Newsletter Archive

On North Dome, Yosemite Wilderness, California                                                                                (Mike Painter)

September 7, 2012

Dear CalUWild friends—

September can be a wonderful time to get away to enjoy some of our wonderful public lands. The weather can be cooler, though the days are shorter, and many places tend to be less crowded. September 29 is National Public Lands Day. See Item 3 for information on a service trip to Carrizo Plain National Monument, sponsored by the California Wilderness Coalition and other organizations.

This September 3 marked the 48th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act (Item 4) by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This brings us ever closer to 2014, the 50th Anniversary. Plans are being hatched for ways to commemorate that event and to continue promoting Wilderness as a viable and important concept in the 21st Century. People across the country are working to plan art exhibitions, slideshows, a national conference in Albuquerque, lectures, and new legislation, among other ideas. We can always use more ideas and people involved! Please get in touch if you’d like to participate or plan an event.

It’s been pretty quiet around here, with Congress on recess and many people taking August vacations, so there’s not much to report on.

Thanks to everyone for the very positive feedback on the photography and artwork included in the Monthly Update. It’s gotten us to thinking about a new participatory project. See Item 5.

Best wishes,

1.   Court Upholds Interior Department’s Cancellation of Controversial Leases

2.   Scientific Controversy Continues over Drakes Bay Oyster Farm
3.   Service Trip at Carrizo Plain National Monument
          September 29-30
          (ACTION ITEM)

4.   President Proclaims September as National Wilderness Month
5.   Western Wilderness Photography & Art Group
          Debuts on
          (ACTION ITEM)

6.   Links to Articles of Interest


1.   Court Upholds Interior Department’s Cancellation of Controversial Leases

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the dismissal of a complaint filed by energy companies and two Utah counties against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The plaintiffs had sued the federal government over the cancellation of 77 leases issued in the closing days of the Bush Administration. Secty. Salazar voided them, saying that the environmental analysis by the government was inadequate.

The December 2008 lease sale became (in)famous when it was disrupted by Tim DeChristopher’s protest bids. De Christopher is currently serving a two-year prison term for his protest.

The current ruling in the case was based on the fact that the plaintiffs waited too long to file their complaint, rather than on the underlying merits. District Judge Dee Benson in Utah (who also sentenced DeChristopher) had dismissed the energy companies’ complaint, saying that they had missed a 90-deadline for filing. He also ruled that Secty. Salazar had overstepped his authority in withdrawing the leases, though a federal judge in Washington had also issued an injunction against them. Normally judges do not comment on the merits of cases if there are procedural grounds for dismissal. The 10th Circuit made no comment as to the propriety of Secty. Salazar’s actions.

Conservation organizations, including the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council, are still litigating over the six Resource Management Plans that the BLM developed in 2008 for much of Utah. Though current administration officials have been quoted as saying the plans are flawed, they have made no attempt to modify them. The plans opened large areas to off-road vehicle use, energy exploration and did not offer much protection of any kind for environmentally sensitive lands in the planning areas. We’ll keep you posted as those cases continue.

2.   Scientific Controversy Continues over Drakes Bay Oyster Farm

Last week the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released another report in the ongoing dispute over the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s use permit in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The Council stated that there wasn’t enough data available to support the conclusions of environmental harm that the Park Service reached in its 2011 studies, although it also said those conclusions are reasonable on their face.

It’s not clear what impact the report will have, though it recommends that the Park Service be much clearer about many of the standards it uses to quantify impacts.

The ongoing scientific controversy and uncertainty is one reason that CalUWild has focused solely on the policy implications of Congress’s “potential wilderness” designation in 1976. We think that non-conforming and conflicting uses should be removed as soon as possible so that the area can become “full” wilderness. The soonest that could happen is when the special use permit expires in November 2012. It’s unfortunate that the scientific and environmental issues have been allowed to complicate the situation to this extent.

You may download a PDF of the report here.

