Newsletter Archive

Near the Dolores River, Utah                                                                                                       (Mike Painter)

February 2016

Dear CalUWild friends-

This month, we’re happy to report on new national monuments in California and a peaceful end to the armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. There are several Action Items on Utah and Arizona issues, as well. Public lands have been in the news! The job for all of us now is to use this visibility to increase support for the protection and proper management of special places across the West and the country.

An administrative note: Thanks for all the very positive responses to both the photography and artwork included in the Update every month. I’m happy to include other people’s work occasionally, so if you have a photo or other depiction (painting, woodcut, etc.) of some special wilderness area or other public land in the West, please send it to me by email attachment. Our standard width for emails and website is 625 pixels. Please include the name of the place at whatever level of specificity you like; however, specific locations of rock art will not be included in the caption. You will, of course, be credited.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support!

Best wishes,

1.   Utah Test & Training Range Bill
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Public Lands Initiative
          Comments Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

3.   Pres. Obama Designates 3 Mojave Desert National Monuments
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Celebration
          Saturday, March 19

5.   Grand Canyon Tramway Proposal Still Alive
          (ACTION ITEM)

6.   Malheur NWR Standoff Ends—
          Cliven Bundy Arrested

7.   Job Listing: WildEarth Guardians, Communications Director
          DEADLINE: March 21

8.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Utah Test & Training Range Bill
          (ACTION ITEM)

A hearing was held last week in the House Federal Lands Subcommittee on H.R. 4579, the “Utah Test and Training Range Encroachment Prevention & Temporary Closure Act.” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) introduced the bill as a companion to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) bill, S. 2383.

The legislation would place potential restrictions on public access to and use of some 635,000 acres of BLM land in Utah’s West Desert, in order to allow military training overflights and other exercises at the adjacent Utah Test & Training Range.

Tucked into the bill, despite having no connection to the military or national security, is a provision to grant rights-of-way to over 6,000 miles of routes in three counties: Box Elder, Juab, and Tooele. As is the case across Utah and the West, many of these so-called routes are often nothing more than streambeds, cow paths, or two-tracks-not constructed highways with 10 years of continuous public use, as R.S. 2477, the law from 1876, has been interpreted to require. Many of these routes cross areas of land proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, and so counties claim these as rights-of-way in order to defeat that designation, since roads aren’t permitted in wilderness areas. These routes are the subject of ongoing litigation, and the bill would circumvent those cases by granting a blanket set of easements to the counties, whether the routes are legitimate or not.

The Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial opposing the granting of rights-of-way, saying “The bill to expand Utah’s test range for the new stealth fighter has a little stealthiness itself.”

Please contact your Congressional Representative and Senators, and ask them to oppose H.R. 4579 and S. 2383, the “Utah Test and Training Range Encroachment Prevention & Temporary Closure Act.”

Contact information for Representatives may be found on their pages on the House website.

Contact information California’s two Senators is here:

Sen. Barbara Boxer:   202-224-3553
Online here

Sen. Dianne Feinstein:   202-224-3841
Online here

The general page for Senate contact information is here.

2.    Public Lands Initiative
          Comments Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

Last month we described the draft Public Lands Initiative (PLI) released by Utah’s Reps. Rob Bishop (R) and Jason Chaffetz (R). If you haven’t submitted comments yet, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has a page set up to collect comments for delivery to appropriate members of Congress.

Here are the talking points from last month, but please use your own words.

– 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.

Feel free to add to those. If you want more detailed information, please refer to Item 1 of last month’s Update.

The good news is that opposition to the draft PLI is mounting within Utah. The Salt Lake Tribune published an editorial regarding the land transfer provisions in the proposal: The Utah Public Lands Fairies and Unicorns Act. And the Moab Sun News had an article regarding the Grand County Council’s reaction to having its recommendations ignored or even contravened, despite the PLI supposedly being a locally-driven process: Council baffled by elements of Bishop’s PLI draft.

