Newsletter Archive

April 2, 2002

Dear CalUWild friends —

In honor of April Fool’s Day yesterday, we’re calling this the March UPDATE. (Actually, it was originally planned for last week.)

Public lands have been in the news quite a bit lately, especially the continuing debate over drilling in the Arctic. The New York Times reported that a recent United States Geologic Survey study showed that “drilling could harm caribou, snow geese, musk oxen and other wildlife.”

But some people fear that, with enough probable votes in the Senate to block any drilling there, the constant raising of the issue of Arctic drilling is a smokescreen, behind which the administration can hide its other plans for energy exploration and other activities all across the West.

In Washington, DC, the Senate refused to increase fuel economy standards for cars, although it did mandate that energy providers obtain a 10% of their energy supplies from renewable sources by 2020. (With exemptions that are built in the real number may be closer to 7.5%. And Environmentalists had hoped the standard would be set at 20%.) There is talk about allowing biomass from forests to be counted in that 10%, bringing with it fears that our national forests will come under further pressure from extractive interests.

In another bad development, the BLM published an item in the Federal Register beginning the process of rewriting rules under which counties and others could settle their road claims against the federal government. (See Item 1.)

And the White House is pushing for a review of the Park Service’s decision to phase out snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. (We’ll have information on that in our April UPDATE.)

The good news is that the media is beginning to bring some of these issues to the public’s attention, as is a growing network of organizations. The White House was recently ordered to release information regarding meetings that Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force held. Unsurprisingly, the documents — heavily edited as they are — show that the task force met mostly with energy company officials and not with environmentalists or people with views other than the administration’s.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals put a stop to seismic exploration outside Arches National Park, which we discussed in the February UPDATE. The Terry Tempest Williams op-ed piece from the New York Times, distributed in February, was reprinted in OrionOnline, with a couple of pictures that I took in Utah last August. You can read the article and see the pictures at:

The Utah Wilderness Coalition’s Wilderness Week in early March was a success. 30 advocates from around the country met with congressional staffers in Washington, bringing them up to date on various Utah issues. 2 more representatives joined the ranks of cosponsors for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, bringing the total to 159.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a front page story on the proposed oil and gas leases in Los Padres National Forest. If you missed it, the article can be read at:

Please submit comments on that proposal. (See Item 3.) The deadline is April 19.

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep us busy. One thing, though, is clear: it will be up to ordinary citizens to protect the lands they value. Thank you for doing your part!

Best wishes,




1. R.S. 2477 Roads: Comment Deadline April 23

2. Reminder: San Rafael Swell Route Designation

Deadline: April 22


3. Reminder: Los Padres National Forest

Oil & Gas Leasing

Deadline: April 19

4. Edward Weston Exhibition at

the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


5. Peggy Wayburn



1. R.S. 2477 Roads: Comment Deadline April 23

We’ve talked before about R.S. 2477, the 1866 law that states: “The right of way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.” The law was repealed in 1976, but continues to be a source of contention. Rural counties in the West claim it gives them the right to use just about any route that exists across public land. Many of these supposed roads are nothing more than wash bottoms or tracks from repeated use by vehicles.

The federal government, on the other hand, has claimed that many of these are not roads because they were never “constructed,” they aren’t “highways,” and many appeared after 1976. A recent court case held that, as the original law R.S. 2477 stated, these routes actually had to be constructed and go somewhere in order to qualify as “highways” under the statue.

CalUWild advisory Board member Gail Hoskisson has put together a website with photos of some of these claimed routes:

This has been a huge issue in Utah, where there have been ongoing secret negotiations between Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Dept. of the Interior. Gov. Leavitt says there are 10,000 claims in that state. In California, the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park contain claims by counties that could be affected as well. Reports are that Alaska may have over 1 million miles of claimed routes.

At the end of February, the Bureau of Land Management published a proposal in the Federal Register which could have devastating effects on wilderness efforts across the West, where potential road claims by counties form a network on lands in many wilderness proposals. If put into effect, this rule would make it easier for counties and other entities to solidify their claims to countless routes across public lands. Objections would have to be filed against each individual claim, which would be an overwhelming amount of work.

