Newsletter Archive

DSC_0838c3Big Flat with Drilling Rig, Utah                                                                                                     (Mike Painter)

November 25, 2014

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters—

Thanksgiving is here once more, so it’s time to look around and take stock of things.

CalUWild is celebrating its 17th anniversary this month, so we’re grateful to all the people who have supported us in various ways over the years. We thank everyone who takes the time every month to read the Update for information on the latest developments regarding wilderness and other public lands issues in the West. We thank those who use that information to write to government officials-whether in the land management agencies, Congress, or the White House-to influence decisions and better protect our natural resources. Finally, we’re grateful for the people and foundations who have given CalUWild support over the years, be it financial, equipment, or advice.

And personally, I’m thankful for the many people I’ve met and gotten to know over these years. It’s wonderful to work with such a dedicated and enthusiastic group, in whatever capacity it might be.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families and friends,


1.   Last Chance in the 113th Congress
          For Red Rock Wilderness Act Cosponsorship
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   SUWA and Sierra Club Appeal BLM’s Approval
          Of Gas Pipeline near Canyonlands National Park

3.   Sen. Feinstein Considering Monument Requests for the Mojave
4.   “Threatened” Species Protection for the Fisher
          DEADLINE: January 5, 2015
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Christmas Bird Count for Kids

6.   Appeals Court Dismisses Pre-Emptive Lawsuit by Shell Oil
          Against Conservation Organizations

7.   Park Service Confirms Wolf Sighting on North Rim of Grand Canyon

8.   BLM Reaches Deal on Roan Plateau

9.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Last Chance For Red Rock Wilderness Act Cosponsorship
          In the 113th Congress
          (ACTION ITEM)

The current cosponsor count stands at 99 in the House and 14 in the Senate. With the 114th Congress starting in January, it’s worth making one more push to get a few more House cosponsors onto the Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R. 1630). Here’s the list of current California cosponsors:

Jared Huffman (D-02)
Mike Thompson (D-05)
Doris Matsui (D-06)
Jerry McNerney (D-9)
George Miller (D-11)
Barbara Lee (D-13)
Jackie Speier (D-14)
Mike Honda (D-17)
Anna Eshoo (D-18)
Zoe Lofgren (D-19)
Lois Capps (D-24)
Judy Chu (D-27)
Adam Schiff (D-28)
Tony Cárdenas (D-29)
Grace Napolitano (D-32)
Henry Waxman (D-33)
Linda Sánchez (D-38)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-40)
Alan Lowenthal (D-47)
Susan Davis (D-53)

Barbara Boxer (D)

If your representative is on the list, please thank him or her by phone or through the office’s website. Also ask that they look out for the bill’s reintroduction in the 114th Congress and let them know that you hope they’ll cosponsor again.

If your representative is not on the list, please contact the office by phone or through the office’s website and ask that they cosponsor before the end of this Congress. They should contact Rep. Rush Holt’s office to do so.

The following representatives are still potential cosponsors from California:

Sam Farr (D-20)
Julia Brownley (D-26)
Brad Sherman (D-30)
Xavier Becerra (D-34)
Raul Ruiz (D-36)
Karen Bass (D-37)
Mark Takano (D-41)
Loretta Sanchez (D-46)

If you’re not from California, a complete list of House and Senate cosponsors may be found here.

Contact information for all representatives may be found by going to your representative’s pages on the House website.

2.   SUWA and Sierra Club Appeal BLM’s Approval
          Of Gas Pipeline near Canyonlands National Park

The last couple of years have seen a rapid expansion of oil and gas development near Moab, on Big Flat, just outside the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Leases covering much of the area have been sold by the BLM and well sites are appearing. Many oil wells simply flare (burn) off the natural gas they produce, wasting a useable resource. The energy company, Fidelity Exploration, was required by Utah state regulators to install a pipeline to collect the gas from its wells.

In a follow-up project the company wants to install close to 20 additional lines going to new wells, and the BLM approved the proposal last month. An environmental analysis of the two parts of the project together, however, was never undertaken. Because of this piecemeal approach, the combined effects of the full development have never been looked at. Furthermore, BLM is expecting another 50 or so wells to be drilled in coming years in the area, which receives more than 500,000 visitors a year.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Sierra Club filed an appeal of the decision with Utah State Director Juan Palma, asking that a full Environmental Impact Statement be completed for development in the Big Flat area.

This is the scale of resource extraction that a Greater Canyonlands National Monument designation would protect against. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.

3.   Sen. Feinstein Considering Monument Requests for the Mojave

In our January 2010 and January 2011 Updates, we reported on legislation authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) that would create two national monuments in southern California.

