Newsletter Archive

Juniper, Utah                                                                                                                                   (Mike Painter)

May 2016

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters—

There were a few developments this month with regard to wilderness and public lands around the West. And a good number of articles also appeared, updating issues we’ve covered before, such as the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation and Bundy trials, and others of general interest. Links are in the relevant items below and In the Press (Item 5).

In you’re in California, please vote in the June 7 Primary Election, remembering that there are other races and local issues needing attention, not just the presidential campaign.

Voters in the Bay Area have Measure AA on their ballots, which CalUWild, other conservation organizations, and most of the press support. It would levy a $12 a year parcel tax to fund restoration projects around the Bay. Many of the proposed projects have been approved, but funding has been lacking. Tideland and shoreline restoration can provide a buffer for anticipated rises in sea level.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

AA—The shoreline tax. The bay’s mudflat edge is an environmental orphan, tabbed for restoration but deprived of funding. This measure asks two-thirds of the voters in nine counties to approve a $12 per parcel levy to supply $25 million per year for 20 years. Much of the land is already in public hands but needs the extra money to speed recovery. It’s a modest price for a major improvement. Vote YES.

The Chronicle is beginning a series “Rising Reality,” examining the issues connected to the potential rise in the Bay. You can read it online, though so far it appears to be behind the Chronicle‘s paywall.

Local publication Bay Nature also editorialized in favor of the proposal: Yes on Measure AA.

An exhibition, Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, opens June 18 at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The Fine Arts Museums describe it as follows:

Mined from the wide-ranging collections of the Fine Arts Museums, Wild West explores artistic responses to the natural and cultivated landscapes of the western United States from the frontier era to the present. The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, historical artifacts, and ephemera in a thematic presentation that celebrates the abundance and diversity within the region’s physical environment.

It runs until September 11, 2016. For more information, click here.

As announced last month, I’ll be presenting a slideshow on Wild Utah in San Francisco on Thursday, June 2 for the Yerba Buena Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. It will take place at the County Fair Building (formerly the Hall of Flowers), 9th Avenue & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Best wishes,

1.   Red Rock Cosponsorship
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Public Lands Initiative & Rep. Rob Bishop
3.   Bears Ears Campaign
          (ACTION ITEM)

4.   Glen Canyon & Hetch Hetchy in the News

5.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Cosponsorship
          (ACTION ITEM)

Every month, it seems, there’s one item that comes in needing to be incorporated into the Update, just as it’s ready to be sent out. This month is no exception, but at least it’s good news!

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 2430, gained two new co-sponsors recently, one of whom is from California. Eric Swalwell (D-15) joined 109 other representatives in addition to Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) of Long Beach, the lead sponsor and champion of the bill. Rep. Swalwell represents the East Bay cities of Hayward, Pleasanton, and Livermore.

If you live in Rep. Swalwell’s district, please send him a message of appreciation. A phone call is fine. Contact information for Rep. Swalwell:

Washington, DC:   202-225-5065
Pleasanton:   925-460-5100
Hayward:   510-370-3322

Mailing Address:
129 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

House cosponsors from California in addition to Rep. Lowenthal 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)
Eric Swalwell (D-15)
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 Cárdenas (D-29)
Grace Napolitano (D-32)
Ted Lieu (D-33)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-40)
Mark Takano, D-41

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)
Brad Sherman (D-30) *
Raul Ruiz (D-36)
Linda Sánchez (D-38) *
Maxine Waters (D-43) *
Janice Hahn (D-44)
Mimi Walters (D-45)
Loretta Sanchez (D-46) *
Juan Vargas (D-51)
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 ask them to become a cosponsor. A simple phone call will do, or send a note via an online comment form on the representative’s website. Complete contact information for representatives may be found by following the links here.

In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D) continued her longtime cosponsorship. Please let her know your appreciation, too.

Phone:   202-224-3553
Other contact info

A full list of cosponsors nationwide may be found here.

2.   Public Lands Initiative & Rep. Rob Bishop

There’s not much new to report on the Public Lands Initiative (PLI). Early in the month, the White House reportedly asked the Utah congressional delegation to come to some consensus on its recommendations for management of the federal public lands in the state. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-UT) has been hoping to stop the administration from designating a Bears Ears National Monument (Item 3) by achieving a “grand bargain” with the PLI.

Rep. Bishop says he’ll be introducing a bill in Congress soon; however, public opposition to the PLI continues to be strong, which may be delaying him. The Grand County Council sent a letter to him this month, saying that its concerns with the draft had not been addressed. (For more details on the letter, click here.) With very few legislative days left in this Congress, given the November election and summer recess, it’s difficult to see a path to its consideration and passage. However, Mr. Bishop remains optimistic, citing his role as Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) support in the Senate. We’ll keep you posted.

In other news concerning Rep. Bishop, his proposal last month to turn over 3,000 acres of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to Puerto Rico as part of a debt relief bill for the territory was stripped from the legislation. Puerto Rico would have been free to sell of the land to private developers. (Sales such as that proposal are the probable outcome that opponents point to should Utah be successful in its quest to wrest control over our public lands from the federal government.) Vieques is reportedly the 4th-most popular refuge in the country and home to endangered sea turtles and manatees. Fierce opposition from many quarters was instrumental in preserving its integrity.

In a third development, Rep. Bishop has announced his opposition to a potential donation of more than 87,000 acres in Maine to the National Park Service for designation as a Maine Woods National Monument by Pres. Obama, using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906. The donor would also establish a $40 million endowment to support the monument’s management. More than 200 local businesses have supported the proposal, and polls indicate that 2/3 of Maine’s residents do, as well. Rep. Bishop will visit Maine this week for a public meeting. Our friends at the Center for Western Priorities released this announcement last week: Four Things To Know About Congressman Rob Bishop’s Anti-Parks Agenda in Advance of his Visit to Maine.

Among the points is one we know well: Despite his claims to be concerned about local input, when affected citizens favor land protection, Rep. Bishop refuses to go along, whether in Maine or in Utah.

3.   Bears Ears Campaign
          (ACTION ITEM)

The campaign for the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Southeast Utah continues to generate controversy as it moves along. In mid-May, the Utah legislature passed a resolution opposing the creation of any monument by a vote of 64-10. Opponents of the monument are seizing on the fact that some members of the Aneth Chapter (local Navajo governing bodies) oppose the monument, as evidence of an overall lack of Navajo support. It’s the only one of the seven chapters in Utah that doesn’t support it.

One of their main claims is that they will be prevented from gathering firewood in the area once a monument is established. However, the proposal for the monument allows for traditional uses to continue, and in fact, when Pres. Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte monument in New Mexico, he specifically included such language in his proclamations. So those fears appear to be unfounded.

Then last week there were reports that a forged letter with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s signature had been posted in various locations, such as the post office in the town of Bluff and gas stations in surrounding San Juan County. The letter claimed that the president would reduce the size of the Navajo Nation by more than 4 million acres.

In addition, pamphlets supposedly from Utah Diné Bikéyah (the Navajo group that began the Bears Ears campaign) were found inviting people to a celebration of the monument’s creation saying: “Everyone is invited except Utah Navajos. … Lots of good food will be provided by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Friends of Cedar Mesa.”

Finally, another letter—supposedly signed by a leader from another chapter, who in fact supports the campaign to designate the monument—warned again that firewood gathering and access for sacred activities would be curtailed.

Someone’s playing dirty tricks …

Surveys continue to show widespread support for the monument among Utahns.

High Country News published an article with excellent information on the historical efforts to protect the Bears Ears area: In Utah, the fight for a Bears Ears monument heats up

There have been many op-ed pieces and letters to the editor published in support of a monument designation. Here are links to two of the more interesting op-eds:

From the Vet Voice Foundation: Utah Veterans ask President Obama to Protect Bears Ears as a National Monument

And in the Moab Sun News: It’s about time to protect Bears Ears

As an example of what could conceivably happen should federal public lands be turned over to the state of Utah, there’s this: Hole in the Rock Foundation asks Utah lands agency to auction area near Bears Ears—land sold off to the highest bidder, with no guarantee of continued public access to them.

If you haven’t already, please sign the Bears Ears Coalition’s online petition, and send a message of support to the White House and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell:

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:

4.   Glen Canyon & Hetch Hetchy in the News

The construction of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, forming Lake Powell, and of O’Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River, creating Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, were two of the 20th-century conservation movement’s most significant defeats. However, many people have held onto hope that both places might someday have their functioning ecosystems, if not landscape, restored. And in recent years, both have entered the realm of possibility. Mother Nature is giving a big boost to the efforts to decommission Glen Canyon Dam, and the legal system may assist with Hetch Hetchy.

In the case of Glen Canyon, ongoing severe drought is causing water levels to drop both there and in downstream Lake Mead, to the point where the loss of hydropower generating capacity at both of them is a real possibility. Studies of evaporation also show substantial water loss at Glen Canyon. A serious proposal has been made to decommission Glen Canyon Dam and allow the water stored there to be stored in Lake Mead instead. (It would have the added benefit of restoring the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem to something resembling its state before the river’s natural flows were cut off.)

The New York Times published a lengthy op-ed this month looking at the issue: Unplugging the Colorado River: Could the end be near for one of the West’s biggest dams? That article is excerpted from a series by ProPublica, Killing the Colorado. The Palm Springs Desert Sun also ran an article: Lake Mead declines to lowest level in history.

Last week, our friends at the Glen Canyon Institute made public a website devoted to picturing and mapping Glen Canyon as water levels drop, allowing side canyons to restore naturally. Here’s what they had to say:

The Glen Canyon Living Atlas is Live!

GCI is proud to announce the Glen Canyon Living Atlas is now live on our website, With cooperation from National Geographic Maps and numerous Glen Canyon explorers, the Living Atlas was created to provide a virtual tour of restoring areas in Glen Canyon as they emerge. The ongoing ‘story map’ presents a series of geo-referenced photographs and hiking trails throughout restoring canyon country. This map includes photos from the last 13 years, highlighting the stunning transformation that’s taking place as Glen Canyon emerges from Lake Powell.

We will continue to update this map with new photos and information in the years to come, and encourage our members to submit their photos and observations to us. Next time you visit Glen Canyon and document a restoring area, please email us your photos at Today “America’s Lost National Park” has a second chance, and together we can show the world what it looks like!


Hetch Hetchy Reservoir has also been in the news recently. As we reported last year, Restore Hetch Hetchy filed suit in Superior Court in Tuolumne County, California, to have the dam declared an unreasonable method of diversion under the California Constitution. Late last month, the judge in the case dismissed the suit, ruling that the federal Raker Act, passed by Congress in 1913, authorizing the dam, pre-empted the claims and that the state constitutional provisions were enacted five year after the dam was built. Restore Hetch Hetchy has said it will appeal the decision.

High Country News published an article: Why Hetch Hetchy is staying under water. John Mirisch, the mayor of Beverly Hills, wrote an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee: Restore Hetch Hetchy Valley, help repair the world.

5.   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.

In the New York Times

Designated wilderness within San Francisco’s city limits … The Farallon Islands Are Off Limits to Humans — But Not Wildlife

Nicholas Kristof on his annual hike on part of the Pacific Crest Trail with his daughter: Sore, Happy Feet on the Pacific Crest Trail

Room for Debate: Should Overcrowded National Parks Have Restricted Access? (See below for other national parks articles.)

Utah news

BLM wants to pay people who help find looters, vandals

Looking back at the history of Utah’s national parks Good facts, though it should be pointed out that only Congress, not presidents, can establish parks, though the president signs the legislation.

The push is on for a Grand Canyon National Monument

Obama pressed to create new Grand Canyon monument

Opponents of the Greater Grand Canyon National Monument Resort to Biased and Manipulative Public Opinion Research

The Disappearing West

Conservation Science Partners produced a study funded by the Center for American Progress, titled The Disappearing West, analyzing land development in the West. Its conclusion: Every 2.5 minutes, area the size of a football field is lost. It received extensive coverage around the region, including:

California—San Jose Mercury News: America’s vanishing West: California losing most land to development

Colorado—Denver Post: Hundreds of miles of Colorado wilderness lost to 21st-century development boom

If you’re interested in reading about the technical methodology employed in the study, click here.

Despite that assessment, there is occasionally good news to report, as in this article from the Los Angeles Times: You can now hike 67 miles through the Santa Monica Mountains uninterrupted

National Park News

A website devoted to collecting maps of many national parks all in one place: National Park Maps

The National Parks Have Never Been More Popular, a post in the FiveThirtyEight statistics blog.

Yellowstone Tourists Put Bison Calf In Car Because They’re Worried It’s Cold. National Parks Traveler reported later: “In the case of the bison calf, which two visitors placed inside their SUV recently because they thought it was cold, park rangers later had to put down the animal because it was abandoned by its mother and “was continually approaching visitors and vehicles.” Visitor behavior in Yellowstone has reached the point where the Park Service felt it necessary to issue a news release reminding people to act appropriately (or as National Parks Traveler wrote more bluntly above: Don’t Be Stupid.”

Oregon Standoff-Related Items

Ammon Bundy Considering Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Multnomah County (including a claim that his Second Amendment rights are being violated while he’s in jail)

Lawyers for national wildlife refuge occupiers worry jury won’t be impartial

Harney County Votes For Candidates Opposed To Armed Occupation (the county where the occupation took place)


An op-ed in High Country News: Privatize public lands? Start with grazing fees.- Advocates for federal-to-state land transfers have overlooked some of the implications, including higher grazing fees.

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