Newsletter Archive

DSC_1131c3aMono Lake from the Bodie Hills, California                                                                              (Mike Painter)

September 30, 2015

Dear CalUWild friends—

There is quite a bit of news this month in addition to a few Action Items, so I’ll dispense with the introductory comments and go straight to a couple of short news items and an announcement.

In big news for Alaska and the Arctic, Royal Dutch Shell announced it was suspending offshore operations in Alaska “for the foreseeable future.” The decision was due to various factors, including the low price of crude oil and the fact that exploratory wells turned up disappointing results. But the company also had serious problems with a rig running aground and political pressure from conservation groups and citizens, including kayak blockades in Seattle and Portland. We welcome the news and hope it is permanent.

Last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the US Fish & Wildlife Service had decided not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), at least for the next five years. As rationale, Ms. Jewell pointed to the collaborative efforts undertaken by states to implement their own protection strategies. Sage Grouse are suffering severe habitat fragmentation from energy exploration, agriculture, and housing development across the West. Some conservation groups were concerned that a listing would precipitate an all-out attack on the ESA by anti-conservation forces. Many praised the collaborative effort. Other conservation groups are concerned that the state strategies are not based on sound science and may file lawsuits. Some representatives of the oil & gas industry and Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, say that the plans go too far in limiting development.

Of course, the Sage Grouse doesn’t care about the politics or the collaboration. If ecological conditions aren’t good, its numbers will continue to dwindle. We will have to see. I’ve included links to a couple of relevant articles in Item 7, below.

And this just in as this Update was ready to be sent out: We haven’t written about it before, since it has just been a proposal, but Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) possible bill to expand the Utah Test & Training Range in the West Desert of Utah was not attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill. There were fears that it might have been, and since that is a “must pass” bill, the expansion would have gone through with it, and the President could not be expected to veto it. An expansion would likely make it more difficult to designate wilderness in the areas around the UTTR, not because of the boundaries themselves, but because the overflights might tend to detract from politicians’ support for those proposed areas. If the proposal becomes actual legislation, we’ll let you know.

Finally, our sister organization, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, is having its annual Online Auction coming up November 2-15. If you have anything you might consider contributing, especially some kind of tour or other “experience,” contributions will be gratefully accepted. Click here for full information.

Best wishes,

1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
          And CalUWild Presentation in Long Beach
          October 7
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Sen. Hatch Introduces Road Bill
          For the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

3.   House Bill Introduced Expanding Coastal National Monument
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   Opposing House Bill Proposed for the Mojave Desert
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Visions of the Wild H2O
          Downtown Vallejo
          October 15-18

6.   Land & Water Conservation Fund Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

7.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
          And CalUWild Presentation in Long Beach
          October 7
          (ACTION ITEM)

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, the citizen-proposed bill to designate BLM wilderness in Utah, has long been CalUWild’s main legislative priority. As we’ve mentioned before, California Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-47) is the lead sponsor of the bill, H.R. 2430, in the current Congress. In the Senate, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin is the lead sponsor of S. 1375. Despite Congress’s record of inaction, the campaign to build nation-wide support for the bill continues, and we’re now up to 90 cosponsors in the House and 16 in the Senate.

Among the newest House cosponsors is California Rep. Julia Brownley (D-26). If you live in her district, please call one of her offices with a message of “thank you.”

DC:   202-225-5811
Oxnard & Thousand Oaks offices:   805-379-1779

House cosponsors from California in addition to Reps. Lowenthal and Brownley are:

Jared Huffman (D-2)
Doris Matsui (D-6)
Jerry McNerney (D-9)
Mark DeSaulnier (D-11)
Barbara Lee (D-13)
Jackie Speier (D-14)
Mike Honda (D-17)
Anna Eshoo (D-18)
Zoe Lofgren (D-19)
Sam Farr (D-20)
Lois Capps (D-24)
Judy Chu (D-27)
Adam Schiff (D-28)
Tony Cárdenas (D-29)
Grace Napolitano (D-32)
Ted Lieu (D-33)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-40)

We’d still like to see the following California House members cosponsor H.R. 2430:

