Newsletter Archive

July 8, 2003

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters —

Summer has arrived, and there hasn’t been a lot of grassroots action needed in the last few weeks, so the UPDATE decided to take June off.

There are a few other general announcements this month.

1. The California Wild Heritage Campaign has a full schedule of hikes and other trips throughout California. It’s a great way to see firsthand some of the wild areas proposed for wilderness protection and learn about what makes them such special places. Check out the full calendar at:

2. Just a friendly reminder: Although we run CalUWild on a tight budget, projects still do require funding. An appeal for support will be going out in the next few weeks to our members who haven’t contributed in the last year. The easiest way to avoid receiving this is to send in a contribution. Dues are voluntary, and we have different level of contributions:

Student ($15) Regular ($25) Supporting ($50) Outstanding ($100) Other

Checks payable to CalUWild may support lobbying efforts and are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible contributions should be made payable to Resource Renewal Institute . Either way, mail it to:

P.O. Box 210474
San Francisco, CA 94121-0474

3. Finally, given the administration’s unrelenting assaults on our wildlands—that’s not hyperbole given what has happened in the last month—we need to encourage other people to become actively involved in efforts to protect wild areas. Please forward this Update (which is going out to more than 577 people) to three friends who might be interested—particularly if they live in Southern California. If you send us their name and e-mail address, we’ll send them the information they need to join up. Tell them we don’t send out numerous alerts (generally once a month), dues are voluntary (but appreciated), and we do NOT share personal information with ANYone for ANY reason, so they won’t be receiving unsolicited e-mail. It shouldn’t be hard to double or triple our membership. Please spread the word!

As always, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact us at

Thank you for all your support and hard work.

Best wishes,



1. R.S. 2477 / Wilderness Rollbacks
(Action Item)

2. Energy Bill in the Senate
(Action Item)


3. Redrock Cosponsor Update


4. Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon NCA
Draft Management Plan
(Action Item)


5. SWAT Teams in Wilderness Denied
(Action Item)

6. North Coast Wilderness Bill Introduced

7. Condors at Pinnacles
(Action Item)

8. Alaska Wilderness League Position in California



1. R.S. 2477 / Wilderness Rollbacks

(Action Item)

In April the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched a three-part attack on wilderness. Two parts involved settlements with the State of Utah, effectively removing them from public or congressional review. The third was a directive from Secretary Gale Norton to the Alaska BLM office.

Part 1: R.S. 2477 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State of Utah

Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and Secretary Norton announced an agreement on April 9 allowing the State of Utah and its counties to claim R.S. 2477 rights-of-way to routes under the recently established Disclaimer of Interest Rule (see CalUWild Update: January 2003 At the time the new disclaimer regulations were being developed, the Department of Interior vehemently denied that the rule had anything to do with R.S. 2477.

This MOU is the product of secret negotiations between Mr. Leavitt and the Interior Department.

The agreement:

* allows the state and counties to assert claims to “roads” across pristine public landscapes where no road actually exists
* provides no real protection for National Parks, Wildlife Refuges or Wilderness areas, since the state of Utah, counties, and all-terrain vehicle groups are free to pursue these claims in federal court
* provides for no public involvement until after BLM has made a decision to turn routes on public lands over to states
* does not require any review of the potential environmental impacts of the wholesale give-away of routes
* apparently will use loosen standards that could permit states to allege that cow paths and foot trails are “constructed highways” and thus subject to giveaways
* invites other states and counties to apply for similar agreements
* leaves vulnerable much of Utah’s most precious land, including much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, roadless areas identified by the BLM as having potential wilderness characteristics in its 1997 state-wide inventory, and other areas proposed for Wilderness designation in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act

For more information on R.S. 2477, see:

Part 2: Wilderness Study Area and Inventory Settlement with Utah

On April 11, the Interior Department and Utah announced a settlement to a lawsuit brought by Utah challenging BLM’s authority to undertake wilderness inventories. Seven out of the eight original counts in the suit had previously been rejected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Two weeks before the settlement was announced, BLM apparently encouraged Utah to revise the remaining count and then agreed to settle.

In the settlement, the federal government agreed to abandon its wilderness inventories in all states and dis-establish any Wilderness Study Areas that had been administratively set up. The agreement also revoked the “Wilderness Inventory Handbook,” which former Secretary Bruce Babbitt had developed, governing the inventory process and the management of lands found to have wilderness character. These lands had strong protection until such time as Congress might act on making their protection permanent or releasing them.

The Interior Department “admitted” that it had no authority under the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to undertake such inventories, because sec. 603 required BLM to have undertaken wilderness inventories before 1991. Many of the inventories that BLM did before 1991, particularly in Utah, were deeply flawed, often excluding illegally areas that had any mineral or oil & gas potential.