3.   Service Trip at Carrizo Plain National Monument
          September 29-30
          (ACTION ITEM)

The following, slightly edited and shortened, comes from our friends at the California Wilderness Coalition.
September is a special month for our public lands. On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. On September 28th, 1984, the California Wilderness Act and the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Act were signed into law, protecting over three million acres of California’s wild lands and more than 70 miles of the Tuolumne River. And on September 29th, we celebrate National Public Lands Day by lending a helping hand to take care of our public lands. Please join us in the Carrizo Plain on September 29th!

The Carrizo Plain, located between California’s Central Valley and the coast at San Luis Obispo, is one of the little known wonders of our state. The central plain is dry open grassland with the (dry) Soda Lake at its center. To the west are the Caliente Mountains rising to 5000 feet. A major branch of the San Andreas Fault runs along the base of the Temblor Range immediately on the east of the plain. When winter rainfall is sufficient shorebirds gather in Soda Lake. At all times of year raptors can be seen on fence posts and soaring over the plain.

The area became a National Monument in January, 2001. The specific intent of this act was to protect habitat for an unusually large number of endangered species. While visitors are welcome, there has been no significant effort to publicize the monument or to provide special accommodations. A management plan for the Monument was adopted early in 2010, and this event is one of the opportunities for volunteers to assist in the implementation of the plan. This outing also allows us to see the plains first-hand, and to consider its future.

Saturday, September 29, is National Public Lands Day when federal land managers all over the country organize volunteer events in their area. We will be participating in this work with a number of other organizations and individuals. The tentative plan is to build a rail fence in a back-country area to prevent vehicle access to an area with resources in need of protection The Friends of Carrizo Plain organization provides lunch for the volunteers. One of the benefits of the weekend will be working along side other persons and groups who are committed to the area.

Our trip will officially begin at the KCL campground in the Monument 10 AM on Saturday morning, September 29. The trip leader will be staying there Friday evening, and anyone who wishes to join then is welcome (see below for contact info). Bring work gloves, but other equipment and instruction will be provided by the monument staff. We will be car camping for the weekend, but conditions are primitive, so plan on bringing all the water that you will need for the weekend. We will be staying at the KCL campground on Saturday evening as well.

For those that are available and interested, trip leader Craig Deutsche will be leading a hike in the Monument on Friday, Sept. 28. The meeting for this will be at the KCL Campground at 8:00 AM. Almost certainly it would be convenient for hikers to meet Thursday evening at this campground rather than plan a long drive Friday morning. Directions for reaching the campground are given below. This hike is optional and entirely for recreation.

Sunday, September 30, is reserved for sightseeing in the monument. We may be able to visit Painted Rock, a well known rock art site. We may drive to the ridge of the Caliente Mountains for a long view over the plain. Certainly we will make a stop along Soda Lake on our way to the Wallace Creek site on the San Andreas Fault. Pictures of this site appear in every introductory geology book published in our country. It is a spectacle that everyone living in California ought to see for themselves. There are a number of old ranch sites with rather amazing collections of rusting farm machinery from the 30’s and 40’s which we may have time to visit. Binoculars are useful for bird watching, and of course we will hope to see the pronghorn. If the group is large we may be able to split the group with some visiting the better known “tourist” spots and others taking a longer day hike in the low mountains.

We will be car camping. Bring what makes you comfortable. There is no water available to the public within the monument, so bring what you will need for the weekend. Make your own arrangements, either individually, or with others for food and cooking.

We will plan on a potluck meal for Saturday night. Bring a dish of some kind to feed perhaps six persons.

It is possible (but very unlikely) that temperatures at night would be chilly. Work shoes and gloves are on needed Saturday. If you wish to hike on Sunday, then bring good hiking shoes or boots, bring a day pack with the usual equipment, and bring two or three liters of water for the hike. Site-seeing by car on Sunday needs no special equipment. I will have any and all maps that we need.

