Newsletter Archive

November 29, 2007

Dear CalUWild Members, Friends, and Supporters –

This month CalUWild celebrates it 10th Anniversary! Following the BLM’s San Francisco hearing on the management plan for the newly designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, co-founder Keith Hammond and I got Vicky Hoover of the Sierra Club on board, and Californians for Utah Wilderness was born. All three of us had spent much time in Utah and had fallen in love with its landscape over the years. So we began looking at ways that Californians could support the mostly Utah-based citizens efforts to protect the wildlands of Utah.

We came up with an innovative membership requirement: not payment of dues, but rather an agreement to write one letter a month one some topic, to the editor of a newspaper, to a land management agency, or to their representative or senator in Washington.

CalUWild thus became the first independent organization in one state focused on wilderness issues in another. Working with the Utah Wilderness Coalition, we became the model for groups in as many as 24 other states over the years. Through our work, we became aware of the growing citizens wilderness campaigns throughout the West, many of them using Utah as their model. So we expanded our scope, which was reflected in our slightly modified name: Californians for Western Wilderness. However, we decided to keep CalUWild as our acronym, since we were already widely known by it.

Keith went on to work with other wilderness organizations, and Vicky continues her work at the Sierra Club, while I manage CalUWild’s day-to-day activities. We now work with a large assortment of groups across the West and in Washington, DC, and our goal has remained constant: To provide interested Californians with reliable and timely information about opportunities for direct participation in decision-making about wilderness and other important public lands.

We do it all on a shoestring budget and with a handful of dedicated volunteers who manage our website, undertake Internet research, and help schedule slide shows. Dues remain voluntary but appreciated. (We’ll be sending out the annual membership reminder shortly; please be generous!)

I don’t know that any of us imagined that our initial efforts would result in a permanent organization, or that it would continue this long. Our 750+ members and their willingness to stay involved through thick and thin remain our strongest assets. Whether we realize it immediately or not, our combined efforts have had an impact.

Our guiding philosophy from the start has been to make it easy for ordinary citizens to become effective advocates for the lands they love. Thus we’ve tried to create a responsive organization, so if you ever have any questions, comments, or critiques, don’t hesitate to contact me by mail, phone, or email. Full contact information is in the signature file at the bottom of this Update.

Many thanks to all of you,

1a. State BLM Director Refuses to Extend Comment Deadlines on RMPs
Letters to Salt Lake Tribune Needed
1b. Moab RMP Comments
Due Nov. 30

2. Glen Canyon NRA Plans Castle Rock Cut To Provide Shortcut for Motorboats
Comments Needed

3. Panamint Mountains Chris Wicht Camp Cleanup
Volunteers Needed
February 2-3, 2008

4. Forest Service Proposes New Outfitter Rules giving Private Operators Priority on Public Lands
Comments Needed
DEADLINE: January 17, 2008
5. Beware of Using Website Email to Contact Washington
6. Books of Interest

7. Wilderness Watch, Missoula MT


1a. State BLM Director Refuses to Extend Comment
Deadlines on RMPs
Letters to Salt Lake Tribune Needed

The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week that Utah BLM State Director Selma Sierra had decided not to extend the comment deadlines for the six different Resource Management Plans her agency is preparing in the state. Thus interested citizens and conservation groups will have just until January 24 if they need to wade through the over 4,000 pages that the BLM has released in its draft plans. This can hardly be considered fostering citizen participation, regardless of which side of the many issues involved one comes down on: wilderness, energy production, off-highway vehicle use, or quiet recreation.

Ms. Sierra had ordered the Utah districts to have their plans finished by the end of this year in order to comply with the administration’s directive to make energy production the primary focus of public land management. Now she has the audacity to turn around and say: “I would hope that people would not get into the politics of these plans. That would be grossly unfair to the taxpayers,” according to the Tribune article. What a disingenuous thing to say.

