Newsletter Archive

The Big Dipper, outside Capitol Reef National Park, Utah                                                                                       (Mike Painter)

New Year’s Eve, 2018

Dear CalUWild friends—

A tumultuous 2018 is coming to a close, and a new year is beginning, which we can only hope will be a little bit more stable with the flip of control of the House of Representatives. We shall see!

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to CalUWild’s Annual Membership Appeal. Your support is invaluable. If you’d still like to contribute, please see the information following ITEM 4. As always, contributions are voluntary but appreciated.

Thank you for efforts and interest in protecting our Western Wilderness!

Wishing you a Happy New Year,

1.     BLM Proposes Increases in Cedar Mesa Hiking Fees (and Others)
          DEADLINE: January 6, 2019
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.     Looking Back, Looking Ahead
3.     Job Announcement: California Native Plant Society

4.     Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.     BLM Proposes Increases in Cedar Mesa Hiking and Other Fees
          DEADLINE: January 6, 2019
          ACTION ITEM)

The new year gets off to a quick start with a short-deadline comment period, right over the holidays. Earlier this month, the BLM offices in Monticello and Richfield, Utah, announced that they’re looking at proposals to increase various recreation fees. Our friends at the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition sent out the following alert. As it mentions, commenting on the process by which these are being announced and implemented is as important as on the proposals themselves, since the BLM did not widely publicize them, and they are being proposed in the dead of winter, when few people are thinking about visiting the areas, And the comment period spans the holidays, on top of it all.


The areas affected get little visitation in the winter, yet public comments are only being accepted from now until early January!

The Bureau of Land Management in Utah has quietly announced plans to make sweeping changes to fees at two popular recreation areas. The changes would result in higher prices for existing fee sites, many new fee sites, and fewer opportunities for free dispersed camping.

The Monticello Field Office wants to:

  • raise Cedar Mesa overnight hiking permit fees by 188% in peak season and 300% in the off season.
  • raise Cedar Mesa day use fees by 250%
  • impose a new fee for Butler Wash, a long-time dispersed (undeveloped) camping and day hiking area
  • impose new fees for two roadside interpretive sites/rest areas along Highway 95 at Mule Canyon ruins and Butler Wash ruins

The Richfield Field Office wants to:

  • expand a small existing free campground and begin charging a fee there for the first time
  • build four new individual and group campgrounds in places that are now used as free dispersed (undeveloped ) camping areas and as ATV and equestrian trailheads
  • ban dispersed camping within 1/2 mile of those newly constructed campgrounds
  • get approval for fees at the newly constructed campgrounds before they are even built

BLM is required to allow the public an opportunity to comment and participate in the decision – but they are doing the absolute minimum notification they think they can get away with. Since hardly anyone knows this is happening, land managers anticipate getting little feedback and will then say that the public supports their plans since they didn’t hear much back. None of the areas affected receives much visitation in the winter, although visitors from around the country and the world arrive in the spring and summer.

By this spring and summer, if the BLM gets its way, visitors will find these changes are a Done Deal.

The only thing that can stop this runaway train is significant outcry from the public – right now – about this rigged process while the brief comment period is underway. We are not asking you to interrupt your holiday festivities to read the lengthy and complicated proposals. (Although if you would like to they can be accessed at THIS LINK.)

We are asking you to insist that a meaningful opportunity for public input be provided. It would be best if you put your comment into your own words, but it’s a busy time of year so here is some suggested language. Please modify and personalize this to fit your personal concerns.

Dear BLM Utah Recreation Manager:

I object to the stealthy and rigged process by which sweeping changes to recreation fees in the Monticello and Richfield Districts is being conducted.

  • The process is stealthy because comments are only being accepted in the middle of winter and over the busy year-end holidays although the areas affected receive little winter visitation and most visitors are completely unaware this is happening.
  • The process is rigged because BLM has already decided to go ahead with the proposals regardless of public input. For example, the cover letter of the Monticello proposal refers to the public comment period in the past tense and has an approval date of January 15, 2019 already filled in – even though the comment period is currently open. For another example, both proposals will be submitted on January 11, 2019 to the statewide Resource Advisory Council for their approval. That’s only five days (or four or one depending on which deadline you believe – there are three different dates specified in the documents) after the comment period closes. Clearly no honest analysis can be accomplished in such a short time.

I oppose these fee increases of as much as 300%. I oppose reducing opportunities for free dispersed (undeveloped) camping. I oppose approving new fee sites before they are even constructed.

Include your name and address and send your comment to BOTH the Monticello and Richfield Districts at these addresses:

BLM_UT_MT_Comments [at] blm [dot] gov
with the subject line “Cedar Mesa Business Plan Comment”

BLM_UT_RF_Comments [at] blm [dot] gov
with the subject line “Richfield Campground Business Plan”

Even if you are not familiar with these particular areas, please comment anyway because it’s the process that needs to be protested. If they get away with this in Utah, your favorite area will benext!

2.     Looking Back, Looking Ahead

The big news this month was the announced resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Reportedly, Mr. Zinke was told to leave by the end of the year or be fired. His tenure was marked from the beginning by an exaggerated-sense of self importance, riding a horse (on an English saddle, not Western, no less!) to the office on his first day and having an employee run a secretarial banner up the flagpole whenever he got to the office. He had a remarkably thin skin, unable to take the slightest criticism, and was downright nasty and personal at times when responding to critics. The worst example came in late November when Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) called for his resignation, and Mr. Zinke replied: “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” a reference to Mr. Grijalva’s former problems with alcohol. (See the first article in ITEM 4, below.)

But most serious were the many scandals, large and small, that Mr. Zinke was involved in. By some counts, there were 17 investigations of his activities spanning the two years he was in office. At least one has been referred to the Justice Department for further investigation. (Although the subject matter wasn’t announced publicly, it is widely thought to involve conflict of interest surrounding a development deal in Whitefish, Montana, involving the chairman of the Halliburton Company, whose activities are subject to regulation by the Interior Department.) Other scandals involved abuse of official travel and the failure to record meetings with industry officials and lobbyists on his official calendar. Several investigations had to be terminated due to lack of cooperation by Mr. Zinke’s office.

The White House announced in mid-December that it would nominate a new secretary, but so far nothing has happened. Though Mr. Zinke is leaving, the policies he espoused will almost certainly stay firmly in place. Names reportedly under consideration for his replacement include David Bernhardt, currently deputy secretary, and Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R), outgoing chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. We will have to wait and see.

Good news came this month as Congress prepared to close out its work. Discussions between Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate sponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) produced a compromise on the Emery County bill that we have been writing about these last few months. The Utah Wilderness Coalition lent its support to this version of the bill, and it was included in a public lands package to be attached to the government funding bill. However, Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) was the sole opponent of the package, refusing to allow it to move forward because it did not contain a prohibition on new national monuments in Utah. So the entire package failed, and the government shut down anyway.

The other major bill included in the package was for the permanent reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund. It is a major disappointment that Congress was not able to accomplish this, despite extremely widespread support for the program in Congress and in the public. However, a major impediment will be removed when Rep, Rob Bishop, a fierce opponent of LWCF, is no longer chairman of the Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress. Rather, Rep. Grijalva is expected to take over the chairmanship, and he is the principal author of the bill reauthorizing the Fund.

We expect both the Emery county and LWCF bills to be reintroduced in the next Congress.

We also expect the following legislation to be reintroduced in 2019, as well. They will be our main priorities, although other bills will certainly require attention:

—    America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, to protect the remaining wilderness areas on BLM-managed land in Utah, with the chief sponsors being California Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

—    A bill similar to The Antiquities Act of 2018, which restated clearly the proposition that a president does not have the authority to shrink monuments or de-designate them. It also restored the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM to its original size, and actually enlarged the Bears Ears NM to the boundaries originally proposed by the Native American tribes (50% larger than what Pres. Obama designated).

—    The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-2) public lands bill for his district, stretching from Marin County to the Oregon border. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

—    The San Gabriel Mountains, Foothills, and River Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-27), to designate wilderness, Wild & Scenic Rivers, and enlarge the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Sen. Harris has again introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

—    The California Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will designate wilderness, create two scenic areas encompassing, and designate Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain NM. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-24) was the main House sponsor, and Sen. Harris introduced the Senate version.

Other issues CalUWild will continue to work on include:

—    Advancing the campaign to achieve permanent protection of the Bodie Hills in California, as part of the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership.

—    Supporting the efforts to reinstate the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and defend other national monuments that may still come under attack administratively or legislatively.

—    Working with other conservation organizations to develop a citizen-proposed management plan for the Mojave Trails National Monument.

—    Continue publishing the Monthly Update, bringing you accurate and useful information, so that you can be effective advocates for our wild and other public lands

3.     Job Announcement: California Native Plant Society

The Vegetation Program at the California Native Plant Society will be hiring 2-3 Assistant Vegetation Ecologists / Botanists for the coming field season or longer. The position will be based in Sacramento with regular travel to field sites across the state.

Read the full announcement here.

4.     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.

Secretary Ryan Zinke & the Department of the Interior

An article in the Washington Post, in which Secty. Zinke goes very low: Raúl Grijalva called on Ryan Zinke to resign. Zinke tweeted back about the congressman’s history of alcoholism.

An editorial in USA Today: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke takes the low road: Trump’s ‘best people’ aren’t draining the swamp. They’re creating whole new wetlands. The reader poll at the end showed 91% “Strongly agree” or “Agree” with the opinions expressed.

An article in the Washington Post: Zinke was a rising star in Washington. Then he joined the Trump administration.

An article in the New York Times: Ryan Zinke’s Legal Troubles Are Far From Over

An article in the Washington Post: Trump administration swaps academics for business executives on National Park Service advisory panel

An article in the Washington Post: Interior Dept. officials downplayed federal wildlife experts’ concerns about Trump’s border wall, documents show

The Upcoming 116th Congress

An article in Pacific Standard: How Raúl Grijalva Could Transform the House Committee on Natural Resources

National Monument Lawsuit

An op-ed in the Denver Post by Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Raúl Grijalva regarding the amicus brief they filed: It’s clear Trump illegally shrunk Bears Ears; the Department of Justice doesn’t want to hear our legal opinion

Public Lands in General

From The Guardian’s This Land is Your Land project: Lost lands? The American wilderness at risk in the Trump era

An op-ed in the Washington Post: The sage grouse’s future was starting to look bright, but then along came Trump

An op-ed in the New York Times: To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn

An article in the Travel section of the New York Times: Is Geotagging on Instagram Ruining Natural Wonders? Some Say Yes

An article in The New Yorker: People Are Stacking Too Many Stones

Two Washington Post articles about the Bundys in Nevada:

Report: FBI suggested waiving fees for Cliven Bundy before ranch standoff, did not consider him a threat

Ammon Bundy spoke kindly about the migrant caravans. The backlash has him reevaluating his supporters.

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