Newsletter Archive

March 28, 2006

Dear members, friends, & supporters of CalUWild —

It’s a wet Spring here in California, meaning that there are waterfalls to see all over the place. The wildflowers won’t be far behind once we get some sunshine and warmth. It’s a great time to get out and enjoy the world!

News this month warmed the hearts of many in the conservation community: Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced her resignation. Despite her vaunted “4 C’s” (“communication, consultation and cooperation, all in the service of conservation”), one of CalUWild’s BLM friends said recently that the 4 C’s were in fact “energy, energy, energy, and energy.” That has been the hallmark of Ms. Norton’s tenure: opening up more and more land to oil & gas leasing. She also rolled back the wilderness inventory process in the BLM and continues to try to make it easier to build roads into remote places. (See Item 5, below.)

President Bush has nominated Idaho governor Dirk Kempthorne to replace Ms. Norton. A former U.S. Senator, he is expected to win easy confirmation. However, given the last five years of anti-conservation policies, he may be in for some tough questioning when he appears before the Senate. Mr. Kempthorne is no friend of the environment, and he will probably continue Ms. Norton’s policies. Our relief at seeing Gale Norton leave may be short-lived—we’ll see.

In other news, the Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert from upstate New York has announced his retirement at the end of this Congress. This is bad news for conservationists, as Mr. Boehlert is one of the most reliable supporters of the environment in Congress. But he is a particularly valuable member because of his party affiliation—he is one of the few in his party willing to stand up to the Administration on conservation issues. The conservation movement will miss Rep. Boehlert.

In better news, in last month’s Update we mentioned the Administration’s proposal to sell off public lands to help meet school funding needs. We are happy to report that across the country this idea has received nearly unanimous negative reviews from citizens, politicians, and the press. So far, it seems to be going nowhere.

While on that subject, I should clarify that CalUWild is not opposed to all sales of public land. Another BLM employee wrote CalUWild pointing out that there are parcels that are small and difficult to manage, and every BLM and Forest Service office identifies these in its management planning documents as being potentially available for sale. We support the sale of these parcels only if the proceeds are used to purchase inholdings or other lands that have higher ecological value to the agency. These sales need to be done openly and with fair appraisals, something that has not always happened in recent years. However, the recent Administration proposal did not fall into that category; instead it was to fund ongoing expenses with a one-time sale of our natural heritage. This remains unacceptable.

In more good news, the Utah BLM office has, for the time being, withdrawn some of the lands in Labyrinth Canyon along the Green River, along the San Rafael River, and in the San Rafael Desert from consideration for oil & gas leasing. These were also the subject of an item in the February Update.

Finally, the California Wild Heritage Act was reintroduced this month in the Senate and House of Representatives. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-32) are the principal sponsors. The North Coast Wild Heritage Act, authored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-1), has passed the Senate and has had one House hearing. We’re hoping that it still moves in this session. We’ll keep you posted as these bills progress.

Comments, questions, and critiques are always welcome here, especially if they help us serve you better in your efforts to protect our wild places. Send them to

Thanks for all you do!

All the best,

1. Sen. Bennett Makes a Proposal
For the Zion-Mojave Wilderness

2. State Off Highway Vehicle Commission
Faces Governor’s Axe
3. Walkin’ Jim Stoltz Brings a Wilderness Concert
To San Francisco State University April 15
4. BLM Offers Desert Volunteer Service Trips

5. Parting Shot:
Gale Norton Comes Out
With a New Policy on R.S. 2477


1. Sen. Bennett Makes a Proposal
For the Zion-Mojave Wilderness

Washington County in the southwest corner of Utah, around Zion National Park and the city of St. George, contains some of the most spectacular scenery in the state. It is also the place where the Mojave Desert meets the Colorado Plateau, making it an area of high biological diversity. But the area also has one of the highest growth rates in the entire U.S., and per capita water consumption is the highest in the country. Last week, Utah’s Sen. Bob Bennett released a long-awaited proposal that he is calling the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act of 2006.

From the viewpoint of CalUWild and our partners in the Utah Wilderness Coalition, the proposal is extremely disappointing. It does basically nothing for wilderness.

