Newsletter Archive

May 27, 2004

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters –

Another Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, the traditional start of the Summer holidays, the time when many Americans take trips to see the natural wonders of the West.

I got an early start this year, spending the last week of April and the first two weeks of May in Utah on two river trips. The first trip was to the drowned remnants of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon. The second the San Juan River, the upper part of which is very much alive, before it, too, is stopped by Glen Canyon Dam.

A drought, now in its sixth year, has lowered the level of “Lake” Powell by 116 feet. Many of the side canyons are re-emerging, and nature is beginning to reclaim them. Already there are willow saplings, eight feet tall in some places. Cattails and native grasses are sprouting everywhere. The infamous bathtub ring is peeling off in some places, and is being covered up with red and black streaks from above in others. One still sees the skeletons of drowned cottonwoods in the canyons, an eerie sight. But the overall impression I was left with was an appreciation for the rapid restorative powers of nature. Someday this might qualify as wilderness.

The excursion on the San Juan River was an eight-day raft trip, putting in at Bluff and taking out at Clay Hills Crossing, a distance of 85 miles. The river is bordered on the south by the Navajo Indian reservation, but the northern bank is largely BLM land and a narrow strip of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with BLM land behind it. Much of this BLM land is included in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act, H.R. 1796. It is a relatively untouched area, full of canyons and archaeology.

Rafting is the perfect way to spend time exploring wilderness. It provides a relaxing way to cover distance under your own power, aided by the current of the river. You can stop and investigate things at your leisure and then continue downriver. It is also a good way for persons with more limited mobility to get out into wildlands.

Being out and about in these wild areas makes one appreciate what we Americans have been blessed with. But we cannot take it for granted that these places will stay wild forever, especially given the path the current administration is on. Visiting these lands, they become a part of you, and you return wanting to work doubly hard to protect them.

I strongly recommend an excursion out to the wilds-soon!

Thank you for everything you are doing to help.

Best wishes,
Mike ======================================


1. Cedar Mountains Wilderness Bill
Passes Resources Committee

2. First R.S. 2477 Disclaimer Application Falls Apart


3. Wild Heritage Campaign
(Action Item)


4. “Parks Only” Fee Demo Bill
Passes U.S. Senate (Action Item)

5. CalUWild Slide Shows in June



1. Cedar Mountains Wilderness Bill
Passes House Resources Committee

The House Resources Committee last week unanimously passed H.R. 2909, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop’s wilderness bill to designate the Cedar Mountains, west of Salt Lake City, as wilderness. Rep. Bishop has been no friend of wilderness in the past, and this is the first time an acceptable wilderness bill has come from a Republican in the Utah delegation.

The main impetus behind the legislation, however, was not to protect wilderness, but to stop a possible rail line to the Goshutes Indian Reservation, where a nuclear waste dump has been proposed. The railway could still be built, it would have to pass over state land, subject to state regulation. Much of Utah is opposed to a waste dump there. Bishop claimed that stopping the waste dump was necessary to allow military flights at the Utah Test and Training Range (of which the Cedar Mountains are a part) to continue.

Rep. Bishop’s bill includes areas in the Utah citizens proposal in addition to lands inventoried by the BLM, and the boundaries align substantially with those in America’s Redrock Wilderness Act. In addition, Rep. Bishop addressed conservationists’ concerns regarding communications facilities in the wilderness, agreeing that neither their number nor their “footprint” would be increased. Finally, only three acres of land were “released” from wilderness consideration.

The bill must still be voted on by the full House, and as of yet there is no corresponding bill in the Senate.

2. First R.S. 2477 Disclaimer Application Falls Apart

The Weiss Highway in Juab County, Utah, was supposed to be the poster child for the state’s R.S. 2477 right-of-way claims. The state had signed a “memorandum of understanding”(MOU) with the Department of the Interior, setting out a process for settling claims to dispute roads.

However, the process has hit a couple of speedbumps.

First, the General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress) issued an opinion in February that the Utah-Interior MOU was illegal.

Secondly, while investigating Juab County’s claim, evidence came to light that the highway had been built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, for the Division of Grazing (BLM’s predecessor agency), named after a CCC superintendent, using federal employees and federal funds. Additionally, a federal advisory board recommended its construction. And to top it off, in 1936 Juab County conveyed all of its interest in the construction, maintenance, and operation of the road to the federal government.

Hardly a stellar poster child for a county right-of-way.

The county has not withdrawn its application, though, and it’s not clear yet what the final outcome will be.