You can send a letter to the editor of the Tribune protesting Ms. Sierra’s decision:

1b. Moab RMP Comments
Due Nov. 30

We reported last month in detail on the issues involved with the Moab RMP. So now that the comment period won’t be extended, if you haven’t submitted comments, please click here, review the information, and send in a comment (“substantive” or not).

2. Glen Canyon NRA Plans Castle Rock Cut
To Provide Shortcut for Motorboats
Comments Needed

This slightly edited alert just came in this week from our friends at the Glen Canyon Institute, and I apologize for the short deadline. You can either file your comments electronically with the Park Service or postmark them by the deadline.

I’ve never seen this before, but the Park Service website asks you to identify yourself if you’re a member of an organization. I think it’s best to write as a private citizen rather than as a member of an organization (and anyway, many people belong to more than one with an interest in the issue). It seems like the agency might be more likely to discount your opinion that way.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has proposed a destructive excavation to deepen Castle Rock Cut boat channel. With your help, we can stop this project. Send your comments to the National Park Service by December 4th!

Project Summary

The National Park Service (NPS) is beginning an environmental assessment (EA) of the impacts of deepening the “Castle Rock Cut” in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA). Castle Rock Cut is a half-mile long, 80-foot wide short-cut boat channel carved out of the Glen Canyon sandstone. The channel saves an hour of travel time for boaters traveling from Wahweap Marina to areas up-reservoir.

Castle Rock Cut channel was originally excavated in the 1970s, but was deepened by 8 feet in 1992. This created a usable channel when water levels are above 3,620 feet. Since the late 1990s, however, the reservoir has been shrinking. As a result, the Castle Rock Cut channel has not been usable since 2003. Today the level of Lake Powell reservoir is only 3,600 feet and the channel is currently dry. In response to pressure from boating interests, the NPS is proposing to excavate Castle Rock Cut channel another 15 feet so it will be usable at current water levels. This would require using heavy equipment to excavate 250,000 cubic yards of sediment and sandstone – enough to fill 25,000 dump trucks. The NPS has not announced an official budget, but the cost would be significant.

Glen Canyon Institute strongly opposes the Castle Rock Cut deepening project because:

— The Castle Rock Cut is not needed, because the number of boaters is decreasing as Lake Powell reservoir declines and gas prices increase, and because there is an alternative route available to boaters.

— This is only a short-term solution, because as Lake Powell reservoir continues to decline, the Castle Rock Cut will likely be unusable once again in the near future.

— The Castle Rock Cut project would cause significant environmental damage, due to the excavation of large amounts of rock and sediment and the use of heavy equipment that would cause pollution and contribute to global warming.

— The project would scar the natural landscape, which would degrade the scenic and recreational values of the area for the public.

— This project would waste large amounts of taxpayer dollars, taking resources away from the protection and restoration of the backcountry as Lake Powell reservoir recedes, and from other needed boating-related maintenance work.

— The project violates the mandate of the National Park Service to leave our parks “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Glen Canyon Institute believes that the scope and potential impact of the project requires a full environmental impact statement (EIS) instead of a simple EA. This proposal is a perfect illustration of why GCI is working to upgrade Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to a National Park, giving the area the full protection it needs.

What You Can Do
Glen Canyon Institute urges you to speak out against this costly, destructive, and shortsighted project. We recommend supporting Alternative 1, the “No-Action Alternative,” under which the proposed project would not take place and the Castle Rock Cut channel would not be further deepened.

All comments must be received by December 4, 2007.

You can submit your comments:

By mail at:

Castle Rock Cut EA
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 1507
Page, AZ 86040

Or on the National Park Service website

To learn more about the proposal and what you can do, visit GCI’s website at or call us at (801) 363-4450.

3. Panamint Mountains Chris Wicht Camp Cleanup
Volunteers Needed
February 2-3, 2008

The following came from CalUWild member and longtime desert friend Tom Budlong.