The legislation has gone nowhere in Congress. Earlier this month, Sen. Feinstein announced plans to reintroduce the legislation in the next (114th) Congress. At the same time, she expressed frustration with the lack of progress and said that if nothing changes in the next 12 months, she will request Pres. Obama to designate the two monuments, using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

The Mojave Trails National Monument would protect old railroad property and federal land along old Route 66 between Needles and Ludlow, almost 105 miles long and covering more than 900,000 acres. The proposed Sand to Snow monument is located between San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park east of Riverside.

Sen. Feinstein’s proposed bill would also add almost 40,000 acres to Death Valley National Park, 30,000 to the Mojave National Preserve, and 4,500 to Joshua Tree National Park. Those additions could not be accomplished, however, by presidential proclamation, as only Congress has authority over national park boundaries. Her legislation would also establish a National Scenic Area in the Alabama Hills in Inyo County.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-27) took the same approach in securing the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument last month, having introduced unsuccessful legislation. Pres. Obama has indicated he will use his authority where he can, and has voiced similar frustration with congressional inaction. Coupled with the fact that presidents often focus on their “legacy” in their last two years (and national monuments generally are permanent) there’s a good chance Pres. Obama would proceed if asked.

We shall see.

4.   “Threatened” Species Protection for the Fisher
          DEADLINE: January 5, 2015
           (ACTION ITEM)

Since a full complement of animal species is fundamental to the definition of wilderness, from time to time we include relevant news and information on wildlife issues. The following is adapted from an alert we received from our friends at Forests Forever.

Logging will destroy fisher habitat unless the public acts!

Once again the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed listing the Pacific fisher (Pekania pennant) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Not coincidentally, timber companies in California are girding for large-scale logging operations in fisher habitat.

Their intention is to get out the cut before any critical habitat designations restrict logging!

Please urge the FWS to act promptly in listing the fisher as threatened. Your comments can make all the difference! Because the FWS listing is not yet final-with public comments still coming into the agency through Jan. 5, 2015- timber companies are gearing up to log apace, with plans for operations in ranges known to be inhabited by fishers.

For instance, not far from Castle Crags State Park, west of I-5 near Dunsmuir, Calif., a company is planning some 450 acres of clearcuts in forests of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, white fir, incense cedar and sugar pine: prime fisher country.

The fisher is a member of the weasel family and is highly dependent on old-growth forests. Adults weigh about 10 pounds and are about three feet long. This scrappy little animal is the only one known to regularly prey on porcupine.

The FWS has previously put off listing the fisher, citing other priorities for its resources, even though its research concludes the animal is in dire need of protection. The public must come to the fisher’s rescue!

Here are a few talking points (but please use your own words):

– On both private and federal lands, habitat loss has led to the likely extirpation of the fisher in all but a few remaining areas. Listing the species as threatened will help preserve the habitat needed for the fisher to make a comeback.

– Well-documented scientific studies indicate that the logging of late-successional forests-the preferred habitat of the Pacific fisher-is the chief culprit behind the species’ steep decline. Logging activities in the Sierra Nevada have stripped large portions of the landscape of the large trees, snags, downed logs, and multi-layered canopies that shelter the animal.

– Other activities, most recently including illegal backwoods marijuana grows, have led to a steep fisher decline.

– Logging throughout the Sierra Nevada has destroyed specific fisher habitats while favoring “generalist” species such as gray fox and striped skunk that displace and compete with the fisher.

To comment online, click here.

To comment by U.S. mail, send to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2014-0041
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041-3803

DEADLINE: January 5, 2015

5.   Christmas Bird Count for Kids

There’s a lot of talk these days about how to get children away from their “devices” and out into Nature. One imaginative way we’ve recently become aware of is the Christmas Bird Count for Kids, a project begun by Sonoma Birding. They recently sent out the following announcement:

2014-15 Christmas Bird Counts for Kids (Northern CA)

The “Christmas Bird Counts for Kids” established in Sonoma California in 2007, is now offered in over 100 locations across the US & Canada in Spanish, French, and English. The community-based holiday event is geared to families and youngsters, ages 8-16.The goal is to encourage kids to enjoy nature over the holiday season. Learn more about the Northern California CBC4Kids offerings and how to start your own community event at Sonoma Birding.

