The Vigil Continues

hard hat

A mass action camp here at PR Springs just ended last week, culminating in an ongoing week-long work shut-down for US Oil Sands. The energy of the 70+ participants from around the region amplified the resolve of our permanent presence to halt tar sands mine construction and foster new relationships with allies we can call upon in the future. While some friends have gone back to their various homes, we as a group feel more committed to defending this place than ever — and we aren’t going anywhere.

We’re also enjoying getting to know a new corner of this vast and beautiful land, a high spot near the edge of the sweeping green canyons of the Book Cliffs. Forested canyons plunge down into larger canyons that meet up with bigger canyons still, forming the behemoths that lead down to the plains some thousands of feet below. Groves of scrub oak give us shelter from the wind, and blood-red sunsets over the high desert mark the end of our days, leading into new moon nights of pure darkness scattered with flashes of far-off lightning storms. To the north, we can see the long-abandoned tar sands mine where we’ve observed a black bear scavenging
for food in the tar seeps, and beyond it, the rubble of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands test pit. Being here affirms for us that we are not just here to protect our beloved PR Springs canyon, where we so often stay, but the vast and diverse habitats that stretch through the entirety of this land.

Sitting above the sprawling web of canyons that seem to bear up the plateau on the spines of their strong backs reminds me that each one is slightly or sometimes dramatically different, filled with different species and relationships between them, different patterns in how plants, animals, and fungi move through the world and down the canyon slopes. Some are sandy desert gardens, where bright green oaks and wildflowers pop out of sandstone outcrops; others are thickets of Douglas fir, Ponderosa, & Piñon. Every day I feel blessed to be here, and I have no interest in
going back to town. The plateau needs us, and we will do our best to fulfill the commitment we have made to this land, which has already given us so much.

If you want to get to know this amazing land and take part in the vigil, email

Video: Work stopped ALL WEEK at tar sands strip mine!

On Monday, July 21, a mass mobilization following a week-long action camp halted construction at U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip mine all day. But those of us maintaining a permanent presence in the area under threat noticed something else: work on the site they’ve been bulldozing hasn’t resumed since then.

U.S. Oil Sands has suffered a shock on two fronts this week: popular resistance, and the legal realm. The face that mass numbers of people from Utah and around the region are taking decisive action to halt the project certainly must alarm company reps and investors. Equally alarming is the EPA’s recent revelation that part of the area U.S. Oil Sands is currently bulldozing is actually Indian country, destroyed without any permission or even notification to the tribe.

Aside from the Ute Tribe’s own permitting, the EPA has its own permitting process that U.S. Oil Sands must attempt to navigate. And having already destroyed the land it had no legal right to, the company may now have quite a mess to clean up.

Meanwhile, Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates, the groups that have been working through the courts to halt the mining, are moving forward with a case that’s stronger than ever. And those of us on the group are watching, documenting, getting ready for the next wave of action, and crying out as loudly as we an about the injustice of what is happening here.

National Environmental Groups Stand With Utah Land Defenders

This week, twenty-one people were arrested while engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in protest of a controversial proposed tar sands mine in northeastern Utah, which would threaten local land and water, as well as contributing to the global climate crisis. As they await charges, national environmental organizations expressed their solidarity with the protesters who stood for our freedom from dirty fossil fuels and devastating climate impacts.

“This could be the first large-scale tar sands strip mining in the Unites States, and this filthy industry threatens our air, water and wildlife,” said Valerie Love, No Tar Sands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, who was one of the 21 arrested at the site.  “We staged our protest on behalf of the millions of people who will be affected by this dirty fossil fuel mining. Over 40 million people and many wildlife species depend on this watershed. We need to say no to tar sands mining.”

SONY DSCRainforest Action Network stands in solidarity with the Utah anti-tar sands protestors whose commitment to protecting our air, water and climate—at the expense of their own freedom—is inspiring,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “Our movement is already working hard to prevent the Keystone XL from delivering tar sands oil across our borders; we can’t allow the practice itself to be imported to our cherished wild places. We applaud the local Utah campaigners for fighting to stop the first-ever tar sands mine in the United States.”

“Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the planet. By shining a spotlight on these dangerous projects, protestors in Utah are doing the world a service–they deserve our support, not jail time. If the government won’t act to keep tar sands in the ground, then the people will. The power of nonviolent direct action has helped block tar sands pipelines and mines from Nebraska to Maine to Alberta. This resistance is strategic, it’s effective, and it’s ultimately going to carry the day,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave people in Utah who are risking themselves to protect us all,” said Luísa Abbott Galvão, of Friends of the Earth. “We’ve seen from Canada that tar sands production is incompatible with environmental sustainability, land rights, and the public health.”