The BLM continued its inventories or began reinventories under secs. 201 and 202 of FLPMA. Sec. 201 specifically states:

“The Secretary shall prepare and maintain on a continuing basis an inventory of all public lands and their resource and other values (including, but not limited to, outdoor recreation and scenic values), giving priority to areas of critical environmental concern. This inventory shall be kept current so as to reflect changes in conditions and to identify new and emerging resource and other values.”

Wilderness is one such resource to be inventoried. Sec. 202 requires BLM to use the results of its inventories in developing land use plans.

A coalition of wilderness organizations is attempting to intervene in the lawsuit.

Part 3. Wilderness Agreement with Alaska

Also on April 11, Secty. Norton ordered the BLM to stop any wilderness reviews in its land use planning, in spite of the fact that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) allows them. Additionally she said that BLM could only consider wilderness in areas where it had significant support from local elected officials. Of course, this ignores the fact the BLM lands belong to all Americans, and all Americans have just as much say in their management as the citizens of the state in which it is located.

Press reaction to these developments has been widespread and overwhelmingly negative. Here is just a sample:

“No limit on wilderness”(San Francisco Chronicle, 04/25/2003) Editorial.

“The end of wilderness” (New York Times, 05/04/2003) Editorial.

“Bah, wilderness! Reopening a frontier to development” (New York Times, 05/04/2003) The Week in Review.

“The Economic Benefits of Protecting Utah’s Wilderness” (Salt Lake City Tribune, 05/04/2003).

“Land deal fought” (Salt Lake City Tribune, 05/06/2003).


It is critical that ALL wilderness advocates write to their elected representatives protesting these developments.

Specific items to mention to your House member:

• Please sign on to the Hinchey/Blumenauer/Udall letter to Secretary Norton protesting the R.S. 2477 decision and the wilderness rollbacks.

• If they are wilderness-friendly, please cosponsor H.R. 1639, Rep. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) bill on R.S. 2477.

Addresses for all California House and Senate members can be found in the CalUWild Guide to Effective Advocacy.

You should also write to Secretary Norton:

Hon. Gale Norton
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
phone: 202-208-7351
fax: 202-208-6950

Finally, write a letter to the editor of your newspaper.

In any letter, remember to make it personal: say why the issue is important to you!

2. Energy Bill in the Senate

The U.S. Senate this week began debate on the Energy Bill, S. 14. The bill elevates oil and gas development to the dominant use of our public lands, above all other uses for which these lands are managed, including protection of water supplies, wildlife and its habitat, and recreation such as fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping. S. 14 would further accelerate drilling on our public lands by expediting permitting, reducing public input, and limiting environmental reviews. The bill would also continue taxpayer subsidies for damaging fossil fuel development technologies rather than promoting renewable energy technologies.

Debate will probably continue for the next several weeks. Sen. Barbara Boxer is expected to be a strong advocate for Western wilderness and environmental issues, but she needs to hear from constituents to be able to make a credible showing on the floor of the Senate. Calls and faxes to her office in support of the following expected amendments are therefore very important:

• Maintain Multiple Uses on our Public Lands.
The law requires that federal public lands to be managed for a multitude of uses (wilderness, wildlife habitat, energy development, and livestock grazing). S. 14 moves away from multiple uses making energy development the highest priority
• Protect the Private Property Rights of Surface Landowners.
More than 30 million acres of privately owned lands in the West have federal minerals underneath. These are known as “split estates,” and these landowners have little say over the manner in which underlying minerals are developed. Nor do they have much recourse when energy development affects their interests: contaminating drinking water supplies, killing livestock, or degrading their property values and quality of life. Please support amendments to help protect ranchers and other landowners from these abuses.
• Preserve the Rocky Mountain Front.
Montana’s 100-mile long Rocky Mountain Front in is the spectacular home to large populations of elk, grizzly bears, and bighorn sheep. The Blackfoot Tribe also considers it sacred ground. The Forest Service in 1997 stopped issuing new energy leases in the area. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) will offer an amendment to continue this suspension for three years of in the area adjacent to Glacier National Park while studying whether to buy out the leases.
• Protect Indian Country.
S. 14 currently removes federal guarantees for environmental review and public involvement in energy decisions made on tribal lands. The bill also waives all federal government liability from energy development. thus tribes are vulnerable to potentially huge damage claims. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) plans to offer an amendment addressing these issues by reinstating federal oversight of oil and gas development on Indian lands. the amendment will also provide for continued grants and assistance to tribes to develop energy resources.
• Oppose Taxpayer Subsidies for Damaging Energy Development.
Since it was enacted in 1980, Section 29 of the Internal Revenue Code has provided tax credits worth billions of dollars for non-conventional energy sources. Most of these have gone to coalbed methane (CBM—natural gas from coal seams). CBM has significant impacts on wildlife habitat, water supplies, and western ranches and other private landowners. Over 100,000 new wells are already being planned, and this subsidy is not needed. Yet S. 14 would continue this unnecessary support, costing taxpayers nearly $2.5 billion over the next five years. Please support Sen. Don Nickle’s (R-OK) amendment to end this giveaway.

