Newsletter Archive

In the Bodie Hills                                                                                                                                   Mike Painter

January 31, 2011

Dear CalUWild friends —

There’s a long list of items this month, so we’ll get right to them. Please note that some have relatively short deadlines!

Thanks for your efforts and interest!

1.   Help Protect the
          Bodie Hills in Mono County
          Letters Needed Before January 15
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   New Wilderness in California
3.   California Public Lands Bills Introduced
          In Both U.S. Senate and House
          Thank You Letters
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   California State Parks Advocacy Day
          March 22, 2011
          REGISTRATION DEADLINE: February 12
          (ACTION ITEM)

5.   Kofa Wildlife Refuge Guzzlers Ruled Illegal

6.   Reaction to BLM’s New Wilderness Policy
          Thank You Letters Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)
7.   Wilderness Volunteers Service Trips
8.   Job Listing: Environmental Protection Information Center

9.   Death by GPS


1.   Help Protect the
          Bodie Hills in Mono County
          Letters Needed Before January 15
          (ACTION ITEM)

We wrote about the Bodie Hills last September when the local Congressman, Buck McKeon (R-25), introduced last-minute legislation to de-designate the Bodie Hills Wilderness Study Area, east of Yosemite and north of Mono Lake, on the border with Nevada. The purpose was to make it easier for a gold mining company to conduct exploration work in the area. The Mono County Board of Supervisors voted to take “No Action” on a resolution in support of the bill. The issue is once again up for discussion, although Rep. McKeon has not introduced a new bill in this Congress.

The Mono County Supervisors will be having a hearing in Bridgeport on February 15, so if you’d like a mid-winter trip to the Eastern Sierra, please attend!

CalUWild is part of a coalition of organizations working to gain protections for the Bodie Hills. Here’s the alert prepared by Sally Miller of The Wilderness Society for the coalition:

The Bodie Hills: More Precious Than Gold
Ask Mono County Supervisors to Protect the Bodie Hills!

The Bodie Hills, one of the nation’s treasures located in the Eastern Sierra’s backyard, contain outstanding natural and cultural values that deserve special protection. A gold mining company wants to open the Bodie Hills to mining.


The remote and spectacular Bodie Hills are tucked between the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin, and comprise some 200,000 acres of mostly public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Bodie State Historic Park, California’s official ghost town and one of our most popular state parks, lies in the center of the Bodie Hills. The area contains an amazingly high level of biological diversity and one of the highest concentrations of archaeological sites in the Great Basin. The Bodie Hills are wild and largely pristine and contain three BLM Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).

Mining companies have for years been interested in mining gold in the Bodie Hills, particularly in the Bodie WSA, located northeast of Bodie State Park. Mining in this area would irrevocably destroy the heart of the Bodie Hills and threaten the integrity of the entire region. The rising price of gold makes mining here a very real threat.

Cougar Gold (and its parent company, Electrum) will be at the Mono County Board of Supervisors on February 15 to present its case for mining to the Board. The Board will discuss Cougar’s information and decide next steps. Last fall, area Congressman Buck McKeon sponsored legislation for Cougar to “open up” the WSA to facilitate mining, and the Mono Board voted 3-2 to take no action based in part on the fact they had not heard directly from the mining company. Now the Board, with two new members, will again be confronted with whether or not to support mining and whether or not to lift the WSA protection. Rep. McKeon’s legislation has not yet been reintroduced, likely pending the outcome of this Board meeting.

Even though the issue has been portrayed as jobs vs. the environment, it’s not. Cougar has “grandfathered rights” which allow it to conduct mineral exploration in a WSA. More importantly, people come to Mono County and the Bodie Hills from all over the world to experience the area’s vast open spaces and clean air, its scenic beauty, birds and wildlife, small historic towns and the feeling of isolation and wildness that the Eastern Sierra and Bodie Hills convey. Cultural and eco-tourism, while it should be better developed especially in northern Mono County, is the area’s lifeblood, and we believe will ultimately be more sustainable than boom and bust mining.