When they did their inventories, the citizens of Utah found that close to 302,000 acres of land in Washington County qualify for wilderness designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act. These are included in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act. Unfortunately, Sen. Bennett’s proposal does not include much of this acreage. For the most part he only includes areas that were made wilderness study areas (WSAs) in the BLM’s first flawed inventories. The proposal leaves out lands that the BLM itself has reinventoried and found to qualify. Additionally, some WSA land is even released from consideration.

However, Sen. Bennett gives the appearance of being wilderness-friendly by proposing designation for nearly 124,000 acres in Zion National Park. He also includes almost 170 miles of the Virgin River for designation as a Wild & Scenic River. These items look great on paper, and we support them, of course. However, national parks already have a high level of protection (although not complete by any means), and there are other lands under threat that need the protection more.

The proposal also authorizes the sale of 25,000 acres (40 square miles) of BLM land for development. The proceeds from this sale would finance new water pipelines and other development, inducing more sprawl in an area already suffering tremendously from it. Sen. Bennett also proposes the construction of a bypass through land that has been set aside for the protection of the endangered desert tortoise.

And if that all weren’t bad enough, the sale of these public lands would also fund the creation of a system of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails in Washington County while doing nothing to control the explosive growth in OHV use. There are already 435,000 acres of BLM land in the county open to OHV use, yet the agency is seven years behind in its duty of preparing a comprehensive vehicle and recreation plan.

Sen. Bennett had portrayed this proposal as the result of a collaborative effort among all the interested parties. The wilderness community disputes this, since the UWC was invited to only a few meetings before the process broke down in 2004. Repeated requests for information during the further development of the proposal went unanswered.

Now is the time for his office to truly include everyone with an interest in the area. We hope that there will be public hearings in Utah on the proposal, and that Sen. Bennett will take a truly inclusive view of things.

If you live in the district of a Redrock Wilderness Bill cosponsor, please call him or her, reminding them of their commitment to the Red Rock Wilderness Act and voice your concern over this possible legislation. California’s cosponsors are:

In the House:

Xavier Becerra (D-31)
Howard L. Berman (D-28)
Lois Capps (D-23)
Susan Davis (D-53)
Anna Eshoo (D-14)
Sam Farr (D-17)
Bob Filner (D-51)
Jane Harman (D-36)
Michael Honda(D-15)
Tom Lantos (D-12)
Barbara Lee (D-09)
Zoe Lofgren (D-16)
Doris Matsui (D-05)
Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-37)
George Miller (D-07)
Grace Napolitano, F. (D-38)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34)
Linda Sanchez (D-39)
Loretta Sanchez (D-47)
Adam Schiff, (D-29)
Brad Sherman (D-27)
Hilda Solis(D-32)
Pete Stark (D-13)
Ellen Tauscher(D-10)
Mike Thompson (D-01)
Maxine Waters (D-35)
Diane Watson (D-33)
Henry Waxman (D-30)
Lynn Woolsey (D-06)

Although she’s not a cosponsor, it would also be helpful to contact the House Minority Leader:

Nancy Pelosi (D-08)

In the Senate:

Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (not a cosponsor)

Complete contact information for these offices can be found on CalUWild’s Website.

2. State Off Highway Vehicle Commission
Faces Governor’s Axe

Off-highway vehicles are a major concern everywhere around the West, and California is no exception. This state has a commission that gives out grants, funded by gas tax monies, to organizations and agencies to deal with the many issues that OHV use brings with it. Currently, persons sympathetic to environmental issues hold four of the seven seats on the commission, so there has been an increase in funding for enforcement and habitat restoration programs. This has not always proven popular with OHV enthusiasts, and they are putting pressure on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to eliminate the Commission.

The slightly edited information in the following alert comes from our friends at the California Wilderness Coalition.

Act Now: Protect California’s Wild Places From Off-Road Vehicle Abuse!

The California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission provides crucial policy guidance for the management of off-road vehicles (ORVs) on public lands in California. It also provides an important forum for public input on the state’s ORV Program. As ORV abuse has exploded in recent years, the Commission has worked tirelessly to provide essential funds for law enforcement and restoration grants. These grants have helped to restore damaged areas, to protect pristine places from being harmed and to confine ORV use to the most appropriate locations.

Unfortunately, our public lands are threatened by ill-conceived proposals from off-roaders and the Schwarzenegger Administration to eliminate this important commission. Dismantling the commission would leave California’s streams, deserts, forests and other valuable public and private lands at risk from increased ORV abuse.

