Newsletter Archive

Sisters, near Corona Arch, Utah                                                                                                              (Mike Painter)

May 2, 2012

Dear CalUWild friends —

Originally there weren’t too many items for the April Update, but three came in yesterday as I was preparing to send it out, so please excuse the slight delay. There has been quite a bit of interesting press coverage on our issues, so this edition has more links than usual to it.

Speaking of the press, a big thank you to our members who have made contributions to CalUWild to enable us to have subscriptions to the New York Times, High Country News, and Orion. These are important resources for us. If you find the Update valuable and haven’t made a contribution in a while or are new to CalUWild, please consider doing so! Full information is here on our website.

As we’ve mentioned before, 2014 will be the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act. I am a member of a national committee comprised of conservation community members and government agency officials coordinating the celebration. Please note the official logo, designed by Josh Hamari of the California BLM, at the end of the Update. We anticipate a year-long series of events including a national conference in Albuquerque in October as well as events in Washington, DC. We’re hoping for many local events, planned by wilderness advocates such as yourselves, too. So please start thinking about what might be interesting, educational, and fun. We have a lot to celebrate, after all!

With social media burgeoning, there is an official 50th Anniversary Facebook page, as well. It will serve as the central place for information of all sorts. If you’re on Facebook, please LIKE the page and tell your friends to do the same. If you’re not on Facebook don’t worry: we’ll be reporting here on events of interest as they arise.

Thank you, as always, for your support and interest,

1.   Desolation Canyon Energy Exploration
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   R.S. 2477 in the News Again

3.   Ft. Ord Declared a National Monument
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   Southern California National Forest
          Roadless Area Planning
          DEADLINE: June 11. 2012
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Wilderness Lobby Week
          In Washington, DC
          June 25 – 28
6.   Alaska Wilderness Slideshow
          Comes to the Bay Area
          Redwood City, May 7, 7 p.m.
          San Francisco, May 15, 7 p.m.

7.   Two Bills in Congress
          a.   Sportsmen’s Heritage Act
          b.   Land Acquisition to cut National Debt Act
8.   Pacific Crest Trail Incident Reports
9.   Job Announcement: Wyoming Wildlife Federation
          DEADLINE: May 15

10.   Links to Articles and Reports of Interest


1.   Desolation Canyon Energy Exploration
          (ACTION ITEM)

The deadline for formal comments on the Gasco Desolation Canyon energy project was April 16, but so far, the Interior Department and BLM have not announced a final decision. That means that you can still ask Secretary Salazar and the Vernal BLM office to protect the wilderness values that are so important to the area. Because a decision could come at any time, email is best to use right now. In addition (but not instead), please sign SUWA’s online petition asking the Secretary not to approve the development as proposed.

There has been quite an outcry nationally against the BLM’s recommendation. Six longtime congressional cosponsors of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act sent a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar objecting to the plan. The letter may be found here on Rep. Maurice Hinchey’s (D-NY, and the chief sponsor of ARRWA) website. The New York Times ran a strongly-worded editorial in opposition. And the Salt Lake Tribune printed two editorials against it, which you may read here and here.

Here is what we wrote in last month’s Update:

This month, the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department approved a natural gas drilling project in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness along the Green River, one of the largest roadless areas in the lower 48 states.

The BLM released its Final EIS after the initial Draft EIS received extremely low marks from the US EPA, so it has now proposed a new Alternative F as the one it will proceed with, after a 30-day waiting period.

The conservation community and EPA had supported Alternative E, which would have allowed no wells in the proposed wilderness area and only six acres would have been disturbed. The new Alternative F will allow 215 wells, disturbing close to 2,500 acres of proposed wilderness-only seven wells fewer, but almost 50% more acreage disturbed than under the company’s own original proposal, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The EIS may be found online here.

Please write to BLM and ask it to adopt Alternative E, originally supported by the EPA and conservationists, as its final choice. As always, personalize your comments, mentioning your experiences, if any, in the area, and why the issue is important to you.

Email your comments to BLM.

Please also send a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar pointing out that this approval by the Utah BLM flies in the face of his efforts promoting America’s Great Outdoor Initiative to get people outside and expand recreational opportunities, since Desolation Canyon is one of the country’s premier rafting and roadless areas.

Secretary Ken Salazar’s contact information:


2.   R.S. 2477 in the News Again

The specter of the outdated and repealed R.S. 2477, the Civil War-Era statue granting rights-of-way across public lands for the construction of highways, was seen this month again, but this time it was conservation organizations that did the resurrecting. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, and the Wild Utah Project joined in a press conference last week to make public a map of the routes that the State of Utah claims.