John Garamendi (D-3) *
Mike Thompson (D-5) *
Ami Bera (D-7)
Eric Swalwell (D-15)
Brad Sherman (D-30) *
Raul Ruiz (D-36)
Linda Sánchez (D-38) *
Mark Takano (D-41)
Maxine Waters (D-43) *
Janice Hahn (D-44)
Mimi Walters (D-45)
Loretta Sanchez (D-46) *
Juan Vargas (D-51)
Scott Peters (D-52)
Susan Davis (D-53) *

* cosponsor in a previous Congress

If your representative is on the first list, please contact them to say “thanks.” If on the second list, please asking them to become a cosponsor, which they can do by contacting Rep. Lowenthal’s office.

In particular, we would like Reps. Peters (D-52) and Davis (D-53) to sign on.

A simple phone call will do, or send a note via an online comment form. Complete contact information for California offices may be found by following the links here.

In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D) continues her longtime cosponsorship. If you haven’t already, please let her know your appreciation, too.

Phone:   202-224-3553
Other contact info

A full list of cosponsors nationwide may be found here.

As part of SUWA’s and CalUWild’s efforts to educate Californians about Utah wilderness and the Red Rock Wilderness Act, I’ll be doing a slideshow next week for the Long Beach Chapter of the Sierra Club, on Wednesday, October 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Long Beach Environmental Resources Building
2929 E. Willow St.

The program will consist of a video, narrated by Robert Redford, followed by a short slideshow, with ample time for questions and answers. If you’re in the area please join us, and pass the information along to anyone who might be interested.

2.   Sen. Hatch Introduces Road Bill
          For the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area

Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has introduced a bill, S.1783 to amend the Washington County bill of 2009, which designated some BLM wilderness in the southwest corner of the state and created the Red Cliffs NCA. The following description of the legislation comes from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Sen. Hatch’s bill would designate a northern transportation route through the Red Cliffs Conservation Area, otherwise known as the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 designated this Reserve as a National Conservation Area because of the presence of at-risk plant and wildlife species, including the Mojave Desert tortoise. A highway in the region would negatively affect the already limited habitat of those species.

The introduction of Sen. Hatch’s bill coincided with the BLM’s draft management plan for the conservation area, which did not recommend a transportation right-of-way. Hatch’s bill is based on claims that the BLM has not complied with a mandate within the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009, specifically referring to the Washington County Comprehensive Travel and Transportation Management Plan, which allows for Washington County’s growing population. The text, however, reads that a route should be considered as an “alterative,” but does not explicitly describe it as “designated.”

By honing in on this specific mandate within the Omnibus Land Management Act, Sen. Hatch is attempting to rewrite history to allow for his desired transportation route, and, in the process, is threatening habitat established through the Washington Habitat Conservation Plan of 1996, which provided land for development and land for preservation.

At this point, the bill has not yet received a hearing or any cosponsors, but we are monitoring its activity on the Hill and briefing our allies there as well.

3.   Senate & House Bills Introduced Expanding Coastal National Monument
          (ACTION ITEM)

In August, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D) introduced a bill, S. 1971, to expand the California Coastal National Monument. This month, Reps. Jared Huffman (D-2), Anna Eshoo (D-18), and Lois Capps (D-24), three of California’s most conservation-minded representatives, introduced H.R. 3565, a companion bill in the House.

The legislation would add five new areas to the monument, which was designated by Pres. Bill Clinton in 2000, stretching the entire length of California’s coastline (more than 1,100 miles) and including more than 20,000 small islands, rocks and exposed reefs.

Rep. Huffman’s office released the following descriptions of the sites to be added:

Trinidad Head in Trinidad, CA (13 acres). Trinidad Head is a rocky promontory surrounded by sea stacks in Trinidad Harbor. The area offers breathtaking ocean views of the offshore rocks and islands of the California Coastal National Monument. Trinidad Head is currently managed by BLM.

Lighthouse Ranch near Loleta, CA (8 acres). Lighthouse Ranch is located twelve miles south of Eureka and five miles northwest of Loleta, situated on Table Bluff. The site overlooks the Eel River Delta, the South Spit of Humboldt Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, occupying a site of exceptional panoramic views. Lighthouse Ranch is currently managed by BLM.

