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12/20/2012

Secretary Salazar, don’t put coal in the stocking for Bryce Canyon National Park

2012Dec20_Alton (1)

There is a reason Santa puts coal in the stockings of boys and girls who have misbehaved. It’s dirty and not much fun to play with. For as long as Saint Nick has been making the rounds, people have known coal equals bad. During this holiday, we are asking Interior Secretary Salazar, who oversees our national parks, to make sure there isn’t coal in the stocking for Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Recently, Sierra Club played Santa by delivering to Secretary Salazar over 67,000 petitions signed by Americans across the country asking him to deny a permit to expand the Alton Coal Mine outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Alton Coal Company proposes to stripmine 3,500 acres of public land, stewarded for the American people by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), adjacent to the park. If allowed to expand, coal dust, trucks and mining operations would dirty some of the cleanest, clearest air in the country, settling a haze over stunning redrock vistas. Industrial lights from the mine would assault the world-famous star filled skies of Bryce Canyon. Creeks and other waters would be diverted and polluted by mining operations. A world class destination for families to enjoy the outdoors would begin to look and feel like an industrial zone.

The proposed mine sits smack dab in the middle of literally some of the world’s most stunning scenery and geography. If one drew a 50-mile radius on a map starting at the mine, the circle would hit or encompass Zion National Park, Corral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and numerous designated wilderness areas. Near the center, and closest to the mine lies Bryce Canyon National Park, the crown jewel to the millions who travel to Utah every year. To say that a coal strip mine with its industrial zone-like impacts does not fit within this spectacular corner of Utah is a dramatic understatement.

In addition to impacting local air and water quality, threatening this national park’s renown night skies, the proposal has alarmed locals, who object to the harm that constant truck traffic, pollution and other elements of the mine would have on their communities and on tourism. The proposed around the clock mining operations would require up to 300 coal truck trips per day traveling 110 miles one-way from Alton to Cedar City, which would result in one truck leaving the site approximately every seven minutes.

As if all of that isn’t enough to deny the mine’s proposal to expand, wildlife scientists have expressed concern the mine expansion would eliminate critically needed unspoiled land for the Greater Sage Grouse, a bird being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The petitions delivered by Sierra Club support the comments of both the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Bureau of Land Management deny the proposed mine expansion. The Bureau is still making its decision. You can help them make sure there’s no coal in Bryce Canyon’s future and do your part to ensure our national parks have a happy new year. Just click here and add your holiday cheer for our national parks, wildlife, and clean air and water. 

For more information on the Alton Coal mine, visit http://www.haltaltoncoal.com/

-- Tim Wagner, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats Campaign

 

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