Newsletter Archive

April 24, 2008

Dear CalUWild members and friends –

Congress is beginning to recognize the unique character of much of the Western landscape and see the need for its preservation (see Item 3). But at the same time, the administration’s march of oil & gas leasing continues across the West, as if we can somehow drill our way out of our energy predicament (see Item 2). If we who love the West don’t make our thoughts and opinions known on these matters, then it’s unlikely that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy these natural wonders in the way that we do.

Thanks to a volunteer who responded to the appeal in last month’s Update, the contact list for California’s congressional reps and others has been brought up to date. It will be posted soon CalUWild’s website.

As always, thanks for your interest and involvement!

I’ll be out of the country for the latter part of May, so barring an emergency, the Update will be taking a break for the month.

Best wishes,


1. Washington County Bill Reintroduced by Sen. Bennett
2. Desolation-Gray & Nine Mile Canyons Threatened by Oil & Gas
Comments Needed

3. National Landscape Conservation System Legislation Passes House

4. Exploratory Trip Wovoka Proposed Wilderness
Memorial Day Weekend


1. Washington County Bill Reintroduced by Sen. Bennett

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) introduced public lands legislation (S. 2834) in the U.S. Senate for Washington County, the southwestern corner of Utah, around St. George. It has already had a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. The bill is an improvement over the legislation Sen. Bennett introduced two years ago, which the conservation community was able to stop. However, there are still enough problems with the current version that for now we are not ready to support it.

According to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Sierra Club’s analysis of the bill, it would designate as Wilderness 140,000 of the 300,000 acres identified by the Utah Wilderness Coalition in the Citizens Wilderness Proposal. This amount is up from the previous bill. However, some areas are left out near Zion National Park. Also, the Beaver Dam Wash area is not included in the wilderness designation. Rather it is designated a national conservation area, but without the strong protection that wilderness designation brings with it. In addition, “nonconforming uses” are permitted in the wilderness areas designated, and other areas are released from consideration as wilderness, using language that might preclude future consideration as wilderness.

The legislation also gives Washington County 10% of the amount brought in from the sale of public lands. Generally, proceeds from land sales are used to acquire other lands that are of interest. Since this land belongs to all Americans, the public at large is shortchanged.

The bill also mandates the creation of the High Desert ORV Trail and a transportation corridor route that would likely degrade habitat of the Desert Tortoise (an endangered species).

The conservation community is looking forward to working with Sen. Bennett’s staff to improve the bill and get it to the point where we can perhaps support it.

So far, no House bill has been introduced, but we’ll follow the progress of the discussions and keep you informed.

2. Desolation-Gray & Nine Mile Canyons Threatened by Oil & Gas
Comments Needed

In February’s Update, we mentioned that the Price Office of the BLM was considering an oil & gas leasing plan that would pose serious threats to Nine Mile Canyon, one of the premier rock art sites in the world. It turns out that the same plan is also a threat to Desolation and Gray Canyons along the Green River, one of the most isolated roadless areas in the lower 48 states and a fantastic area for river rafting.

It’s now a short deadline. The link in the February Update for emailing comments also had an error, so I apologize on both counts. The correct link is:

Please submit comments on Nine Mile Canyon and the Green River corridor as well, using information from February’s Update and from the following alert, which came out from River Runners for Wilderness.


RRFW Riverwire
Desolation Canyon Threatened By Huge Gas Field, Comments Needed!
April 22, 2008

Your comments are need by May 1 on a massive, 3-decades-long, gas drilling project proposed for Desolation and Gray Canyons!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has put together a giant project called the West Tavaputs Plateau Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan, encompassing approximately 137,930 acres of Federal, State, and private lands on both sides of the Green River in Desolation Canyon.

This plan would impact the first thirty four miles of Desolation Canyon, an area renowned for its remoteness, its unimpaired beauty and its wilderness characteristics. The developments proposed by the BLM in this plan will seriously damaging these irreplaceable resources.

Infrastructure for this mammoth project would be clearly visible from the river for thirty four miles, and would include a network of almost 200 miles of new roads and pipelines, year-round gas drilling and compression stations, new airfields, temporary worker housing, and other facilities. To see a viewshed impact map click here:

The Green River corridor through Desolation and Gray Canyons is home to mountain lion, black bear and four native fish on the federal Endangered Species list. One of these fish species, The Colorado River pike minnow (squawfish), has its only known breeding area near Three Fords rapid in Desolation Canyon. Other endangered fish have critical habitat along the river immediately below Flat Canyon and at other localities below Jack Canyon (a tributary.)

