Newsletter Archive

Dry Sevier Lakebed, West Desert, UtahDry Sevier Lakebed, West Desert, Utah                                                                                          (Mike Painter)

February 28, 2012

Dear CalUWild friends—

The New Yorker recently had a cartoon showing a couple walking down the street, and the woman says to the man: “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” That’s how I feel sometimes when I read about attitudes toward our public lands. National Parks Traveler published an opinion/analysis piece yesterday, initiated by several comments made by candidates this primary season:

I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land. — Mitt Romney

I want as much federal land to be turned over to the state(s) as possible. — Rep. Ron Paul

We need to get [federal lands] back into the hands of the states and even to the private sector. — Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum

The quote from Romney was widely circulated in the press when he made it, but the others were new to me. We are hearing similar thoughts expressed with increasing frequency, and not just in the context of a partisan campaign. Fortunately, I don’t think that these statements reflect the views of the majority of Americans. Regardless, they show that the need for advocacy and education never goes away. Thanks for all your efforts!

Thank you for all the positive feedback and suggestions regarding our new website. They are greatly appreciated.

We also appreciate the generous support we’ve received from many members. If you haven’t sent in your 2012 contribution, please consider doing so. CalUWild needs your support! Dues information may be found here.

Best wishes,

P.S.   No Action Item this month.

1.   Bills Introduced to Force Federal Government
          To Hand Over Land to the State

2.   9th Circuit Court of Appeals
          Strikes Down Fees in Arizona National Forest

3 a.   Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Executive Director
3 b.   Wyoming Outdoor Council, Land Conservation Coordinator

4.   Links to Articles of Interest


1.   Bills Introduced to Force Federal Government
          To Hand Over Land to the State

Lawmakers in Utah are proposing several bills that would require the federal government turn over about 33 million acres of the land that it manages to the state. The stated purpose of the bills is to provide a tax base for supporting education in Utah. The bills set a deadline of 2014 for the transfer and were approved by the Utah House of Representatives by a vote of 57-14. They now move to the Utah Senate for a vote there.

Despite the fact that Utah legislative attorneys have said that there is a “high probability” that the law is unconstitutional, Gov. Gary Herbert voiced support for the bills and for a potential lawsuit against the federal government to force compliance should it refuse to cooperate.

The Salt Lake Tribune today quoted BLM Director Bob Abbey: “It’s sad that they’re spending so much time debating something that has absolutely no chance of ever happening in the real world … There are a lot of things that we have in common, and we ought to be focusing our attention on those common goals, because we have an opportunity to do some pretty fantastic things in the state of Utah working together.”

Given that the Utah Constitution states “"The people inhabiting this State do affirm and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof…" (Art. 3, Sec. 2), it remains to be seen how far this attempt will go. Courts have struck down similar laws before.

The Salt Lake Tribune has run several articles on the subject. Click here for one of them.

This is another striking example of the antipathy that some quarters in Utah have to the idea of federal public lands. But as pointed out in the introduction, unfortunately they aren’t the only ones.

2.   9th Circuit Court of Appeals
          Strikes Down Fees in Arizona National Forest

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned an Arizona District Court ruling in favor of a Forest Service fee program that charges hikers to park or hike in areas with no “amenities.” Those amenities are spelled out in the fee law: toilets, trash cans, interpretive signs, designated parking, picnic tables, and security services. Additionally, the Forest Service may not charge fees:

“[s]olely for parking, undesignated parking, or picnicking along roads or trailsides;

“[f]or persons who are driving through, walking through, boating through, horseback riding through, or hiking through Federal recreational lands and waters without using the facilities and services; and

“[f]or camping at undeveloped sites that do not provide a minimum number of facilities and services as described.”

The Forest Service circumvented these requirements by establishing what it called High Impact Recreation Areas (HIRAs), which might contain all the amenities, but not necessarily in the same spot. It then charged any users for entering the HIRA, regardless of what activities they undertook and what facilities they used.

Four people sued, and the District Court dismissed the suit, saying that the Forest Service was entitled to its interpretation of the statue. On appeal, however, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the law was not ambiguous and that the plain meaning of the language did not agree with the Forest Service’s interpretation. It sent the case back to the trial court for disposition.

The decision covers only the Ninth Circuit, but that is much of the West. The same reasoning should apply to the BLM and its fee programs.

We’ll keep you posted as the situation continues to evolve.

You may read or download the decision here.

3 a. Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Executive Director

Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Wyoming’s oldest and largest statewide sportsmen conservation organization, is seeking a dynamic Executive Director. WWF strives to maintain the state’s wildlife health, recreation opportunities, and common sense management approaches. Compensation commensurate with qualifications. Deadline for submission of resume and cover letter is March 23, 2012.

Contact Joy Bannon at 307.335.8633 or For more information visit our website at

3 b. Wyoming Outdoor Council, Land Conservation Coordinator

Reports to: Program director
Start Date: April 1, 2011
Location: Lander, WY
Application Review Begins: March 15, 2012

See full job description here.

4.   Links to Articles of Interest

Lots of reading this month!

Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times on the spiritual side of Wilderness

National Geographic looks at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, with the article by Verlyn Klinkenborg again



The Durango Herald looks at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

A New York Times op-ed on the Hetch Hetchy controversy, which we covered in last month’s Update

The Los Angeles Times on problems encountered building a desert solar plant

The New York Times, Where the Colorado Runs Dry