Strip Mining Threatens Bryce Canyon


Written by Michael Brune, Executive Director of Sierra Club

Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon National Park? I still remember standing at Sunset Point on my first visit as a teenager, hoping to sneak away to climb the hoodoos in the valley below. It’s one of the most beautiful, inspiring places in the country, which is why when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a public meeting in Salt Lake City to gather public comments on its proposal to approve a giant coal strip-mine next to Bryce Canyon National Park, it wasn’t hard to find citizens ready to object. More than 200 showed up at the Salt Lake City Library to speak their minds.

What they found when they got there, though, was that this particular “hearing” would be like a silent film — only written comments allowed.

When asked why there would be no opportunity for public testimony, BLM officials said they were required to hold only one public meeting and it had already happened the week before in Cedar City, where testimony was gathered from mine employees and other mine boosters.

That answer didn’t sit well with disgruntled participants who had come to voice their objections to the strip mine. What happened next was citizen democracy at its most inspired.

Borrowing a tactic from Occupy Salt Lake City (where some of the participants had come from) a group of protesters started a “human microphone” and began reading their testimony in short tight phrases that were then repeated by the crowd around the room. The stunned BLM officials watched nervously as the actual public took over their “public” meeting.

The message the public had for the BLM was that it should reject the strip-mine proposal, protect the park and wildlife, and promote clean-energy alternatives — not more dirty coal.



Eventually, former national BLM director Patrick Shea, who is now a private citizen, offered to serve as an informal hearing officer and take oral testimony from anyone in the room. He apologized to his former agency colleagues for usurping their meeting, but said he felt it was important that citizens be allowed to voice their concerns in a public space. He asked for volunteers to record the testimony in writing and to then submit it to the BLM.

If the BLM’s plan was to quietly slip in and out of town and avoid a public confrontation, then it seriously miscalculated — and underestimated both the outrage and the ingenuity that a proposal to strip-mine next to one of our most treasured national parks could generate. When the people needed it, they found their voice.

How about you? You may have missed the human microphone, but you can still help stop the strip mine before it’s too late.


Related Stories:

19 New Coal Ash Water Contamination Sites Found Across US

BLM Admits Horses Were Whipped And Shocked in Roundup, But Not Treated Inhumanely

Mercury Poisoning: A Parents’ Revolt


Photo from kcolwell via flickr


Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright6 years ago

Humans are bound and determined to destroy every beautiful thing on this earth. After all these years of utter and total destruction why haven't humans learned? Once these treasures are gone that's it folks.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Monica S.
M. C6 years ago

I've been there, it is beautifull, LEAVE IT ALONE !

peggy p.
peggy p6 years ago

do they not get it that strip mining, fracking, all that type thing are BAD! polluting our water, destroying species, leaving nothing but desolation behind, releasing unknown gases into the atmosphere? so much more..

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

It is on my Bucket List too!

Ernie Miller
william Miller6 years ago

That place is on my bucket list! looks like I need to move it up before it is too late. this place needs to preserved for future generations.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola6 years ago

great article!! thanks

Shanie Mangulins
Shanie Mangulin6 years ago

One of the most special memories of my early life is walking thru Bryce Canyon at dawn with my late uncle. He must be spinning in his grave at the thought of the culpability of the Bureau of Land Management denying the reason for its existence - the responsibility of the manintenance of, as well as the PROTECTION of these precious historical heritage lands. Lands for which the peoples of No. America have long sought for [& presumed to have gained] the right to protect. This cannot be happening! Stripmining [which is, in itself, an environmental crime] to be done in Byrce Canyon! Why doesn't Korea strip mine its own country? Canada also should not support strip mining...we have seen the results of rampant commercialism here in our own country. I will bring this to the attention of my elected representative...

Laurie D.
Laurie D6 years ago

One more petition signed -- but stay aware America! As this economic climate gets tighter, the more our State and National Parks will be at risk for big business to take over and misuse!

Dianne D.
Dianne D6 years ago

Petition signed. Big Business is trying to take over the land that belongs to the public and BLM is helping them. We have to stand up to big business and BLM and let them know we aren't going to take this bullying anymore.