Newsletter Archive

Canyon River Bend                                                                            (Patrick Dengate, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24″)

January 2016

Dear CalUWild friends-

January was a busy month, trying to keep up with the serious developments in Oregon and in Utah. The standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the release of Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-UT) draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI) both highlight the many philosophical, ecological, and economic issues tied up with public lands, especially in the West. There was a lot written all across the country, and I’ve provided links to quite a few representative articles and columns, below in Item 2. We hope that these events cause more citizens to take notice and speak up for their birthright as owners of public lands, which the federal government manages in trust for all of us.

In California, there appears to be movement toward Pres. Obama designating new national monuments in the Mojave Desert, in response to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D) request, made last August. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a designation might be coming soon, and the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial supporting it. Though a presidential proclamation couldn’t do everything that her legislation would, such as designate wilderness areas and add to Death Valley National Park, it would be a huge step forward. We’ll keep you posted.

It’s been a while since we included one of Pat Dengate’s paintings in the Update, but with the PLI being released and Pat completing a new painting, the timing was appropriate. Pat is a long-time supporter of Utah’s Redrock country and is one of the founders of Michigan Friends of Redrock Wilderness. You can see more of his work on his website.

Once more, many thanks to everyone who contributed to our Membership Appeal the last two months. If you haven’t, it’s never too late. Full information is here.

Many thanks, as always, for your interest and enthusiasm,

1. Rep. Rob Bishop Releases a
          Draft Public Lands Initiative
          Comments Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

2. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation
          (ACTION ITEM)

3. Sylvia McLaughlin

4. Job Listing: Great Old Broads for Wilderness

5. Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1. Rep. Rob Bishop Releases a
          Draft Public Lands Initiative
          Comments Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

Several years ago, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R) inaugurated his Public Lands Initiative (PLI), which he initially termed a “grand bargain” to resolve the wilderness and other public lands issues in much of Eastern Utah. We haven’t written much about it because the process was only open to Utahns-despite the fact that the land in question is federal, belonging to all Americans-so there wasn’t really anything anyone outside the state could do to influence it. As it turned out, there wasn’t much that anyone who cared about public land protection inside the state could do to influence it either, as shown by the Discussion Draft unveiled by Mr. Bishop and his colleague Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) in Salt Lake City on January 20th.

However, the conservation community in Utah felt it was important to take part in the process to show its good faith and to test whether a solution was truly possible. The draft PLI, however, is a grave disappointment. The Salt Lake Tribune published a list of many of the PLI’s provisions. Here is a brief discussion about just some of its aspects:

Although the proposal would set designate new wilderness of about 2.3 million acres and about 300 miles of Wild & Scenic rivers, it includes almost 400,000 acres already inside national parks and monuments and the total is about 75,000 acres less than already-existing wilderness study areas on BLM land. In addition, it would stop future inventories of BLM lands for wilderness and make ineligible for future designation WSAs not included in the bill.

Additionally, the new wilderness areas would be subject to motorized access for ranchers and others to repair or install future water supply projects, and to the use of aircraft for wildlife or game management activities by state agencies. The draft bill removes air quality protections for wilderness lands designated inside national parks. (That’s important because it would allow oil & gas operations to exist much closer to park boundaries without concern for the air pollution they generate.)

The proposal would also confer the right of way to thousands of miles of “routes” claimed over the years by the counties under R.S. 2477, the Civil War-era law encouraging westward expansion, but repealed in 1976. (The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Rep. Chaffetz had told its editorial board in 2014 that the road claims would not be a part of the PLI.) Rep. Bishop would also like to see land exchanges, whereby the state would take over lands of much higher value than the federal government would receive in return. There are outright giveaways of federal lands as well.

The PLI leaves out the Native American tribes’ proposal for a Bears Ear National Monument, substituting a national conservation area in its stead. That would cover only about 2/3 of the monument proposal, leaving out areas such as White Canyon and would set up a joint management council with San Juan County, leaving out the public at large.

Even before the draft was released, the tribes had become so disillusioned with the process that on December 31 they withdrew their support for the entire PLI, sending a blunt letter to Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz. The tribes said that both congressmen and the San Juan County Council completely ignored their proposal, not even seeing fit to comment on it. They said they would pursue their protection campaign directly with the Obama Administration.

The proposal also bars future use of the Antiquities Act by the president to designate new national monuments in Utah.

The PLI draft also mandates that grazing in protected areas be continued at present levels, regardless of future conditions. Those areas not having some protected status are opened to energy exploration and other extractive uses as “energy zones,” with expedited timelines for permitting.

Reps. Bishop and Chaffetz termed their proposal a “discussion draft,” and they have set up a webpage for interested citizens to read the proposal (follow the links) for themselves.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is collecting comments here, which it will deliver to Rep. Bishop. You can also use the comment space provided on the PLI webpage.

Either way, please comment in your own words, using the following as talking points.

– Designate more real wilderness using the 1964 Wilderness Act as a guide, not wilderness that has all sorts of exceptions built into it.

– Protect the Bears Ears, following the Indian tribes’ proposal.

– The proposal is really a land grab, with its road giveaways, land transfers to the counties, and support for state ownership of federal lands.

– Remove the provisions for fossil fuel zones. We need to move away from dependence on those sources, especially given climate change.

Also, PLEASE SIGN the online petition that the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition will deliver to Pres. Obama, supporting its monument proposal.

In addition, you can write letters to the editors of your hometown newspapers. You can use the Oregon refuge occupation and standoff as a lead-in and say that legislators in Utah are trying to accomplish some of the same goals through this proposal.

