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Factory Butte at Sunrise, Utah                                                                                                                           (Mike Painter)

 
May 31, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends—

Summer is just about here, so many people will be visiting our public lands. National parks especially have been experiencing greatly increased visitation, but you can still get away from the crowds if you try. Regardless, it’s important to continue working to protect special places of all kinds, especially those that remain wild.

Many people have been focused on investigations in Washington, but there has been a lot going on in other areas requiring attention, too. It’s important not to let those things slip by. Below are a few where you can have an impact.

And this month, as always, there are articles—a few more than usual—to keep you up to date on all sorts of topics. You’ll find links to them in ITEM 6. (You’re not expected to read them all!)

 
As always, thanks for your interest and support,
Mike

 
IN UTAH
1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
         (ACTION ITEM)
2.   BLM Opens Factory Butte Area to Off-Road Vehicles
         (ACTION ITEM)

IN CALIFORNIA
3.   BLM Proposes Fracking in California
          COMMENTS NEEDED
          DEADLINE: June 10
          (ACTION ITEM)

IN GENERAL
4.   Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act Introduced
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Job Listings: California League of Conservation Voters

IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
6.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

 
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IN UTAH
1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

We originally though that America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would be introduced in May. So far that hasn’t happened though we do expect it soon. That gives us a bit more time to line up original cosponsors for the bill.

Please call your representative and senators and request that they become original cosponsors. They should contact the principal sponsors, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) of California or Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to be added to the list.

We don’t have a list of those who have committed to cosponsoring the legislation when it is introduced, but a call now can’t hurt. Either it requests or reminds them to do so, or it acts as support for the decision they’ve already made.

Contact information for all of California’s representatives and both senators may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

 
2.   BLM Opens Factory Butte Area to Off-Road Vehicles
          (ACTION ITEM)

The Bureau of Land Management unexpectedly decided to open the area around Factory Butte, one of Southern Utah’s geological landmarks, to off-road vehicle use, reversing a decision made in 2006. Our friends at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance sent out the following Action Alert. Please email or call the Richfield office to object. And if you’ve visited the area, mention that also.

 
BLM OPENS SCENIC FACTORY BUTTE AREA TO OFF-ROAD VEHICLE DESTRUCTION

Without prior notice or opportunity for public input, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Richfield Field Office announced on Wednesday, May 22, 2019—just before Memorial Day weekend—that it is has opened 5,400 acres of public lands surrounding Utah’s iconic Factory Butte to unfettered cross-country off-road vehicle (ORV) use.

The BLM’s decision reverses the agency’s 2006 closure of the area to ORV use and will allow unrestricted motorized travel throughout the designated “play area.” At the time BLM implemented the 2006 closure it explained that “Factory Butte itself is an iconic formation, highly visible from Highway 24 and is often photographed.”

Take Action!

Call or email Joelle McCarthy, the BLM’s Richfield Field Office Manager:

435-896-1501
email: jmccarth [at] blm [dot] gov

Tell her what you think of the BLM’s decision to open Factory Butte to unrestricted off-road vehicle abuse!

Talking points:

•   It’s ridiculous that the agency re-opened Factory Butte to motorized use after being closed for nearly 13 years without seeking public input beforehand and without giving any advance notice. The BLM manages places like Factory Butte on behalf of the public and is accountable for its decisions.

•   Fence them in! ORV riders—even those that are well intentioned—won’t stay in the newly designated “open area” if that area is not easy to distinguish on the ground. The BLM has placed no signs on the inside of the “play area,” meaning there is nothing to keep riders off the butte itself.

•   The BLM is destroying an iconic landscape! The BLM’s decision ensures that one of Utah’s most recognizable landscapes will be defaced and damaged for years to come. Contrary to popular myth, these tracks don’t simply disappear after the next rain!

Longtime SUWA members will recall that protecting Factory Butte was a major fight in the late 90s and early 2000s. The closure of the area to ORV abuse in 2006 gave the land a much-needed chance to recover.

The BLM’s decision is further proof that the Trump administration has found its legs, and that no previous environmental victory is safe from those who would destroy Utah’s wildlands.

 
More information can be found on SUWA’s Factory Butte page.