SONY DSC“Mining tar sands in Utah would be disastrous for local communities and the water, and would be a major setback for the country’s efforts to stop climate change,” said Kendall Mackey, National Tar Sands Organizer for Energy Action Coalition. “Youth activists across the country stand with those opposing tar sands mining in Utah and stand ready to use our political and financial power to stop it.”

“Tar sands is the dirtiest source of oil on the planet.  We’ve seen the destruction being caused by tar sands everywhere–from the strip mines in Canada to the ruptured pipelines that dump tar sands crude into American waterways and neighborhoods,” said Marion Klaus, a Sierra Club volunteer leader who lives in Utah. “The Sierra Club stands with citizens everywhere who are fighting dirty fossil fuels and getting to work creating the clean energy prosperity this country needs.”

SONY DSC“The Utah 21 are not alone.  These brave and principled nonviolent activists are only the most recent to take their turns on the front lines against extreme energy extraction and for a safe climate and clean energy future. Many have preceded them and more will surely follow.  Our movement is already winning as we have effectively limited tar sands production by blocking its export out of North America.  The oil industry and the Obama and Harper governments should expect more protests, marches, and civil disobedience until energy policy is brought in line with what climate science demands – anything less is climate denial which we, and activists around the country, will not tolerate” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International.

“Greenpeace stands in solidarity with the brave activists who have put their freedom on the line to prevent the construction of the first-ever US tar sands mine. We can’t hope to solve the climate crisis if we continue to extract and burn the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In the face of devastating droughts, floods, and fires, non-violent direct action is a necessary tool to confront injustices where governments and corporations have failed to act,” said Gabriel Wisniewski of Greenpeace.


Support Utah Land Defenders!

Utah Tar Sands


After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah. In addition to protestors, those acting as legal observers, independent media, and jail support were arrested, as well as several indigenous and trans individuals whose safety we are deeply concerned about.

Early this morning land defenders locked themselves to equipment being used to clear-cut and grade an area designated for the tar sands’ companies processing plant, as well as a fenced “cage” used to store the equipment. Others formed a physical blockade with their bodies to keep work from happening, and to protect those locked-down to the equipment. Banners were also hung off the cage that read: “You are trespassing on Ute land” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans. Two of the protesters arrested were injured. One was taken a nearby hospital to be treated, while the other is being treated at the Uintah County Jail. The nature of their injuries is not being disclosed by the county sheriffs.

Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah Country Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside. An estimated 10 armed deputies with police dogs were standing outside the jail wearing bullet proof vests. Those at the jail to provide support were told that the deputies were there to “deter” any supporters from actually coming to the jail.

Currently all 21 individuals are still being processed and held.

Support these brave land defenders who put their hearts and bodies on the line by donating to their legal fund.

Rising Tide North America is handling donations through The Action Network. Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund using this secure link or with the form below:



PRESS RELEASE: Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

July 21, 2014


Opponents to enforce shutdown of tar sands mine today

PR SPRINGS, Utah–About 80 climate justice land defenders right now are using their bodies to halt construction of a tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.

The action is the culmination of a week-long direct action training camp within 2 miles of the mine. Participants of Climate Justice Summer Camp travelled from numerous organizations, states and sovereign tribal nations to learn direct action skills and build networks.

In recent weeks, Calgary, Canada-based US Oil Sands began a new and devastating phase in construction of the first tar sands mine in the United States. Nearly 80 acres of forest and sage land have been leveled.

US Oil sands has construction permits on 212 acres of pristine wilderness and strip mine land leases on 32,000 acres. Opponents say the traditional Ute hunting lands leased by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration are too fragile and damage would be irreversible.

Numerous states and local governments question the wisdom of tar sands and oil shale projects in the Colorado River Basin. That system—which provides drinking water to 40 million people in the US, Mexico and native communities—is already severely over-tapped and endangered by industrial waste contaminants.

“Indigenous people’s sacred lands for hundreds of generations here would be destroyed after a few generations of American settler colonialism,” says Jessica Lee, on behalf of the land defenders. “US Oil Sands perfectly demonstrates capitalism’s brazen disregard for the climate crisis, human and tribal rights and rights of the planet itself to be free of dangerous corporate parasites.”

The United States Environmental Protection Agency this month joined the crowd demanding answers from the tar sands company. EPA’s letter indicates US Oil Sands may need tribal authorization for their project due to lease acres bordering and sometimes occurring in “Indian country.”

EPA also has concerns about toxic and hazardous waste from the project. The construction site is immediately upstream of one of the major river systems of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, the stunning Willow Creek Canyon area. The company has never sought Ute Tribal Government approval.

What is Climate Justice?


Donate to the land defenders’ legal support fund:

Grass Roots On-Site Protests Actually Work! (So Come and Join Us)

by Jill Jones

Grass roots on-site protests actually work, according to blogger Jason Koebler in a recent post on MOTHERBOARD. This is good news for Utah Tar Sand Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide who together have organized a summer-long, non-violent direct action public protest against tar sands mining at PR Springs on the Tavaputs Plateau in Eastern Utah.

In the blog, a research study -“Local Protesters are Killing Big Mining Projects Worldwide” – is featured. Several encouraging findings related to the effectiveness of on-site environmental activism are described. The bottom line is that direct action has had a costly effect on fossil fuel extraction industries. Among the fifty international projects studied (4% in North American), fully half were met with public protests – one, a major, world-class mining project with capital expenditures of between 3 million and 5 million US dollars, lost roughly 20 million dollars per week on delayed production due to a “project blockade” launched by the local community – and fifteen of the projects were suspended or abandoned altogether. “There is a popular misconception that local communities are powerless in the face of large corporations and governments,” Dr. Daniel Frank, the study’s director, has noted. “Our findings show that community mobilization can be very effective at raising the costs to companies.”

Protests during the early feasibility and construction phases of a project were found to be most successful. During later stages, projects are usually larger in scale, have more capital investment, and are more likely to have generated revenue. Thus, there are increased incentives for companies and governments to “defend’ their projects.” This provides further evidence of why the mobilization of nonviolent resistance during the beginning stages of the Utah tar sands mine’s development is so critical.

It was also determined that delayed projects are especially expensive to the extraction industry; $20 million per week loss in revenues and investments is not uncommon. According to study results, $750 million a day was lost in a nine-month delay at a Latin American mine and $750,000 a day at another extraction operation due to a power lines shut down. Even before extraction has started, lost wages and startup delays can be extremely costly if projects are stalled by on-site direct actions and protests.

On a more sobering note, in 40 percent of the 50 projects studied, someone died as a result of a physical protest. So there are costs to grass roots activists as well. But it’s not as if this hasn’t been carefully considered. For many activists, when compared to the imminent environmental destruction of our planet, it is a risk they are willing to take.

So join us at beautiful PR Springs in the pristine Book Cliffs of Eastern Utah for a summer of non-violent direct action against tar sands mining. Grass roots protests are not new to US Oil Sands – the Canada corporation that is developing the Utah tar sands mine, the first in the nation. In July 2013, climate justice activists shut down construction of the PR Springs test mine and of nearby Seep Ride Road for a full day, resulting in a 13 percent drop in US Oil Sands’ stock. This shows – like the study results described above – that our actions can have substantial and far-reaching environment-saving outcomes.

Next up on the PR Springs protest schedule is the Campaign Field School camp-out from July 15 to July 22. For this event, California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will join Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Peaceful Uprising, and Canyon Country Rising Tide to create a context for building relationships with like-minded activists and organizers and for learning the strategies of direct action resistance, all within a ever-deepening climate and collective justice framework. The Campaign Field School will serve as a training hub for people from the refinery communities of Salt Lake City, as well as for rural Utahans, indigenous allies, students, and other interested groups from throughout the region. By hosting the field school near the point of actual tar sands extraction, we are able to experience first hand the visceral realities of the relentless extractive economy, and show–not simply tell – the destructive forces our current fossil fuel economy is unleashing on ecosystems, land, water, and people.

See Also:
Why A Protest Vigil?
IT’S ON: Major Tar Sands Construction Underway in Utah
Storm Brewing: Permanent protest setup at proposed tar sands strip mine

The Violence of Tar Sands Extraction: WAAVE Speaks

By Sassy-Frass

On June 16, five women marched onto the site where U.S. Oil Sands, a tar sands mining company, was bulldozing a forested ridgeline into a flat parking lot. Dressed in orange vests and hard hats, we waved flags as we approached the worker in his machine. “Work has to stop. We cannot let this violence continue,” one of us said. At first the worker argued, but as we moved in front of the machine, he shut it down and left.

