New Film, “The East Tavaputs Plateau: A Land Fighting for Survival”


This newly-released short film lets you see for yourself the incredible beauty of the East Tavaputs Plateau, slated for tar sands strip mining. Get up close to the natural wonders hiding throughout this enchanting land, and ask yourself what you would do to defend it.

On the East Tavaputs Plateau of so-called Utah, which is Uintah Ute territory, US Oil Sands is trying to start up the first massive strip mine to produce fuel from tar sands in the U.S. Meanwhile, grassroots groups like Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide are battling to defend this lush and diverse land. 

Witness the amazing beings and ecosystems fighting for life alongside incredible destruction. While they don’t get the attention of Canyonlands or the San Raphael, these places are near and dear to us and many other folks in Utah. From the sandstone cliffs of Main Canyon with their hidden bat caves, to the sweeping vistas of the Book Cliffs, this land deserves protection as much as any national park. And as part of the headwaters of the Colorado River as well as a massive source of carbon, our future is intertwined with its own.

Site Report: USOS seems far behind on schedule!


From the looks of it, no one’s going to be processing bitumen on the Tavaputs Plateau this year.

US Oil Sands has promised investors they’d achieve commercial production by the final quarter of 2015.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there.


Though there’s personnel on the production site, it seems impossible to run graders and other machinery in all this muck.


The entrance to Children’s Legacy Camp (the area they’ve been clearcutting and grading) is a slushpile.


The processing site has a nice layer of snow on the ground. There’s been no paving work so far, meaning it’s awfully hard to run machines over this slushy ground too. Paving site roads (a goal outlined in the mine plan) sure seemed like one of the crucial stepping stones to building capacity to work all winter and achieve commercial production.



New conveyors are in, but kind of just sitting there in the snowy field.

The Legacy area has been quiet. At 8,000 feet, it seems awfully hard to dig up this frozen tundra in the winter.

Seems like a whole lot of investor dollars being spent on worker salaries, with the potential for very minimal results.


If seeing all this destruction moves you, now is the time to jump in! Together we can win this fight.


We’ve Moved Our Vigil to SITLA!

BREAKING: Utah Tar Sands Resistance has moved our protest vigil to SITLA, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, located in downtown Salt Lake City!


That’s right, we rolled in with our water barrels, tents, and banners, and set up shop at high noon today.

Join us if you can. Bring food or coffee, and it will be a party.





SITLA's dirty work banner

Read the press release:

Utah Tar Sands Resistance
Stages 24-Hour Vigil on Lawn of SITLA

October 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: On October 21 at noon, members of Utah Tar Sands Resistance and supporters launched a 24-hour vigil in front of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) in Salt Lake City. This summer and fall, beginning in mid-May, they have been holding an ongoing protest encampment in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah, at the site where US Oil Sands is attempting to start the first commercial tar sands mine in the U.S. Now, they have brought their protest to the front doors of the agency responsible for leasing the lands, SITLA, located at 500 S/700 E, Salt Lake City.

The group chose to launch their vigil the day before SITLA’s next board meeting, which will take place at 9 a.m. on October 22. SITLA’s board is stacked with developers chosen by the governor, and its decisions to lease land for the world’s dirtiest energy sources—like tar sands and oil shale—stand in stark contrast to its mandate to never sacrifice short-term gains for the long-term wellbeing of Utah’s children.

In reality, SITLA contributes just 1–2% of the public schools’ budget. What do SITLA’s choices actually give the residents of Utah? The high rate of infant mortality in the Uintah Basin and the red air days in the Salt Lake Valley during which children and pregnant women are told to stay indoors, for starters. Human health will be jeopardized even more if the world’s dirtiest projects are allowed to take root in Utah. Along with decimated ecosystems, dwindling watersheds, and climate chaos, these realities show that SITLA’s choices are giving our children a toxic and frightening future, leaving them to cope with previous generations’ mistakes.

Jill Merritt, a mother of four and a grandmother, says, “SITLA’s choices put my grandchildren and future generations in grave danger, leaving them with a world torn apart by climate chaos, poisoned rivers, and toxic air. We call on SITLA to immediately rescind their leases for tar sands and oil shale, and start focusing on the long-term wellbeing of our children.”

Utah Tar Sands Resistance encourages all concerned members of the public to join them in standing up for a livable future. Their vigil is a family-friendly environment that they hope will serve as a public forum in which people can discuss their concerns about the management of public lands and resources. They will be recording stories on the site for a video project on this issue, and they invite kids, parents, and other members of the public to come share about their concerns for the environment and their love of Utah’s public lands.

Photo Essay: Summer Turning to Fall at PR Springs


PR Springs is a magical place all year round. Every season brings new flowers, berries, colors. Here’s a photo essay of images from a recent hike through this amazing land.

Sage and rabbit brush

Landscape 1

Aspens 7

MC, Rosehips 3

MC, trees on rocky slope 2

Thistle 3






Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse Party and Campout!


