Newsletter Archive

Hurd Peak, John Muir Wilderness, California                                                                                        (Mike Painter)

September 27, 2013

Dear CalUWild friends—

Congress is back in session but seems to be focused only on government finance and undoing health care legislation. That means there has been little to no attention paid to the environment, let alone wilderness. So there is little to report this month on the legislative front. And there are only a couple of Action Items, so this month’s Update is relatively short.

September 28 is the 20th Annual National Public Lands Day, a day to engage in a service project. The official NLPD website is here, where you can find a listing of projects across the nation. If you feel like a last-minute outing, check it out!

As we’ve been mentioning regularly, 2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. People across the country are planning events big and small: conferences, hikes and walks, film festivals, and more. If you’d like to organize an event, or just see what’s going on, check out the Wilderness 50th website. CalUWild is one of the organizations helping to plan events across the country. It’s a great way to get involved at whatever level you like!

Administrative notes: There won’t be an Update in October, but regular publication will resume in November. And if you use Facebook, please don’t forget to like CalUWild’s page.

Best wishes,

1.   San Rafael Swell Leasing Plans Draw Protests
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Oppose Raising Shasta Dam
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: September 30
          (ACTION ITEM)

3.   Fish & Wildlife Service Hearing in Sacramento
          On Delisting Gray Wolves in the Lower 48
          October 2
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   Appeals Court Rules against Oyster Farm Injunction

5.   Links to Articles of Interest


1.   San Rafael Swell Leasing Plans Draw Protests
          (ACTION ITEM)

In last month’s Update we reported that the Bureau of Land Management was offering an oil & gas lease sale for eastern Utah in November. It will include nearly 80,000 acres in the San Rafael Swell. The Swell is one of the jewels of the Utah landscape.

Reaction against the proposal has been heated, coming from many quarters: citizens, conservationists, and the outdoor industry. On September 15, more than 200 people turned out for a rally in Salt Lake City to protest in front of the BLM’s state offices.

Unless the BLM withdraws the proposal, it can expect that more and more people will speak out against the sale.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has set up an auto-comment page where you can send a message to BLM opposing the lease plans. Please use your own words to the extent possible.

Or you can send your own letter or email directly to the State Director. Use the SUWA letter as a guide. Talk about your own experience in the Swell.

Mr. Juan Palma
Utah State Director
440 West 200 South, Suite 500
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101-1345

Email:    utsomail [at] blm [dot] gov

We’ll keep following the story and let you know how it proceeds.

2.   Oppose Raising Shasta Dam
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: September 30
          (ACTION ITEM)

Sorry for the short deadline on this comment period.

The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing to raise Shasta Dam in the mountains at the north end of the Sacramento Valley. The proposal has many negative effects, and we urge the Bureau to reject the proposal and change the way it manages the existing reservoir to benefit fish, wildlife and preserve Native American sites.

The following alert comes from the California Wilderness Coalition. Since CalUWild generally doesn’t provide sample letters, the talking points are extracted from CWC’s original alert. Please use your own words, and if you’ve visited Shasta Lake or any of the other affected areas, please mention that in your comments. Thanks!


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public comments on a proposed raise of Shasta Dam and expansion of its reservoir that would flood segments of the McCloud and upper Sacramento Rivers. The agency has released for public review and comment the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation (SLWRI) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The public has until Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 to submit comments via email or in writing. Overall, the proposed project will seriously impact thousands of acres of public land that provide outstanding recreational opportunities and support sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife.

The Bureau is examining up to an 18.5-foot raise of Shasta Dam that would periodically flood nearly 1.5 miles of the McCloud and upper Sacramento Rivers. Both streams were identified by the Forest Service as potential National Wild & Scenic Rivers and the McCloud is protected under state law from dams and reservoirs. At stake are the rivers’ nationally significant wild trout fisheries, as well as outstandingly remarkable scenic, geological, and Native American cultural values (particularly for the McCloud).

The project will drown thousands of acres of the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, which is managed by the Forest Service for public recreation and wildlife. These public lands harbor dozens of sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the proposed expanded reservoir will “result in the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat” for eight threatened and endangered species, including the Shasta salamander.

Raising the dam will also modify flows downstream in the lower Sacramento River, with potentially significant impacts on the river’s public lands, riparian ecosystem, and wildlife. Modified flows could harm a 20-mile segment of the waterway upstream of Red Bluff determined eligible for Wild & Scenic River protection by the BLM. These BLM lands have been proposed for National Recreation Area designation in previous sessions of Congress. Flow modifications could also harm the 10,000 acre Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge and more than 3,700 acres of State Wildlife Areas along the river between Red Bluff and Colusa. The project will also further reduce fresh water flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, increasing the mortality of the Delta’s endangered fish.

In a brazen and cynical attempt to justify this destructive and expensive project, the Bureau claims that the dam raise and expanded reservoir, which will cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars, will provide needed cold water for endangered salmon spawning downstream of the dam. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the benefits to salmon provided by the dam raise are “negligible.” And the Bureau admits in the DEIS that every drop of additional water stored behind the raised dam will be sold to water contractors.

