Newsletter Archive

February 27, 2007

Dear friends of Wilderness in the West—

There are just a few items of interest this month, so we’ll get right to them. But first I want to thank you for the efforts you make to support the protection of our wild lands and also for helping to make CalUWild an effective organization. Working together we will continue making progress on the many issues that face us.


1. Cosponsors Needed for
America’s Redrock Wilderness Act
2. BLM Withdraws Oil & Gas Leases

3. Wilderness Bills Re-Introduced
More Expected
4. Wilderness Conference at San Francisco State University
April 5-7

5. Cameras and Helicopter Training in Wilderness Areas



1. Cosponsors Needed for
America’s Redrock Wilderness Act

America’s Redrock Wilderness Act is set to be re-introduced in March in both the House and Senate. With the political shift in Washington after the last election, we are hoping to dramatically increase the profile of the Utah wilderness bill (and others as well). There’s a chance that it will pass the House in this Congress, which would then make its passage in the Senate more likely (although not guaranteed).

One important way of generating enthusiasm for the legislation is to have as many cosponsors on the bill as possible when it is introduced. California has traditionally been a state with many cosponsors. In the last Congress we had 29 cosponsors in the House, over half of the state’s delegation.

Xavier Becerra
Howard L. Berman
Lois Capps
Susan A. Davis
Anna G. Eshoo
Bob Filner
Sam Farr
Jane Harman
Michael M. Honda
Tom Lantos
Barbara Lee
Zoe Lofgren
Doris Okada Matsui
Juanita Millender-McDonald
George Miller
Grace F. Napolitano
Lucille Roybal-Allard
Linda T. Sanchez
Loretta Sanchez
Adam B. Schiff
Brad Sherman
Hilda L. Solis
Fortney Pete Stark
Ellen O. Tauscher
Mike Thompson
Maxine Waters
Diane E. Watson
Henry A. Waxman
Lynn C. Woolsey

Sen. Barbara Boxer

With the departure of Rep. Richard Pombo and the more favorable climate in Washington we could pick up a few more this time around.

So please call your representatives in the next few weeks. If their names are on the list above, thank them for their past support for Utah. If their names are not on the list, now is the time for them to become cosponsors. In either event, tell them why Utah is important to you and ask them to become an original cosponsor (meaning that they are listed at the time the bill is introduced).

Utah Wilderness enthusiasts will be visiting Capitol Hill offices in March, but is it critical that representatives hear from their own constituents as well.

If you don’t know who your representative is, you can look up names at Complete contact information is on that website. (CalUWild’s is still being updated.) You can also call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office.

2. BLM Withdraws Oil & Gas Leases

Decisions about leasing on BLM lands are made by the state BLM offices and local field offices. However, in Washington, DC, the Interior Department has Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), set up to review decisions made at those levels.

Last month, the IBLA ruled against the BLM for leasing areas near Nine Mile Canyon, near Price, Utah. Nine Mile Canyon contains a rich collection of rock art. The Board said that BLM had not adequately consulted with Native American tribes before offering the leases. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance had protested the leases to the Utah BLM before they were offered, but the protest was denied.

This ruling is the latest in a series of setbacks to the Utah BLM office on leasing for oil & gas. The IBLA has ruled against it on other leases issued since 2003 and the federal district court in Salt Lake City overturned other leases last year as well.

One of the arguments frequently used by the extractive industries is that environmentalists’ appeals are holding back energy production. The fact of the matter is that only a very small percentage of leases are appealed. In addition there are many leases that have been issued but are sitting undeveloped. It seems that the rush to lease has been a purposeful effort by the administration to permanently remove lands from consideration for protection.

3. Wilderness Bills Re-Introduced
More Expected

Earlier this month, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-32) reintroduced their California Wild Heritage Act, the comprehensive statewide bill designating wilderness in may areas of the Golden State. The legislation covers more than 2.4 million acres of federal land. If passed, it would also give several rivers “Wild & Scenic” status, protecting them from development.

Sen. Boxer has indicated that she will work with other California representatives to craft regional wilderness bills, similar to last year’s North Coast bill that passed. Strong possibilities are another bill by Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-25) district in the Eastern Sierra and a bill by Rep. Mary Bono (R-45) around Palm Springs.

We’ll keep you posted on the bills’ progress.

4. Wilderness Conference at San Francisco State University
April 5-7

A reminder: CalUWild is helping organize a conference on wilderness at San Francisco State University, April 5-7. The purpose is to get people together from varied backgrounds and with different perspectives, in order to see how the wilderness movement might include a broader spectrum of the population. We hope you’ll be able to attend for one or more days.

Registration and other information can be found on the conference website.