3.   Pres. Obama Designates 3 Mojave Desert National Monuments
          (ACTION ITEM)

On Friday, February 12, Pres. Obama designated three new national monuments in California: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. The designations are the result of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) long-time efforts to protect the Mojave Desert in the southeastern part of the state. As we’ve written before, Sen. Feinstein had introduced legislation to protect these areas, but when Congress refused to act on her bill, she approached the White House and asked the President to use his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate the monuments.

Mojave Trails National Monument runs along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles. It’s about 1.6 million acres in size and contains important wildlife corridors between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park.

Sand to Snow National Monument, about 154,000 acres east of Riverside, lies between the San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Castle Mountains National Monument, about 21,000 acres, lies on the California-Nevada border, surrounded on three sides by the Mojave National Preserve. It was left out of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act due to an active gold mine that ceased operations in 2001. The area also includes the historic mining town of Hart.

On February 23, Sen. Feinstein introduced S. 2568, the California Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act, which has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The bill contains the provisions from her original legislation that Pres. Obama couldn’t put into effect administratively. These include:

• Establishing five wilderness areas on BLM land, enlarging the Death Valley National Park Wilderness, and adding to the San Gorgonio Wilderness in the San Bernardino National Forest, now part of the Sand to Snow National Monument

• Adding about 40,000 acres of BLM land to Death Valley National Park and enlarges Joshua Tree National Park by about 4,500 acres.

• Establishing the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area of about 18,600 acres, in Inyo County.

• Designating several Wild & Scenic Rivers

• Establishing five off-highway vehicle recreation areas.

• Establishing a Renewable Energy Resource Conservation Fund to distribute royalties, rents, or other fees from development of wind or solar energy on BLM land, with a set structure of distribution to the federal, state, and local governments.

You may read Sen. Feinstein’s statement on the designation here.

The Presidential Proclamations for the three monuments may be read by clicking on the corresponding links below:

Mojave Trails

Sand to Snow

Castle Mountains

Please send messages to Pres. Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell thanking them for these designations and encouraging them to continue their efforts at preserving significant examples of the American landscape. Particularly mention the Bears Ears in Utah!

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

Comment line:   202-456-1111
Online comments here

Hon. Sally Jewell
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Comment line:   202-208-3100
Email address:    feedback [at] ios [dot] doi [dot] gov

And don’t forget to thank Sen. Feinstein for her efforts over the years to protect the California desert. She has made it one of her main priorities, from the time she was first elected, carrying on the work of former Sen. Alan Cranston.

Sen. Feinstein’s DC office:   202-224-3841
Online here

4.   Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Celebration
          Saturday, March 19

The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, designated last July, will have its formal dedication on Saturday, March 19th.

A Spring Festival is planned, including booths, food, and music. It will take place at Cowboy Camp, 20 minutes west of Williams off Hwy 20 & Hwy 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For more information, please call Elizabeth Sousa (530-934-1137), Rich Burns (707-468-4070), or send an email to

5.   Grand Canyon Tramway Proposal Still Alive
          (ACTION ITEM)

Our friends at River Runners for Wilderness sent out the following update and action alert.
A proposal to develop a huge luxury resort and tramway at the confluence of the Little Colorado and main Colorado Rivers in the Grand Canyon, first proposed in February of 2012, continues to be championed by Phoenix, AZ, developers. Known as Confluence Partners LLC, the Phoenix group has no prior company experience in any type of construction.

The developers continue to lobby Navajo Nation Tribal Delegates and are seeking to introduce legislation in the April Navajo Nation Tribal Council legislative session.

Earlier legislation drafted by the developers required the Navajo Nation to expend at least $65 million for a 20 mile all-weather road to the development location, as well as supplying power, water, and telecommunications. Sources indicate the new legislation will not require the Navajo Nation to put up the $65 Million, but this money would be paid to the developers from any profits the Navajo Nation would collect.

In January, 2016, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye again reaffirmed his opposition to the development. Navajo Nation Presidents serve a four year term. Under his direction, the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department is working on a two year endeavor to craft a General Management Plan for Marble Canyon Tribal Park and the adjacent Little Colorado River Tribal Park. This plan would exclude the tramway development.