We need you to stand up for California’s wild places!

Let your Assembly member know that you support the renewal of the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission.

Call, write, email or fax your state legislator today!

To identify and get contact information for your Assembly member, go to: and click on “Find My District” on the left column.

Talking points:

• Urge them to support the renewal of the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission.

• The Commission helps promote responsible off-road vehicle recreation while preserving our public lands and waterways.

• The Commission provides transparency, public input and legislative oversight for California’s off-road vehicle recreation program.

• The Commission has successfully protected and restored many of California’s sensitive forests, deserts and streams from off-road vehicle abuse.

• The Commission oversees important law enforcement programs that protect local communities from ORV noise, air pollution, property damage and trespassing.

As always, include your full name and address.

3. Walkin’ Jim Stoltz Brings a Wilderness Concert
To San Francisco State University April 15

San Francisco will have a rare opportunity to meet America’s one-of-a-kind wilderness troubadour when Forever Wild 2006 comes to San Francisco State University. Tickets are free for this community-sponsored event, sponsored by the Sierra Club Bay Chapter, the San Francisco State University EcoStudents Association, Wilderness Exchange, and CalUWild.

7 p.m. on Saturday April 15
San Francisco State University
Gymnasium 147

Walkin’ Jim Stoltz has trekked from coast to coast, Mexico to Canada, Yellowstone to the Yukon, from high in the Arctic to deep in the Utah canyons. All those years in the wild places and 26,000 miles of walking have given him a great love and respect for America’s natural beauty. He shares that appreciation in his celebratory show, Forever Wild 2006. Walkin’ Jim sings in a deep bass voice, plays guitar, and tells stories about his travels while projecting spectacular images of the wilderness he has photographed on his travels.

“The road less traveled is not a road,” Walkin’ Jim says. “And we ought to stop building any more roads through our wildlands.” This year, with Forever Wild 2006, his goal is to visit all 50 states, perform 100 free events, and encourage 100,000 calls and letters in his personal crusade to save these wild places for the future. He is being joined by hundreds of other musicians, speakers and community groups across the nation.

Forever Wild 2006 is a project of Musicians United to Sustain the Environment (M. U. S. E.), a rapidly growing non-profit which heightens environmental awareness by raising funds for effective grassroots projects through CD sales, concerts and public donations. Its roster of performers includes Pete Seeger, Paul Winter, and Country Joe McDonald. For more information on the organization and its artists, see

Walkin’ Jim encourages people who hear about his tour to learn more about his “Call for Wild” program and how they can help by visiting

For free tickets and more information about his show April 15 at San Francisco State’s Gymnasium 147, please call Vicky Hoover at Sierra Club, 415-977-5527, or Suzanne McNulty at EcoStudents Association, 415-405-0326.

4. BLM Offers Desert Volunteer Service Trips

If you’re looking for a good way to get out, see some wild places, and do some good all at the same time, service trips are a great opportunity to take a step beyond writing letters. Here’s a listing of upcoming projects with the BLM in the California desert, sponsored by various field offices (FO’s).

March 31-April 2nd
Dead Mountains Wilderness Sign Installation and Tamarisk Removal. We will be working in Picture Canyon to install a Dead Mountains Wilderness ID Sign and to remove some small tamarisk seedlings. One day of work, followed by a day of hiking. Contact Dan Abbe, Wilderness Coordinator Needles FO, at 760-326-7021 or Vicky Hoover at 415-977-5527.

Turtle Mountains Wilderness Garbage Removal. Join us in cleaning up this very special and spectacular place! Specific date not set yet. Contact Dan Abbe, Wilderness Coordinator Needles FO, at 760-326-7021.

April 1-3rd
Bright Star Wilderness Trespass Cabin Site Restoration. Structure has been dismantled and removed. Now we need to put the finishing touches on renaturalizing the site and restoring and fencing off the entrance to the site. Two days of work and one day of adventuresome hiking down one of the watered canyons in the area. Contact Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator Ridgecrest FO, at 760-384-5444 or Craig Deutsche at 310-477-6670.

April 8th
Buzzard’s Peak Hike, El Centro Mystery Wilderness Area. Contact John Johnson, Wilderness Coordinator, El Centro FO, at 760-337-4442.