Cotoni-Coast Dairies near Davenport, CA (5,780 acres). The Cotoni-Coast Dairies are home to rare species (such as the California Red-legged Frog, the American peregrine falcon, coho salmon, and steelhead trout) and are lined with coast redwoods, six watersheds, freshwater wetlands, rolling coastal terrace grasslands, and riparian corridors flowing directly into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Cotoni-Coast Dairies are currently owned and managed by BLM.

Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area in San Luis Obispo County (20 acres). The Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area is home to the historic Piedras Blancas Light Station, first illuminated in 1875. The site is surrounded by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, rocky shoreline, and large rocks of the California Coastal National Monument. This area includes coastal vistas, estuaries, wetlands, dune fields, and a large array of marine wildlife, including harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, Bottlenose and Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Gray and Humpback Whales, and Elephant Seals. The Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area is currently co-managed by BLM and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Orange County Rocks and Islands along the coast of Orange County, CA (2 acres). A small number of geologic formations located off the coastline of Orange County in the Laguna Beach area, totaling approximately two acres, were not included within the California Coastal National Monument as they were covered by legislative withdrawals made in the 1930s intended to reserve the rocks for future lighthouses. Former Congressman John Campbell, who previously represented this area, repeatedly introduced legislation to add these rocks and outcroppings to the National Monument, as they provide important habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.

Maps for the additions may be found here.

This bill is in addition to H.R. 908, Rep. Eshoo’s California Coastal National Monument Santa Cruz Redwoods Expansion Act, which we wrote about in our February 2015 Update.

Please thank the senators and representatives for their support of the California Coastal National Monument. You can call their DC offices or click on their names for other contact information.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein:   202-224-3841
Sen. Barbara Boxer:   202-224-3553
Rep. Jared Huffman:   202-225-5161
Rep. Anna Eshoo:   202-225-8890
Rep. Lois Capps:   202-225-3601

4.   Opposing House Bill Proposed for the Mojave Desert
          (ACTION ITEM)

In our February Update we wrote about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to create two national monuments in the Mojave Desert, and last month we linked to a Los Angeles Times article reporting that, given Congress’s failure to act on the legislation, Sen. Feinstein had asked Pres. Obama use the Antiquities Act to designate the two monuments and an additional third, small one.

Last week, Rep. Paul Cook’s (R-8) office announced that he would be introducing a bill in the House that would not include some of the protective language of Sen. Feinstein’s bill, with the major difference being that Feinstein’s proposed Mojave Trails National Monument would be established as the Mojave Trails Special Management Area (SMA) instead. It would allow for some new mining claims and would expand three OHV areas by some 61,000 acres. (In contrast, Sen. Feinstein’s bill would formalize about 1,400 miles of existing OHV routes.) Finally, Rep. Cook’s proposal would prohibit the President from designating any national monuments in the SMA or ORV areas.

We believe Sen. Feinstein’s approach is far better and support her efforts, both legislatively and in her appeal to the White House.

Please contact Pres. Obama by mail, phone or webform (info below) and urge him to designate the three monuments Sen. Feinstein has proposed. The LA Times article referred to above provided this description of the three monuments:

Mojave Trails National Monument would encompass 921,000 acres of federal land and former railroad property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles, and protect wildlife corridors linking Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.

Sand to Snow National Monument, about 45 miles east of Riverside, would embrace about 135,000 acres of federal land between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The area includes roughly 24 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and Big Morongo Canyon, a birding hot spot that was designated a federal Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1982.

Castle Mountains National Monument would include a desert outback left out of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act due to an active gold mine that ceased operations in 2001. Located near the Mojave National Preserve, the area includes the historic mining town of Hart.

If you are familiar with any of the areas, please include that with your message.

Pres. Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Comment line:   202-456-1111
Online comments here


5.    Visions of the Wild H2O
          Downtown Vallejo
          October 15-18

The Second Visions of the Wild Festival will be taking place October 15-18 in Vallejo, California, and CalUWild has been once again involved in planning the event. This year’s focus is on water and watersheds. Since many upper watersheds are in wilderness and other undeveloped areas, learning about a local water supply can be an important way to learn about the value of wilderness, too.

