Newsletter Archive

Parker Lake, Inyo National Forest, California                                                                             (Mike Painter)

June 2016

Dear CalUWild friends-

Schools are out for summer, so many people can take the opportunity to go with their families to visit public lands across the West and the country. The national parks have been experiencing record visitation, partly because of increased publicity-particularly the Find Your Park campaign-surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Park Service and because gasoline prices are the lowest in several years.

But there is more to explore than the parks. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) look after a far larger area, and much of it is relatively unknown and, therefore, uncrowded. Opportunities to get even further away from civilization abound.

Take advantage of the opportunity if you can.

There was good news this week when the Oakland, California City Council unanimously voted to ban the handling of coal in the city, effectively killing plans to build a new port facility to ship coal to Asia. Much of it would have come from Utah, where legislators had approved funding to support the port project in a last-minute session. Oakland’s vote will help protect the landscape in Utah and send a signal that the city won’t support coal because of the pollution and greenhouse gas it produces.

The year is half over, and although we don’t send out constant appeals for donations, the need for funding continues throughout the year. CalUWild receives some foundation funding, but relies on member support as well. Expenses are kept to a minimum, and every dollar is carefully spent. So if you haven’t made a contribution in a while or can give something extra, please consider a mid-year gift. Click here for details and a form.

As always, dues are optional but appreciated. Most of all we appreciate your active support for wilderness and public lands.

Best wishes,

1. Update on 2 Bills:
          Public Lands Initiative
          and Utah Test & Training Range
2. Bears Ears Monument Campaign

3. National Forest Planning: More Wilderness Needed
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: August 25
          (ACTION ITEM)
4. Rim of the Valley Bills Introduced
          (ACTION ITEM)
5. Changes to Southern California
          National Forest Recreation Fees

6. Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1. Update on 2 Bills:
          Public Lands Initiative
          and Utah Test & Training Range

Utah Reps. Rob Bishop (R) and Jason Chaffetz (R) have still not introduced the Public Lands Initiative in Congress, the bill to “solve” the wilderness issue in the state. County officials have reportedly seen a version, but it is telling that conservation groups have been left in the dark, despite the fact that they are supposed to be full partners in the undertaking. Mr. Bishop continues to say he’ll introduce a bill in this Congress, so if it is to have any chance of passage, he will need to do so in July.

If the final proposal is unacceptable, we will immediately let people know what they can do to oppose it, so if it comes out in July, the next issue of the Update may be in your INBOX before the end of the month. Stay tuned!

We reported last year, in September and December, on Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) bill to expand the Utah Test & Training Range (UTTR) in the West Desert of Utah. Though the expansion has not been requested by the military, Sen. Hatch has taken it upon himself to champion it in Congress. There are several major on-the-ground objections to the legislation. The House version would grant rights of way to several counties for roads, which would then disqualify areas that are included in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act from future designation. Both bills would close large areas of BLM land to public access, and the BLM and the Defense Department would also be exempted from analyzing any proposed projects under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) and Rep. Rob Bishop have attached the Senate and House versions of the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act, which has passed both houses. Now a conference committee must reconcile the two versions, and it is probable that the Senate version without the roads giveaways will prevail. Also noteworthy is the fact that although this is a “must-pass” piece of budget legislation, Pres. Obama has issued a veto threat if it contains anti-environmental riders, and he mentioned the UTTR by name. It’s nice to see Utah lands issues so visible on the White House radar screen!

2. Bears Ears Monument Campaign

The Bears Ears continue to be in the news, both in Utah and nationally. Here’s a brief run-down on a few developments.

As we reported last month, a campaign of deception sprang up in San Juan County, where the Bears Ears area is located, with forged letters and flyers containing false and inflammatory information about a potential monument designation. This led the Salt Lake Tribune to publish an editorial: Lies only make a stronger case for Bears Ears Monument. This is a huge sign of support, showing that there is substantial support for a monument within the state, despite the claims of opponents.

Unfortunately, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) made comments in which he astoundingly raised the specter of violence should Pres. Obama designate a monument, as if making excuses for potential perpetrators. Despite this being an isolated occurrence, it’s what the Washington Post picked up on this in its headline A major Native American site is being looted. Will Obama risk armed confrontation to save it? for a major story on the monument campaign.

