers.
  • This $53 million loan is a bad investment that instead of producing good jobs for the people of Utah, could end up leaving taxpayers holding the bag as the bankruptcies and the contraction of the international coal market continue. A July 2013 analysis by Goldman Sachs specifically labeled coal export terminals “a bad investment.”
  • A Goldman Sachs 2015 analysis said, “Peak coal is here.” The analysis predicted a continuing decline in coal prices and that they will never recover. “The industry does not require new investment given the ability of existing assets to satisfy flat demand, so prices will remain under pressure as the deflationary cycle continues.”
  • More recently, Andy Roberts, a mining engineer and an expert on the economics of coal, released an analysis February 10 (aimed primarily at port projects in Washington state) concluding that U.S. coal ports have gone from “vital to irrelevant” given the precipitous drop in demand from Asia. Western coal producers can’t compete with Indonesian producers on price in what is a disappearing market.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Agency recently reported that U.S. coal exports fell 22% in the first three quarters of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
  • China announced last week that it is closing more than 1,000 coal mines due to a “price-sapping supply glut” and the government has suspended the approval of new coal mines to clean up dangerous air pollution across the country. Given the supply glut, Chinese imports are likely to continue their steep decline.
  • The American coal industry is in deep trouble. Among the companies declaring bankruptcy are Arch Coal, the nation’s second largest coal company, and 50 other coal-mining companies. Any state that is counting on coal for future jobs and a strong economy is making a risky gamble. Bowie Resources, which owns a coal mine whose potential exports SB 246 is intended to subsidize, recently idled its Colorado mine due to “deteriorating market conditions.”
  • Although Governor Herbert has been quoted as saying “This is an investment …. You invest $50 million and you’re going to get back three or four times your investment,” such a rosy outcome is extremely unlikely. If this loan would guarantee 300% to 400% return, coal companies or private capital would be lined up to invest in the terminal. The lack of private investment suggests that this project is highly risky, and one that only could be accomplished by tapping taxpayers’ wallets. Tapping public funds to support a private development that can’t attract private funding is simply a subsidy, not the “free market” at work.
  • Coal export facilities are generally a speculative and risky gamble. In recent decades, coal export terminals have gone bust in Los Angeles and Portland, leaving taxpayers and investors on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
  • Governor Herbert’s own strategic plan for energy concluded in 2014 that there Utah had only 10 years of proven coal reserves at current production rates.


  1. SB 246 will likely not cure the illegal transfer of funds from the Community Impact Board for an out-of-state construction project.
  • The purpose of the bill is to move $53 million from the CIB, and spend $53 million on the coal terminal in California. This is a transparent ploy to launder CIB funds to pay for a construction project in California that has nothing to do with mitigating the impacts of fossil fuel development in impacted counties in Utah. As such, this bill has likely violated the same federal laws as the CIB’s April 2015 loan approval that has been stalled for months as it is reviewed by Utah’s attorney general. Those laws require CIB funds to be spent in Utah counties on public projects that mitigate the impacts of federal fossil fuel leasing. Subsidizing construction of an export facility in California, however those funds are laundered, violates those laws.
  • If the Attorney General’s review concluded that the April 2015 CIB loan is legal, why is this bill necessary? The Attorney General should release his review before this bill is considered so the public can understand whether the loan is illegal.


  1. Opposition in California means there is significant political risk to any Utah loan.
  • The Oakland City Council is considering legislation restricting coal exports through Oakland. There is likely to be a vote on that legislation this Spring. Such an outcome could render worthless Utah’s investment.
  • The California legislature also has before it four bills that would restrict coal exports through Oakland and California, further raising the political risk that Utah will see no return on any investment in the terminal.
  • 76 percent of Oakland voters oppose building the coal terminal at the port.
  • Beyond environmental groups and public health organizations, even some faith groups have united to oppose construction of the port project.
  • The Port of Oakland rejected a proposal for a coal terminal in 2014; concerns about the terminal have only increased since then.


  1. The public deserves a chance to fully consider this complex proposal, rather than have it rammed through at the end of the legislative session with little consideration.
  • The introduction of this bill so late in the session gives the public little or no opportunity to raise legitimate questions on the appropriateness of giving a $53 million loan of taxpayers’ money to an ill-considered California project. It appears to be an attempt to sneak through a controversial scheme at the last minute.
  • Additional consideration of the bill is warranted because its convoluted funding mechanism makes it difficult to tell how it will impact transportation and other funding across the state.





Photo: Sharon St Joan



This email was sent by Sharon St Joan to Utah Senator Ralph Okerland, at   For more on this bill and sending an email, see below.


Dear Senator Okerlund,


I am writing to ask you to vote against SB0246 and to oppose the building of, and any funding for, a coal port in Oakland, California – and any related infrastructure.


A California port to export Utah coal, fossil fuels, minerals, or other products extracted from the ground is not in the best interest of Utah residents and taxpayers.


No one denies that the coal industry is a polluting industry – causing harm to the air that we breathe, to streams and lakes, to animals, plants, and human beings.


Coal and fossil fuel industrialization is profoundly destructive to our environment, our health, our economy, and to the long-term interests of all of us.


Utah is one of the few last remaining places on earth where one may find pristine, wild natural lands. No other place surpasses the majestic beauty of our national parks and monuments, and all our public lands. We have an obligation to protect these lands far into the future. They are also the foundation of the near and long-term economic prosperity of Utah.


Tourists do not come from around the world to visit coal mines, and the tourism and recreation industries are the backbone our economy. Unlike coal, they are not short-term, dying investments which leave behind unattractive wastelands.


The proposed California coal port and the infrastructure that would accompany it threaten everything that Utah stands for  — our western wilderness heritage, our prosperity, our long-term well-being, and the unique, unsurpassed and irreplaceable beauty of Utah’s wild lands.  Please vote against it.


Thank you.




Sharon St Joan

Kanab, Utah resident


For more on the issue of SB246 that would use Utah funding to construct an Oakland California coal port, click here.

The bill was introduced just days ago, giving almost no time for comments. The legislative session ends this Thursday, March 10, 2016.

If you wish to send an email, you may send this one, as is, or with any changes you wish to make. Many thanks!

Photo: Sharon St Joan







The email below was sent by JoAnne Rando-Moon to Utah Senator Okerlund to oppose bill SB246, which would use Utah money to fund building a coal port in Oakland, California for the export of Utah coal and other products overseas. This would likely lead to more coal expansion in Utah, with detrimental consequences to Utah’s wildlife, wild lands, and way of life. It is followed by Senator Okerlund’s reply. 


This bill was just introduced over the past few days into the Utah legislature, which will end its session this Thursday, March 10, 2016, leaving almost no time, if any, to write in opposition to the bill.


To send an email on this issue to Senator Okerlund, the Utah Senator for Kane County, his email address is


For other Utah senators, click here.  


Email sent to Senator Okerlund:


Senator Okerlund,


As a resident of Kane County, Utah, I am completely opposed to SB 246, spending millions of tax payer dollars to ship coal to Oakland, CA for export. San Francisco Bay and Oakland residents overwhelmingly oppose the Oakland coal port!


Coal is a very dirty industry, disrupting the natural beauty of Utah. We have so many who visit our beautiful state and they are NOT spending their money to see coal trucks race up and down our narrow corridors, especially from the Alton Coal Mine!!!!!


They are here to see Bryce Canyon National Park, bike, hike and photograph the beauty that surrounds them. The machinery and lights from Alton Coal Mine run all night long disturbing residents and wildlife alike. I have witnessed it first hand when I worked with the Grand to Grand Ultra race. We had almost one hundred international athletes and volunteers from all over the world camping on private land in Alton to finish the 170 mile self-supported race near Powell Point. Throughout the night the machines hammered away! It was shocking to see the destruction from the previous year when the pastures were pristine on the adjacent land.


Please vote AGAINST SB246.


Thank you,


JoAnne Rando-Moon


Kanab, UT



Senator Okerlund’s reply:




Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about SB 246.  I appreciate the things you have highlighted, but I do want to provide the other side of this bill. This bill is more than a coal transportation bill. By passing this bill, Utah would be able to ship goods overseas. For my District it would enable the transfer of salt, pot ash, agriculture products, and iron. This would allow for significant economic development within my district. Because of that, I think we need to look into this legislation further considering the potential benefit it can provide. But


With that being said, I value what you have relayed to me. I think in all pieces of legislation we must see the issue from as many angles as possible. I will keep your words in mind and will consider all the consequences, both negative and positive as we continue to vet this bill.


All my best,


Senator Okerlund



Photo: Sharon St Joan







Last week a new bill was introduced in the Utah legislature that would allocate 51 million dollars of Utah taxpayer money to fund a port in Oakland, California for exporting coal – out of the U.S.


This scheme would allow coal to be shipped out of Utah to foreign buyers and would prop up the coal industry and facilitate coal expansion in Utah.


(It is currently not absolutely clear whether or not the moratorium on new coal expansion on public lands announced in January by the Obama administration would or would not stop the proposed Alton coal mine expansion. It certainly should since it would be a new lease – on public lands — open to bidding by any company – but those in favor of more coal will certainly be looking for a way around these facts.)


The ability to ship more coal out of Utah would certainly, either way, be helpful to those producing coal – and detrimental to our environment and our wild lands and wildlife.


The figures in question seem to vary from $5l million to $53 million. Either way, we don’t want to spend our money to help destroy the natural beauty of Utah.


For the link to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, click here.


For the link to the text of SB 246, click here.

(If you can find the relevant section – please let us know where it is. It isn’t easy to find.)


San Francisco Bay and Oakland residents overwhelmingly oppose the Oakland coal port! For  a posting from the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, opposing the Oakland coal port, click here.


The Utah legislative session ends this Thursday, March 10, so now is the time to send in a comment.


SB 246 is a new bill, just introduced – perhaps with the intent to minimize time for discussion about it.


For Kane County, our Senator is Senator Ralph Okerlund,


Even if your comment arrives after the bill has been passed, letting our representatives know that we are opposed to Utah coal expansion and to the devastating destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry to our wildlife and wild lands, will not be a wasted effort!




Please write to your Utah Senator.


If you are not a Utah resident, please write anyway, stating where you live. (The destruction of the natural world is a global issue, not just a local one.)


For Kane County, Utah, our Senator is Senator Ralph Okerlund,


Thank you!


Photo: Sharon St Joan










This cougar was released from a bobcat trap by wildlife officials. Of course, the bobcats are killed by trappers rather than being released. This shows how barbaric and cruel trapping is and why all trapping should be banned. The cougar suffered injuries to his paw, but should recover and be fine.


Video shows intense release of large cougar from trap in southern Utah |