Newsletter Archive

Utah Petroglyphs                                                                                                                     Mike Painter

June 30, 2011

Dear CalUWild friends —

The 4th of July weekend is upon us, and I hope you get a chance to visit some of our public lands (at least if the weather holds out). In any event, take a moment out to appreciate the natural world we Americans hold as our birthright.

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in a recent speech (see Item 5) quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “We have fallen heir to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Thank you for doing your part,

1.   Red Rock Wilderness Act Cosponsors
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Hikes in the Bodie Hills

3.   Chimney Rock National Monument
          Legislation Introduced in the House

4.   Wilderness Study Area Release Bill
          Due for Committee Hearing in July
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Bruce Babbitt & Ken Salazar—
          2 Interior Secretaries, 2 Approaches

6.   Links to Articles and Reports of Interest


1.   Red Rock Wilderness Act Cosponsors
          (ACTION ITEM)

The drive continues to get members of Congress to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Right now the environment seems to be the last thing on people’s minds in Washington, so it’s proving difficult. But we need to keep wilderness and other issues in front of our representatives if we hope to move forward.

Right now, the California cosponsors of the Red Rock bill are:

          Mike Thompson (D-01)
          Lynn Woolsey (D-06)
          George Miller (D-07)
          Jerry McNerney (D-11)
          Jackie Speier (D-12)
          Pete Stark (D-13)
          Mike Honda (D-15)
          Zoe Lofgren (D-16)
          Sam Farr (D-17)
          Lois Capps (D-23)
          Howard Berman (D-28)
          Adam Schiff (D-29)
          Laura Richardson (D-37)
          Grace Napolitano (D-38)
          Bob Filner (D-51)

          Sen. Barbara Boxer (D)

We’d still like to see the following sign on:

          Doris Matsui (D-05)
          Barbara Lee (D-09)
          John Garamendi (D-10)
          Anna Eshoo (D-14)
          Brad Sherman (D-27)
          Henry Waxman (D-30)
          Xavier Becerra (D-31)
          Judy Chu (D-32)
          Karen Bass (D-33)
          Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34)
          Maxine Waters (D-35)
          Linda Sanchez (D-39)
          Loretta Sanchez (D-47)
          Susan Davis (D-53)

If your representative is on the list, please contact him or her and ask them to cosponsor America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Contact information may be found on the representative’s page at

Jane Harman (D-36) resigned from the House in February to become head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. A special election for her seat in April resulted in a run-off, and it has not been filled.

Lynn Woolsey (D-06), a longtime cosponsor of the bill and strong supporter of the environment and public lands, announced this week that she will retire at the end of this Congress. She is in her tenth term representing Marin and Sonoma Counties.

2.   Hikes in the Bodie Hills

The Bodie Hills are a fascinating area, east of Yosemite and north of Mono Lake. They have a rich gold mining history and as we’ve reported in the past, a proposal for a new gold mine is a current issue of concern. But the Bodie Hills are also a wonderful natural area, home to sage grouse and countless other species of plants and animals. In recognition of its unique character, the Bureau of Land Management designated three wilderness study areas on the land it manages.

The Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, of which CalUWild is a member, is hosting various hikes throughout the Bodie Hills in the spectacular Eastern Sierra. The dates are:

July 31, August 7, & September 4.

All trips will meet at 8 a.m. at the parking lot in front of the Forest Service Visitor Center to carpool. These will be all day hikes. Visit or for specific information on trips, or contact for more info on the trips.

On July 24 and August 14, there will be public presentations discussing the issues facing the Bodie Hills, so if you happen to be in the area on one of those dates, you might attend. Programs will take place at the Mono Lake Committee in Lee Vining, on the main street (U.S. 395), starting at 5 p.m. both days.

See for yourself what makes the Bodie Hills so special!

3.   Chimney Rock National Monument
          Legislation to Be Introduced in the House

Rep. Scott Tipton, (R-CO) announced plans to introduce a bill in the House to designate the Chimney Rock archaeological area in the San Juan National Forest of southwestern Colorado a national monument. The bill’s language has not been finalized, but is a companion bill to S. 508 introduced in March by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The Denver Post published a letter to the editor from me in support of the bill, expressing the hope that other legislators will follow suit and introduce bills to protect significant landscapes and resources in their districts. (The letter is only available online in the paper’s for-pay archives.)

We’ll keep you posted as the bills progress.

4.   Wilderness Study Area Release Bill
          Due for Committee Hearing in July
          (ACTION ITEM)

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on H.R. 1581, the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011” introduced by California Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-22) that would release many BLM wilderness study areas and Forest Service roadless areas from administrative protection. The hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 26.

A companion bill, S. 1087, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

The problem with these bills is that they eliminate at once all those WSAs that the two agencies did not originally recommend for final wilderness designation without looking at the individual circumstances pertaining to each. Many WSAs were created years ago, and attitudes and standards have changed in the intervening years, so if approached individually, some of them might be found suitable now. Additionally, some of the WSAs were likely not recommended based on political and economic considerations rather than resource evaluations (their potential for energy or mineral exploitation being major factors).  A third concern is that local offices may have made the decisions without taking the national significance of the lands into account. Finally, the sweeping legislation does not take into account the attitudes and concerns of local citizens who may be in favor of protection. It’s interesting that while local input is supposedly of paramount importance when considering “pro-wilderness” legislation, it can be ignored when anti-wilderness bills are crafted.

