Protestors met at Arches National Park to send a protest photo to U.S. Oil Sands Inc. on Tuesday, May 14. U.S. Oils Sands, Inc. plans to begin tar sands mining in 2014 in the Book Cliffs area, shown in the background of the photo. [Photo courtesy]

Several dozen people opposing tar sands mining met at Arches National Park to send a message to U.S. Oil Sands Inc. investors on Tuesday, May 14.

Protestors held a sign stating “US Oils Sands: We will stop you before it starts.” The Book Cliffs were in view in the distance, an area that is proposed for the first tar sands strip mine in the United States.

The group photo was sent to U.S. Oil Sands for their annual and special meeting of shareholders at the Calgary Petroleum Club, said Kate Finneran, an organizer with Before It Starts, a non-profit opposing tar sands mining.

“We want current and potential investors of U.S. Oil Sands to know they will meet resistance on the ground,” Finneran said. “We will use every avenue available to us; legal, legislative, policy, organizing and even direct action to protect our communities and our future.”

Moab-based environmental group Living Rivers has been fighting the project by appealing the company’s state permit to mine. Living Rivers also went before the Utah Water Quality board stating that the pit mine could contaminate groundwater.

An administrative law judge ruled in October that Living Rivers couldn’t prove that the project would pollute groundwater. Living Rivers’ appeal was also denied by the state’s Division of Oil and Gas Mining in January.

Jay Banta of Back Country Hunters and Anglers showed support for the protest and expressed concerns about how the habitat will be affected by the tar sands mining.

“Tar sands projects are simply short sighted gains at the expense of long-term habitat conservation. Some type of fossil fuel extraction can be done with minimal environmental impact but tar sands are not in that category. They destroy habitat that can never be restored to anything that resembles what was lost. It is a losing proposition,” Banta said.

Finneran said that a camp will be organized in July to train local residents in civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action in anticipation of a summer of peaceful protests against U.S. Oil Sands’ plans.