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Press contact: NRDC: Sharon Buccino, 202-289-2397, or Elliott Negin, 202-289-2405;
SUWA: Scott Groene, 801- 486-7639 ext. 26
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UTAH'S REDROCK CANYONS ON NRDC'S BIOGEMS LIST OF 12 MOST THREATENED WILDLANDS IN THE AMERICAS FOR THE FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW
WASHINGTON (March 8, 2005) -- NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) today announced that, for the fifth year in a row, the Redrock Wilderness of southern and eastern Utah is on its annual BioGems list of the dozen most endangered natural places in the Americas. Home to some of the state's last healthy populations of pronghorn and bighorn sheep, these wildlands are a prime target of the Bush administration's destructive energy agenda. (For more information about 2005 BioGems, click here.)
"The Bush administration has another four years to try to liquidate Nine Mile Canyon, Desolation Canyon and other unique Utah landmarks," said Sharon Buccino co-director of NRDC's Public Lands Defense Project. "With the help of citizens in Utah and across the country, we will make sure that doesn't happen. There are better, cleaner and more economical energy alternatives to destroying our natural heritage."
Since the Bush administration took office in 2001, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has opened up environmentally sensitive areas in Utah that were previously off-limits to oil and gas exploration and development. Harmful development activities have occurred near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and in Nine Mile Canyon, which boasts outstanding archeological sites. BLM also has sold leases to energy companies in the Book Cliffs, among the wildest and most beautiful lands in Utah, which provide habitat for some 375 species of birds, reptiles and mammals, and are home to ancient rock art and burial grounds.
NRDC and its regional partner, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), have had some success over the last year in preventing further destruction in Utah's Redrock Wilderness. Last November, the Interior Department's Board of Land Appeals ruled in favor of the two organizations when it overturned the BLM's decision to lease to oil and gas companies more than 35,000 acres of public land in the state's rugged and scenic backcountry, including Kane Springs Creek south of Moab and land east of Zion National Park. The board found that the agency failed to protect fragile archaeological sites and consult with Native American tribes before leasing the lands.
"The court's ruling was a step in the right direction to protect irreplaceable cultural resources from the Bush administration's ill-conceived energy plans," said Scott Groene, SUWA's director. "Unfortunately, the administration pushes energy development regardless of the damage to wildlife or how it interferes with the public's use of our national lands."
In the coming year, NRDC, SUWA and online BioGems activists will promote America's Redrock Wilderness Act in Congress, which would permanently protect more than 9 million acres of pristine public land in Utah, and continue to block destructive energy development in the region.
NRDC's campaign to protect Utah's Redrock Wilderness is part of a larger initiative the organization launched in 2001 to mobilize Americans to defend exceptional, imperiled ecosystems. The BioGems program couples NRDC's research and advocacy expertise with citizen activism. Over the last four years, NRDC's 500,000 online BioGems activists have sent more than 5 million messages to corporations and government officials protesting plans to sacrifice some of the Western Hemisphere's last wild and unspoiled places.
This year, NRDC is adding two sites of critical importance for whales, porpoises and other marine mammals to its annual list. The new BioGems, in the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico and on the Patagonia coast of Chile, join 10 BioGems from 2004, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Cumberland Plateau in the Southeastern United States. Over the past year, NRDC has blocked energy companies, loggers and miners from gaining ground in those 10 BioGems, but they still face ongoing threats. The Arctic Refuge is particularly at risk. Both houses of Congress are currently considering including projected revenues from oil leases in the refuge in their budget bills.
United States: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska; Cumberland Plateau, Southeastern United States; Greater Everglades, Florida; Redrock Wilderness, Utah; Tongass National Forest, Alaska; Western Arctic Reserve, Alaska; Yellowstone-Greater Rockies.
Canada: Castle-Bighorn, Alberta; Heart of the Boreal Forest, Manitoba.
Latin America: Patagonia Coast, Chile; Tahuaman˙ Rainforest, Peru; Upper Gulf of California, Mexico.
"NRDC's BioGems Initiative has demonstrated the power of the Internet as a tool for conservation," said Jacob Scherr, NRDC's BioGems campaign coordinator. "We have used the Web to enable citizens around the world to have a voice in the protection of some of the most precious wild places in our hemisphere, and their voices have been critical to our victories in the United States, Canada and Latin America."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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