Ryan Henson of the California Wilderness Coalition has prepared a list of areas in California that would be affected by the legislation should it pass. It totals over 719,000 acres of BLM land and nearly 3.7 million acres managed by the Forest Service.

Much of the land covered by the bill has been proposed for protection for many years, Some areas that would have been covered by the bill have in fact been protected by legislation such as Sen. Boxer’s (D) Wild Heritage Act, Sen. Feinstein’s (D) California Desert Protection Act, Rep. David Dreier’s (R-26) Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act, and Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-49) Beauty Mountain & Agua Tibia Wilderness Act—in other words, by bills from both sides of the aisle.

Please contact your representative and ask them to oppose the bill.

California members of the Natural Resources Committee are. They especially need to hear people’s opinions.

Tom McClintock (R-04)
John Garamendi (D-10)
Jeff Denham (R-19)
Jim Costa (D-20)
Grace Napolitano (R-38)

The full Committee roster may be found online here.

5.   Bruce Babbitt & Ken Salazar—
          Two Interior Secretaries, Two Approaches

In a speech to the National Press Club, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt sounded an alarm regarding public lands protection in the United States. Opening his speech, Mr. Babbitt said:

I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history. The Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources. And it is time for those of us who support our conservation tradition to raise our voices on behalf of the American people. 

He then called on Pres. Obama to step up and lead the land and water protection efforts, “something that he has not yet done in a significant way.” In fact, he criticized the Administration for agreeing to the budget restriction on the implementation of the new Wild Lands Policy, referring to staffers in the White House as “munchkins.” It was a rare public critique by a former Cabinet official. Mr. Babbitt was Interior Secretary under Bill Clinton and set up the National Landscape Conservation System, with the intent of protecting some of the most significant lands managed by the BLM.

Mr. Babbitt then discussed the 1906 Antiquities Act and the 1964 Wilderness Act, looking at the attempts to weaken or even repeal them.

As these attacks escalate the urgent question for those of us who support and advocate for our conservation tradition is how to respond. [¶] One alternative is to lie low, hoping that this storm will soon pass by without too much lasting damage. [¶] Failure to respond, however, is a form of appeasement that has not worked in the past and it will not work this time.  Our adversaries prefer to operate in the shadows, outside the sunshine generated by public knowledge and participation. For our opponents know that when anti-environmentalism becomes a public issue they will lose. They know that American support for our environmental heritage is wide and deep.

Mr. Babbitt then went on to suggest that the president designate some new monuments and work too increase the amount of wilderness in the U.S.:

The best way to defend the Antiquities Act is for the President to use it. [¶] The Wilderness Act is also in need of more vigorous advocacy from its friends, including the Administration.
The next day, current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called on Congress to move ahead on wilderness bills that members had already introduced. He also said that the Interior Department would provide Congress with a list of BLM lands it thinks deserve wilderness designation.

As we reported last month, though, Mr. Salazar formally announced (unnecessarily, in my view) the previous week that the Interior Department would abide by the Congressional budget restriction. But in an even more disheartening statement just last week, Secty. Salazar told House Republican leaders that the Interior Department would not designate any “Wild Lands” in the future, regardless of whether Congress continued the funding cutoff or not. The limitation was only for Fiscal Year 2011, which ends in September. The Department appears to have completely abandoned the policy, though it did say that BLM would continue to inventory lands, as required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).

At this point, it is not at all clear how Mr. Salazar proposes to protect BLM lands of wilderness quality until such time as Congress permanently decides their fate.

One thing is for certain, Mr. Salazar is no Teddy Roosevelt, who, when presented with a bill he felt he had to sign, but which also took away his power to designate forest reserves (national forests), used the time between the bill’s passage and the date he needed to sign it to cover the White House floors with maps and decide what lands to preserve. He designated the reserves he wanted and then signed the bill that prohibited him from ever doing it again.
Click here for the full (prepared, so no mention of “munchkins”) text of Mr. Babbitt’s speech.
Here are a few other reaction from the press to these issues:

Denver Post editorial and Santa Fe New Mexican editorial on Mr. Salazar’s reversal

New York Times editorial “Mr. Babbitt’s Protest”

The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial “Obama lukewarm on conservation”

6.   Links to Articles and Reports of Interest

Diane Rehm Show with a general look at public lands policy:

          Environmental Outlook: America’s Wilderness


          William Meadows, president, The Wilderness Society.
          Coral Davenport, energy and environment correspondent, National Journal.
          Kathleen Sgamma, director of government and public affairs, Western Energy Alliance.
          David Hayes, deputy secretary, Department of the Interior.

Click on LISTEN at the top right, or for a transcript, click here.

National Parks Conservation Association releases report on national parks.