Click here for a video of a rider parachuting off a motorcycle near Factory Butte, which you can see as he takes off and flies through the air. (WARNING: One bit of coarse language at the end!)

 
IN CALIFORNIA
3.   BLM Proposes Fracking in California
          COMMENTS NEEDED
          DEADLINE: June 10
          (ACTION ITEM)

In late April, the administration announced plans to begin allowing fracking on land, both public and private, in central California. (Private land could be included because of what is known as a “split estate,” where a private party owns the surface rights, but the federal government has retained subsurface mineral rights.) The area affected is more than one million acres in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura counties.

A court-ordered five-year moratorium on fracking was in effect while the government supposedly evaluated environmental risks associated with fracking. The administration lost no time in proposing fracking once the court order expired.

Our friends at the California Wilderness Coalition suggest writing to BLM State Acting Director Joe Stout to make your opposition known. Here are CWC’s talking points (but please use your own words):

•   Fracking presents unacceptable risks to our health and safety. A 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology concluded that fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of toxic chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment.

•   Moreover, new drilling and fracking would do even further damage to air quality in Central California, particularly in the San Joaquin air basin, where communities of color and low-income communities are already harmed daily by toxic air pollution.

•   To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we cannot afford to sell off any more public lands to oil companies. Like a household budget, the planet has a carbon budget and it is entirely spent. Now more than ever, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.

•   California has some of the most diverse public lands in the country and oil and gas drilling will permanently damage our natural heritage and an important driver of sustainable economic opportunity.

You may reach Mr. Stout by email at:

castatedirector [at] blm [dot] gov

or U.S. Mail at:

Mr. Joe Stout
Acting State Director
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-1623
Sacramento, CA 95825-1886

 
The fracking proposal is included in a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the BLM’s Bakersfield Field Office. The comment period on the plan is open until June 10. Please also submit your comments to Mr. Stout to the Bakersfield office, so they can be incorporated into the formal legal record.

You could also add a specific request that BLM adopt Alternative C or D. Alt. C “emphasizes conserving cultural and natural resources, maintaining functioning natural systems, and restoring natural systems that are degraded,” and Alt. D goes further and “eliminates livestock grazing for the life of the plan from the public lands where the 2014 RMP provides administrative direction for the livestock-grazing program.” Neither of these was selected in the previous Draft Plan, but it’s good to let BLM know that resource protection is important to many people regardless. Either of these is preferable to BLM’s preferred Alternative B.

To submit comments electronically, follow the directions here.

(The window stays open for 60 minutes, but if have your comments ready to COPY and PASTE, that should not be a problem.)

You may also submit comments by U.S. Mail to:

Bureau of Land Management
Bakersfield Field Office
Attn: Bakersfield Hydraulic Fracturing Analysis
3801 Pegasus Drive
Bakersfield, CA 93308

 
IN GENERAL
4.   Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act Introduced
          (ACTION ITEM)

In mid-May, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 (S.1499) in the Senate, with nine cosponsors. Both California senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, are original cosponsors of the bill. Please thank them! A companion bill was introduced in the House (H.R.2795) by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), with no additional cosponsors.

The Act would:

•   Grant authority to key federal agencies to designate wildlife corridors managed for the persistence, resilience, and adaptability of native species.

•    Mitigate harm to wildlife and threats to public safety where wildlife corridors cross roadways by implementing wildlife overpasses and underpasses and other strategies.

•   Establish the Wildlife Corridors Stewardship and Protection Fund to support the management and protection of wildlife corridors.

•   Provide incentives for private landowners to protect wildlife corridors using funds from Department of Agriculture conservation programs.

•   Create a Wildlife Connectivity Database that will be freely available to states, tribes, federal agencies, and the public to support decisions about wildlife corridors.

 
More information about the bill maybe found on the Wildlands Network webpage, from which the above description comes.

222 organizations, including CalUWild, supported the introduction of the bills. You can read our group letter here.

Contact information for both California senators may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

 
5.   Job Listings: California League of Conservation Voters

Our friends at CLCVhave three positions open:

Communications Director
Director of Philanthropy
Major Gifts Officer

The jobs are based in either Oakland or Los Angeles. For full descriptions, click here.