Cleaning up Chris Wicht Camp – Volunteers Still Needed (Feb 2, 3)

The October 26 Cleanup
If hauling away 19,850 pounds of trash (that’s ten tons) can be considered a success, then the cleanup on October 27 was a success. Two large dumpster, or ‘roll-offs, were filled to the brim and hauled off at the end of the weekend.

— The crew consisted of 18 volunteers, another five Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew, and 4 BLM staff providing supervision.

— Almost all of the scrap metal was separated for recycling. BLM had a front loader at work to get the larger metal pieces into the dumpster.

— The work went so quickly that the two roll-offs were filled at the end of Saturday, and Sunday work was not needed.

— The burned-out vehicle hulks were not removed before the cleanout, and they were too large for this cleanup, so most of them remain.

— Hazardous material (HazMat) locations were marked with yellow tape. BLM’s HazMat personnel will deal with these.

— Features of historic interest were marked off with pink tape. Foundations, walls, and special areas (probably mining and milling machinery) will be preserved as a reminder of the camp’s history. Many of these date to when the camp was established by Chris Wicht, one of the regulars at Ballarat when the town was a going mining camp.

The Next Cleanup – Feb 2 (and 3?)
But ten tons didn’t do it. A lot remains, and a second volunteer cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, Feb 2, 2008, and continuing to Sunday if needed.

So this is a call for volunteers again, to see if we can finish the job. For details, call Marty Dickes or Craig Beck at the BLM Ridgecrest office, 760-384-5400, or me – my number is at the bottom.

The Future of Chris Wicht Camp Area
BLM plans to treat Chris Wicht camp as an informal primitive walk-in camp site. The area is inside the Surprise Canyon Wilderness. (Before the burn Rocky and George were allowed to use it, as a courtesy.) It won’t be developed, meaning there will be no facilities such as grilles, outhouses, or parking areas-the current parking area in front of the camp will stay open.

The Unknown – Status of the Road to Chris Wicht Camp
Inyo County has maintained the road up Surprise Canyon to Chris Wicht camp. Presumably their motivation was the residents at Chris Wicht – Rocky and George. That incentive is now gone, and what will happen next time a flood takes out the road? It’s a good subject for guessing and speculation. Will Inyo County continue the maintenance, perhaps with the idea that maintenance would ensure their rights? Keep in mind that maintenance is expensive, and Inyo County’s budget is as tight as any other local government. Would BLM step in and keep the road open? Would users push their way through when they encounter a washout? Or will walking up Surprise become a bit longer?

Interesting. Only time will tell.

Tom Budlong

4. Forest Service Proposes New Outfitter Rules
Giving Private Operators Priority on Public Lands
Comments Needed
DEADLINE: January 17, 2008

The commercialization and privatization of public resources continues. The Forest Service is proposing new regulations regarding outfitters and guides on the public lands it manages. The alert from River Runners for Wilderness that follows explains the issue in good detail and lets you know how to respond. Please do!

The United States Forest Service (USFS) has proposed massive countrywide rulemaking changes to benefit outfitter and guiding access to all USFS lands. Your favorite campsite, hunting blind, fishing hole or boat ramp, and your access to it, are at risk!

Our longtime readers know that we at River Runners for Wilderness have followed and mounted opposition to various attempts to pass an Outfitters Policy Act that grants rights and privileges to public lands outfitters over the self-guided public.

Past long-term efforts by the outfitters’ lobby have failed, due in part to your vigilance. This most recent attempt is more sinister. The outfitters and guides have joined forces with non-profit groups that lead guided outdoor trips, and are now attempting to re-write the rules that govern the policies of the US Forest Service to win special access privileges.

Once again, you can counter these efforts through your comments, due no later than January 17, 2008. Now is the time to stand up and protect your right to use Forest Service lands equally with outfitters and their clients.

