Newsletter Archive

June 26, 2008

Dear CalUWild Friends & Supporters —

Summer has arrived here in California, and with it hundreds of wildfires. So the air is thick with smoke over much of the state. It’s not so good for getting out to enjoy and explore wilderness or other public lands. So please take some time for one or more of the indoor Action Items below. You’ll be glad you did! (Sorry for the short deadlines on Items 6 & 8.)

As always, thanks for your interest.

Best wishes,

1. In-District Meetings on Washington County Bill
2. Court Tells Kane County to Remove Signs
3. Rep. Chris Cannon Loses Republican Primary

4. Rep. Bono-Mack’s Southern California Wilderness Bill Passes House< Thank Yous Needed (ACTION ITEM) 5. Eastern Sierra Wilderness Bill Introduced (ACTION ITEM) IN NEVADA 6. Wilderness in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge COMMENTS NEEDED (ACTION ITEM) DEADLINE: JUNE 30 IN WASHINGTON STATE 7. President Signs Wild Sky Wilderness IN GENERAL 8. Recreational Fee Hearings in House Parks, Forests & Public Lands Subcommittee Comments Needed (ACTION ITEM) DEADLINE: JULY 2 =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= IN UTAH 1. In-District Meetings on Washington County Bill (ACTION ITEM) Groups concerned with Utah's wilderness and public lands continue to have serious concerns over Sen. Bob Bennett's Washington County bill. See CalUWild's May Update for more details. In order to let California's senators know our views on the bill, CalUWild is helping the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance arrange a couple of in-state meetings with Senators Boxer and Feinstein's local offices during the upcoming August congressional recess. The recess runs August 11 - September 5, but meetings could be set up before that, since it's unlikely that anyone would be meeting with the senators themselves, and their staff is around all the time. So in order to get the ball rolling, here are a couple of things it would be helpful to know: -- Is there any time before Labor Day when you would NOT be available to attend a meeting? -- Is there a time of day that does NOT work for you? -- Are there other people whom you would bring to the meeting? The more the better (up to a point). So far we have at least 2 people who have expressed interest in each San Diego and San Francisco, and 8 in LA/Riverside. The earlier you ask for a meeting, the more likely it is to be scheduled, so the sooner we can get organized, the better. Please let me know whether you're interested and available -- send an email to Thanks! 2. Court Tells Kane County to Remove Signs from Monument (ACTION ITEM) On May 16, Federal District Judge Teena Campbell ruled in the long-running dispute between Kane County and the federal Bureau of Land Management. She wrote that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution controls the dispute, meaning that the County must prove in court its claims to rights-of-way on roads in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In 2005, the County, which has long opposed the creation and management of the Monument, had begun erecting signs saying that roads closed by the Monument were open for vehicle travel. Although the BLM, which manages the Monument, asked the county to remove the signs, BLM never took any action to compel their removal. So The Wilderness Society and SUWA filed a complaint in federal court. Kane County responded that under R.S. 2477, it had jurisdiction over the roads in question and was free to keep them open. However, Judge Campbell said that until the County proves those claims in a "quiet title" action, the Monument's actions to close the roads were allowable. We hope the Monument moves ahead quickly to restore its control over the roads in question. Please write a letter requesting that the Monument enforce the Court's ruling as soon as possible. Mr. Rene Berkhoudt Monument Manager GSEN Headquarters 190 East Center Kanab, UT 84741 email: 3. Rep. Chris Cannon Looses Republican Primary The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah's Rep. Chris Cannon lost his bid for a seventh term in the state's Republican primary this Tuesday. Cannon is a long-time opponent of wilderness in the state and a supporter of local control over federal public lands. As such, he has fought against the existence of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, and supported counties' designation of controversial routes by claiming R.S. 2477 rights of way. He once tried to prove his point by driving a vehicle into a wilderness study area where vehicles had been banned. The agency folks stood by and let him pass. Rep. Cannon has also been relentless in trying to open up lands in the West to oil shale development. The Third district is solidly Republican, and there's no guarantee his successor will be any more supportive of wilderness. IN CALIFORNIA 4. Rep. Bono-Mack's Southern California Wilderness Bill Passes House Thank Yous Needed (ACTION ITEM) On June 9, the California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act passed the House of Representatives. We last wrote about the bill in the October 2007 Update. The bill designates wilderness in Joshua Tree National Park and other areas in the desert, as well as the San Jacinto River. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, where it will be heard in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It's important that Rep. Mary Bono-Mack (R-45) hear from appreciative citizens. Phone calls are fine. Letters should be sent to Rep. Bono-Mack's California offices rather than to Washington. DC phone: 202-225-5330. Email through Rep. Bono-Mack's website: Please also contact Sen. Barbara Boxer, asking her to push for the bill's passage in the Senate. DC phone: 202-224-3553 Email through Sen. Boxer's website: Other contact information for both may be found on CalUWild's website. 5. Eastern Sierra Wilderness Bill Introduced (ACTION ITEM) Rep. Buck McKeon (R-25) has introduced legislation, the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The bill would add some 476,000 acres of wilderness in the Sierra, the White Mountains, and the San Gabriel Mountains, in addition to designating portions of the Amargosa River, Piru Creek, and the Owen River Headwaters as wild & scenic. Friends of the River, one of the organizations in the California Wild Heritage Campaign has a page on its website with details. Again encouragement and thanks may be sent to Both Rep. McKeon and Sen. Boxer. Rep. Buck McKeon: 
202-225-1956 Email: Sen. Boxer: See Item 4. IN NEVADA 6. Wilderness in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge COMMENTS NEEDED (ACTION ITEM) DEADLINE: JUNE 30 The following alert comes from our friends at Friends of Nevada Wilderness. (Again, apologies for the short time frame.) Dear Friends, We have an exciting opportunity to help guide protection of at least 341,500 acres of spectacular wilderness in northwestern in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1931, the refuge's purpose is to protect habitat for the pronghorn antelope as well as many other wildlife and plant species, migratory birds and threatened and endangered species. In the 1970's, the Secretary of Interior recommended that 341,500 acres in 8 units be designated as the Sheldon Wilderness. There are over 650 species of plants and over 200 bird species found on the refuge as well as extensive archaeological values. The refuge is now beginning their Comprehensive Conservation Planning (CCP) process over the next two years and wilderness will be re-evaluated. It is important that we show strong support for wilderness now and throughout the planning process. Please take a minute now to email in your comments by June 30th. We have included some talking points below for you to cut and paste or use to create your own comments. Your comments need to be emailed by June 30, 2008. Comments should be emailed to: Talking Points: Wilderness is an important part of the refuge and wilderness designation will ensure long-term protection of this incredible area. It is important to have a final travel management plan that clearly indicates what roads are open to the public as well as good maps so visitors can know which roads to use. Travel management decisions should be based on the needs of wildlife, not human recreation. While wild horses are an important part of our western heritage, in the refuge the high numbers of horses are now competing with native wildlife and damaging habitat for many species. Horses should be humanely removed from the refuge and adopted or moved to other locations. We encourage the acquisition of private inholdings within the refuge from willing sellers. Areas needing restoration should be identified as part of the planning process (i.e. fence or development removal, weed removal, restoring damage from off road vehicles, etc) Natural processes should be allowed to occur on the refuge with as little interference from humans as possible. To visit the main Sheldon Refuge Website: To visit the Sheldon Planning Website: Thank you for helping protect the wild places of the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge, Friends of Nevada Wilderness IN WASHINGTON STATE 7. President Signs Wild Sky Wilderness Last month, Pres. Bush signed the Wild Sky Wilderness into law. The culmination of many years of legislative wrangling and near-misses, the bill protects 106,000 acres in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, about 90 minutes from Seattle. The area is somewhat unique in that much of it is lowland forest under 3,000 feet in elevation rather than alpine. The bill is the first wilderness designation in Washington State in over 20 years. There is already talk of introducing legislation to expand other wilderness areas in the state, piggybacking on the success of this bill. IN GENERAL 8. Recreational Fee Hearings in House Parks, Forests & Public Lands Subcommittee Comments Needed (ACTION ITEM) DEADLINE: JULY 2 Last week the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing looking at the Recreational Fee Program (Pay to Play) instituted in the last couple of years. The committee is accepting written testimony for inclusion in the official record until July 2. Again: Short Deadline The process isn't complicated, but there some details that you need to pay attention to. All the necessary details are in the following alert, slightly edited, from our friends at the Western Slope No Fee Coalition. A congressional hearing was scheduled in Washington DC for Wednesday June 18th at 10am EDT, on public lands access fees. Your comments are needed and may be emailed directly to the House's National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee for inclusion as testimony in the official record of the hearing. Below you will find background information, some points to include in your comments, the format required, and the email address to send them to. BACKGROUND The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) was enacted as a rider to the 2005 