Permanent protection of the spectacular Bodie Hills is critical to ensure that the historic, cultural, biological and scenic values of this area will be available for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Please email or FAX a letter to the Mono County Board of Supervisors, using the talking points below. Urge the Supervisors to support permanent protection of the Bodie Hills.

Talking points for your letter (use what works for you):

•     The Bodie Hills and the Bodie WSA contain outstanding natural and cultural values that deserve special protection, including antelope, sage grouse, Rough Creek, and extensive archaeological and historical resources.
•     The Bodie Hills provide important recreation and tourism opportunities including hiking, birdwatching, hunting, mountain biking, and exploration of the area’s extensive cultural and natural history.
•     Explain why the Bodie Hills are important to you and mention any experiences you have had there, be it hiking, mountain biking, hunting, auto-touring, photography, birdwatching, or enjoying the area’s spectacular summer wildflowers. If you are from out of the area, please tell the Board why you visit Mono County and especially Bridgeport or the Bodie Hills, and what is important to you as a visitor.
•     Ask to be part of a public discussion involving the broad community of local, regional and national stakeholders to determine a vision and appropriate future land uses for the publicly-owned lands in the Bodie Hills.

•     Ask the Board of Supervisors to oppose any proposals such as WSA release or mining in the Bodie Hills until the public and BLM have had a chance to assess the mining company’s plans. The first time anyone including BLM will be seeing this information will be on February 15.

Email or FAX your letter, with your full name and address, to:

          Mono County Board of Supervisors
          P.O. Box 715
          Bridgeport, CA  93517

          FAX:   760-932-5531

Please cc Rep. McKeon and send it to him at:

          26650 The Old Road, Suite 203
          Santa Clarita, CA  91381

          FAX:   661-254-2380

For more information please call Drew Foster in Lee Vining at 805-405-7577 or email

2.   New Wilderness in California

Earlier this month, the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area in Mendocino County became a formal part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The 11,000-plus-acre parcel was included in Rep. Mike Thompson’s 2006 Northcoast Wild Heritage Act, but was designated “potential” because portions of it had been previously logged over.

This is an interesting example, showing that contrary to popular belief, land does not have to be in a pristine or untouched state to be designated as wilderness. The land was included in the 2006 bill due to the persuasive efforts of one local advocate, who argued that natural restoration was already underway. BLM just gave its certification that the recovery process was far enough along that the land qualified under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Elkhorn Ridge is located about 60 miles north of Ukiah, west of US 101, an area of Douglas fir and redwood forest. The Wild and Scenic Eel River, home to endangered salmon and steelhead, flows through it. Our thanks go to Rep. Thompson!

3.   California Public Lands Bills Introduced
          In Both U.S. Senate and House
          Thank You Letters/Calls Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

Wilderness and public lands legislation for California got off to a fast start in the 112th Congress. Here are brief summaries of the four bills that were introduced. All of these legislators deserve our thanks. Contact information is at the end of each section

Sen. Feinstein Reintroduces Desert Protection Act

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) has a long history of being interested in protecting California’s southern deserts. She championed the original California Desert Protection Act when Sen. Alan Cranston retired in 1993, and it passed in 1994. In the last Congress, she introduced a follow-up Desert Protection Act, which got bogged down in lame duck session politics and the energy and climate change debates. She lost no time, though, in the new Congress with S.138, the California Desert Protection Act of 2011.

Some of the energy provisions have been removed, but much of the original bill remains. It would enlarge Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks as well as the Mojave National Preserve. In addition, it would create 2 new national monuments: the Sand to Snow NM (134,000-acres) and Mojave Trails NM (941,000-acres). The bill creates 5 new wilderness areas, including one of nearly 250,000 acres near Ft. Irwin. Several river segments would be added to the Wild & Scenic Rivers System, and four existing off-road vehicle areas would be given permanent status.

