Newsletter Archive

Sunset across Greater Canyonlands, Utah                                                                                            (Mike Painter)

January 31, 2013

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters-

There’s not much news to report this month on the wilderness and public lands front, though a couple of items worth mentioning came in at the last minute, so we’re a bit later with the Update than originally planned.

Pres. Obama began his second term with his public inauguration on January 21. We’re hoping that he will be more aggressive in protecting public lands this term. He won’t be doing that, however, unless he knows he has the support of citizens across the country. So it’s important to continue to let him and the officials in his administration know that protection is important to you and that you will give them the political support needed to protect the lands that are our birthright as Americans.

Thank you again to everyone who has made a contribution during CalUWild’s membership drive. We do still need the support of more of our members to meet our anticipated expenses for the year. So if you find the information CalUWild provides useful (and we are the only grassroots citizens group focusing on all aspects of wilderness from the Rockies to the Pacific), please contribute what you can. Just print out the form here containing full information, and mail it in with your gift. Thanks!

Also: If you haven’t let us know who your new congressional representative is, please do so-it’s helpful for those rare times when we need to target information for specific districts. Click here to send an email. If you live in any of the following cities, there’s no need to respond:

          District 1: Chico, Mt. Shasta, Redding, Weed
          District 2: Arcata, Eureka, Fairfax, Mill Valley, Novato, Petaluma, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sebastopol
          District 4: Lake Tahoe
          District 5: Santa Rosa
          District 12: San Francisco
          District 13: Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont

Thanks for your cooperation.

Finally: As thing get underway for the national celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act next year, CalUWild has started a Western Wilderness Group on Flickr, the photography sharing web site. If you have photography, drawings, or paintings you’d like to contribute, please do. You will have to set up a Flickr account (free at the basic level) if you don’t have one. Details are here, or send me an email with any questions.

This Update is coming out close to the birthday of the writer Edward Abbey (born January 29, 1927), so I’ll close with a couple of quotes from him.

We have always needed and always will need, so long as we are human, a big rugged expanse of country beyond the back door, beyond the city limits, where a man can get lost if he wants to, where a woman can get lost, where each and all can exercise the most elementary and essential of all freedoms: the freedom to move one’s body through three-dimensional space without obstruction by fences, walls, traffic, steel.

-—Desert Solitaire

Here yet you may find the elemental freedom to breathe deep of unpoisoned air, to experiment with solitude and stillness, to gaze through a hundred miles of untrammeled atmosphere, across redrock canyons, beyond blue mesas, toward the snow-covered peaks of the most distant mountains-to make the discovery of the self in its proud sufficiency which is not isolation but an irreplaceable part of the mystery of the whole.

-—The Journey Home

Thank you, as always, for your interest and support as we move into 2013!


1.   Pinnacles National Monument Becomes a National Park
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Judge Denies Immediate Relief to Pt. Reyes Oyster Farm

3.   Political Shuffling in the Nation’s Capital
4.   Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
          Publicizes Park Service’s Plans to “Wire” Our National Parks
          (ACTION ITEM)

5.   Articles & Links of Interest


1.   Pinnacles National Monument Becomes a National Park
          (ACTION ITEM)

On January 10, Pres. Obama signed a bill by Reps. Sam Farr (D-20) and Jeff Denham (R-10) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) that changed the designation of Pinnacles National Monument to a national park. The bill passed the U.S. Senate at the very end of the last Congress after having been passed by the House last summer.

Pinnacles became the 59th national park, but it was under the jurisdiction of the Park Service before the bill’s passage, so nothing about its management is expected to change. The change was made to raise the profile of the monument in the hope of attracting more visitors to the area.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, insisted on stripping out wilderness designation proposed for almost 3,000 acres of the park in order to allow the bill to proceed. It’s ironic, since Rep. Bishop has often said that local support should be the deciding factor in wilderness designations. The wilderness proposal for Pinnacles had local and statewide support and no significant (if any) opposition, yet he still refused to permit it. This just confirms that Rep. Bishop is simply opposed to wilderness, period, everywhere-not just in Utah.

Pres. Teddy Roosevelt established Pinnacles National Monument in 1908. It is very interesting geologically and is home to many species of wildlife, including being a release area for the California condor breeding program.

Please send a message of thanks to Pres. Obama for signing the bill and to Reps. Farr, Denham, and Sen. Boxer, too.

Contact information:

          White House Comment Line:   202-454-1111
          White House Online Comment Form

          Sen. Barbara Boxer webpage
          Rep. Sam Farr webpage
          Rep. Jeff Denham webpage

Note that Members of the House do not respond to correspondence from people outside their districts, so phone calls to their offices are best.

2.   Judge Denies Immediate Relief to Pt. Reyes Oyster Farm

A brief update on the ongoing legal battle over the fate of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company: Last Friday, a federal judge expressed doubts over the company’s claim against the Secretary of the Interior and the Park Service. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said federal law appears to leave renewal of the lease up to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“It seems to me it’s much more in the realm of executive, political or legislative functions, as opposed to a judicial function,” Gonzalez Rogers said. “Where’s the role of the federal judiciary on that policy decision?”

She did not issue an immediate ruling.

We’ll keep you posted as things develop.

