Since 2014 Utah Tar Sands Resistance has held a permanent protest vigil at PR Springs Utah to raise awareness against strip-mining for tar sands and oil shale in Utah.
The role of the permanent protest vigil is to provide a constant presence in the area, which is being threatened by several tar sands and oil shale strip-mines, and further fracking development, mining, and numerous new infrastructure projects to support fossil fuel and extreme energy development, including highways, pipelines, and the Uinta Basin Rail Way. From PR Springs we are able to witness and document the many violations of health and safety concerns that are a common occurrence at remote sites. Our presence in the area and the attendance to meetings and industry events and activities has given us a great deal of knowledge and information about how harmful and speculative extreme energy projects are.
The protest vigil is centered around a mobile encampment on state and federal public lands, and the camp itself exists within the 5,800 acres of land that SITLA (the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration of Utah) has leased to US Oil Sands, a Canadian tar sands strip-mining company. These lands in so-called Eastern Utah are traditionally Ute lands within the Uncompahgre reservation. This region is pocketed with fossil extraction sites, as both SITLA and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) have leased hundreds of thousands of acres for destructive development.
SITLA itself does not have the funds, personnel, or desire to maintain or manage these lands. Their only mandate is to lease the lands off for profit, and they require little to no study into the environmental impacts, they themselves have admitted to us that they do not staff their department in such a way that would allow them to monitor or even inspect all of the extraction projects currently taking place.
A recent study showed there are over 1400 uninspected, high-risk oil and wells in the nation on Federally managed land: 220 of those wells are in Utah, and 110 of those are located in Uintah County. It is unknown how may unmonitored and uninspected wells currently exist on SITLA managed land, as the agency is not required to provide the public with that information, but SITLA employees themselves have told us that they do not often have staff visit the region and rarely are any of the extraction sites monitored.
The protest vigil provides the public with an opportunity to monitor these numerous projects, to document the location of oil and gas wells, the last time they were inspected, and any leaking, contamination, and flares. We will also be documenting: erosion caused by development, lack of dust control (contributing to air pollution), and the impact on (and pollution of) groundwater systems, as well as the devastation being wrought by the new tar sands and oil shale strip mining projects as hundreds of thousands of acres are marked for clear-cutting and strip-mining.
SITLA has already proven that they would rather protect destructive corporations than protect the land, air, or water. They have spent untold amounts of money and time by having their employees harass both peaceful protestors and others camping in the area, attempting to remove them from public lands, and placing erroneous restrictions and “no trespassing” signs on areas that are not currently off limits to anyone. If SITLA can waste their time and tax dollars by monitoring the activities of the public on public lands, why are they not employing people who can monitor the extraction projects as well?
The agency has historically closed off active mine and extraction sites to the public, but is now threatening to close off all of these public lands (even areas not currently being developed) not only to the protestors, but to any and everyone who has ever camped, hunted, lived, hiked, visited, and loved these beautiful high desert landscapes.
As part of the protest vigil, we are monitoring and taking tours of the region and the extraction sites, as well as providing opportunities for discussions, trainings, and participation. We invite you to join us.
If you would like to come visit us, take part in the protest, or organize your own group activity, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate.