Newsletter Archive

Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park                                                                                       Mike Painter

November 30, 2010

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters —

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the year-end holidays are upon us. I hope you have had opportunity this past year to get out and enjoy some of the West’s spectacular public lands. And as this holiday season moves along, let’s not forget to give thanks for the gift of them and re-dedicate ourselves to working for their protection—because with the election earlier this month, we’re going to have to redouble our efforts in the next Congress. See ITEM 1 for more.

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, it’s time for CalUWild’s Annual Appeal. Dues have never been mandatory at CalUWild because our main interest has always been to have members who are willing to write letters and be otherwise actively involved in public lands protection, regardless of their ability to contribute financially.

Our basic contribution levels have been $15 (Limited) and $25 (Regular) for many years—though of course, contributions of any size (larger or smaller) are always been welcome. If everyone receiving the Monthly Update were to contribute an average of $20, it would go a long way to covering our annual expenses. We realize times are difficult now for many, but when you receive your Annual Appeal, either in the mail or electronically, we hope you’ll consider helping out.

This month, CalUWild turned 13. It’s been an interesting and rewarding undertaking, and I hope you’ve found the information we provide useful and interesting. Our true effectiveness comes, though, from the many letters and phone calls that you, as citizens, write and make to elected and administrative officials, as well as to newspapers.

Thank you for all of your interest, support, and efforts over the years!


1.   Election Results & Analysis
2.   Omnibus Public Lands Bill Possible
          Calls Needed Immediately
3.   Interior Secretary Issues Order
          National Landscape Conservation System

4.   GAO Issues Report on Public Lands Laws and Border Enforcement

5.   John Adams: At the San Francisco Symphony
6.   Howard Wilshire: The American West at Risk
7.   Tim Palmer: Rivers of California

8.   127 Hours

9.   Articles of Interest


1.   Election Results & Analysis

The midterm elections earlier this month will change the political landscape in Washington and elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

The major shift took place in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans will be in control when the 112th Congress opens in January. Bills protecting public lands, other natural resources, and the environment in general will have a more difficult time getting passed. Instead, bills with negative consequences will likely be more common. Of particular concern will be energy development on public lands, whether oil & gas, oil shale, or tar sands. The Arctic Refuge may also once again be subject to legislative attack, to open it to oil & gas drilling. In addition, there is talk of amending the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the President the power to designate national monuments without the approval of Congress.

San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi will no longer be Speaker, but as Minority Leader, she will still be able to use her influence among the Democrats to fight off what they can.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will have a new chairman, likely Doc Hastings of Washington. He’s not known as a friend of the environment and has indicated the Committee’s priorities will be “to hold the Administration accountable and get much needed answers on a range of issues including the de facto offshore drilling moratorium in the Gulf, potential new monument designations and plans to lock up vast portions of our oceans through an irrational zoning process.” Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop is likely to be chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. He is also no friend of wilderness, so it’s unlikely that any genuinely protective legislation will emerge from the Committee. Finally, don’t be surprised if the Natural Resources Committee changes its name to the “Committee on Resources,” as it did the last time the Republicans were in the majority.

California bucked the overall trend, though, and the balance of House seats between the two major parties remains the same here after the election: 19 Republicans and 34 Democrats.

The results from the House elections, though, do not spell the end for our public lands. Legislation must still get through the Senate and be signed (or vetoed) by the President. Many of our battles will more likely be defensive in nature, rather than proactive. The Democrats retained control of the Senate, though by a slightly reduced margin, making any filibuster attempt more difficult to overcome.

California’s Senator Barbara Boxer, a champion of wilderness in this state and around the West, retained her seat with 52.2% of the vote. Her main opponent, Carly Fiorina, received 42.2%. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a supporter of wilderness and one of the most thoughtful members of the Senate, lost his seat, a major loss on many fronts.

So we have our work cut out for us, but the situation is by no means hopeless. We’ll continue to keep you informed about how your actions can impact decision-making in Washington and on the ground in the West.