5. Cameras and Helicopter Training in Wilderness Areas

Some of our federal land management agencies and personnel seem to lack a basic understanding of what wilderness designation means and how the Wilderness Act is written and to be interpreted as law. One of the most effective things to steer them in the right direction is for citizens to write when necessary to defend the wilderness values and character defined by the 1964 Wilderness Act and that offending behavior be stopped. The other resort is litigation.

There are two examples currently. The first is in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. The Fish & Wildlife Service recently proudly announced that it will soon be installing streaming live video cameras in the refuge to view wildlife. What the announcement doesn’t mention is that the sites proposed are in designated wilderness. As fun and interesting as it might be to view wildlife over the Internet, technology of that sort has no place in wilderness.

Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133 (c)) states that except as “required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area[], there shall be … no structure or installation within any such area.” That is extremely plain language, and one would be hard pressed to find that video cameras set up to view wildlife fall within the exception.

Setting up video cameras may have practical effects on wildlife as well. The Refuge is open to hunters, and by having streaming video of animals, it will announce to anyone interested the presence of bighorn sheep or mule deer at the photo spot, giving them or their hunting companions an unfair advantage over the animals, beyond what might be considered fair chase. Cameras also increase the possibility of poaching during the off-season for the same reasons.

Please send a letter to the Refuge objecting to the plans to install cameras in designated wilderness. Address it to:

J. Paul Cornes, Manager
356 W. 1st Street
Yuma, Arizona 85364

Phone: 928-783-7861
Fax: 928-783-8611

The second example is the plan by the Las Vegas Office of the BLM to allow helicopter emergency training in wilderness areas around that city.

The comment deadline has just passed, but the issue is serious enough that we encourage you to submit comments to the BLM anyway. The agency is still required to take comments received past the deadline into consideration if it can; it is just not legally required to respond to the concerns you raise.

The following alert comes from the Sierra Club’s CA/NV Desert and Wilderness Committees.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Las Vegas is proposing to allow extensive Search and Rescue crew training using helicopters in the Rainbow Mountain and La Madre Mountain Wilderness areas just west of Las Vegas This daytime training would take place on 10 Saturdays every year from January to September, with a maximum of 60 helicopter landings each session-or 600 each year! In addition, pilot training would call for another 72 helicopter landings.

The Wilderness Act does not allow use of motorized vehicles in Wilderness. It has specific exceptions for landing of aircraft “in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area.” It also has an exception for agency use “the minimum necessary for the administration of the area AS wilderness.” Training activities are not included in any exceptions. We believe that this proposal by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) is totally out of line with the letter and intent of the Wilderness Act and should be prohibited.

Please contact the BLM immediately (comment deadline is FEB. 26) and ask them to:

• Prohibit search and rescue crew training in Wilderness areas

• Consider alternate sites in the area for crew trainings to take place outside of Wilderness. (There are some alternative sites with similar (though of course not identical) cliffs to those in the Rainbow Mountain and La Madre Mountain Wildernesses.

• Carefully document all actual rescues of the last few years to ascertain which could have been conducted with helicopter assist. (MPD says there are 15 to 20 rescues per year, and that ALL have had the use of helicopters. It seems reasonable to assume that helicopters were called in often just because they were readily available, and that many rescues, especially non-life threatening ones, could be achieved with ground crews only.

• Conduct more vigorous public education about wilderness for visitors to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Visitors need to know that Wilderness is a place apart from the trappings of modern civilization, including medical life support. They should go to the Wilderness portion of Red Rocks only if they understand this fundamental wilderness characteristic and are willing to assume some personal risk. (Note: when I visited Red Rocks last year, volunteers running the Visitor Center did not even know that part of the NCA is now wilderness!)

Send comment to:

Mr. Juan Palma – BLM Manager
4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89130-2301

Or by email to:

Extra talking points (pick one or two if you wish, but PLEASE put such thoughts IN YOUR OWN WORDS):

*** The Wilderness Act of 1964 and later acts for many more wilderness areas made a strong statement about our national social and environmental values. We count on BLM, the responsible agency, to maintain our wilderness values and assure that any activity proposals like this one from Las Vegas MPD must be modified or prohibited to be in compliance with the law.

*** BLM should make sure that trails are signed so people know when they are entering the wilderness.

*** Urge BLM to follow their responsibilities in maintaining “opportunities for solitude” (a principal characteristic of wilderness) in these areas that are already severely impacted by excessive tourism helicopter flight noises. More helicopter noises should be strenuously avoided.

*** The fact that these wildernesses are so near to a major metropolitan area (which is rapidly growing on its west side, near Red Rocks) means that many more residents as well as visitors will be impacted by the excessive helicopter noise such trainings would bring. Noise from helicopters operating in the canyons is amplified by echoing off the walls and is especially disturbing, to both humans and wildlife.

*** You can mention any relevant personal thought about what wilderness means to YOU.

Thanks for writing the BLM in defense of Wilderness! They need to hear many voices tell them, very simply, that wilderness is important and they need to follow the law.