In other Utah R.S. 2477 news, Utah Deputy Attorney General Ralph Finlayson stated this week that his office now questions the legality of the MOU, and that he has “no present intention” of filing more R.S. 2477 claims under the MOU. However, he has threatened to sue the Department of the Interior to force the granting of rights-of-way. That remains to be seen, and we’ll keep you informed as the situation progresses.


3. Wild Heritage Campaign
(Action Item)

H.R. 1501, the North Coast Wild Heritage Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-1), currently has 54 co-sponsors from around the country, and it continues to attract more every week. Below is a list of the California cosponsors. If your representative is listed, please write him or her a note of thanks. If not on the list, please write a note asking for cosponsorship right away.

On the Senate side, if you have not written Sen. Dianne Feinstein to thank her for her support of Rep. Thompson’s bill, please do so.

It is still better to send postal letters to local offices. If you wish to write to offices in Washington, DC, it’s better to fax your letter. Complete contact information for California’s congressional delegation can be found on CalUWild’s web site at

California Cosponsors of H.R. 1501

* Joe Baca (D-43)
* Xavier Becerra (D-31)
* Howard Berman, L. [CA-28)
* Lois Capps (D-23)
* Susan Davis (D-53)
* Calvin Dooley (D-20)
* Anna Eshoo (D-14)
* Sam Farr (D-17)
* Jane Harman (D-36)
* Michael Honda (D-15)
* Tom Lantos (D-12)
* Barbara Lee (D-9)
* Zoe Lofgren (D-16)
* Robert Matsui, T. [CA-5)
* George Miller (D-7)
* Grace Napolitano (D-38)
* Nancy Pelosi (D-8)
* 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)
* Maxine Waters (D-35)
* Diane Watson (D-33)
* Henry Waxman (D-30)
* Lynn Woolsey (D-6)


4. “Parks Only” Fee Demo Bill
Passes U.S. Senate
(Action Item)

The following comes from Keep Sespe Wild, one of the lead organizations in California fighting the Fee Demo program. We don’t get many chances to thank Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas for anything, so this might be the perfect opportunity to do so. A phone call or short fax to his office in Washington is sufficient.

Phone: 202-224-6441
Fax: 202-224-1724

Dear Friends,

It’s been a long time coming, but last week saw the most important victory for Fee Demo foes since the program began in 1996.

The Senate passed, on Wednesday May 19, S. 1107, sponsored by Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), which will make Fee Demo permanent ONLY for National Parks. It will allow Fee Demo to sunset on December 31st, 2005, its current termination date, for the US Forest Service, BLM and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Not only did S. 1107 pass, it passed on the unanimous consent calendar (meaning, a time when uncontentious bills get passed in a package every so often). This is an extraordinary slap in the face for an Administration that has pushed hard for permanent multi-agency recreation fees.

(Historical note: Fee Demo support and Fee Demo opposition have always been bipartisan in Congress and in the White House. President Clinton pushed for permanent fees too, though not nearly as vigorously as has President Bush.)

Only a few months ago, the Administration was threatening to stop S. 1107 on the Senate floor, unless it was amended to include the other three Fee Demo agencies. But obviously there was no support for the Administration to latch on to. None whatsoever. Call it bluff and bluster on the Administration’s part, if you will, but please note that the Senate Energy Committee’s earlier (and also unanimous) passage of S. 1107 was largely in response to the many, many times so many of you have called and faxed DC on behalf of fee foes.

Clearly, the American public spoke with near unanimity too – Congress received hundreds of faxes from fee foes for the occasional one from a Fee Demo supporter.

Thanks also to all of you who have worked to win resolutions from counties and states, opposing Fee Demo. This has been extremely important.

There’s still the House of Representatives to deal with, and that’s coming right up. S. 1107 couldn’t have passed at a better time – the Senate drawing a line in the sand before the House acts. You know we’ll be calling on you soon enough…

But this weekend, friends, please visit your public lands, if you can, and relax in celebration of the US Senate’s being solidly on our side. Thanks to YOU.

5. CalUWild Slide Shows in June

CalUWild will be presenting two slide shows in June on wilderness issues, using Utah as a prime example. Both will be in the Bay Area.

Monday, June 14
Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter Backpack section
Peninsula Conservation Center
Corner of East Bayshore Road and Corporation Way
Palo Alto
7:30 p.m.

Monday, June 28
Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter
Saratoga Library Community Room
Corner of Saratoga and Fruitvale Avenues
Meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., slide show around 8 p.m.

Contact me for more information or if you’d like to schedule a slide show in your community.


God bless America. Let’s save some of it. –Edward Abbey