2.   Omnibus Public Lands Bill Possible
          Calls Needed Immediately

The word from Washington, DC this morning was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would be making up his mind in the next day or two whether to allow the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2010 to come to a vote. The bill would consolidate some 60 wilderness and other public lands bills that have had committee hearings but have never come to the floor for a vote.

Please call Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein Wednesday urging them to give Sen. Reid their support for such a bill. (Sorry for the short timing on this.) Given the extremely low probability of any of these bills making it through on their own this session, and the even lower probability in the next Congress (see ITEM 1), this is their last chance.

Sen. Barbara Boxer

          DC:   202-224-3553
          SF:   415-403-0100
          LA:   213-894-5000

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

          DC:   202-224-3841
          SF:   415-393-0707
          LA: 310-914-7300

Highlights of a Possible Bill (including bills that CalUWild has written about in the past)

Utah has one bill for inclusion: The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Management Act, designating some 15,000 acres of wilderness and a slightly smaller acreage of Special Management Areas, in the mountains just east of Salt Lake City.

California has four bills likely to be included:

1.) Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s California Desert Protection Act, creating 2 new national monuments, expanding Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, in addition to designating more wilderness.

2.)   Upgrading Pinnacles National Monument to a National Park and adding some 3,000 acres to its wilderness areas.

3.)   The Big Sur Forest Management Act, adding 2000 acres to the Ventana Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest, and designating several rivers and creeks as “Wild and Scenic.”

4.)   The Beauty Mountain Agua Tibia Wilderness Act would enlarge the present Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness areas near San Diego by about 2,000 acres.

Colorado has several bills as well:

1.)   The Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act would designate 165,000 acres in the area around Vail—both new areas and additions to existing ones.

2.)   The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act would add 33,500 acres to the Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness Areas, and create another new area.

3.)   The Colorado Wilderness Act of 2009, protecting 850,000 acres divided up among 30-plus areas.

New Mexico has two bills:

1.)   The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act would designate 270,000 acres of wilderness in the area around Las Cruces. An additional 110,000 acres would become a national conservation area.

2.)   The El Río Grande Del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act would encompass the 235,000 acres of the Rio Grande Gorge and designate 21,000 acres of wilderness in two areas.

The Omnibus Bill would likely also include legislation concerned with lands in Arizona, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia.

3.   Interior Secretary Issues Order for
          National Landscape Conservation System

One of the highlights of the 2009 Omnibus Lands Bill was a section giving legislative permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System, a designation of lands of special significance, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued an official order on November 15 officially outlining the management policy for the lands included in the System. Here is the most important part of the Order :

Sec. 4 Policy

a. The BLM shall ensure that the components of the NLCS are managed to protect the values for which they were designated, including, where appropriate, prohibiting uses that are in conflict with those values. If consistent with such protection, appropriate multiple uses may be allowed, consistent with the applicable law and the relevant designations under which the components were established.

b. The NLCS components shall be managed as an integral part of the larger landscape, in collaboration with the neighboring landowners and surrounding communities, to maintain biodiversity, and promote ecological connectivity and resilience in the face of climate change.

c. Components of the NLCS shall be managed to offer visitors the adventure of experiencing natural, cultural and historic landscapes through self-directed discovery.

d. Science shall be integrated into management decisions concerning NLCS components in order to enhance land and resource stewardship and promote greater understanding of lands and resources through research and education.

e. The NLCS shall serve as a place to build and sustain diverse communities of partners and volunteers dedicated to conserving, protecting, restoring, and interpreting our natural and cultural heritage.

f. The NLCS shall recognize the importance of a diversity of viewpoints when considering management options. Accordingly, the NLCS shall be managed from an interdisciplinary perspective. In so doing, the NLCS shall draw upon the expertise of specialists throughout the BLM, in coordination with the tribes, other Federal, state, and local government agencies, interested local landowners, adjacent communities, and other public and private interests. When seeking these viewpoints, the NLCS must consider the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and any other applicable laws and regulations.

g. The NLCS shall endeavor to inspire the next generation of natural resource and public land stewards by engaging youth through education, interpretation, partnerships, and job opportunities.