Sen. Boxer can be reached at:

415-956-6701 (fax in San Francisco)

You can also e-mail Sen. Boxer through her web site.


3. Redrock Cosponsor Update

Since the April Update, the following California representatives became cosponsors of H.R. 1796, America’s Redrock Wilderness Act:

* Mike Thompson (D-01)
* Brad Sherman (D-27)
* Hilda Solis (D-32)
* Maxine Waters (D-35)

This brings the total number of California House cosponsors to 27. We are still waiting for Loretta Sanchez (D-47) and Diane Watson (D-33) to renew their cosponsorship, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Sen. Boxer was an original cosponsor.

Nationally, there are now 149 cosponsors in the House and 13 in the Senate.


4. Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon NCA

Draft Management Plan


(Action Item)

The BLM has released its draft management plan for the Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area and Wilderness in northwestern Nevada. It is seeking public comment until June 16.

The following information comes from CalUWild coordinator Vicky Hoover and Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

BLM urges you to provide as specific comments as possible. A vague comment without any details will not get as much attention (because it is not as helpful) as one that is specific to certain portions of the DEIS and offers real suggestions for management. The DEIS and other documents, press releases, and more information can be found at the BLM’s web site.

Four alternatives are given in the DEIS:

* No Action
* Alternative A (emphasis on natural process)
* Alternative B (emphasis on response to change)
* Alternative C (emphasis on visitation and interpretation)

There is no one alternative that we should support overall. A combination of A and B seems to be the best approach. Some natural resource protection concerns are not addressed at all.

Your comments should emphasize the following general points (in your own words):

* It is important to keep the area as it is and not to allow development.
* Emphasis should be put on the conservation of the historical, cultural, and natural values of the area.
* Information should be offered to visitors at points outside the NCA with a detailed map showing roads, wilderness areas, and other features of interest and providing information as to possible hazards for the back-country visitor. New signs in the NCA should not be erected because they detract from the visual quality of the primitive experience. Alt. A is good in this respect.
* Adaptive management (fix only what needs fixing when indicated by triggers, using the Limits of Acceptable Change studies) should be applied when decisions are made. Changes should be based on resource damage rather than on convenience. The public should be involved with adaptive management decisions.
* Large events such as Burning Man should be confined to the areas where they are now conducted.
* Ranger presence is extremely important in this remote area, not only to monitor activities but to assist in an education program for the visitor.

Further detailed talking points:

Our preferred philosophy of management :

* Keep it like it is—wild , primitive, undeveloped—visitor experience to be self-guided;
* Protect and conserve the historic, cultural, scientific, and natural resources;
* Emphasize conservation more than recreation (note : the preferred alternative B does espouse this philosophy but doesn’t follow through in many of their proposed actions.)
* “Front Country” should remain where it is de facto now: limited to the far south playa & Steven’s Camp Rd. (All alternatives suggest too much NEW front country, where visitor developments can occur.)
* Grazing should continue under existing standards and guidelines, but no new areas should be opened, and no grazing in the fenced area of Soldier Meadows, as Alt. B proposes. Instead, the fenced area should be an exclusion in order to provide a scientific baseline.

This means that we do NOT want the following within the NCA, all of which would be allowed under the preferred Alt. B:

* New access roads or road upgrades, such as widening or paving;
* New on-site interpretation;
* New visitor services within the area;
* Developed campgrounds.

All of the above would have immediate, irreversible impact on the wild, primitive, undeveloped character of the place. They would hinder visitor opportunities for solitude, adventure, discovery, self-direction, self-challenge, and reliving the emigrant experience. Road upgrades would decrease safety, by increasing numbers and speed of vehicles, and increasing weeds and fire.

Actions to support:

* Designated OHV routes only—Alt. B represents good citizen input;
* Increased protection for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout WSA. Alt. A would provide that by closing most vehicle routes, thus preventing silt in streams. Alt. B’s wild & scenic river designations would provide that, too, with benefits similar to the closures in Alt. A;
* Wildland fire as specified in Alt. B with these additions: prescribed fire MAY be used in Wilderness, but with extra guarantees that the Emigrant Trail segments be protected from bulldozers.