September 26-28, at the vigil site.


Come watch and celebrate the blood moon lunar eclipse with us in one of the darkest places in the western states!

We’re staying up on a ridge, at the highest point on the East Tavaputs Plateau–an ideal place for moon gazing!

The blood moon/eclipse is on the night of the 27th/28th (Sunday). Come camp with us any time that weekend. We’ll be at the Vigil site by the gravel pile across from US Oil Sands’ worksite. Get directions at

Bring warm gear in case of cold weather or rain. The weather has mostly been very pleasant lately, with rain here and there. We have dinner food we can prepare together, and please bring your own lunch and breakfast.

Facebook event:

See you on the ridge soon!

Investors Beware: Tar Sands Industry Is a Capsizing Ship


It’s not an easy time to be a tar sands profiteer. Not that it ever really was.

By saying the outlook is dismal now, we risk implying that the outlook was once bright and cheery. Hardly. Tar sands mining has never been economically feasible in the U.S. Tar sands and oil shale upstarts have gone bust decade after decade trying to become the first to turn a profit, leaving destroyed land and devastated workers in their wake.

Now, the financial news headlines put the writing on the wall: We’re watching the death throes of a dying industry. And US Oil Sands is still trying to climb on board.

Cameron Todd's dreams are blowing away like this dust from a tar sands mine site.

Cameron Todd’s dreams are blowing away like this dust from a tar sands mine site.

Countless major financial news outlets spell out the state of the industry in stark terms. The Financial Times writes, “At current oil prices, typical oil sands producers are just covering their operating costs…while companies with higher operating costs are “losing money with each barrel they’re producing” (our italics).

Yes, the big players of Alberta have to keep producing to “weather the storm,” as The Toronto Star reports. Their investors have sunk billions into their projects, so they have little choice but to keep on keepin’ on in hopes of the slightest of upturns. But the upstarts are in a far more precarious—dare we say, impossible—position. Without a prayer of breaking even for, in all likelihood, quite a long time, they need someone to help them play the game of tar sands without a chance of actually bringing in any money.

Nonetheless, in its quarterly report released on August 28, US Oil Sands told investors it will achieve commercial production in the final quarter of 2015, a goal that relies on tight coordination of numerous factors, not to mention the whims of the market. And they’ve announced that they are seeking more funding in part because of the state of the market.

Don’t open your pocketbooks all at once, investors.

In an industry that already has an extremely narrow profit margin, because of its labor- and energy-intensive nature, the projection of success in 2015 seems quite hyperbolic. It’s not just a matter of producing some amount of low-grade fuel. It’s a matter of achieving economy of scale—producing the tremendous amount of fuel needed to eek out a profit. And those are the challenges under stable market conditions.

Let’s put all this in context. The Toronto Star reports, “A report from TD Securities says only two mining and upgrading projects are producing synthetic crude for less than its market price of about $36 per barrel. Analyst Menno Hulshof said more than three-quarters of Canada’s daily output of 2.2 million barrels of crude from the oil sands is being produced at a loss at current prices.”

Reuters reports, “More than three-quarters of Canada’s daily output of 2.2 million barrels of crude from oil sands is being produced at a loss at current prices, research from analysts at TD Securities shows.”

Inside Climate News says: “Since prices crashed, oil companies have delayed or cancelled $200 billion in projects, and nearly 30 percent of those are in the oil sands, according to a recent Wood Mackenzie report.”

This chipmunk is gloating.

This chipmunk is gloating.

Here’s a smattering other stories on the topic:

The Globe and Mail“Oil sands set for more pain as reductions loom for crude reserves”

CBC News, “Oilsands companies feel the pain as Canadian oil price falls”

Financial Post, “Oil sands brace for more misery as Canadian heavy crude plunges to lowest price in decade”

Edmonton Journal, “Capital investment in oilsands could decline further, CAPP president says”

Wall Street Journal, “Canadian oil-sands producers struggle”

In short, a project that’s already a speculative and high-risk venture has essentially been demonstrated worse than worthless by market forces, and US Oil Sands still seems to think there are foolish enough investors to put their money into this capsizing ship.

The real danger (aside that to investors): In the mad dash to achieve economy of scale and keep investors believing, a start-up company could destroy a vast amount of wilderness and contaminate waterways flowing from it. The operation might fail—like the tar sands mine abandoned in the mid-80s, just over the hill from US Oil Sands’ operation—but we’re left with its toxic legacy.

Couple that with the effects of popular resistance movements on upstart projects, which this study details.

We still love babies and are fighting for their future.

We still love babies, and will keep fighting for their future.

Meanwhile, the realities of climate change—like wildfires and dropping water levels—have recently been limiting tar sands production in the Athabasca region. In Utah, those realities are sure to hit us even harder.