Northern California Events

Sun. Dec. 7, 2014 (8:30am -1:30PM)
Napa County CBC4Kids (Napa)

Sun. Dec 8th, 2014 (9:00 – 1:00pm)
Ft. Ross State Park CBC4Kids (Jenner)

Sat. Dec. 13, 2014 (8:30am – 1:00pm)
Mayacamas CBC4Kids (Santa Rosa)

Thurs. Jan. 2nd, 2015 (9:00am – 1pm)
Madrone Audubon CBC4Kids (Petaluma)

Sat. Jan 10, 2015 (10am-3pm.)
Point Reyes CBC4Kids (Pt. Reyes National Seashore)

Sat. January 10, 2015 (4th Annual)
Sacramento Audubon CBC4Kids (Carmichael)

Sun. Jan 18th, 2015 (9:00am – 1:00pm)
Sonoma Valley CBC4Kids (Sonoma)

For more details, including contact information and links to sign up for individual events, click here.

6.   Appeals Court Dismisses Pre-Emptive Lawsuit by Shell Oil
          Against Conservation Organizations

We reported in our March 2012 Update (Item 9) that Shell Oil had a filed a lawsuit against a slew of conservation organizations, seeking to prevent them from challenging its drilling plans in the Chukchi Sea, above the Bering Strait in Alaska.

Our comment at the time-“Lawsuits of this kind are rarely successful, because until a challenge is actually filed, there is nothing to contest.”-was borne out this month when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw the lawsuit out. The court ruled that Shell had no basis for suing; since the BLM had approved Shell’s drilling plans, Shell was not “aggrieved” in any way. Nor did the company have any legal obligations to the organizations under the Administrative Procedures Act, the law that those organizations would use to sue if they decided to.

The Court was ruling on an appeal by the conservation groups of the lower court’s refusal to dismiss the original lawsuit and granting of summary judgment to Shell. The lawsuit seemed like a pretty clear attempt to intimidate the organizations and would have set a very bad precedent had it been successful.

7.   Park Service Confirms Wolf Sighting on North Rim of Grand Canyon

Last month, we mentioned that it was likely that a wolf had been spotted on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. National Parks Traveler confirmed last week that the animal was a female wolf, through DNA analysis of a scat sample. Researchers will next try to determine where the wolf might have come from by comparing the DNA to other samples from known individuals.

It appears that the wolf traveled over 450 miles from the Northern Rockies, most likely in search of a mate. She is now protected under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves were nearly extinct in the early 1990s in the Lower 48, and a restoration program was begun in Yellowstone National Park in 1995. There are now about 5,500 wolves, but their territory is only about 36% of what it originally was, according to Defenders of Wildlife.

As we recently saw with the wolf that visited California for a while and now has a family in Oregon, they are slowly expanding their range naturally. Broad public education efforts will still be needed to reverse centuries of misinformation and antipathy toward the species if they are to live widely in their original habitat.

It will be interesting to see how the story develops.

8.   BLM Reaches Deal on Roan Plateau

The Roan Plateau in western Colorado, just north of the Colorado River, is one of the Intermountain West’s richest wildlife areas, but it also has bountiful oil & gas reserves that have been the subject of controversy and litigation for many years. (For background on the issue, see Item 7 in our February 2005 Update and Item 6 in our July 2012 Update.)

Last Friday, the BLM and the plaintiffs, which included The Wilderness Society, Environment Colorado, the Wilderness Workshop, Sierra Club, NRDC, hunter and angler groups, and others, announced a settlement in the case. According to Earthjustice, the lawyers for the groups, under the settlement the BLM “would cancel the majority of oil and gas leases on ecologically sensitive top of the Roan Plateau. In addition, the BLM will consider a management plan alternative that would allow for some limited development on remaining leases, precludes new leasing on top of plateau for the life of the plan, and conserves important big game habitat at the base of the Roan.”

A fact sheet regarding the settlement is online here and a map of the area here.

Congratulations to all involved.

9.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

If a link is broken or otherwise inaccessible, please send me an email, and I’ll fix it or send you a PDF copy. Also, just as a reminder: Inclusion of an article in this section does not necessarily imply agreement with its viewpoint.

A New York Times article on climate change and its effect on Glacier National Park

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Nevada rancher Bundy waits as FBI probes

A Salt Lake Tribune article on The Story of My Heart, a 19th-Century book discovered and republished by CalUWild Advisory Board member Terry Tempest Williams and Brooke Williams. Adventure Journal published an interview with both of them about the book.

Three writers write in Audubon Magazine about a Spring 2014 visit to the Galapagos Islands:

Terry Tempest Williams

Rick Bass

Doug Peacock

From the Los Angeles Times

Will renewable energy ruin an ‘irreplaceable’ Mojave desert oasis?

John Muir’s legacy questioned as centennial of his death nears

Video Link

Episode 7 in the Forest Service Restore series: Urban Releaf

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.