Some 80 environmental activists gathered on the Seep Ridge Road on the southern tip of Uintah County on Monday, July 29 to protest energy activity in the area.
Their protest brought the paving project on the Seep Ridge Road, roughly 65 miles south of Vernal to a halt for the day as activists were chained, duck-taped and locked-down onto road building equipment in an act of civil disobedience.
“Today, we’ve come here to show our power in stopping business as usual for US Oil Sands and any other extraction organization in the area,” said spokesperson Lauren Wood, with the group Peaceful Uprising.
Wood, a self-described third-generation raft guide and seventh-generation Utahn, lives in Vernal during the summer.
Peaceful Uprising along with two other organizations, Tar Sands Resistance and Canyon Country Rising Tide chose the location based on the imminent tar sands development.
“This particular project-protest was chosen because it is the first commercial tar sands mining operation threatening the United States,” Wood said.
Protesters used the construction on the Seep Ridge Road to draw attention to the potential destruction of the remote Book Cliffs on the east side of the Tavaputs Plateau.
“Because it’s our backyard, we as locals decided to put our foot down, and say ‘stop it,”one protester who declined to be named said.
Protesters climbed onto land moving equipment temporarily parked on the roadway – nothing was moving.
“Respect existence or expect resistance,” cites a protester’s make-shift stop sign.
A woman who had been chained to a road-grader stepped down after hours of protest, saying “it’s devastating to see this land exploited in this manner,”
Renae Widdison, protester, said that the threat to the air, water and land; especially, in the Basin has to be addressed.
“We need more public discussion of this development.”
Protestors say their goal was to demonstrate their power to defend the land and re-establish priorities.
The initial call came into Central Dispatch around 9 a.m. and despite the daylong delay, construction road crews remained respectful of the protesters.
So too, were the Uintah County Sheriff’s Department deputies, who were on-site throughout the day, according to Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen.
“There were no arrests and no citations, and we’d like to keep it that way,” Laursen said.
Representatives for the construction contractors had not returned calls for comment as of press time Tuesday morning.