omnibus appropriations bill. It replaced the Recreation Fee Demo Program that had been in place since 1996. It was never voted on in the House and was never introduced in the Senate. The oversight hearing on Wed June 18th, before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands is titled "Paying to Play: Implementation of Fee Authority on Federal Lands." The subcommittee will be examining all aspects of implementation of the FLREA and all comments will be useful. In the US Senate, S. 2438, introduced in December 2007, would repeal most provisions of the FLREA and revert fees to the statutes in place prior to Fee Demo's enactment in 1996. S. 2438 has not yet been scheduled for a legislative public hearing in the Senate. Neither has it yet been introduced in the House of Representatives. It is the hope of fee opponents that the upcoming outcry from the American public to the House public hearing on June 18th will lead to a number of Representatives coming together to introduce a House version of S. 2438. As usual, this action alert is truly a grassroots effort, passed from organization to organization and from family to family around the nation. There is no wealthy big-name nationwide group leading this push for comments. The input to the House Subcommittee at the June 18th public hearing is very much up to you, and to thousands of others like you, who believe in the long-standing principle of fee-free access to undeveloped federal public lands. Please participate! WHAT TO WRITE Please send testimony that is as specific as possible. Do not copy the phrases below verbatim. Change them around and make them personal. Add additional concerns that you have about access fees. Some points to include in your comments: -- The FLREA specifies that access fees are prohibited simply for hiking, biking or horseback riding on public lands. Yet thousands of trailheads are still subject to access fees on Forest Service and BLM lands (name some such trailheads which you use). -- Protest the Forest Service's creation of HIRAs (High Impact Recreation Areas), where fees are levied for access to thousands of acres of undeveloped land. The FLREA restricts access fees to developed sites that have six amenities present (permanent toilets and trash cans, picnic tables, interpretive signs, designated parking and security services). -- Mention that National Park visitation has fallen 5% since 2000, and that Forest Service visitation declined 25.7% on forests surveyed in 2000 and again in 2005. -- State your concern about the Forest Service's Recreation Facility Analysis, a nationwide program that proposes to permanently close thousands of recreation sites which the agency considers unable to pay their way with fees. This is going on with little or no public notice. -- Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, set up by the Forest Service to give the green light to new and/or increased access fees (as required by the FLREA), are conducting their business without meaningful public input. Moreover, the costs of these committee meetings are not being counted as an administrative fee program expense by the agency. -- Many National Parks charge additional fees (on top of entrance fees) for access to backcountry areas, for interpretive programs, and for mandatory transportation systems set up to protect some Parks from excessive traffic. -- Include examples of places where fees are being charged by the Forest Service and BLM for: parking, scenic overlooks, hiking/riding trails, general access, use of undeveloped backcountry, and camping in undeveloped areas, even though all of those are prohibited from fees by the FLREA. -- Relate any experiences you may have had with enforcement authorities. -- Say that you support a return to the fee policy that existed from 1965 to 1996 under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, when the Forest Service and BLM charged fees only at developed camping, boating, and swimming sites, and the entrance fees at National Parks covered access to interpretive programs, backcountry activities, and mandatory transportation systems. Fee revenue was subject to oversight by Congress, not levied as a double tax by local managers who get to keep the money and make the spending decisions. Written email testimony is being accepted from now through 5 PM EDT on July 2. Your testimony will become part of the official record of the hearing. Here's how to submit testimony. Please follow these instructions carefully to be sure your testimony is not rejected. 1. Testimony must be submitted as a WORD or WORD PERFECT email attachment, single-spaced and formatted for 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Note: NOT pdf format! 2. Make sure to include your full name and address. The greeting on your testimony should read: "Dear Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee." 3. The SUBJECT line of the email should read: Testimony for June 18 Oversight Hearing. 4. Your testimony must be no more than 12 pages, preferably no more than two pages. 5. The BODY of the email should say: Please include the attached testimony in the official record of the oversight hearing on "Paying to Play: Implementation of Fee Authority on Federal Lands." 6. Sign the body of your email with your full name and address. 7. SEND your email to: with a cc to Please spend some time asking friends and family to submit comments as well! The more comments that are received, the stronger will be the case for repealing the FLREA. Thank you all for your help.