We are WAAVE: Women in Action Against Violent Extraction. And we are not backing down. We are mothers who have seen our own bodies depleted and poisoned by nonconsentual pollution, sisters who have seen our own sisters driven to the edge of self-destruction by the broken society in which we live. We are young women who have chosen never to bring children into this world, yet are fighting for the children of our friends and siblings so they might have a chance at a liveable future. We are non-gender-conforming people who have fought for the right to identify and live in a way that befits our true spirit. We are our male supporters, because separation is an illusion we refuse to adopt. And we will fight tooth and nail for our collective future.

Throughout our bioregion, women are on the frontlines of the effort to protect our earth, air, water, and climate. We are guiding the environmental justice movement and taking bold action together. Why women? There are at least a couple major reasons. First, as women in a patriarchal culture, we’ve had to deal with oppression — often in intersecting forms, like racism and sexism — throughout our lives, which makes us especially attuned to and impaced by environmental injustice. Women’s lower earning potential — particularly women of color — makes us more likely to end up closer to sources of pollution. Second, the nature of our bodies often makes us particularly attuned to how harm to ourselves harms the future, as the toxins we absorb would poison the children we might bear. Our bodies are also ecosystems of their own, harboring life when we choose to bring it to fruition. Even if we never wish to have children, that awareness is often part of our being — and by we, I am inclusive of the many trans-women who may feel this awareness. Moreover, this awareness of course is not limited to women, though our bodies and identity often act metaphorically to bring it to our attention.

The rape and exploitation of the earth is inextricably linked with the rape and exploitation of women’s bodies. Nonconsentual poisoning of our bodies and offspring via the poisoning of rivers, lakes, air is violence. Slow violence is killing not just the future, but the present as well. Those women most likely to be raped, kidnapped for sex trafficking, or killed — primarily by white male abusers — are overwhelmingly the same women whose bodies are most poisoned by toxic industries, like the Lakota women of the Great Plains.

Let’s call it what it is. Tar sands is violent to an extreme, just as the uranium mining on Lakota and Diné lands is incredibly violent. Tar sands miming drains rivers of water, making it a ludicrous proposal in the arid west where climate chaos is drying our rivers year by year. It releases toxins into the watershed that nature keeps immobilized in the earth. And it emits three times the greenhouse gases of regular crude, contributing dramatically to the violence of climate chaos.

Among the many victims of tar sands violence in the west would be the Cucupa, an indigenous people who live in the delta of the Colorado River. Robbed of their water by industry and frivolous extravagances like golf courses, they were forced to flee their homeland by catastrophic storms likely influenced by climate chaos. The forced exodus of a people from their lush homeland is violence. Turning people who had everything — abundant fish, fertile land in which to grow squash, melons, beans — into an impoverished people relying on bottled water and storebought food is violence. And if tar sands and oil shale strip mining happens on the Colorado Plateau, that violence will impact more and more people down the river.

The refineries of Salt Lake City are already inflicting tar sands violence on people, particularly those of poorer communities in industrial areas. Chevron is already processing tar sands brought in from Canada, which emits high concentrations of some of the worst stuff we could put into our air, like sulfur dioxide and VOCs. Systemic violence, including lack of access to healthcare and forced reliance on unhealthy, nutrient-depleted food, exacerbates the violence of pollution for people of color, immigrants, and low-income residents. Hauling in tar sands from the Colorado Plateau and processing them in Salt Lake would enact further violence on these communities, not to mention those in eastern Utah, where a spike in infant deaths is occuring due to the prevalence of dirty industries.

That indigenous women’s bodies are some of the most likely to be poisoned is just one more parallel between rape of the earth and women’s bodies. And settler women — myself included — are obligated to stand together with them as we fight for environmental justice. Our presence on the land where we live — even if we aren’t from the first generation of colonizers — means we are benefiting from and continuing the legacy of oppression that birthed us. Fighting for a liveable future is not a way to redeem ourselves, as there is no redemption for complicity in such a system, but it is a duty. We live on stolen land, have access to stolen resources, and benefit every day of our lives from the color of our skin and our heritage. When Mormon settlers came to Utah deadset on forcing the original inhabitants, the Utes, to farm, they forced them to eek out their subsistence on the most arid tracks of land. They then began even seizing pockets of that, running cattle over it, draining the water via irrigation ditches, all while the Ute people were starving, and to this day even those of us settlers who came over later are benefiting from access to land and resources that this land’s original inhabitants were forced off of and away from. Yes, the outright battles happened in the past, but setters still have the things we took, and the gravely unfair distribution of resources is a severe form of violence.The seizure of resources is a violent legacy here, as it is virtually everywhere, and we have the duty to halt it as it procedes to consume the land, air, and water we all depend on.