This vast long-term development plan includes drilling up to 807 new natural gas wells on 538 locations spanning both sides of the Green River in Desolation Canyon over a period of approximately eight years, with the potential to produce natural gas for up to 34 years.

At a minimum it would also include three 5-acre storage sites. Under the Agency proposal there are no restrictions on the number of drill rigs, or seasonal drilling restrictions. The proposal includes three 15-acre surface water disposal sites and the EIS is mute on liquid and solid waste disposal pits required for the operations.

This plan is going through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process, and the BLM is taking comments on the Draft EIS through May 1, 2008.

If you have rafted or paddled through the Desolation and Gray Canyons (known to river runners as Deso-Gray), it’s time to pay back to the resource that has nourished you, your family and paddling friends!

• Tell the BLM in your own words that you have traveled through this pristine wilderness area and:

• All the draft alternatives improperly infringe on the Desolation Canyon Wild and Scenic River Study Area.

• Every one of the draft alternatives improperly infringes on the Jack Canyon Wilderness Study Area.

• Before any alternative is selected, all wilderness resource and wildlife surveys and studies must be completed, and the adverse impacts to these critical resources by gas drilling must be considered.

• Each of the alternatives fails to take into account the adverse impact this gas field development will have to the roughly 6,000 do-it-yourself and commercial river runners who use the Green River corridor each year.

• Every alternative is deficient in explaining how toxic material, either through liquid spill, airborne contamination or solid waste, will be contained to avoid being spilled into the Green River from drill sites within one half mile from the river.

• The BLM must consider at least one no-drill alternative that has no drilling, no new roads, and no new development.

Comments must be submitted by May 1, 2008, and may be submitted by e-mail at

Written comments should be sent to:

Bureau of Land Management
Price Field Office
Attn: West Tavaputs Plateau Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan DEIS
125 South 600 West
Price, Utah 84501

If you are e-mailing comments, please copy your e-mail to the following three Congressional Representatives:

U.S. House of Representatives, House Committee on Natural Resources, Honorable Nick Rahall II, Chairman, email:

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Honorable Jeff Bingham, Chairman, email:

U.S. House of Representatives, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Representative Jim Matheson, email:

You can find additional information on the DEIS at:

3. National Landscape Conservation System
Legislation Passes House

As Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt created the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) in 2000 to “conserve, protect, and restore [designated] nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.” Up until, the NLCS has been a purely administrative designation, meaning that any Secretary of the Interior could do away with the System unilaterally.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a longtime champion of public lands, introduced legislation (HR 2016) in the House that would make the NLCS permanent, and it passed the House two weeks ago, by a vote of 278-140.

No Democrats voted against the legislation and among California Republicans, only Brian Bilbray (CA-50) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) voted in favor of the bill. A full roll of the vote can be found here.

Your congressional representatives would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the vote. Contact information for them can be found on the House website for now, until CalUWild’s is updated.

The Administration has indicated its support for the legislation, and there is a companion bill in the Senate. We’ll keep you posted as the legislation progresses.

Click here for more information on the NLCS and the organizations working to support it. A short YouTube video has information on the NLCS in a different form.

4. Exploratory Trip
Wovoka Proposed Wilderness
Memorial Day Weekend

May 24-26 (Saturday-Monday)
Explore Wild Nevada’s Wovoka

Just east of the Sweetwater Mts. on the CA/NV border are the Pine Grove Hills and the newly proposed Wovoka Wilderness Area in western Nevada. Join a Memorial Day exploratory car camping trip with Vicky Hoover. Hike toward (we hope to) the area’s high point, Bald Mountain (9544 ft.) Central commissary. Meet Friday evening, trip ends Monday early afternoon. For details, contact Vicky,, (415) 977-5527.

Lyon County’s Wovoka Proposed Wilderness:

The Pine Grove Mountains (or Pine Grove Hills) are in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, just east of the Sweetwater Mountains of California and Nevada, and a little west of Walker Lake and the town of Hawthorne. Volcanic cliffs, and rugged canyons and ridges—places with names like Wichman Canyon, Slide Rock, Halsey Canyon. In the southern Pine Grove range the large roadless area featuring Bald Mountain, 9544 feet, is a candidate for wilderness protection as the Wovoka Proposed Wilderness, of nearly 86,000 acres. Bald Mountain offers view east to Mt. Grant and the distant Toiyabe Range and west to the Sweetwaters, the Sierra, and the Whites in California. The Pine Grove Mountains provide good habitat for mule deer, raptors, mountain lion, badger, grey fox, bobcat, black bear and sage grouse. Bordering this range, the East Fork of the Walker River has 11 miles of wild river.