To see what a spider web of “highways” the state is claiming, click on the map image on SUWA’s newly updated R.S. 2477 webpage. That page also contains photos, fact sheets, and other information relating to the issue.

The press conference took place against the backdrop of the State of Utah’s intent to file a lawsuit claiming ownership of the rights-of-way on thousands of routes across the state. Last week, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also hosted a meeting with the governors of four neighboring states: Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. Gov. Herbert’s purpose in convening his Rocky Mountain Roundtable was to “not only identify areas of common ground on unique western issues, but also discuss common solutions and a way forward.” (In the end, it appears that only Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead attended, with Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada putting in a short appearance by phone.)

The Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial against the state’s road plans.

3.   Ft. Ord Declared a National Monument
          (ACTION ITEM)

The campaign to have Ft. Ord in Monterey County paid off when Pres. Obama designated much of the old army base a national monument on April 20. We wrote about it in the January Update. This is the second monument, both military installations, that Mr. Obama has designated. There was widespread local support and little, if any, opposition to the plan.

The BLM’s website for the land is here.

Paul Rogers, the excellent science reporter at the San Jose Mercury News wrote an article in anticipation of the designation. It includes a nice slideshow.

Please send a message of thanks to Pres. Obama for the designation. In addition to just being good manners, letters let him know that we value our public lands. And with the Antiquities Act under constant assault in Congress (see Item 7a, below), it is doubly important to support him when he chooses to use it.

Contact information for the White House:

The White prefers that you use its online comment form.

Phone comments: 202-456-1111
Fax: 202-456-2461

U.S. Mail (irradiated and delayed still):

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

4.   Southern California National Forest
          Roadless Area Planning
          DEADLINE: June 11. 2012
          (ACTION ITEM)

This detailed alert just came in from our friends at the California Wilderness Coalition. Please use the sample letter for talking points only. Do not simply COPY and PASTE it into the form. Agencies are quite adept at sifting out form letters, and they discount them.

Southern California contains some of the largest urban areas in the United States. Fortunately for its residents, it also has large stretches of undeveloped public land such as national forests managed by the US Forest Service (USFS) that provide wonderful scenery, recreation opportunities, fresh air and clean water, and habitat for such rare wildlife species as the California condor, San Joaquin kit fox and bighorn sheep. The Angeles National Forest (ANF), Cleveland National Forest (CNF), Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) and San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) stretch from Mexico to Big Sur and from the desert to the sea, covering over 3,530,000 acres of land (over 5,500 square miles).

National forests are owned by the American people, just like national parks. However, unlike parks, the federal government allows logging, mining, oil drilling, road construction and other development activities to occur in them. For over a century, conservationists have fought to protect the wildest remaining parts of our national forests, lands that are often called “roadless areas.” Roadless areas provide a refuge for wildlife and are a source of clean water to thirsty cities. They also provide outstanding opportunities for non-motorized recreation. The most permanent and comprehensive way to protect roadless areas is to have them designated as “wilderness” by Congress where development is prohibited but low-impact recreation activities are still allowed.

In 2005, the USFS prepared management plans for the national forest lands in southern California. But unfortunately, the agency failed to recognize the importance of roadless areas in providing wildlife habitat, clean water, and recreation. The plans recommended wilderness protection for only a few of the areas. As a result, the California Wilderness Coalition and other groups appealed the plans and in response, the USFS agreed to reconsider protection of these vital areas.

The USFS is currently preparing a document called the Southern California National Forests Land Management Plan Amendment (LMP Amendment). This document will determine the future management of 39 Southern California roadless areas in the ANF, CNF, LPNF and SBNF. If the agency recommends that the 39 roadless areas be designated as wilderness by Congress, then they will essentially be managed as such by the USFS over the next decade or more. On the other hand, the agency can decide to open all of them up to development. The agency’s tentative proposal is to recommend 17% of the roadless area acreage for wilderness designation and to open 83% of the remaining roadless acreage to energy development, road construction and other activities that could destroy their wild character over time. We can’t let this happen!

What you can do
Visit the LMP Amendment website to see if you have visited any of the 39 roadless areas that are being considered in the document. Think about why the areas you have visited are important to you and why they should be protected, then take the following actions.

(1) WRITE A LETTER: The USFS will be accepting public comments on the fate of the 39 roadless areas until 6/11/12. Click here for a sample letter. Please write the agency on or before 6/11/12 and:

• Thank USFS staff for recommending 14 roadless areas for wilderness designation in the LMP Amendment;
• Request that the agency recommend the remaining 25 roadless areas for wilderness designation; and
• If possible, explain why roadless areas are important to you, especially if you are familiar with one or more of the 39 roadless areas shown on the maps at the LMP Amendment website.