The New York Times mentioned the Bears Ears in a column by writer Timothy Egan: Monuments for Future Generations. He writes frequently on the need for conservation and protection of public lands.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has yet to announce dates for a promised visit to Utah this summer.

We’ll keep you posed as things develop.

3. Inyo National Forest Planning: More Wilderness Needed
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: August 25
          (ACTION ITEM)

Every 10-15 years national forests update their general plans. One component of these plans is often recommendations for news wilderness areas and additions to existing ones. As with all plans done under NEPA, they are open for public comment at various stages. The Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra national forests have just released draft plans, open for comment until August 25.

Our friends at the California Wilderness Coalition have provided the following summary for the Inyo National Forest. We will pass along their analyses of the other two forests when they are available. Information for submitting comments follows CWC’s alert.

Details on the Inyo National Forest Plan Revisions

The Forest Service is currently seeking public comment on three draft forest plans encompassing more than four million acres of public land in the eastern and southern Sierra Nevada. This first alert focuses on the Inyo National Forest. Subsequent alerts will cover the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests.

The Inyo National Forest encompasses the iconic landscape of the eastern Sierra Nevada. The draft plan addresses many different land and resource management issues, including the identification of and potential agency recommendations to protect additional wilderness and wild & scenic rivers. Protection of these wild places not only ensures that present and future generations may enjoy them, but they also provide refuge for fish, wildlife, and plants; preserve important sources of clean water and air; and help boost the local tourism-based economy.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service’s “preferred” Alternative B for the Inyo Forest recommends a paltry 37,000 acres of new wilderness protection. But the more conservation-oriented Alternative C recommends more than 315,500 acres of wilderness.

Some of the outstanding wild places that would be protected under Alternative C on the Inyo Forest include:

Horse Meadow – this northeast addition to the existing Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mono Lake includes three popular trails into the existing wilderness and provides critical habitat for Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and sage grouse.

Glass Mountains – a small volcanic mountain range that was a prehistoric source of obsidian used for tool-making by Native Americans over much of the West, with diverse ecosystems and wildlife, as well as outstanding views of the eastern Sierra escarpment.

Dexter Canyon – a rugged Jeffrey pine dotted canyon with streams flowing through wet meadows and rich riparian habitat in a near-desert setting, providing habitat for sage grouse, black-backed woodpecker, willow flycatcher, golden eagle, badger, and mule deer.

Excelsior – this remote area of rolling pinyon and sage-covered hills on the Nevada border possesses high ecological integrity and outstanding opportunities for solitude.

Important additions to the existing White Mountains, Inyo Mountains, Piper Mountain, and South Sierra Wilderness areas.

Nearly 160 miles of free flowing rivers and streams with outstanding natural and cultural values were identified as eligible for wild & scenic river protection, including such iconic eastern Sierra streams as Lee Vining Creek, Hot Creek, Rock Creek, and Lone Pine Creek. But at least one stream deserving of protection – Dexter Canyon – was not found eligible for protection.

Please send an email to the Forest Service TODAY urging the agency to adopt an improved Alternative C for the Inyo Forest that protects significant amounts of wilderness and all streams identified as eligible for wild & scenic river protection.

The deadline for public comments is August 25, 2016. For more information, please contact Steve Evans, CalWild’s Wild Rivers Consultant at sevans [at] calwild [dot] org or call (916) 708-3155. To review the Forest Service’s draft Forest Plans and EIS, as well as for the full schedule of upcoming public meetings, visit the Forest Service’s website.

You may submit your comments using one of the following methods:

Project web-site comment form


US Mail:

Planning Team Leader
Forest Plan Revision
1839 South Newcomb Street
Porterville, CA 93257

4. Rim of the Valley Bills Introduced
          (ACTION ITEM)

We’ve reported over the last several years about plans and studies to enlarge the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by extending it northward and eastward around the San Fernando Valley. (See the April 2015 Update and August 2011 Update.)

This month, California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-28) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) announced that they were introducing companion bills to put much of the National Park Service study, released this last February 2016 into effect. The legislation would add about 193,000 acres to the current 153,000 acres of the Santa Monica NRA. No Forest Service lands are included, and the expansion excludes all oil and gas development.

A map of the proposed expansion is here.

This is good news for Southern California (and all of us). Rep. Schiff has worked since 2008 to shepherd this proposal along, and he deserves our thanks. Please send him a quick message:

2411 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

DC phone: 202-225-4176
Burbank phone: 818-450-2900
Hollywood phone: 323-315-5555

Sen. Boxer also deserves thanks for her support of this and many other land protection efforts.

DC phone: 202-224-3553
Online here

5. Changes to Southern California
          National Forest Recreation Fees

Over the years we’ve reported many times on the controversy surrounding the use by federal land management agencies of recreational fees for simply hiking or driving on roads through national forests or BLM lands. Courts have ruled against the agencies for not complying with the law, which requires that certain amenities (toilets, trash cans, interpretive signs, designated parking, picnic tables, and security services) be available for users in order to require payment of a user fee. Despite these rulings, the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests refused to comply and insisted that citizens buy an annual “Adventure Pass” for the forests.

As we reported in April 2014, a federal judge ruled in favor of four Southern California hikers who had sued the Forest Service to enforce a Ninth Circuit ruling disallowing the fees. The Forest Service decided to appeal the ruling, but last week it reached a settlement agreement with the four hikers, in which it agreed to drop the Adventure Pass altogether and only charge fees at those sites that qualify. In addition there must be free parking provided within 1/2 mile of those sites for hikers who do not wish to use any of the amenities.

6. 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.

New York Times Articles

A personal essay in the Travel section on an extended road trip: 10 Months, 45 National Parks, 11 Rules

An op-ed discussing many conservatives’ drift away from conservation: Dear Conservatives, You Can Go Green Again

The essay referred to in that piece: The Secret to Making Conservatives Care About Climate Change

The Bundy Case

From The Oregonian: “A federal judge has dismissed the charge of using and carrying firearms in the course of a crime of violence against Ammon Bundy and seven co-defendants, finding the underlying conspiracy charge doesn’t meet the legal definition of a ‘crime of violence.”’ Read the rest of the story here.

A BLM press release regarding the area near the Bundy Ranch in Nevada: BLM Returns to Work in Gold Butte

A Washington Post article on an informal hearing by congressional Democrats, prompted by the refusal of Republicans to investigate the Oregon standoff: House Dems examine right-wing domestic terrorism; hit GOP for not combating ‘growing threat’

Public Lands in General

BLM’s online guide to the National Conservation Lands it manages

In praise of a wild West, the text of a speech by Bill Hedden, executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust,

An op-ed in High Country News: The land transfer movement’s great public-lands hoax

An op-ed in the Reno Gazette Journal: Real Westerners recognize public land grab for what it is

At least one governor seems to understand: Protecting public access, protecting Montana jobs, an op-ed by Gov. Steve Bullock in the Helena Independent Record

An article in the St. George News: Enforcing the law, protecting resources: A day in the life of a BLM ranger

The National Parks

An op-ed in High Country News: The Park Service doesn’t need corporate sponsorship. It needs proper funding. Our thoughts exactly!

A Washington Post follow-up to the article we linked to last month: I saw the baby bison that tourists tried to rescue. Here’s what you don’t know about the story.

John Muir, writing in The Atlantic: Yosemite, Through John Muir’s Words

The Public Trust Doctrine

Outside Magazine looks at a new application of the law that was successfully used to protect Mono Lake: The Newest Legal Tool to Fight Climate Change Is as Old as Ancient Rome

Book Reviews

Terry Tempest Williams is on CalUWild’s Advisory Board. Her latest book is The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks, is a collection of essays about twelve national parks, written to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Park Service, which we are currently celebrating. Earlier this month, the New York Times published a review.

By nice coincidence, the author of that review is Andrea Wulf, whose recent book, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, was reviewed last year in the New Yorker, which we linked to in our October 2015 Update. Other reviews of Ms. Wulf’s book have appeared appeared in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books.

Von Humboldt was just about the most famous person in the world around the turn of 19th Century, other than maybe Napoleon. More places around the world are named after him than any other single person, yet he is largely forgotten today. He was a scientist and explorer and was the first person to see Nature in a holistic, interconnected way. Humboldt contributed insights to many fields of study and heavily influenced people such as Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Muir, and many others. It’s fascinating reading (and very readable, too).

Video Links

President Obama Speaks at the Sentinel Bridge in Yosemite

A short (23 minutes) film about conservationist Martin Litton: Martin’s Boat. Martin was on CalUWild’s Advisory Board.

Grand Canyon in Depth #7: North Rim


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