Being a settler yet defender of land is relatively new terrain — not to mention a terrain that’s still being negotiated — and it’s a role we must take on with humility. It’s not about ego, about our descendents looking at us as some kind of heros. It’s about necessity. Finding that humbleness, for me, means becoming rooted in the land by spending long periods of time in it, which allows me to experience myself as a fragile part of a much greater whole. Sitting in the sagebrush on a hillside acrossf rom one of the watering holes, I see elk, turkey, coyotes emerge from the aspen-covered canyonside. Each one does much for the whole without demanding recognition or honors, and that is the spirit in which we should act: purpose-driven, but humble.

That’s not to imply that WAAVE or tar sands resistance work is comprised only of settlers, because of course that’s far from the case. People of many backgrounds are bravely taking a stand for a liveable bioregion and planet. I simply hope these words will inspire more reflection in other settlers about our role in this movement and how to approach our work.

It doesn’t take a superhero to shut down a bulldozer. But we do need more folks like us out here—more women, transpeople, queers, men, committed to spending a day or a week or a month or a season taking a stand against the violent extraction that is harming your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren before they even take a breath of life on this planet.

Dirty Energy Kills

Honk if you ❤ Babies! Dirty Energy Kills!

Honk if you ❤ Babies In May, news erupted about a startling number of dying babies in Utah’s Uintah Basin, (what should be Ute territory, actually) where fossil fuel development is the center of the community’s economy and even its culture.

No one person better symbolizes the cultural centrality of the fossil fuel economy in the Uintah Basin than George Burnett, owner and operator of the I ❤ Drilling Juice shop in Vernal. It might seem unlikely, but a juice shop owner (he also sells camo truck seat covers) really is among the most prominent and well-known cheerleaders of the oil boom(-and-bust) economy here. He’s made himself and his businesses locally famous by standing on a street corner with a sign that says “Honk! If you ❤ Drilling!”

“They’ve asked him to be the mayor,” his son tells us.

Here in the UB, he’s kind of a Big Deal. A Big Deal who goes way over the top lionizing the fossil fuel economy and denying the merest existence of any downside or flaw.

Along comes a heroic whistleblower midwife who complicates the frack-fest party for a moment by daring to ask whether the Basin’s terrifyingly high infant mortality rate might be tied to environmental factors. The Basin has terrible ozone pollution, for example, due to leaking oil rigs and prevalent flare-offs at well sites.

Midwife Donna Young did a brave thing and is surviving a serious backlash now because of it. This is a community where virtually everyone–like really nearly everyone settler or indigenous—lost their jobs or home during parts of the 80s and 90s when the oil economy here slowed dramatically and then pretty much stopped for a bit.

In that context, Donna Young nevertheless asked her community to look at the darkest side of the decades-long oil boom-and-bust binge: dead babies. And that’s awesome.

Our support and thanks to Donna Young are endless and pure, but the issue for the community and for us is incredibly complicated. It feels for some people like it’s a choice between widespread economic uncertainty (and all the related health and social problems that brings) or a thriving oil economy that makes more people more money comfortable even if it poisons everyone in the Basin (and beyond!) and, well, might contribute to really high baby death rates where its toxic trail is found. Yikes.

The Uintah Basin’s oil primarily gets refined in and around Salt Lake City, so the people there are also poisoned by the toxins. The people of the world together have to deal with the climate chaos that these fuel products create.

So we wanted to remind people of Vernal–as the region begins a dangerous experiment with tar sands and oil shale strip mining–that these projects come at a serious cost. That doubling down and using fracking fortunes as an ante for a region-wide tar sands/oil shale/nuclear/fracking extravaganza will kill more people, especially vulnerable populations like old people and babies. We need to reject the fossil fuel economy that makes us sacrifice our air, land, water and even our vulnerable people in exchange for a fair living and demand safe environmental standards in our communities.

Capitalism creates the boom-and-bust cycle that exploits and poisons and kills and puts people over profit, and we must uproot it. We recognize that End Capitalism is not always a popular message in communities like the Uintah Basin–especially not during boom times like these–but you can’t just can’t escape the truth: Capitalism is unsafe for babies and other living things.

Utah Children say, “Oil Shale Puts Our Future on the Line.”