 
IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
6.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

If a link is broken or otherwise inaccessible, please send me an email, and I’ll fix it or send you a PDF copy. As always, inclusion of an item in this section does not imply agreement with the viewpoint expressed.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt and the Administration

In the Washington Post: The Energy 202: Interior secretary blames Congress for lack of action on climate change. The Energy 202 is an excellent daily newsletter on environmental matters, especially public lands and energy.

An article in the Washington Post based on an interview with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt: Facing Democratic resistance, Interior secretary promotes oil and gas drilling

An article in Politico on the Interior Department’s failures to provide information requested by Congress: Rep. Grijalva: House panel considering subpoenas for Interior information

California’s Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2) is the “Dem” referred to in the headline of this article in The Hill: Dem criticizes newest calendars for Trump Interior chief as ‘fake’

An article from our friends at the Center for Western Priorities: How Interior’s top lawyer is paving the way to drain California’s desert and deliver millions to Secretary Bernhardt’s former law firm

An article from Associated Press: Interior boss: No monument changes planned, but up to Trump

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Did Interior break the law in eyeing oil, gas leases in the former Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument? Dems want new probe.

An article in the Washington Post: Trump administration to pull out of rural Job Corps program, laying off 1,100 federal workers

California

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle: New dam proposal in Sierra Nevada stirs debate over California energy policy

An article in the Los Angeles Times: A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley

An article in CityLab on Bodie: What It’s Like to Live in a California Ghost Town. CalUWild is a member of the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, working to develop a protective scheme for the Bodie Hills, which surround the old town.

Alaska

An op-ed in the New York Times on the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska: ‘The Wrong Mine for the Wrong Place’. We linked to an op-ed in The Guardian on the Pebble Mine in last month’s Update.

Colorado

An article in the Denver Post: “This may be the year”: Colorado legislators push to protect 1 million acres of wilderness through 2 bills in Congress

Nevada

An article on Las Vegas and water in eastern Nevada, an issue that has been around for a long time—we last wrote about it in 2013: Measure feared to boost LV water grab dies in Carson City

New Mexico

“Interior Secretary David Bernhardt expressed amazement” at Chaco Canyon, as reported in this article from the Farmington (NM) Daily Times: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Chaco Canyon amid oil, gas development debate. After his visit, Secty. Bernhardt announced a one-year moratorium on leasing in a 10-mile buffer zone around Chaco Canyon while the BLM updates its Resource Management Plan and to allow a bill protecting the Chao area to move Congress. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) hosted Mr. Bernhardt at Chaco and is a cosponsor of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, S.1079, introduced by his colleague Tom Udall (D-NM). Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) has introduced a companion bill, H.R.2181, in the House.

An article in The Guardian about Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico: ‘It’s my homeland’: the trailblazing Native lawmaker fighting fossil fuels

Oregon

An article from The Oregonian, following up on the story mentioned in our April Update: Environmental groups sue BLM to block renewal of grazing permit for Hammond Ranches and an op-ed in the Seattle Times by CalUWild friend Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds, explaining the lawsuit: Why we filed suit to overturn Zinke’s last act of malfeasance

Utah

An article in High Country News: Bears Ears’ only visitor center isn’t run by the feds

An op-ed in the New York Times by Mike Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, looking at Utah’s attempt to roll back the Roadless Rule there: Utah Continues Its Assault on Federal Lands

From the Editorial Page editor of the Salt Lake Tribune: The free market wants a beautiful Utah. Not a coal mine.

Public Lands in General

An op-ed in the Washington Post: National parks are both a treasure and challenge. There’s a solution.

An article in The Guardian: US rollback of protected areas risks emboldening others, scientists warn

In Pacific Standard, an excerpt from a new book about the ongoing war on America’s public lands: Campsites Among The Stumps: The Unmaking of the Great American Commons

An article in the Los Angeles Times: The West has many wildfires, but too few prescribed burns, study finds

An op-ed by John Leshy in The Hill on the possibility of changes to the Mining Law of 1872: Outdated mining law lets industry use and abuse public lands for free

 
 
 
 
 

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