          DC phone:   202-224-3841
          Other contact information here.

Sen. Boxer Reintroduces Pinnacles National Park Bill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) reintroduced her bill to make Pinnacles National Monument a national park, S.161. The bill had been introduced in last Congress, but it never passed. In addition to the new status, the bill enlarges the park and designates more wilderness.

Sen. Feinstein is a cosponsor of the bill. Rep Sam Farr (D-17) has not reintroduced companion legislation in the House.

          DC phone:   202-224-3553
                    Other contact information here.

Rep. David Dreier (R-36) Introduces the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act

Among other things, H.R.113 will add about 18,000 acres to the Sheep Mountain and Cucamonga wilderness areas in the San Gabriel Mountains. Rep. Judy Chu (D-32) is a cosponsor.

          DC phone:   202-225-2305
          Other contact info here.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49) Introduces the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act of 2011

H.R.41 adds 13,500+ acres to the Beauty Mountain Wilderness and 7,000 acres to the Agua Tibia Wilderness in the northern part of San Diego County.

          DC phone:   202-225-3906
          Other contact info here. (bottom of page, or click on CONTACT ME)

4.   California State Parks Advocacy Day
          March 22, 2011
          REGISTRATION DEADLINE: February 12
          (ACTION ITEM)

No permanent solution has been found to the funding issues facing California’s state park system. The State Parks Foundation is having a lobby day in Sacramento on March 22. Here is the announcement:

Dear Park Advocate,

I am pleased to announce that registration for the 9th annual Park Advocacy Day is now open! This year’s event will be held on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. I hope you will make an effort to join us this year to help CSPF continue our efforts to keep California’s state parks open, protected and funded!

This year is sure to be another difficult year for state parks—but it is also a year of opportunity. With a new Governor and 40 newly elected legislators, this year will be an important year to build new relationships with legislators. We need participation from strong advocates like you who will speak up and help us deliver a strong message of support for California’s 278 state parks.

The work of Park Advocacy Day participants over the past 8 years has been critical in raising legislators’ awareness of the issues facing state parks and the benefits that state parks provide the people of California. With the help of you and the hundreds of other park supporters who have participated in Park Advocacy Day since 2003, we have been able to harness the political “muscle” of state park advocates and make a positive difference for the future of California’s 278 state parks!

Please register today to join us for Park Advocacy Day 2011.

Registration and event information is available online at:

(Please register before February 12).

We look forward to seeing you in Sacramento on March 22!

Traci Verardo-Torres
Vice President, Government Affairs

5.   Kofa Wildlife Refuge Guzzlers Ruled Illegal

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled an Arizona District Court’s approval of water projects for bighorn sheep (guzzlers) in the wilderness portion of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. FWS had constructed two 13,000 gallon tanks with no public notice or comment. Wilderness Watch, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, Western Watersheds Project, and Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club stepped in and filed suit. The appeals court ruled that the Fish & Wildlife Service had failed to show that the tanks met the requirements of the Wilderness Act and were necessary for the management of the wilderness.

Our friend Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center in Eugene represented the plaintiffs. Wilderness Watch has posted a link to the decision on its website.

6.   Reaction to BLM’s New Wilderness Policy
          Thank You Letters Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

The announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month that BLM would once again take wilderness character into account in its planning and management efforts has created quite a stir across the West, especially among Sagebrush Rebellion supporters.

The new chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee, Doc Hasting (R-WA), blasted the Wild Lands policy as an end-run around Congress. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands, said he was fuming, concerned that the new policy would put lands off limits to oil and gas drilling. He was quoted: “I don’t know anywhere else where an administration has been brazen enough to think they can establish policy without the legislative authority to do so. It does violate, if not the letter of [the Federal Land Policy and Management Act] and [National Environmental Policy Act], it certainly violates the spirit of it.”