You can review the DEIS online. You can also download a fact sheet concerning the dam raise.

Talking points

•   Thank the Bureau for soliciting public comments regarding its proposal to raise and enlarge Shasta Dam and Reservoir.

•   Oppose raising the dam and enlarging the reservoir. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that the proposal will have “negligible benefits” for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Sacramento River.

•   Enlarging the reservoir will harm thousands of acres of public land managed for outdoor recreation and for wildlife habitat. The enlarged reservoir will drown segments of the McCloud and upper Sacramento Rivers identified by the U.S. Forest Service as eligible for National Wild & Scenic River protection. The project will violate state law protecting of the McCloud’s free flowing character and extraordinary wild trout values.

•   Enlarging the reservoir will further modify flows downstream in the Sacramento River, harming riparian and aquatic habitats and many threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species. These flow modifications will adversely affect:

— a segment of the Sacramento River upstream of Red Bluff identified by the BLM as eligible for Wild & Scenic protection and that has been proposed for National Recreation Area designation in previous sessions of Congress.

—the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge and State Wildlife Areas along the river between Red Bluff and Colusa.

—endangered fish, by increasing their risk of being killed by state and federal water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

•   Several sensitive, threatened, and endangered plants and animals will be affected, including the Shasta salamander.

•   The dam raise will require the expensive removal or relocation of dozens of bridges, roads, and other structures, and will likely cost taxpayers more than 1.1 billion dollars.

•   It will also drown the remaining homeland of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe, including traditional cultural sites on the McCloud River still in use today.

•   The Bureau should adopt a “no-dam raise” alternative that restores salmon spawning and rearing habitat, improves fish passage, increases minimum flows, screens existing water diversions, and modifies the current operation of the reservoir to increase cold water storage for fisheries, as recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

•   The proposed raise and enlargement of Shasta Dam and Reservoir will benefit water contractors more than it does endangered fish, public trust values, or U.S. taxpayers.

•   Please discontinue this unwise project and take steps immediately to better operate the dam to benefit fish and the public lands and sensitive ecosystems along the Sacramento River.

Send comments to:

Ms. Katrina Chow
SLWRI Project Manager
Bureau of Reclamation Planning Division
2800 Cottage Way
Sacramento, CA 95825-1893

Email:   BOR-MPR-SLWRI [at] usbr [dot] gov
Fax: (916) 978-5094

Please send Sen. Barbara Boxer a copy of your comments here.

Please also send Sen. Dianne Feinstein a copy of your comments here.

Thank you for taking action to help stop the Shasta Dam Raise!

For more information concerning this issue, please contact Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Consultant for the California Wilderness Coalition and Friends of the River, phone: (916) 442-3155 x221, email: sevans [at] friendsoftheriver [dot] org.

3.   Fish & Wildlife Service Hearing in Sacramento
          On Delisting Gray Wolves in the Lower 48
          October 2, 6 p.m.
          (ACTION ITEM)

We reported several time over the last two years on the lone gray wolf from Oregon that stayed in California until March of this year. Though he has gone back to his home state, wolves continue to be a topic of controversy across the country. The Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed removing most wolf populations in the Lower 48 States from the Endangered Species List.

The FWS is holding three hearings around the country to allow for public testimony. Interested persons can also submit comments online.

One of the hearings will be held in Sacramento next week:

Wednesday, October 2
Clarion Hotel
1401 Arden Way
6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Defenders of Wildlife is hosting a pre-hearing event beginning at 3:30 p.m. for people who want to learn more about the issue and who might wish to testify at the hearing. If you’re interested, please check out the details on this page and RSVP.

Similar hearings will be held in Washington, DC on September 30 and in Albuquerque, NM on October 4.

Information about the proposed rules, details of the hearings, and links to submit comments can be found on FWS’s website here.

The deadline for submitting comments is October 28.

4.   Appeals Court Rules against Oyster Farm Injunction

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company suffered another setback earlier this month in its quest to remain open. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco turned down the company’s appeal requesting an injunction that would have allowed the company to operate while its case proceeds. The court, in a 2-1 decision, said it had no jurisdiction to rule on then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision not to renew the oyster company’s lease, since that decision was completely discretionary, and there was no evidence that Mr. Salazar had abused that discretion. The court further said that it was unlikely that the oyster company would prevail in its case, so the injunction was denied.

Kevin Lunny, the owner of Drakes Bay Oysters, has said he will petition for a rehearing en banc (before an 11-member panel of the court).

You may read the Oyster Farm ruling online here.

5.   Links to Articles of Interest

New York Times articles:

Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof on public lands: Beauty and the Beasts

National Parks Try to Appeal to Minorities

The Sunday Magazine on wildfire

National Parks Traveler analysis of tourism income on federal lands in Utah

As always, if you ever have questions, suggestions, critiques, or wish to unsubscribe, all you have to do is send an email. For information on making a contribution to CalUWild, click here.