There is no place to buy gasoline in the monument. Be certain to fill your gas tank at the last moment either along highway 101 or along Interstate 5 as you approach the monument.

This weekend is a unique opportunity. For detailed travel directions, more information, and to reserve your spot, call or email trip leader Craig Deutsche at 310-477-6670, craig [dot] deutsche [at] gmail [dot] com.

4.   President Proclaims September as National Wilderness Month

For the fourth year in a row, Pres. Obama has proclaimed September to be National Wilderness Month, in commemoration of the signing of the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964. Here is the full text of his proclamation:


For centuries, America’s dramatic landscapes have attracted people from around the world to begin new lives and develop thriving communities on our lands. Today, our wilderness areas reflect an essential part of our national character, and as a people, we are immeasurably richer for their presence. Protected wilderness areas are recreational escapes for families, natural classrooms for students, living laboratories for scientists, irreplaceable retreats for sportsmen and women, and historical treasures for the American people. These landscapes provide clean air, clean water, and essential habitats for fish and wildlife, and they serve as critical storehouses of biodiversity. From mountains and meadows to river valleys and forests, our lands and waters also help drive local economies by creating jobs in tourism and recreation. Our open spaces are more precious today than ever before, and it is essential that we come together to protect them for the next generation.

American conservation practices inspired countries around the world during the 20th century, and my Administration is working to carry that legacy forward during the 21st. In my first months as President, I was proud to sign a public lands bill that designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness, over 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and three National Parks. We also launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which laid the foundation for a comprehensive, community driven conservation strategy that continues to engage Americans in protecting and increasing access to our natural heritage. Today, projects spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific are helping create and enhance parks, renew and restore our rivers, and conserve our iconic open spaces.

Generations of visionary leaders and communities have given of themselves to preserve our wild landscapes, fulfilling a responsibility that falls to us all as Americans and as inhabitants of this small planet. During National Wilderness Month, let us celebrate the progress we have made toward meeting that essential challenge, and let us recommit to protecting the land we love for centuries to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2012 as National Wilderness Month. I invite all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


5.   Western Wilderness Photography & Art Group
           Debuts on
          (ACTION ITEM)

With the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act coming up in two years, and the positive responses to the inclusion of photos and artwork to the Update, we’re announcing the formation of a Western Wilderness group on Flickr, the popular photo-sharing site. The description of the group on Flickr is: Photos, paintings, drawings, and other illustrations from wild places in the American West-whether designated formally as Wilderness by Congress, proposed for designation, or just simply wild.

This will be a new and, we hope, fun way to spread the word about Wilderness in the West. It will also provide an opportunity for people to share and publicize their own artwork.

We’ve started things off by posting the photos from the slideshow on CalUWild’s homepage. We’ll be adding other photos from the Update and the website as time goes on. Please share your own!

General guidelines for the group:

•   Group members may make up to 5 submissions per day.
•   Photos and artwork (paintings, drawings, illustrations) only (no videos).
•   Safe level (meant for general audiences).
•    In your description, please include personal experiences associated with the art or the trip on which it was made.
•   Geotagging is not necessary, though location information for designated or proposed areas would be useful in the photo’s title or description. However, specific location information for sensitive sites, such as rock art panels, will generally not be allowed.
•   Direct solicitation for sale of photos or artwork will also not be allowed, though a link to your own website is acceptable in the description.

You will need your own Flickr account to participate. Basic, limited accounts are free, and other accounts run $2/month. Flickr does not require a lot of personal information to register and, therefore, does seem to have the same privacy concerns that are associated with Facebook and other “social media” sites.

We hope you’ll give it your best shot. And invite your friends to join, too!

6.    Links to Articles of Interest

New York Times: “Scientists at Work” blog goes to Utah!

          Traveling to Tropical Utah

          Separating the Dinosaurians From the Crocodilians

          Fossils in the First Days

          Cool Fossils and Hot Rocks

          Gone Fishin’