There have been threats by House appropriators to ban funding of any implementation of the new policy, which doesn’t even afford the same level of legal protection as BLM exercised before the Norton Leavitt agreement of 2003, since it doesn’t formally designate areas as Wilderness Study Areas, only “Wild Lands.”

On the other hand, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey (D) circulated a letter of thanks in the House, and 4 members signed on, including the following from California:

          Mike Thompson (D-01)
          George Miller (D-07)
          Barbara Lee (D-09)
          Jerry McNerney(D-11)
          Pete Stark (D-13)
          Sam Farr (D-17)
          Lois Capps (D-23)
          Howard Berman (D-28)
          Maxine Waters (D-35)
          Laura Richardson (D-37)
          Linda Sanchez (D-39)
          Bob Filner (D-51)

A full list of signers from all states may be found here. If your representative is on either list, please call his or her office to quickly say “Thanks!” Contact information may be found on members’ individual websites at

Secty. Salazar is standing strong so far, but it wouldn’t hurt to send along thanks and encouragement. If you haven’t thanked him already, send a note or email, with a copy to BLM Director Bob Abbey.

          Hon. Ken Salazar
          U.S. Department of the Interior
          1849 C Street, NW
          Washington, DC  20240

          Fax:   202-208-6950

          Mr. Bob Abbey
          US Bureau of Land Management
          1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
          Washington DC 20240

          Fax:   202-208-5242

7.   Wilderness Volunteers Service Trips

Every year we include at least one item for service trips run by our friends at Wilderness Volunteers, a 14 year-old national wilderness service organization providing opportunities to spend a week in a favorite place “Giving Something Back.” In cooperation with public land managers, Wilderness Volunteers actively promotes one-week service projects that would otherwise go undone (trail maintenance, invasive plant control, rehabilitation & restoration) requiring groups of volunteers. In 2011, Wilderness Volunteers is hosting 54 low-cost service projects in 18 states across the country. Check out their project list and take advantage of this fun and worthy wilderness experience!

The Marin Independent Journal recently ran an article featuring a Wilderness Volunteers project in the Escalante area. Read it here.

8.   Job Listing: Environmental Protection Information Center

Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Arcata, California
Closes: February 11, 2011

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, based in Arcata, California, that focuses on the protection and restoration of forests, watersheds, fish and wildlife in northern California. EPIC seeks an energetic, focused, and experienced conservation advocate to join our team as Program Director. The Program Director is principally responsible for developing, implementing and managing the policy agenda for EPIC’s four intersecting Program areas: Public Lands, Industrial Forest Lands, Biodiversity, and Clean Water. The Program Director is part of the EPIC leadership team, and serves as the anchor for EPIC’s conservation advocacy for the North Coast and Klamath-Siskiyou bioregions in northwestern California.

The successful candidate will have several years experience in environmental advocacy and litigation, and substantial knowledge of both federal and California natural resource law and policy, in particular NEPA, CEQA, the Northwest Forest Plan, ESA, and clean water law. Excellent written and oral communication skills, and public speaking skills are a must. The ability to dialogue and work effectively with a variety of stakeholders is critical. Tolerance, flexibility, and humor are also vital qualities.

A complete position description is available at

To apply please send cover letter, resume, references and a writing sample by February 11th to: Search Committee at No phone calls please.

9.   Death by GPS

One of the issues facing wilderness advocates and managers is the intrusion of technology into wild areas. The proliferation of cell phones, GPS, and locator beacons can give people a false sense of security, allowing them to get in over their heads, thinking they can simply call for a rescue. Sometimes GPS directions are simply inaccurate or out of date. A push for safety can then put pressure on wilderness managers to approve installation of cell phone towers in areas where they don’t belong. Not that projects are necessarily approved, but proposals and thinking like this violate the spirit and letter of the Wilderness Act.

The Sacramento Bee just published a story, “‘Death by GPS’ in Desert” about over-reliance on technology and the need to be prepared. While the main part of the story deals with its use in vehicles, the principle is the same for people traveling on foot. It’s worth reading, here.