The weekend of June 20th, 2014, an intergenerational gathering brought together children, guardians, teachers and land defenders at PR Springs, site of the nation’s first commercial fuel tar sands strip mine, located in Eastern Utah. In addition to tar sands mining, the region is being threatened by oil shale strip mining, and after a weekend of hiking and exploring the land, fun art and science projects, and discussions with their peers, the children decided to take a field strip to Red Leaf Resources test site in order to see what was going on there, and to deliver a message.

Dear CEOs and Workers of Red Leaf Resources,

We are the children of Utah. We stand here today with our teachers, parents, and peers.

We are concerned about SITLA‘s dirty energy leasing for strip mining. Oil shale mining, and tar sands, destroys water, forests, and air, increases cancer and asthma risks, and these things take away animal homes that will never be the same.

SITLA funds 2% of the total school budget. We must think of the long term risks.

Is it really worth it to put children’s and animals’ lives in danger for strip mining?

Here in these places, they are destroying beautiful land, where it’s peaceful for wildlife and for people to enjoy and see.

The next time you’re planning to hurt an ecosystem, think of the animals and people you’re hurting and killing.

Thank you,
The Children of Utah


Read more about last year’s family gathering:
The Road to Hell is Paved with Tar Sands
Utah children visit PR Springs & speak out against tar sands
Families Camp Out in Protest to Save the Tavaputs Plateau from America’s First Approved Commercial Tar Sands Operation
Utah Tar Sands: Will The U.S. Join Canada In Tapping The ‘Bottom Of The Barrel’?

Read more about SITLA:
Lots for Tots: How one agency is selling off Utah in the name of the children


IT’S ON: Major Tar Sands Construction Underway in Utah

SONY DSCCanadian company U.S Oil Sands has paid their reclamation bond of $2.2 million and has now begun major construction at their second tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of Utah.

U.S Oil Sands’ immediate plans are to clear cut 62 acres of forests and sagebrush land, according to their operations plan, but this spat of clearing may not end until 213 acres of Douglas firs, Pinyon pines, sagebrush and grasses are razed. Long-term plans by this one company threaten up to 32,000 acres of diverse wild lands.

U.S Oil Sands giant belly scrapers and bulldozers have already observably cleared an estimated 20 acres, or the size of a football stadium.

With grasses, shrubs and trees obliterated, the bulldozers are creating massive dust storms that are pummeling PR Canyon to the east, vital habitat for elk, deer, black bears and much more. The dangerously opaque dust clouds routinely cross Seep Ridge Road, substantially blocking drivers’ visibility, causing a major road hazard for which no signage has been posted. Our extensive monitoring of their operations reveal that absolutely no dust control efforts–like water sprinkling–are currently being used to protect the environment, wildlife or motorists.

U.S Oil Sands’ mining plan entails almost complete destruction of the top soil. Their operations plan states they will collect and save 24 inches of top soil for restoration “unless there are rocks,” a deeply cynical loophole as there are rocks just below the surface.

We are well acquainted with the soil here. Utah Tar Sands Resistance and our allies have been camping in the East Tavaputs Plateau, in the lands leased to U.S Oil Sands, for three years. We dig holes to bury our waste and to build our tent structures and we have observed only 1-3 centimeters of top soil in these sage-brush soils before hitting large chunks of sandstone.

Top soil in such a high-altitude, dry expanse represents thousands of years of  ecological magic. As US Oil Sands continues its violent plan to make dirty and low-grade energy from tar sands, the truly valuable resource of top soil is swirling into the air like so many broken promises.

How could we expect anything else from these scam artists? These are the same folks arguing there is no ground water in PR Spring despite just one minor spring in PR Canyon spilling 1.3 gallons per minute for at least the last 90 years–that’s 61 million gallons of water that US Oil Sands wants to pretend does not exist. So far they’ve been successful in convincing the courts this water–which feeds giant aspen groves that form the backbone of habit for numerous animals–is insignificant.

Moab-based Living Rivers and Western Resource Advocates filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah for its . The recent supreme court decision ruled living water’s lawsuit invalid because it was not filed within the state’s 30 day comment period despite the fact no such comment period was issued. Given this ruling, we can already see U.S Oil Sands and the state are fighting any obligation for environmental protection and finding any loopholes they can (no matter how illegitimate) every step of the way.

Utah’s Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) has literally thousands of uninspected oil and gas wells peppered throughout the state, with a large concentration of them being in Eastern Utah. Both DOGM and SITLA (The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) have a long history of deceiving the public, violating the public trust, and letting fossil-fuel corporations run off with the toxic profits.

To support our work monitoring these projects, go to our donate page and join the fight to end extreme extraction on the Colorado Plateau!