April 14-16th
Surprise Canyon Tamarisk Removal. We’ve had two trips here to pull up small seedlings below Chris Wicht Camp. This time we will do more sitting and pulling and weed-wrenching, as well as tackling the large seed trees up-canyon by cutting them down and applying herbicide to the stumps. Two days of work and 1 day of play involving a hike up Surprise Canyon to Panamint City or up one of the recently discovered old mining trails in the area. Contact Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator Ridgecrest FO, at 760-384-5444 or Sue Palmer 818-879-0960 or Tom Budlong (310-476-1731).

April 22-23rd
Student Conservation Association Assault on Nellie’s Nip, Kiavah Wilderness. The SCA Wilderness Restoration Corp is joining hands with SCA Non-Wilderness Restoration Corp teams working in the Ridgecrest OHV areas to lay this ugly hillclimb and the illegal vehicle approaches to it to rest! All hands welcome! Contact Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator Ridgecrest FO, at 760-384-5444.

May 8-13th
Inyo Mountains Wilderness Site Steward Inventory and Monitoring Trip, Little Hunter Canyon to Beveridge. This is the third of 5 trips to inventory and monitor cultural sites along segments of 19th century mining trails increasingly used by hikers and backpackers in the area. The trip will be extremely arduous, involving a 6-day backpack trip with heavy (water) loads, high elevation gains and drops, over steep, uneven terrain on nearly non-existent trails. Work involves tedious gpsing, mapping, and photographing of sites and artifacts in-place. Prefer experienced Inyo hikers who are committed to doing the work rather than simply touring the area. Trip is limited to 6 participants. Contact Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator Ridgecrest FO, at 760-384-5444.

BLM is also looking for volunteer coordinators or groups to undertake the following projects.

Contact Justin Seastrand, Wilderness Coordinator, at 760-251-4855.
1. Cleanup site Mecca Hills Wilderness.
2. Cleanup site Santa Rosa Mtns. Wilderness.
3. “Sting” Operations, unspecified wildernesses.

Contact Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator, at 760-384-5444.
1. Vehicle barriers & interpretative kiosk, El Paso Mtns. Wilderness.
2. Small tamarisk infestations, Argus Range Wilderness.
3. Sacatar Trail Site Steward cultural inventory and monitoring trip.
4. Small tamarisk infestations, Inyo Mountains Wilderness.
5. Argus Range Wilderness restoration on boulder-barricaded vehicle trespass sites.
6. Re-restoration and interpretative kiosk at Steam Well, Golden Valley Wilderness.
7. Wilderness “Sting” Operations: Opening of hunting season and Fall OHV-season.
8. Inyo Mtns. Wilderness east-side cleanup site and restoration on boulder-barricaded vehicle trespass sites.
9. Repeat treatment tamarisk infestation in Surprise Canyon.
10. 4th leg of Inyo Mountains Wilderness Site Steward cultural inventory and monitoring project, Beveridge to McEvoy Canyon.

5. Parting Shot:
Gale Norton Comes Out
With a New Policy on R.S. 2477

As she goes out the door, Interior Secretary Gale Norton continues her assault on America’s public (and in this case private, too) lands. She refuses to let the R.S. 2477 issue go away.

To refresh your memory, R.S. 2477 is the Civil War-era statute that gave states the authority to construct highways over federal lands. It was repealed in 1976, but existing rights-of-way were grandfathered in. In efforts to defeat wilderness proposals and just generally to “get the federal government off their backs,” states and counties have been claiming rights of way on all sorts of lands, including private property, across the West in recent years.

This issue has been the subject of legislation, lawsuits, and proposed new regulations. But it never comes to an end. The latest turn is that the Department of the Interior last week proposed a new directive which it claims is in line with a recent 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the lawsuit brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein is writing a letter to be signed by other senators asking Secty. Norton to refrain from going ahead with this new directive.

It is important that we let our friends know when we approve the work they’re doing, so please take a minute to call Sen. Feinstein’s office and thank her for taking the lead on this letter. Her office in Washington, DC can be reached at:


Sen. Barbara Boxer is a good friend of wilderness, so please contact her office, too, asking her to sign on to Sen. Feinstein’s letter. Her number in Washington is:


Local contact information for both senators may be found on CalUWild’s website.