If you do nothing, these sweeping changes will impact all do-it-yourself (self-guided) recreationists, including hunters, fishermen, off-road enthusiasts, hikers, backpackers, canoeists, jet-boaters, paddlers, mountain-bikers and river runners. Once the rights to your favorite picnic area, boat ramp, or wilderness trailhead are sold, the change is permanent; the self-guided public enthusiast loses, and also loses the right to comment in the future.

The proposed rulemaking changes include but are not limited to:

* Outfitters and guides would be able to pay a small fee for sole and exclusive access to prime camping, hunting, fishing and picnic areas, including boat launch ramps.

* Outfitters, guides and non-profit organizations would be awarded an allocation of public use for ten-year periods. Commonly referred to as a “taking,” of public land the rule would give preferred access to the outfitters at the expense of the do-it-yourself public on all Forest Service-managed lands.

* This rulemaking would force allocating access in management areas where access is presently allocation-free, as it now is at Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the Deschutes River.

* Outfitters, Guides and non-profits become “Priority Users”. The public, who does not use outfitters, guides or non-profits for access would no longer have “priority use.”

* The general public would no longer be able to comment on USFS giving away blocks of access to Forest Service land. Outfitting and guiding in designated wilderness would not require public comment and review through an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, there is no provision to prevent outfitting services from selling their preferred access rights to their successor companies.

* The new proposed rules do not protect wilderness areas from commercialization.

To see the document in its entirety click here:

Comments on this proposed rulemaking will be accepted until January 17, 2008.

Do you care about your and your children’s access to Federal Land? Or their children’s access?

If so, please take the time to comment on this one, and urge your friends, no matter what outdoor activities they enjoy, to comment too.

Comments may be submitted by mail to:

U.S. Forest Service
Attn: Carolyn Holbrook
Recreation and Heritage Resources Staff (2720)
1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Stop 1125
Washington, DC 20250-1125

You can submit electronic comments, but it is not easy (imagine that!) Start by clicking here:

Click on Advanced Search, and in the Document ID type in “FS-2007-0008-0001.” Under Date Posted type in “10/19/2007”. This should take you to a page with a comment bubble on the far right of the page, just above the “01/17/2008” deadline date. Click the bubble to get to the comment page.

Here’s what you might want to say in your own words:

* Tell the USFS that ALL outfitters, guides and non-profit organizations using public lands should compete on an equal footing with the public for permits in a first-come first-serve or common pool type of permit system.

* Tell the USFS that allocating access is contentious and already being fought over in the courts. This rulemaking will lead to more litigation over who gets to access Federal lands.

* Tell the USFS that you demand that allocation-free areas, like the Boundary Waters and the Deschutes River, must remain allocation free.

* Tell the USFS there should be no locations, including campsites, launch ramps, prime hunting and fishing locations specifically set aside for outfitter, guide or non-profit use.

* Tell the USFS this rulemaking is a “taking” from the public who recreates on USFS land without guided, outfitted or non-profit assistance, and that the do-it-yourself American must be the only “priority user”.

* Tell the USFS that outfitting, guiding and non-profit access permits must be reviewed in a public process using the National Environmental Protection Act.

* Tell the USFS that this rulemaking must not commercialize wilderness areas.

Remember, comments must be received in writing by January 17, 2008.

Please send a copy of your letter to your Senator or Congressman as well, since the outfitting industry has, throughout the years, tried and failed to get special considerations like these proposed changes through special interest legislation, and may try again in the future.


RIVERWIRE is a free service to the community of river lovers from River Runners for Wilderness. To join, send an e-mail address to and we’ll add it to the RRFW RIVERWIRE e-mail alerts list.

RRFW is a non-profit project of Living Rivers.


5. Beware of Using Website Email to Contact Washington

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, originally in the Washington Post, described some of the emails agencies say they have received via organizational websites. When purported commenter were contacted by the Post, many of the phone numbers were disconnected, and 9 out of the 10 people they did get a hold of said they hadn’t send in any emails.