Legislation passed in 1975 by the United States Congress recognized that the entire Grand Canyon has many managers, including the National Park Service, the Navajo Nation, other tribes and agencies. The law requires the Secretary of Interior to work with all the Grand Canyon’s many managers in providing “protection and interpretation of the Grand Canyon in its entirety.” The legislation, known as the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act, required the Secretary of Interior to work with all the managers of Grand Canyon, including the Navajo Nation, to protect the resource.

River Runners for Wilderness still encourages its members to write Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. Tell Secretary Jewell:

– You support a tramway-free Grand Canyon.

– Mention to Secretary Jewell there are two Navajo Tribal Parks, Marble Canyon and Little Colorado, in the eastern Grand Canyon. Ask her to help the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, with designated funds, to make these Parks known and available to the public in an appropriate way that does not desecrate the area with a tramways or luxury resort while at the same time supports the local Navajo residents.

– Remind the Secretary of her duty to work with the Navajo to protect and preserve the Grand Canyon as the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act required.

You can contact the Secretary here:

Secretary of the Interior
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

[Also: Comment line:   202-208-3100
Email address:   feedback [at] ios [dot] doi [dot] gov – CalUWild addition]

Meanwhile, River Runners for Wilderness has distributed 4,000 No Gondola In The Grand Canyon decals free of charge to river runners across the country. To get yours, please send a stamped self-addressed standard sized envelope to River Runners for Wilderness, PO Box 30821, Flagstaff, AZ, 86003-0821 You can see the decal design on the RRFW home page here:

6.   Malheur NWR Standoff Ends-
          Cliven Bundy Arrested

The armed standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended on February 11, when the last four occupiers walked out and were arrested without incident by the FBI. The other occupiers had surrendered the day before. A total of 25 people have been charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers from performing their duties.

The day before the standoff ended, Cliven Bundy-the Nevada rancher whose Nevada ranch was the site of an armed standoff in 2014 and father of Ammon and Ryan Bundy, leaders of the Malheur standoff-flew to Portland to speak to the remaining occupiers and was arrested without incident at the airport when he disembarked the plane. A federal grand jury in Nevada returned an indictment against him two days later, which you may read here.

The Bundy sons and two of the other defendants face further charges in Nevada for their parts in the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville.

All of the Bundys and some of the other defendants are being held without bail, and all have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. The Oregonian published an article about the February 23 hearing in the case. The federal judge says she wants it proceed quickly, without delays on either the government’s or the defendants’ parts.

On February 23, the Refuge staff returned: U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Regains Control Of Malheur Refuge.

As we stated last month, the story touches on many different aspect of Western public lands management, so we’ll continue to follow it, providing news and links to interesting analysis as it proceeds.

7.   Job Listing: WildEarth Guardians, Communications Director
          DEADLINE: March 21

Our friends at WildEarth Guardians are in the market for a Communications Director. Here’s the link to their job announcement and other background info about the position:

Applications are due March 21st.

8.   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.

David Jenkins, the president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, wrote an op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune: Bishop is fanning the flames of radicalism in the West.

A new Center for Western Priorities online report, The Wrong Side of History reveals 100 years of fear mongering over national parks and monuments.

An article in High Country News: How an East Coast think tank is fueling the land transfer movement.

An article in Energy & Environment News about relations on the House Natural Resources Committee: Committee leaders get along but don’t go along.

An Indian Country Today op-ed, Preservation Is a Civil Rights Issue. The essay begins from a provocative perspective:

When ISIS ravages the antiquities in the Middle East, it is a deplorable show of terrorism, when your neighbors, politicians, decision-makers, and even individuals you consider as friends and family are vandalizing, developing, and otherwise destroying the antiquities and heritage of Native American peoples, it is declared as progress.

An op-ed in The Hill, Salmon benefit as road scars heal by CalUWild friend Erik Molvar. CalUWild has supported the Legacy Roads & Trails restoration program over the years.

More good news in an article in the Orange County Register, California condors reach key survival milestone in the wild.

Finally, from the New York Times: Death Valley Is Experiencing a Colorful ‘Superbloom’.

Video Links

Episode 18 in the US Forest Service’s Restore series: Firefighters and Ecological Restoration.

Grand Canyon in Depth #5: Desert View Watchtower.

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

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