You can submit comments by mail to:

William Metz, Forest Supervisor
Cleveland National Forest
10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 921272107
ATTN: LMP Amendment

You can also submit comments via email or you can submit them online.

(2) SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES: Click here to find your representative in the House. Follow the links on his or her website to send them an email or fax. You can do the same for the Senate by clicking here.

Visit our website for a sample letter.

(3) ATTEND A PUBLIC MEETING: You can also make the same points from our sample letter at one of the following public meetings the USFS will hold on the LMP Amendment.

May 29, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Avenue Adult Center
550 N. Ventura Avenue
Ventura, CA 93001

May 30, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Angeles National Forest Headquarters
701 North Santa Anita Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91006

May 31, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Santa Maria Red Cross
3030 Skyway Drive
Santa Maria, CA 93455

May 31, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Santa Clara Mojave Rivers Ranger District Office
33708 Crown Valley Road
Acton, CA 93510

May 31, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
San Bernardino National Forest Headquarters
602 S. Tippecanoe Ave.
San Bernardino, CA 92408

May 31, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Palomar Ranger District Office
1634 Black Canyon Road
Ramona, CA 92065

June 1, 2012, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Frazier Park Library
3732 Park Drive
Frazier Park, CA 93225

June 5, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Descanso Ranger District office
3348 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, CA 91901

June 5, 2012, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Trabuco Ranger District office
1147 E. 6th Street
Corona, CA 92879

THANK YOU! Your comments will help ensure that these spectacular wild places are preserved for current and future generations. After you have taken action, please share this email with your friends or visit us on Facebook and help spread the word.

5.   Wilderness Lobby Week
          In Washington, DC
          June 25 – 28

An excellent and effective way to show Congress your support for wilderness is by visiting Capitol Hill. It’s not something you have to do on your own, though, and in fact is more fun as part of a group. The Wilderness Society is sponsoring Great Outdoors America Week in June. The following information came yesterday from Paul Spitler, Wilderness Policy Director at TWS and former ED of the California Wilderness Coalition.

California Friends,

I wanted to take a moment to encourage you all to join us in DC for GO America Week (June 25th – 28th)! Californians have always been a strong and critical part of the lobby weeks we’ve hosted in DC and we want that tradition to continue. Your efforts have been critical not only for wilderness in the state but across the country. California leads the way and we need that leadership as part of Great Outdoors America Week.

In an effort to make it easier for you all to participate we have secured a block of rooms for the week and are willing to cover the cost of those rooms for you. [Participants arrange their own transportation to DC.] Right now we have set aside rooms for 25 Californians (double occupancy). This is often the greatest cost associated with lobby weeks in DC and should make it really affordable for you all to participate. Once you are ready to book you can work with Michael Carroll (michael_carroll [at] tws [dot]org or 970-946-9043) on our staff to reserve the space for yourselves and your teams.

This week brings together wilderness and public lands groups from across the country as well as other advocates for the America’s Great Outdoors. It’s a great chance to meet with Representatives and colleagues from around the country. Please consider joining us!

For more information, please contact Michael Carroll.

6.   Alaska Wilderness Slideshow
          Comes to the Bay Area
          Redwood City, May 7, 7 p.m.
          San Francisco, May 15, 7 p.m.

“The Wild Western Arctic-America’s largest public land expanse”
Hear long-time Alaskan author Debbie S. Miller share her experiences hiking and canoeing more than 600 miles through the largely unknown western Arctic.

Miller, a former Marin County resident, is a naturalist and author of Midnight Wilderness: Journeys in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For the past three years Miller has explored the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the largest block of public land remaining in America. With a team of photographers, Miller studied the wildlife, wilderness, and cultural and fossil history, including the largest bed of arctic dinosaur bones in the world.

Debbie’s PowerPoint program will focus on her explorations in the Reserve, traveling along four wild rivers: the Nigu, Etivluk, Colville, and Utukok. Debbie will also discuss the current campaign to protect the special areas within the Reserve from proposed oil and gas leasing.

Midnight Wilderness, Debbie Miller’s first book, published by the Sierra Club in 1990, is now a classic; it has become the definitive book on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the issues surrounding protection versus development of its remote and legendary coastal plain. It has appeared in paperback, and recently in an updated version.

Both presentations are sponsored by local Sierra Club entities.