The full text of the Secretarial Order is available online here.

4.   GAO Issues Report on Public Lands Laws and Border Enforcement

One of the arguments that anti-wilderness legislators and others often raise against wilderness designation is that it interferes with the Border Patrol’s ability to patrol the country’s borders, particularly with Mexico. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to do a study of how public lands laws, such as the Wilderness Act, NEPA, and other laws affect this situation.

In October, the GAO released a draft of the report. The main conclusion was: “Despite the access delays and restrictions, 22 of the 26 agents-in-charge reported that the overall security status of their jurisdiction is not affected by land management laws. Instead, factors such as the remoteness and ruggedness of the terrain have the greatest effect on their ability to achieve operational control.” (Emphasis added.)

Though there were some conflicts cited, in general there does not seem to be a problem. The entire report is available online here.


We sometimes highlight holiday gift ideas by members of CalUWild’s Advisory Board and other friends of the organization. This year the tradition continues. The books mentioned can be found at or ordered through your local bookseller (or online).

5.   John Adams: At the San Francisco Symphony

Advisory Board member, composer John Adams of Berkeley, is the distinguished artist of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Project San Francisco” this December. The Symphony will present a series of concerts of Adams’s works over the course of the next two weeks at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

Performances include:

John Adams conducting El Niño, a Nativity Oratorio, December 2, 3, & 4, with soloists and chorus

Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Adams’s Harmonielehre and works by Cowell and Mozart, December 8, 9, 10 & 11

A program of chamber music by Adams, December 12

For ticket and other information, go to the San Francisco Symphony’s website.

John won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003, and he wrote an engaging autobiography and memoir, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life, two years ago, which is still available.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-10: 0374281157

John’s own website is at

6.   Howard Wilshire: The American West at Risk

Also two years ago, but still timely, is Advisory Board member Howard Wilshire’s The American West at Risk, written with Jane Nielson and Richard Hazlett. The book is a comprehensive look at the many issues facing the landscape of the West, including forestry, agriculture, grazing, and oil.

Howard also has website that contains an occasional blog with updates on the issues discussed in the book at

Hardcover: 619 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
ISBN-10: 0195142055
ISBN-13: 978-0195142051

7.   Tim Palmer: Rivers of California

CalUWild friend Tim Palmer has authored many books on the landscape of the West. His latest is about the many rivers of the Golden State. It includes many of Tim’s stunning photos. Tim says about the book: “With 174 color photos and 5 chapters of text, I tried to capture the essence, importance, and splendor of these watery places we all love.”

For more information, visit

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Heyday Books
ISBN-10: 1597141291
ISBN-13: 978-1597141291

Also visit Heyday Books online. They are a California treasure!

8.   127 Hours

This film is not specifically holiday viewing, so we’re giving it its own category.

Aron Ralston was in the news seven years ago when he became trapped in a canyon in Utah’s San Rafael Desert and amputated his own arm to free himself. He wrote an account of his mis-adventure, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Since that time, Aron has been actively involved in the campaigns to protect wilderness in Utah and Colorado. Now his book has been made into a movie, 127 Hours, starring James Franco and directed by Danny Boyle. It opened early in November and is playing at theaters nationwide. It’s gotten generally good reviews, despite the squeamish nature of its central event.

The New York Times had a lengthy review of the film, which you can read here.

9.   Articles of Interest

Oprah Winfrey recently went to Yosemite at the invitation of Shelton Johnson, a ranger there. Shelton was made famous in Ken Burns’s PBS series on the National Parks last year. The New York Times published an article that begins to look at why park visitation is low among African Americans.

National Parks Reach Out to Blacks Who Aren’t Visiting