Newsletter Archive

Boundary Peak, White Mountains, Nevada                                                                                        (Mike Painter)

January 31, 2014

Dear CalUWild friends—

Most of this Update was written last week, so we’ll still call it January’s. It contains a couple of action items. I’ve also included quite a bit of detail about some of the legislation and policy, particularly in Items 1 and 3, because I think it is important for advocates to be reminded once in a while about the many considerations involved. I don’t think it should be too overwhelming, though.

Two California congressmen, George Miller (D-11) and Henry Waxman (D-33), announced this month that they will retire at the end of their current terms. Rep. Miller represents the Martinez area and first came to Congress in 1975. He served as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee from 1991-94. Rep. Waxman also came to Congress in 1975, representing parts of Los Angeles. He was chairman of both the House Energy & Commerce and the Oversight and Government Reform committees. Both representatives have been long and stalwart supporters of wilderness, public lands, and the environment in general. They will both be missed, and we wish them well.

Many thanks to everyone who sent in their annual contributions during our recent membership appeal. If you didn’t, though, it’s not too late! Full details may be found here.

As always, thanks for your interest and support,

1.   State of the Union, the Administration & Congress
          (ACTION ITEMS)

2.   Annual SF Bay Pacific Flyway Festival
          Returns to Vallejo
          February 7-9
          (ACTION ITEM: Attend!)

3.   Wilderness Bills Pass Natural Resources Committee
          (Some with Controversial Amendments)
4.   Lake Mead NRA Preparing Wilderness Plan
          COMMENT DEADLINE: March 23, 2014
          (ACTION ITEM)

5.   Conservation Alliance Job Listing

6.   Links of Interest


1.   State of the Union, the Administration & Congress
          (ACTION ITEMS)

Pres. Obama finally mentioned public lands in a speech!

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday he said: “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” He provided no further details, but coupled with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s comment last October-that if Congress wouldn’t act, the administration would (see CalUWild’s November Update)-it is a sign that some monument designations might be forthcoming under the Antiquities Act.

Possibilities include Greater Canyonlands in Utah, the Organ Mountains in New Mexico, as well as several in the Mojave Desert that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has promoted. In fact, Secty. Jewell visited the Organ Mountains, outside Las Cruces, New Mexico, the week before last. An Organ Mountains National Monument has been the subject of an extended citizens campaign and legislation introduced in both the House and Senate (currently H.R.995 and S.1805, respectively).

Please contact the White House to thank the President for mentioning land protection in his State of the Union Address, and urge him to follow through on his words.

You may comment at:

          phone:   202-456-1111;   or on the
          White House Online Comment Form

Or you might consider sending a wilderness postcard to him at:

          The White House
          1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
          Washington, DC 20500

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance posted an online petition to the President, asking for protection for Greater Canyonlands, which I encourage you to sign in addition.

That single sentence in the speech, however, set off alarm bells for Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands & Environmental Regulation. He was quoted as saying:

We need to look no further than Kane and Garfield County, Utah to see how damaging it can be to communities when the President comes in and locks up land as a national monument. Communities across the West live in constant fear of unilateral monument declarations. This is unfair and undemocratic, and I urge the President to abandon these scare tactics and work collaboratively with Congress. Just today it was Democrats who voted against creating new land protections, specifically new wilderness areas, so we see that this has nothing to do with bipartisan policies about public lands, and everything to do with capitulating to the pressures from special interest groups to lock up land by executive order.

The facts, however, paint a different picture. The economy of those counties has generally received a boost from the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, though it has been slow in coming. (See How the West Was Reinvented in Item 6 below).) And while communities may live in fear of monuments, the incessant railing against the federal government by some conservative politicians is the contributing factor to it. Finally, the Democrats good reason to vote against the bills, because they had objectionable amendments added to them that would have set bad precedents (see Item 2, below). A preference for executive orders entered nowhere into the picture.

The week before the State of the Union address, 109 House Democrats sent a letter to Secty. Jewell urging her to use the Antiquities Act to protect worthy public lands. The letter pointed out:

1)   the number of land protection bills introduced in the House (37);
2)   the small number of bills discussed in hearings (8);
3)   only one of which has passed the House -the California Stornetta Public Lands bill introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2); and
4)   the impossibility of bills moving through Congress, especially with the limited number of working days scheduled (as it’s an election year).

You may read the letter here.

The following California representatives signed the letter:

Jared Huffman (D-2)
Mike Thompson (D-5)
Doris Matsui (D-6)
Jerry McNerney (D-9)
George Miller (D-11)
Barbara Lee (D-13)
Jackie Speier (D-14)
Jim Costa (D-16)
Mike Honda (D-17)
Anna Eshoo (D-18)
Zoe Lofgren (D-19)
Sam Farr (D-20)
Lois Capps (D-24)
Julia Brownley (D-26)
Judy Chu (D-27)
Adam Schiff (D-28)
Tony Cardenas (D-29)
Grace F. Napolitano (D-32)
Henry A. Waxman (D-33)
Lucille Royball-Allard (D-40)
Maxine Waters (D-43)
Alan Lowenthal (D-47)
Scott Peters (D-52)

If you live in one of their districts, please call their office and thank them for signing. Contact information may be found on the House website.

The Center for Western Priorities also called on Secty. Jewell to turn her “words into action” when it released a paper this month outlining some of the notable initiatives undertaken by previous secretaries (of both parties-conservation used to be a non-partisan endeavor) and making recommendations for 2014 in the following areas:

          • Protect Land with High Recreational, Cultural, and Ecological Values
          • Ensure Oil and Gas Development is Done Responsibly
          • Address Climate Change
          • Mitigate Development Impacts and Manage Public Lands at a Landscape Scale
          • Harness America’s Great Outdoors as an Economic Engine

The paper is short (8 pages, not including references) and is worth reading to see some of the current proposals that the broader conservation community is working on, as well as the many issues over which the Interior Department has jurisdiction. You may read it here.

Finally, for thoughts on what Pres. Obama’s speech might mean for energy and public lands, there was this post by Chris Clarke.

2.   Annual SF Bay Pacific Flyway Festival
          Returns to Vallejo
          February 7-9
          (ACTION ITEM: Attend!)

The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act gets an early kickoff in the Bay Area next weekend with the 18th Annual San Francisco Bay Pacific Flyway Festival, a celebration of the importance of the Bay and its protected areas to our communities and to our wildlife.

Birdwatching is one of America’s most popular outdoor activities, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is one of the four agencies with jurisdiction over designated wilderness. Although there is no FWS wilderness in the Bay Area (other than the Farallon Islands, which are closed to the public), the organizers of the festival are highlighting the Wilderness Act’s 50th Anniversary in this year’s celebration. Exposure to nature in one’s own backyard is an excellent precursor to a love of wilderness, so events and organizations such as this are worth supporting.

Festival events include walks at various wildlife refuges around the North Bay, as well as outings and events at Mare Island, an old naval shipyard, that explore its natural areas and history.

For more information, including a full schedule, go to the Festival website.

3.   Wilderness Bills Pass Natural Resources Committee
          (Some with Controversial Amendments)

On January 28, the House Natural Resources approved several wilderness bills.

One passed unanimously: H.R.163, which would designate approximately 32,500 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as wilderness. (We included a photo in our July 2013 Update). The bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI), who is a member of the Natural Resources Committee.

Two bills for Nevada, establishing the Wovoka and the Pine Forest Range wildernesses (H.R.696 & H.R.433, respectively), were combined and subject to highly objectionable amendments by subcommittee chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). The bills passed by a vote of 29-14, with five Democrats voting with the majority. Three of them were from California: Jim Costa (D-16), Tony Cardenas (D-29), and Raul Ruiz (D-36).

The original bills were the result of processes undertaken by local communities and had strong local support, so it is ironic that Rep. Bishop felt it necessary to introduce the amendments that he did, because he claims to be a supporter of such locally developed proposals. (The same thing happened with the Pinnacles National Monument-to-Park upgrade legislation, which had its wilderness component stripped out despite widespread local support and no opposition.)

The Wilderness Society sent a letter to the Committee outlining the amendments and its objections to them. It’s worth including extended excerpts here to give some background on what considerations go into crafting wilderness legislation and also to show how far wilderness opponents will go to stop wilderness protections. Among the amendments were ones that would:

prohibit the closure of any road that is “adjacent to, in or near” the proposed wilderness unless another road is simultaneously opened. This provision could threaten public safety or natural resources by placing arbitrary and unjustifiable restrictions on the Secretary of the Interior’s ability to manage public roads.
prohibit the United States from acquiring inholdings from willing sellers within the proposed wilderness areas. Instead, unlike all other inholders within public lands, owners of private inholdings in these two wilderness areas could only convey their land to the United States by donation or exchange. This provision unfairly and unconstitutionally limits the property rights of private landowners by inhibiting their ability to willingly sell their land to a willing buyer. Such a limitation will make it more difficult to acquire inholdings from willing sellers within wilderness areas.
exempt all wildfire management activities, including forest thinning and other presuppression activities, from the Wilderness Act in the proposed Pine Forest Range wilderness. The Wilderness Act already provides authority to address wildfires, insects, and disease in section 4(d)(1) and wildfire management, including presuppression where appropriate, are permissible in accordance with The Wilderness Act. However, these activities are to be carried out within the Wilderness Act’s overall framework of wilderness management, which includes requirements that wilderness areas be managed to preserve their wilderness character.
prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from ever studying specified lands adjacent to the proposed Pine Forest Range Wilderness for its values as wilderness or an area of critical environmental concern. Such a provision, never before included in wilderness legislation, would unduly limit the Secretary’s [discretion] to conserve important natural resources after considering public input. Standard release language, as was included in the introduced version of H.R. 433, is adequate to release the lands adjacent to the proposed Pine Forest Range Wilderness for multiple use activities in accordance with the Federal Land Management and Policy Act, while preserving Secretarial discretion to make informed decisions about the management of these lands.
prohibit emergency hunting closures that are necessary for national security, public safety, or resource conservation from lasting longer than one year. Such an arbitrary limitation may prevent land managers from effectively protecting national security, public safety, or natural resources in the event that a longer closure period is necessary.
prohibit the Secretary of Agriculture (sic) from prohibiting motorized vehicles where they are allowed as of the date of enactment, and prohibit the Secretary from closing any road “in or near” the proposed Wovoka Wilderness and withdrawal area without simultaneously opening another road. … [T]his section unduly limits the Secretary’s discretion to manage roads, thus jeopardizing public safety and natural resources.