Monday, May 7
Loma Prieta Chapter
6:15 p.m.: registration & social, light dinner, chapter business; 7 p.m.: presentation
Redwood City Public Library, Community Room
1044 Middlefield Road (2 blocks from Caltrain)
Redwood City

Tuesday, May 15
Bay Chapter Wilderness Subcommittee
7 p.m.
Sierra Club Headquarters, Third Floor
85 Second Street (near Montgomery BART)
San Francisco

7.   Two Bills in Congress
          a.   Sportsmen’s Heritage Act

Mid-month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, by a vote of 274-146.

The bill’s main provisions: 1) require land management agencies to evaluate the impacts of planning decisions on fishing and hunting; 2) prevent the Bureau of Land Management from restricting target shooting in national monuments; and 3) prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead bullets and fishing tackle.

Many conservation groups expressed fears that the bill would be interpreted to weaken Wilderness Act requirements prohibiting motorized recreation, mining, logging, and other commercial activities. The House passed an amendment by Doc Hastings (R-WA) that stated that the bill wasn’t “intended” to authorize such use, but courts looks at what the language of a bill actually states, not necessarily what Congress “intended.” Another amendment that made those prohibitions much clearer was defeated, however.

Prohibiting BLM from restricting target shooting raises fears of increased damage to rock art, other historical objects, and even cactus, all of which are frequent targets for vandals.

Another important amendment also passed. It requires the President, before designating a national monument, to obtain the approval of the legislature and the governor of the state in which the monument is located. This is a severe restriction of the President’s powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

The bill now moves to Senate. We’ll keep you posted.

          b.   Land Acquisition to cut National Debt Act

The House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 4193, the Land Acquisition to cut National Debt Act. (And no, the lower case “c” in “cut” is not a typo; that’s how the title is listed on the Library of Congress website.) The bill would prevent the Park Service, the BLM, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Forest Service from acquiring any new land in any year that there was not a balanced budget.

In a nod to hunters, though, the bill does “not apply to land purchased with funds made available through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps.”

What the bill does not recognize is that much of the funding for government land purchases comes from the Land & Water Conservation Fund-royalties from offshore oil and gas development that Congress specifically appropriates for this purpose, rather than general tax revenues.

The chief of land resources for the Park Service, William Shaddox, testified against the bill, saying that land acquisition is a very minor part of the federal budget, and that the bill fails to take into account the benefits that Americans enjoy from increased protection. Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop (R), chairman of the subcommittee, said: “I don’t know what the ultimate goal is. But somewhere we have to realize enough is enough, and actually having the federal government controlling everything is not the best ideal.”

Anti-federal public land sentiment, I suspect, is the crux of the matter, not the budget.

8.   Pacific Crest Trail Incident Reports

The Forest Service has developed a reporting form for illegal or suspicious activities encountered along the Pacific Crest Trail, including dumping, ATV/ORV use, resource damage, and aggressive animals. So if you’re going hiking on the Trail this summer, please take a copy of the form along (or at least note the information requested, if you’re watching weight) and help protect our public resources.

The form may be downloaded here. The page also includes reporting instructions.

Please note that there is a separate form for incidents in Kern County, California, available for download on the same page.

9.   Job Announcement: Wyoming Wildlife Federation
          DEADLINE: May 15

The Wyoming Wildlife Federation is looking for a full-time field organizer. The position would be located in Laramie or Lander.

For the full announcement, click here.

To Apply: Email a letter of interest explaining how your experience and skills match this position, a resume, and three references to Joy Bannon at joybannon [at] wyomingwildlife [dot] org. Please enter “Field Organizer Position” in the subject line. The position will remain open until filled but WWF will begin reviewing applications on May 15, 2012.

10.   Links to Articles and Reports of Interest

As always, if a link is outdated or otherwise doesn’t work, or you have trouble accessing an article, please send me an email.

The Los Angeles Times has run a few articles looking at various issues and conflicts surrounding public lands, such as energy production in the Mojave Desert and the conflict between some states and the federal government over ownership of land

Wind power and archaeology

Western states land fights

Conservation organizations’ conflicting views on energy production

Long-time conservationist Martin Litton profiled in High Country News, reprinted in Adventure Journal. Martin is a CalUWild Advisory Board member.

A veteran’s group speaks out for public lands protection:

Protect Public lands in the San Juans (and elsewhere) for future generations

War Veterans Group Wants Organ Mountains National Monument

Pat Shea, former director of the BLM and attorney for Tim DeChristopher, in the Salt Lake Tribune , on Utah land politics

From the National Parks Conservation Association: A report on oil shale and tar sands threats to national parks