Tell Congress to Protect Utah's Wildlands

Utah's Red Rock Wilderness includes some of the nation's most valuable and threatened wildlands. World-renowned for their stunning beauty - with incredible sandstone arches, narrow meandering redrock canyons, and wild rivers - Utah's publicly owned wild places are home to desert bighorn sheep, cougar, endangered peregrine falcon, and countless other wildlife species.

Alarmingly, destructive impacts from exploding new oil and gas drilling, improper off-road vehicle (ORV) use, and other development threaten these priceless lands and their resources.

America's Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) would protect over 9.5 million acres of federal public lands in Utah by adding them to the National Wilderness Protection System. With broad-based bipartisan support growing behind the bill, the time has come to finally pass this legislation - but Members of Congress need to hear your voice!

You can help by calling your Congressional Representative and Senators now - use the contact info and talking points below.

Let them know you want them to cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act. Your calls will help ensure that your Representative and Senators are among the original cosponsors of this critical bill when it is introduced in early April. Cosponsorship creates valuable political momentum by demonstrating public support that other members of Congress can see and support themselves.

Kathy Kilmer
The Wilderness Society

Visit The Wilderness Society's legislator look-up page to find your Representatives' and Senators' contact information by clicking here:

or simply call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.

If your Senator is on the list below, there is no need to place a phone call to that office, unless you'd like to THANK your Senator for introducing or cosponsoring this important bill!

Richard Durbin - IL (Introduced the bill) John Kerry - MA Benjamin Cardin - MD Robert Menendez - NJ Jack Reed - RI Maria Cantwell - WA Russ Feingold - WI

Please use the talking points below to tell your Representative and Senators in your own words why you want them to protect wild Utah.


1) Please cosponsor America's Red Rock Wilderness Act - preferably as an original cosponsor before it is introduced in early April.

2) Utah's public wild lands are a national treasure that are important to me, which I want Congress to protect for current and future generations to enjoy.

3) Utah's wildlands are precious and irreplaceable. They are valued by the public for many reasons, such as:

* Outstanding geologic formations and scenic beauty;
* Important wildlife habitat, including home to at least two dozen endangered or sensitive species;
* Some of the richest concentrations of prehistoric ruins in the world; and
* World-renowned recreation opportunities including hiking, canyoneering and boating and rafting along the Colorado, Green, San Juan, Dolores rivers.

4) Threats to proposed Red Rock Wilderness are serious and growing from increasing oil and gas development and irresponsible off-road vehicle recreation.

* In the last few years, BLM has leased over 125,000 acres of lands in America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.

5) The time is now to support and pass America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.

* 161 Members of the House and 16 Senators cosponsored ARRWA in the 109th Congress, most of whom have returned this Congress, and many of the new members of Congress ran on environmental platforms. This Congress represents the best chance in years to protect Utah wilderness.

BACKGROUND: WHAT'S AT STAKE Utah's Red Rock wilderness is a national treasure famed for rugged beauty and incredible geology. Swirling red sandstone is studded with vibrant green vegetation, sparkling rivers, and abundant wildlife. The lands to be protected by America's Red Rock Wilderness Act are unique in their splendor and diverse resources.

First introduced in 1989, ARRWA represents over 20 years of field work, research and documentation by conservationists. Distressed by the woefully small fraction of Utah wildlands recommended for federal wilderness designation by the BLM in their original 1980 survey, citizen volunteers completed field surveys documenting nearly six million acres of pristine backcountry worthy of wilderness protection. A second and more extensive citizens' inventory completed in 1998 brought the total eligible acreage to more than nine million.

The lands to be protected in ARRWA are blessed with unmatched resources. Beyond their breathtaking beauty and opportunities for hiking, boating, and other recreation, Utah's BLM wildlands are also home to at least two dozen endangered or sensitive wildlife species; endangered desert tortoise, peregrine falcons, and Bonneville cutthroat trout share habitat with desert bighorn sheep, cougar, and other animals. ARRWA lands also boast some of the richest concentrations of prehistoric ruins - left by America's ancient Anasazi and other cultures - in the world. The huge canyon systems of the Colorado, Green, San Juan, and Dolores rivers are yet another remarkable feature of ARRWA lands.

Yet these special places are under attack by damaging impacts from oil and gas development, mining, illegal road construction, and ORV use. The clock is ticking. Currently more than two-thirds of Utah's BLM lands are available for oil and gas leasing, and some 3.5 million acres have been leased to date - including over 125,000 acres of proposed wilderness lands. Withdrawing proposed wilderness lands from oil and gas development would have minimal impact on our national energy situation - recent government figures show that "technically recoverable" undiscovered natural gas and oil resources on lands within America's Red Rock Wilderness Act amount to less than 4 weeks of natural gas and roughly 4 days of oil at current national consumption levels ("economically recoverable" would be even less).

Similarly, roughly 75% of BLM lands in Utah lack any real protection from ORV use that can cause extensive damage to fragile desert soils, streams, vegetation, and wildlife. Furthermore, thousands of visitors come to Utah's canyons and desert expanses hoping to experience solitude and quiet, but instead are now treated to the inescapable buzzing of all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes on Utah's 100,000-plus miles of dirt roads and old mining tracks. Though thousands of acres of wildlands have been lost in recent decades, we still have the opportunity to protect much of this land as wilderness before we lose these irreplaceable lands to development.

Fortunately, support for ARRWA has never been higher. The cause of Utah wilderness is supported by The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Wasatch Mountain Club, as well as more than 230 other national and regional conservation groups. Additionally, last year in the 109th Congress, 161 Representatives and 16 Senators cosponsored ARRWA. With the election of many new environmentally friendly members last November, there is the real chance to significantly increase support for Utah wilderness and actually start moving the bill through Congress this year.

As they have for many years, ARRWA will be sponsored by our champions, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) in the House, and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate. Each bill will likely be introduced in early April, and it's important that as many cosponsors as possible sign on to support the bill before it is introduced. Your calls to your Representative and Senators will ensure they are among the original cosponsors of this critical bill when it is introduced.

Please call your Representative and Senators today.


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