There have been quite a few news articles and op-ed pieces regarding the PLI, but I’ll link to just two. The first is by David Jenkins of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship: Rep. Bishop waging war on legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. Mary O’Brien’s op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune is a good segue into Item 2, dealing with the Bundy takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: Public Lands Initiative takes an Oregon-standoff approach to grazing.

2. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation
          (ACTION ITEM)

By now, everyone probably knows the general situation of the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by members of the Bundy family and their cohorts, so I won’t go through it all here. If you’re interested, Oregon Public Broadcasting has a page archiving its news stories since the beginning of the occupation (in reverse chronological order). Amazingly, a number of politicians actually visited the armed occupiers at the Refuge and expressed sympathy for their demands.

Tragically, one person has been killed, though 11 others were arrested peacefully. There are still four holdouts at the Refuge, refusing to leave despite pleas from Ammon Bundy, the main organizer of the takeover. We’re thankful that there wasn’t been more violence.

The country has been paying close attention to the standoff, and though the situation is very serious, it is gratifying to see the high level of interest in public lands and the high level of support for their proper management.

This is, therefore, an excellent opportunity to write to your congressional representatives, senators, and local newspapers to express your support for public lands-lands that should stay under federal management rather than being given to states, and that should be managed in the interest of the public at large, not for private interests.

Contact information for your representative may be found here and for senators here.

Many, many column-inches have been written across the country, reporting on events and analyzing their implications. Here are links to many of the more interesting pieces that have appeared since January 2. There are too many to read all at once, but they give a comprehensive picture of the different aspects of the many issues involved. It is complex!

In the New York Times

Article: Protesters in Oregon Seek to End Policy That Shaped West

Op-ed: Bird-Watching, Patriotism and the Oregon Standoff

Article: Fervor in Oregon Compound and Fear Outside It

Article: Family Gospel Band Provided Soundtrack for Oregon Refuge Standoff (This is one of the more bizarre elements in the affair, and the 18-year old daughter was a passenger in the truck that the deceased Mr. Finicum was driving.)

Article: Rural Oregon’s Lost Prosperity Gives Standoff a Distressed Backdrop

Opinion-Room for Debate: Who Should Control the West

Article: The Larger, but Quieter Than Bundy, Push to Take Over Federal Land

Op-ed piece: In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger The author also had a piece: Beyond the Oregon Protests:The Search for Common Ground published in the Yale Environment 360 blog.

Article: Oregon Town Torn Apart by Protest at Wildlife Refuge

Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a letter to the editor of The Oregonian

An article in the Seattle Times: Occupied Oregon wildlife refuge known for listening to ranchers and similar reporting from Energy & Environment News: Belying militants’ claims, Ore. ranchers and feds get along

An op-ed in The Hill: Time to speak out against elected officials who share goals with Oregon militants

Also in The Hill: 4 lessons from the Bundys’ Oregon Misadventure by Erik Molvar of WildEarth Guardians

A High Country News piece, The BLM’s inconsistent approach toward rule breakers

An article in the New Yorker, Bundynomics pointing out that “the West has flourished because of the federal government’s help, not in spite of it.”

An article in Pacific Standard: Beyond the Bundys: The Far Right and the Future of Conservation

An op-ed in Time Magazine by former Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora: Why I Resigned Over a Public Land Dispute

An article in Scientific American: Malheur Standoff Puts Science in the Crosshairs

An article in The Nation: Freedom From Ammon Bundy

An article in The Oregonian: Law cited against Oregon occupation was created to corral Civil War secessionists

And last but not least, this deserves special mention: Great Old Broads for Wilderness organized a counter-demonstration in Bend, Oregon, in mid-January.

3. Sylvia McLaughlin

The San Francisco Bay Area lost an environmental leader last month with the death of Sylvia McLaughlin, at the age of 99. Sylvia was the founder of the Save San Francisco Bay Association (now Save the Bay) in the early 60s, which in many ways was the kick-off to the local conservation movement. Sylvia and two other women were appalled by plans to fill in San Francisco Bay, leaving not much more than a shipping channel. So they decided to do something about it. They didn’t completely stop everything, but the pace slowed down considerably, and people came to recognize the value of keeping it natural. Eventually the state Bay Conservation & Development Commission was formed to oversee the management of the entire shoreline.

In later years, Sylvia remained involved. In 2007 she famously occupied an oak tree at UC Berkeley to protest the removal of a grove of trees in the way of a new football stadium complex. She also devoted her efforts to creating parks along the east shore of the Bay, and in 2012 one of them was named for her, as we reported at the time.

The Resource Renewal Institute (CalUWild’s fiscal sponsor) filmed a brief interview with Sylvia, which can be viewed here. Save the Bay posted a longer biography and appreciation. And the San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial noting her death.

I knew Sylvia for the last 25 years; she was a good friend to many organizations and people in the conservation community. We are going to miss her greatly.

4. Job Listing: Great Old Broads for Wilderness

Our sister organization, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, is looking for a full-time associate director to direct the planning and implementation of their advocacy, stewardship, and educational goals. The person will be responsible for building collaborations with partners, agencies, and legislators, and overseeing membership development, operations, and finances. And they must be passionate about public lands advocacy with a desire to work as part of a small, dedicated and fun-loving team. For more information click here.

5. Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

There are enough other items linked to this month, so I’ll keep this section very brief.

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.

CalUWild friend Jacques Leslie has an op-ed in the New York Times on Nevada’s solar energy program: Nevada’s Solar Bait-and-Switch.

A National Park Service report on problems facing Zion National Park

Video link

Another in the National Park Service series, America’s Wilderness. This time: Wilderness Stewardship: Shenandoah


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