3.   Political Shuffling in the Nation’s Capital

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar this month announced his intention to retire after serving for four years in Pres. Obama’s cabinet. Prior to that, he was Attorney General of Colorado and then a U.S. Senator from that state. Pres. Obama has not nominated anyone to replace him, though many in the conservation community are supporting Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D) of Arizona, a strong supporter of public lands who currently sits on the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Dept. of Interior’s announcement is here. Pres. Obama expressed his thanks for Secty. Salazar’s service in a statement that you can read here.

The confirmation of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as Secretary of State may impact the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) is the senior Democrat on the committee (the “Ranking Member”), and he has announced his candidacy for Sen. Kerry’s seat, to be filled by a special election in June. Should he win, the Ranking Member position will be vacant. Reps. Grijalva and Peter DeFazio of Oregon have expressed interest in the position. Other names mentioned as possibilities are Rush Holt of New Jersey (who has signaled his intention to reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, the comprehensive Utah Wilderness bill, now that Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York has retired) and Grace Napolitano of California.

Given the generally anti-wilderness and anti-conservation stance of the Republicans in the House, the minority leadership position on the committee is an important one.

4.   Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
          Publicizes Park Service’s Plans to “Wire” Our National Parks
          (ACTION ITEM)

The press release below came in this morning from our friends at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). It’s a threat that needs to be taken seriously, for two reasons: 1) It flies in the face of the fundamental concept of the national parks as a place to experience Nature on its own terms (at least to a large degree) and as a respite from modern contraptions; and 2) It greatly expands the role of private enterprise in the national parks. It’s one thing for a private company to provide lodging, but it’s completely different to be providing interpretive content and other information out in a park. That is the job of the Park Service. Additionally, that information should be provided free of charge to all visitors, who are already paying an entrance fee in most cases.

If allowed to proceed might make it that much easier to go forward with more projects elsewhere (including wilderness areas) because people will have become increasingly accustomed to electronic encroachment.

Please let the Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior your thoughts! Contact information follows PEER’s press release.

Concessionaires Would Control Visitor Cell and Internet Access and Content

Washington, DC – The National Park Service (NPS) appears deeply committed to an industry-sponsored initiative which would change the way many visitors experience national parks, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Plans to significantly expand cellular and internet “connectivity” inside parks have advanced without public notice.

The National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA), which represents concessionaires who operate lodges, stores and other commercial outlets inside national parks, is leading the effort to dramatically hike visitor access to cell and internet signals inside parks – signals from the concessionaires, that is. NPHA laments that “in many of America’s national parks, prized smartphones are little more than cameras because cell and data service, even at visitor centers and lodges and other developed sites, is poor – or worse.”

The organization has the ear of Park Service leadership, which is working with NPHA to –

•   Provide internet access “at all major, developed visitor areas in the national park system” and “basic cell phone service at all major visitor areas in national park units, as well as along most roads and at major sites such as trailheads;”

•   “Deliver timely, park-focused information within national parks through smart phones, tablets and computers to deliver interpretation and other important information to park visitors;” and

•   In order be “financially sustainable,” NPHA wants “the opportunity to develop and operate these systems” in which they charge fees for services beyond free “landing pages.” NPHA envisions a capacity “which could reduce the need for handing out printed materials and even facilitate fee collection through electronic devices.”

“This is a disturbing stealth scheme to wire our national park system,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the utter absence of any analysis of impacts or public input. “Experiencing the natural wonders of our national parks should not require a smartphone.”

NPS Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell has invited NPHA to nominate the first five parks to be wired, with the final “winners” selected sometime in January. NPS Director Jon Jarvis is reviewing an NPHA-drafted system-wide policy promoting connectivity and a joint “strategy session” is slated for February.

“This would be a giant step toward ‘Disney-fying’ park interpretation, replacing rangers with corporate icons as your guides,” Ruch added. “Solitude values of parks will go by the board, as lodges, tents, trailheads and other park locations become just another place to fiddle with electronic devices.”

Read the NPHA plans

View NPHA effort to set national park policy

Look at spread of cell towers through the national park system

Compare the planning process at Yellowstone National Park

Please contact the Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior, preferably by email or phone, since postal envelopes are still irradiated and delayed.

          Email to Peggy O’Dell, Deputy Director, Operations
          Email to Jon Jarvis, Director
          National Park Service main phone:   202-208-3818

          Email to Ken Salazar, Secretary
          Secretary’s phone:   202-208-7351

          Online Feedback Form here

U.S. Mail address for both National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior:

          1849 C Street, NW
          Washington, DC  20240

5.   Articles & Links of Interest

As always, if you’re unable to open a link, it’s expired, or otherwise not working, please let me know.

YouTube video, a 15-second ad in support of protecting Greater Canyonlands, playing in New York’s Times Square on the CBS Superscreen and produced by the Grand Canyon Trust. It’s nice to see our messages go big time!

Salt Lake Tribune

          Private land in Grand Staircase trickling to BLM: Counties oppose more
          federal ownership of land, but feds also looking to sell

Article in Science on Canyonlands & chocolate

Deseret News

          BLM Colorado pulls leases next to Dinosaur National Monument

Our friend Brooke Williams writes in the Moab Sun News on The Wilderness Within

The National Wildlife Federation issued a new report today, Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis.