The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has built a national reputation for its aggressive public lands advocacy in Utah’s red rock country. To many energy developers, off-road riders, and county commissioners in its home state, SUWA has become a four-letter word.
So it came as something of a surprise in the summer of 2010 when SUWA announced that it had reached a deal with a major energy firm, the Bill Barrett Corporation, that would allow the company to drill a half-dozen natural gas wells on lands that SUWA had been seeking to protect through its America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.
Negotiating from a position of strength, due to its successful litigation and advocacy, SUWA and its allies were able to extract major concessions from BBC, reduce the project’s surface disturbance by two-thirds, and secure additional protections for Nine Mile Canyon, home to an incredible concentration of petroglyphs and pictographs. Striking a bargain with an energy company could also dispel the notion that environmentalists were only about saying no.
In the video below, I explain how traditional adversaries can sometimes reach common ground, even in Carbon County, Utah.