The letter concluded by stating:

None of these egregious provisions are included in the introduced versions of the Pine Forest or Lyon County legislation and their inclusion in the amendment in a nature of a substitute are unnecessary and deleterious. In order to fulfill the agreement supported by the local communities, stakeholders and members of Congress who introduced the legislation, preserve the integrity of the National Wilderness Preservation System, protect public safety and safeguard natural resources, The Wilderness Society urges the Committee to revise these provisions prior to final consideration of H.R. 433.

These amendments can only be classified as poison pills, and we hope that Sen. Harry Reid (D), who is from Nevada, will remove them when the Senate takes up the legislation.

4.   Lake Mead NRA Preparing Wilderness Plan
          COMMENT DEADLINE: March 23, 2014
          (ACTION ITEM)

The National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management have issued a joint draft Wilderness Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the eight wilderness areas in and around Lake Mead National Recreation Area, east of Las Vegas. We haven’t reviewed the draft or received any talking points regarding it, so this is simply an announcement of its availability and the schedule of upcoming public meetings. We’ll share any information in our next Update.

Click on the links here to download (18 MB PDF) a copy of the plan and EIS, or to comment on it.

The following comes from the agencies’ announcement:

The interagency planning team has developed a set of three management alternatives that describe how each wilderness area will be managed for its resources, visitor experience and operations. Alternative B is the NPS and BLM preferred alternative, focusing on providing opportunities for access into the areas and guidance for climbing, while still protecting the character of the wilderness areas. The comments and suggestions that many of you have provided earlier were considered when developing the preferred alternative presented in this plan.

Please look at this draft and provide us your comments by March 23, 2014. You can submit your comments by any one of the following ways:

1)   Attend one of our public meetings:

          Tuesday, February 11th
          4:00 – 6:00 PM (PST)
          James Gibson Library
          100 W Lake Mead Pkwy
          Henderson, Nevada

          Wednesday, February 12th
          4:00 – 6:00 PM (PST)
          Boulder City Library
          701 Adams Blvd
          Boulder City, Nevada

          Thursday, February 13th
          4:00 – 6:00 PM (MST) 3:00-5:00 (PST)
          Mohave Community College
          Room 210
          3400 Highway 95
          Bullhead City, Arizona

2)   Mail comments to:

          Greg Jarvis, Planning
          Denver Service Center – National Park Service
          12795 W. Alameda Parkway
          Lakewood, CO 80228

3)   Submit comments on the Internet at the NPS planning website: [The link mentioned above is more direct-Mike]

We welcome your continued participation in this important effort, and look forward to hearing from you.

William K. Dickinson, Superintendent Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Timothy Smith, District Manager Southern Nevada District Office

Contact Information

Greg Jarvis, Project Manager, National Park Service, 12795 W Alameda Parkway, Denver, CO 80225 (303-969-2263)


Randy Kyes, Wilderness Planner, Bureau of Land Management, 4701 North Torrey Pines, Las Vegas, NV 89130 (702-515-5287)

5.   Conservation Alliance Job Listing

We just received the following from the Conservation Alliance:

The Conservation Alliance is hiring a full-time Program Manager to add to our existing team. We are a group of 185+ outdoor industry companies that work together to support conservation efforts throughout North America.

Our new Program Manager will focus on managing our grant program, engaging our member companies in conservation efforts, and handling much of our communications and outreach.

We’re looking for someone with a strong conservation background who has some experience with outdoor industry and/or has a passion for outdoor recreation. The position will be based in Bend, Oregon.

Please see the job description here.

Feel free to forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested.

6.   Links of Interest

If a link is broken or otherwise inaccessible, please send me an email.

Redrock Storyscapes, a High Country News review of Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names by Steve Allen, noted guidebook author and CalUWild Advisory Board Member. It was a mammoth undertaking, and according to its description, the two-volume set “documents more than 4,000 place name derivations and place name changes over time. It also includes stories and early descriptions about those places, often told by the first explorers or the early pioneers who settled there.” Order it from your local bookseller or Amazon.

New York Times

Sapped Colorado River Forces Reckoning
A Symbol of the Range Returns Home, looking at bighorn sheep population restoration
Followup on a recent case of vandalism by Boy Scout leaders at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park

Washington Monthly

How the West Was Reinvented

As always, if you ever have questions, suggestions, critiques, or wish to change your e-mail address or unsubscribe, all you have to do is send an email. For information on making a contribution to CalUWild, click here. “Like” CalUWild on Facebook.