The article also reports that when the Congressional Management Institute polled congressional staffers in 2005, half of them did not think that form letter emails actually came from the people who knew about them.

These examples underscore why CalUWild has always emphasized the importance of sending personalized communications to agencies and representatives. We rarely, if ever, recommend sending comments though organizational websites, and we always recommend putting things in your own words. That’s why we will include talking points in our items, but never a sample letter. (And CalUWild members are all bright enough to write their own letters anyway.)

It’s a bit more work, but it shows that you care, and it has always been more effective.

So now it seems it’s even more important that the recipient know that you are a real person, instead of merely a name retrieved by some group’s computer and attached to a form letter.

6. Books of Interest

Howard Wilshire, CalUWild Advisory Board member, noted geologist, and chairman of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, is co-author of The American West at Risk, a book to be published in 2008 by Oxford University Press. Originally titled Losing the West (until the marketing folks thought it was too negative) the book will take a look how human activities have affected various important aspect of the environment of the West. It will include chapters on forestry, agriculture, grazing, military use, water, garbage, recreation, and others. It promises to be a comprehensive and interesting addition to the bookshelf of anyone who is interested in environmental issues. The authors have created a website containing a detailed look at the upcoming book in addition to information that the publisher is leaving out.

We’ll let you know when the book is published.

The Foundation for Deep Ecology has just published Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation. FDE’s website says the purpose of the book is: “To expose the lasting damage done to our land, water, and air from the growing plague of jet skis, quads, dirt bikes, dune buggies, and other motorized recreational craft that are penetrating the last bastions of wild America. The increase in thrillcraft use is responsible for wildlife habitat fragmentation, disturbance of sensitive wildlife, soil erosion, spread of invasive weeds, loss of silence, as well as water and air pollution.

The book is edited by George Wuerthner, who also edited Wildfire, and contains essays by Rick Bass, Philip Cafaro, Dominick DellaSala, David Havlick, James Howard Kunstler, Richard Mahler, Thomas Michael Power, Paul Sutter, Howie Wolke, and others.

The book is coffee-table-sized and a bit pricey at $60. ( has it for $42.) A bit more information is available on FDE’s website.

7. Wilderness Watch, Missoula MT

Policy Director
Wilderness Watch, the nation’s leading citizens’ organization working for long-term protection for America’s Wilderness, is seeking a highly motivated person to lead our Wilderness defense and policy development program. Wilderness Watch is based in Missoula, Montana.

The policy director is responsible for carrying out the issue analysis and policy development work of Wilderness Watch. This includes preparing comments on NEPA documents, filing administrative appeals, assisting with litigation research and strategy, and developing positions on matters affecting the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The Policy Director works with Wilderness Watch members, other conservationists, government agencies, and Congress to build support for actions that protect and preserve Wilderness and Wild Rivers. The policy director develops educational tools; trains and supervises volunteers and interns; works with local and national media; represents Wilderness Watch at meetings and conferences; and writes articles for the organization’s newsletter and on-line listserv.

Demonstrated experience in public land issues and policy analyses, with an understanding of the Wilderness Act and NEPA very desirable.

Excellent writing and public speaking skills.

Experience working (or volunteering) in the conservation movement is desirable.

Experience working with the media.

Able to effectively handle multiple projects and deadlines, self-directed, and detail-oriented.

Able to work effectively as a member of our team.

Willingness and ability to travel

Salary and Benefits:
Salary range is comparable to similar positions in the region, and dependent on experience. Generous medical and dental insurance, vacation, and leave.

Deadline for applications:
Application review begins Dec. 10, 2007, continuing until filled.

Applicants should provide a cover letter, resume, writing sample(s), and two references. Send by regular mail or e-mail (WORD or pdf, please) to:

Executive Director
Wilderness Watch
PO Box 9175
Missoula, MT 59807

For more information about Wilderness Watch visit our website at