The Federal Register announcement is written in language which gives no clue as to its potentially huge implications. In fact, R.S. 2477 is not mentioned anywhere in the announcement, although the BLM website mentions it. It almost looks like BLM is trying to hide something.

We have until April 23 to submit comments.

Pam Eaton, Four Corners Representative for the Wilderness Society, has put together a list of the main points to make in your comments:

* BLM should withdraw its proposed rule (67 FR 8216) that would make it easier to give away federal lands — including rights-of-way to the states;

* You do not appreciate the agency’s attempt to give away rights-of-way that would fracture otherwise unroaded areas and allow motorized use in wild places. If you can, give examples of public lands you have visited that would be harmed if new roads, power lines, pipelines or other developments were allowed through them;

* The rule is illegal. Congress passed a provision in Sept. 30, 1996 that said ”No final rule or regulation of any agency of the Federal Government pertaining to the recognition, management, or validity of a right-of-way pursuant to Revised Statute 2477 ((former) 43 U.S.C. 932) shall take effect unless expressly authorized by an Act of Congress subsequent to the date of enactment of this Act.” By BLM’s own admission on its website, “This proposed rule would provide an opportunity for States and other local governmental entities to secure a right to a highway which is purported to be a R.S. 2477 highway reservation. . . .” (

* National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are valuable public assets that should not be given away.

* Many claims of rights-of-ways for “highways” across public lands are not valid claims, but cynical attempts to thwart wilderness protection or otherwise break up public wild lands. BLM should not be validating these bogus claims through the expedited process allow under the proposed rule. The BLM should, rather, apply a rigorous determination process for validating claims to rights-of-ways across public lands.

Please use your own words. Comments must be postmarked by April 23 and mailed to:

Attention: RIN 1004-AD50

Bureau of Land Management

Eastern States Office

7450 Boston Boulevard

Springfield, VA 22153

2. Reminder: San Rafael Swell Route Designation

Deadline: April 22

In March we sent out a single-issue alert on San Rafael Swell Route Designation. Please refer to it for information. The deadline for comments is March 22. If you’re new to CalUWild or don’t have a copy, please let me know, and I’ll send you one. There have been some delays recently with the website, but it should be there soon as well.


3. Reminder: Los Padres National Forest

Oil & Gas Leasing

Deadline: April 19

In our February UPDATE we included information on the Los Padres National Forest oil and gas leasing proposal. The comment deadline is April 19.

At a minimum, please include the following in your letter:

• There should be no oil or gas leases in potential wilderness areas in the Los Padres National Forest.

• Decisions regarding oil and gas leasing should be included in the new forest management plan revision process. It makes no sense to propose a program with such potentially serious consequences as leasing under a management plan that is out of date and being revised.

Anything you can add that personalizes your comments is helpful, especially if it relates to specific areas under consideration.

We will send out more detailed information next week.

Send your letter to:

USDA Forest Service

Attn: Al Hess, Project Manager

1190 East Ojai Avenue

Ojai, CA 93023.

A summary of what the Forest Service is considering can be found on the Los Padres National Forest website at:

4. Edward Weston Exhibition at

the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

SF MOMA is currently showing an exhibition of works by photographer Edward Weston, including many from Point Lobos, the wild area just south of Carmel and which has been an inspiration to many artists and authors.


The museum is free the first Tuesday of the month, and admission is half-price Thursday evenings.

For more information, contact:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 Third St.

San Francisco



Peggy Wayburn

Conservationist Peggy Wayburn, who worked to protect many wilderness areas and establish national parks in Alaska and Northern California, died in San Francisco on March 21. She was 84 years old.

Peggy , the wife of former Sierra Club President and CalUWild Advisory Board member Dr. Ed Wayburn, was the author of five books, including “Alaska: The Great Land” and “Adventuring in the Bay Area.”

Together the Wayburns were instrumental in establishing Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwood National Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They also worked to set aside vast areas of Alaska as wilderness through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.

We send our condolences to Ed and their children.

That’s it for now. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at or at 415-752-3911.

Thank for your interest and support for wild lands in the West!