The current schedule of films, art exhibitions, field trips, a Napa River cruise, and information booths can be found online here and the Festival flyer is on CalUWild’s website here. Information will be updated as planning progresses.

We’ll be tabling at the Farmers Market Saturday morning from 9-1, so please stop by!

6.   Land & Water Conservation Fund Expiring
          (ACTION ITEM)

We wrote in our April and June Updates about the reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s premier funding mechanism for acquiring public lands for recreation at the state and local levels, as well as for buying inholdings in national parks and wilderness areas. Despite the fact that it involves no citizen taxes-funding comes from royalties on offshore oil & gas production-and the Fund has widespread public and Congressional support, there has been no movement on either of the Senate bills (S. 338 and S. 890) to reauthorize and fund it. Likewise, nothing has happened in the House with regard to H.R. 1814, the companion bill to S. 338.

Barring a miracle, the Land & Water Conservation Fund will expire tonight at midnight, a victim of efforts to turn back the clock on environmental concerns by many in Congress.

This doesn’t mean LWCF is gone forever, but it will be more difficult to revive it, especially in its present form. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced last Friday that he would not allow the program to be renewed unless significant changes are made to it. In a press release he stated:

“Both Republicans and Democrats support the original intent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the program has drifted far from the original intent. Under my chairmanship, the status quo will be challenged. Any reauthorization of LWCF will, among other improvements, prioritize local communities as originally intended.”

“Special interests that seek to hijack LWCF to continue to expand the federal estate and divert even more monies away from localities conveniently claim the world is ending on September 30th. The only thing that expires on September 30th is the ability to accrue additional revenues into the fund, which currently has an unappropriated balance of $20 billion in taxpayer dollars. How many billions more do these special interests group need?”

Mr. Bishop didn’t say what specific changes he wanted to see, though last year that he said that it should be used to for “the education of future American energy industry workers,” among other things. And Mr. Bishop’s assertion that there are $20 billion to spend rests on shaky ground, too, since the Fund is authorized to receive $900 million per year, but has rarely been appropriated the full amount. Current funding levels run at about $300 million. It’s unlikely, given Mr. Bishop’s antipathy to conservation efforts, that unappropriated funding will ever be released. He always complains about the backlog of maintenance and other projects in our parks and public lands, but Congress has consistently cut the budget for the federal land management agencies at the same time.

Please call your representative and senators to express support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund and, if you wish, dismay at its expiration. Contact information may be found on their webpages at and, respectively.

7.   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. As always, inclusion of an item in this section does not imply agreement with the viewpoint expressed.

Forest Fires

A New York Times article on changes in landscapes brought about by very large fires

A contrasting view in the Los Angeles Times: Nature replants its own burned forests, environmentalists say

An op-ed in the Sacramento Bee: End destructive practice of logging forests after wildfires

An op-ed in Science Magazine on how fighting wildfire eats up the Forest Service budget that could be used for research


An op-ed: Escalante is on the rise, and Grand Staircase is driving it in the Salt Lake Tribune, responding to the article we linked to last month, asking if Escalante was being stifled

An article in the Deseret News about Emery County’s proposal for Rep. Bishop’s Public Land’s Initiative: Legislative trip highlights old bones, new monuments and parks

An article on National Geographic‘s website on high school students doing paleontology on Comb Ridge and elsewhere in Utah

Sage Grouse

An article in The New Yorker by CalUWild friend Jacques Leslie

An article in The Nation examining the controversy over the sage grouse

The National Park Service’s website for the Every Kid in a Park program, allowing fourth graders and their families free admission to the national parks this year

A slideshow in The Atlantic‘s In Focus photoblog: Human Impact on the Earth: Lake Powell

Video links

Episode 16 in the US Forest Service’s Restore series: Invasive Species & Restoration

Another in the National Park Service series, America’s Wilderness. This time: Land in Motion: Point Reyes Wilderness

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” and “Follow” CalUWild on Facebook.