Speaking of weather, did we mention the project sits at 8,000 feet, where it regularly snows in October and winter often lasts six months? Based on the company’s track record of shutting up shop during the colder months, when work is often impossible, we have serious doubts that even under the best of market conditions—and even if everything else were going swimmingly with their project—it would be possible to achieve commercial production in the dead of winter in the Book Cliffs.

So investors, if you’re set on putting your money on the unlikeliest of ventures, have at it. But we think you’re a bit more intelligent than that.

Video of Monday’s Tripod Blockade Shut-Down of Children’s Legacy Camp Clearcutting

Last week, we watched US Oil Sands clearcutting the Children’s Legacy Camp, completely devastating the area in just four short days.

Then on Monday, two tripods went up on the newly-bulldozed haul road that leads into the destruction zone, set up by stealthy and quick-moving allies. No sooner had they thrown up the tripods than two agile climbers had pulled themselves up into their apexes, all before the cops posted at the processing site down the road must have had any idea what was happening.


Watch this awesome video of the action from Direct Autonomous Media!

As the day wore on, spirits stayed high, with folks singing, chanting, and calling moral support to the tripod sitters. By late morning, a cherry picker had finally arrived to extract the folks perched on the tripods. But after the cops arrested the  first tripod sitter, and the cherry picker was moving toward the second, another quick-thinking comrade locked to the cherry picker itself, causing a serious delay to the extractions!


For more coverage of the action, visit

We’re so very grateful for the brave folks who took action to defend Children’s Legacy Camp and the legacy we are leaving for the children of our world. The images of the bulldozed site speak for themselves: The only legacy USOS would leave our children is one of toxic destruction. We think they deserve something better. Join us at the vigil to see for yourself what is happening and get involved!

Vigil Location Update

Friends, if you decide to visit the vigil, we are at a site set just slightly back from Seep Ridge Road across from US Oil Sands’ worksite. It’s right by the big gravel pile that’s on your left as you head down Seep Ridge Road from the Vernal/Roosevelt area. You turn onto a small road on your left, which is just before the gravel pile. You’ll see the vigil site as you pull onto that road. Come visit and get involved!

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BREAKING: USOS Is Bulldozing Children’s Legacy Camp NOW

BREAKING: US Oil Sands is at this moment bulldozing the beloved Children’s Legacy Camp–a site where we’ve held multiple Intergenerational Campouts and other events over the past three years!

protest at clc 2

Over the past day, they have been stripping trees and soil from the land, dumping soil into the lush canyon below their processing site.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining recently issued them a permit to expand into this area, but USOS has not yet secured its permits from the EPA to allow it to move forward with work. The EPA sent the company a letter in June 2014–over a year ago–telling it to get these permits.

We are outraged at how the state of Utah turns a blind eye to the harm USOS is causing to our watershed and airshed, and to the rampant habitat destruction they are right now causing to one of our region’s most diverse and wild places.


The children who have spent time bonding with this land will be devastated to see these photos, but they need to know whose interests the state of Utah protects. It’s their future at stake, and we need to fight for it alongside them, and alongside all frontline resisters fighting the world’s most deadly projects.

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These photos say it all. There is no future in tar sands mining. It brings death, destruction, depletion of our most vital resources. JOIN US at the vigil, see for yourself what is at stake, and take action. Write letters to the editor, call the people who are allowing this to go forward without even the bare-minimum permitting, and JOIN THE FIGHT to stop it!

This is NOT any kind of future for our children and grandchildren! Call the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining at (801) 538-5329. Flood EPA Region 8’s lines! 303-312-6312 or in Region 8 states 800-227-8917.

Your voice, your presence, your energy are needed now more than ever to prevent this destruction from going any further!


Even the Sky Is at Stake

Image c/o

Image c/o

It’s not their sky simply because they’ve leased the land below it, stolen from indigenous peoples by an imperialist government. It’s not our sky. Possessives have no place when talking about something so vast and all-encompassing. Yet US Oil Sands’ lights have gone up—streetlights, on the ridgeline of the Book Cliffs wilderness. Streetlights lying dormant, threatening every night to awaken and consume that which should never be claimed.

In the Book Cliffs—the land the state of Utah has leased as a tar sands sacrifice zone—you’ll find a place with skies darker, stars brighter, than almost anywhere else you may ever go. There is nothing, for many miles, to impede that view at all. The constellation pop out of this expanse as you search for the ones you know and muse upon what other societies, like the Uintah Utes, see when they look up at night.

On the full moon, you can hike across the ridgelines where sagebrush glow silver and ghosts roam the edges of imagination. You start to see bears everywhere—in the rocky canyonside, in the shining aspen groves in the shadowy ravines below. With the return of the new moon, you stay close to the campfire, the world shrouded in a dark cloak of possibilities—cougar or coyote slinking along forest’s edge, swarms of bats sweeping out of their caves, hiding in the thick stands of trees.

Now they want to take away even that.

US Oil Sands has installed lightposts around their 23-acre ridgeline worksite where they are setting up tar sands processing equipment. Every day, we wonder: Will tonight be the night they take the sky away?