Concerns not appearing in any alternative:

* Road upgrades should be considered only through an Environmental Analysis (EA) process. All alternatives allow some upgrading without public input;
* Protection for the dune areas—no camping or OHV travel—unless/until such time that science proves that these do not impair their resource value;
* Increased protection for the hot spring habitat at Soldier Meadows and Black Rock Springs. This could include exclosures and a primitive campground;
* No alternative focuses on the need for additional BLM presence within the NCA in these forms: monitoring for limits of acceptable change, visitor contact, law enforcement, or inventorying of multitude of resources (historic, cultural, or scientific).

Send your comments to:

NCA Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Winnemucca Field Office
5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd.
Winnemucca, NV 89445

E-mail your comments to:

or comment on-line.


5. SWAT Teams in Wilderness Denied

(Action Item)

In the March Update , we discussed a proposal by Tactical Firearms Training Team (TFTT) to conduct a course entitled “Combat Fieldcraft,” teaching survival skills and tactics in the Sacatar Trail Wilderness.

CalUWild received a letter dated April 21 from the BLM Bakersfield Office stating that it was turning down TFTT’s application for a Special Recreation Use Permit. BLM considered the application similar to that of an outfitter or trail guide and felt it didn’t impact wilderness values(!). However, BLM received sufficient comments from the public that it “felt the breadth of concern over this activity outweighed any public benefits.”

Thank you letters should be sent to:

Stephen Larson
Assistant Field Office Manager
Bakersfield Field Office
3801 Pegasus Drive
Bakersfield, CA 93308

6. North Coast Wilderness Bill Introduced

On March 27, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-1) and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act.

The House bill is H.R. 1501, and Sen. Boxer’s companion bill is S. 738.

The two bills cover 303,924 acres and 21 river miles in Rep. Thompson’s North Coast district—including some of the state’s most spectacular scenery and important fish and wildlife habitat.

The largest individual areas included in the bill are the Yuki proposed Wilderness—51,790 acres in Lake and Mendocino Counties, and the King

Range proposed wilderness—41,614 acres in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties—including the popular “Lost Coast” scenic hiking trail.

The Thompson/Boxer bills will preserve unique landscapes and diverse ecosystems of California’s coastal region by designating wilderness in 15 areas Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa counties and designating segments of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County as a Wild and Scenic River.

7. Condors in Pinnacles NM

(Action Item)

This came in from Wilderness Watch:

Another chance to support a good decision…

Pinnacles National Monument will be a new release site for re-establishing endangered California condors, an icon of the once-wild coastline. The release site will entail construction of a large holding pen, water tanks, and an observation station, which would remain in place approximately 15 years as the lifespan of the project.

Originally NPS was considering building the release site inside the Pinnacles Wilderness and use helicopters for access to fill the water tanks, but now the preferred alternative is to construct the release facility in Grassy Canyon outside the Wilderness. Access will be by ATV and water trucks along an old jeep track.

Seeing giant condors soaring on thermals over the region will enhance the area’s wilderness character, and finding a means of achieving this without placing structures and using helicopters inside the wilderness is to be commended.

Please send a quick note supporting the Preferred Alternative E and supporting NPS’ decision to protect wilderness throughout the process:

Rebecca Leonard
Pinnacles National Monument
5000 Hwy. 146
Paicines, CA 95043
phone: 831-389-4485 x 273

8. Alaska Wilderness League Position in California

The Alaska Wilderness League (AWL) is looking for a California Organizer.

AWL is a Washington, DC-based education and advocacy group working to protect the wild lands of Alaska from development and to preserve them for future generations. AWL is an IRS registered 501-(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization.

Job Description:

AWL seeks a field consultant to help cultivate support for protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the state of California in key targeted Congressional districts. The consultant will help identify and recruit prominent CA citizens including politicians, labor, religious, and civic leaders to lend their support to the campaign. The consultant will help generate media, schedule presentations for a traveling slide show, and recruit citizens to travel to Washington, DC in September. Lastly, the consultant will build a coalition of local activists and leaders to remain active on the issue after the term of the contract.

This is a four-month contract position that could be extended based on mutual interest and needs. Salary from $2000 / month to be negotiated based on experience.

Eligible Candidates:

The successful candidate will have a demonstrated concern for the issue of oil development in our natural areas and a working background knowledge of the various aspects of the issue. Candidates with experience working with CA government officials, state level NGOs, or other local organizations will be given preference. Ability to speak Spanish a strong plus.

For information about applying, contact Erik DuMont, National Field Director, at: