Newsletter Archive

In the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah                                                                                (Mike Painter)


January 30, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends—

With a new Congress and a bad start to the year with the recent government shutdown, there is not a lot to report on this month, so this Update does not contain any Action Items.

The shutdown turned out to be very bad for public lands. The Department of the Interior left some national parks open, unstaffed, but that turned into a disaster, when trash piled up, restrooms went uncleaned, and people camped illegally. There has been a lot of reporting the last few days about Joshua Tree National Park, where Joshua trees, some reportedly 300 years old, were vandalized and even cut down and people drove off-road. See Item 4, IN THE PRESS, for more coverage of the issues, including the feared effects of “the wall” on wildlife.

CalUWild is pleased and honored to welcome Berkeley photographer and videographer Deborah O’Grady to our Advisory Board. For 30 years, Deborah has captured the landscapes and people of the West. Among her significant projects are video projections to accompany performances by the Saint Louis Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others of the French composer Olivier Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars, a large orchestral work inspired by his visits to Zion and Bryce national parks in Utah. Deborah also photographed World War II Navajo Marine veterans for Code Talker Stories, a book documenting their oral histories and the use of the Diné language to help the war effort. You can see portfolios of Deborah’s work on her website at

We’re looking forward to the year ahead, working with all of you to protect our wild areas and other special places. Thanks for all your interest and support!

Best wishes,

1.   Legislative Preview

2.   Bears Ears Book Events
          In Berkeley and Point Reyes Station
          January 31 & February 2
3.   Bodie Hills Winter Outing
          February 23

4.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Legislative Preview

The 116th Congress began at the beginning of the month. As everyone knows, the Congress is now divided between the Republican-majority Senate and the Democratic House. That puts us in a better position to block unfavorable legislation, but it still doesn’t guarantee getting protective legislation though.

The biggest change from the previous Congress will be the oversight that the House Natural Resources Committee will be able to exercise over the administration, particularly the Department of the Interior. Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva is the chairman, and he has stated that the committee will investigate the actions taken by the White House to shrink monuments as well as former-Secretary Zinke’s many scandals and ethics investigations.

We expect a variety of bills to be reintroduced in Congress, and look forward to new proposals as well. Here are the most significant ones, most of which we’ve mentioned in the past.


Public Lands Package: A large bill containing many smaller ones was being considered at the end of the last Congress, but failed to pass because of the objections of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who refused to let it proceed because there was no exemption for the state of Utah from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to designate national monuments. The entire bill, or parts of it, will likely be reintroduced, but it’s unlikely there will be any such exemption, so its prospects are unknown.

The ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019: This bill would codify all the national monuments designated since 1996 and restates the principle that only Congress has the authority to shrink monuments once they are designated. It also expands the Bears Ears National Monument to the original proposal of 1.9 million acres made by the Inter-Tribal Coalition, to include lands left out by Pres. Obama. It is expected to be introduced next week.


America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act: This bill would designate as wilderness 9 million acres of qualifying lands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s the “gold standard” against which all other proposals must be measured. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and California Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) are the lead sponsors in the Senate and House, respectively.

Emery County Bill: The bill was included in the big public lands package and had been changed to reflect some conservation community concerns, to the point where the Utah Wilderness Coalition supported it. It may be introduced as a stand-alone bill.

The Bears Ears Expansion Act: This is a stand-alone bill to enlarge the Bears Ears monument to its original proposed size. It was introduced today with 71 original cosponsors.

The Protect Utah’s Rural Economy (PURE) Act: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) are joining forces to exempt Utah from the original Antiquities Act. It would prevent a president from designating a monument or expand an existing one, without the approval of Congress or the state Legislature. It’s Sen. Romney’s first bill and does not bode well for his approach to public lands.


Northern California Conservation and Recreation Act: Sponsored by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2), the proposal would protect local wild lands, expand recreational opportunities, improve fire management, and restore impacted watersheds.

Central Coast Heritage Protection Act: Sponsored by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-24), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-26), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D), the bill would protect 244,909 acres of wilderness, create two scenic areas encompassing 34,882 acres, and safeguard 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act: Rep. Judy Chu (D-27) introduced two bills in the last Congress to designate wilderness in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and to enlarge the monument, as well as creating a national recreation area. Sen. Kamala Harris (D) introduced a bill in the Senate combining these two bills.

California Desert Protection and Recreation Act: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) has long been a champion of protecting the Mojave Desert, a task she took on when Sen. Alan Cranston retired. Her latest legislation is designed to build on her initial Desert Protection Act of 1994 and would protect additional land and help manage California’s desert resources by balancing conservation, recreation, and renewable energy development.


Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act: The bill would protect wild places throughout Colorado, each of which have been a part of individual legislative proposals in the past: create new and sustainable recreational opportunities and expand Wilderness in the White River and San Juan National Forests, permanently withdraw the Thompson Divide from new oil and gas leasing, and formally establish three reservoirs along the Gunnison River as the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

CalUWild looks forward to working with our coalition partners across the West to educate the public about these bills and others as they come along. We will keep you informed as they progress.

2.   Bears Ears Book Events
          In Berkeley and Point Reyes Station
          January 31 & February 2

Journalist Rebecca Robinson and photographer Stephen E. Strom have collaborated on a new book, Voices from Bears Ears: Seeking Common Ground on Sacred Land. The book tells the stories of 20 people on both sides of the national monument controversy: those working to protect ancestral homelands and those who feel their way of life threatened. Yet both feel a deep attachment to and reverence for the landscape, which might provide the common ground.

Both author and photographer will discuss the book at events in the Bay Area this week.

Thursday, January 31

Books Inc.
1491 Shattuck Avenue
7:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 2

Point Reyes Presbyterian Church
11445 Highway 1
Point Reyes Station
Tickets: $10 suggested donation, benefiting Friends of Cedar Mesa
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

3.   Bodie Hills Winter Outing
          February 23

CalUWild is a member of the Bodie Hill Conservation Partnership, working to achieve permanent protection for the Bodie Hills, which lie north of Mono Lake and east of Yosemite. The following announcement comes from our friends at Friends of the Inyo.

Bodie Hills Winter Outing
Saturday, February 23rd

Please join us for a winter outing to explore the Bodie Hills. The Bodies are beautiful in the winter!

When: Saturday February 23, 2019 from 9AM-3PM.
Where: Meet at the High Sierra Bakery in Bridgeport at 9AM.

What to Bring: Water, lunch, snacks, camera, and skis or snowshoes. If you don’t have any, we will have snowshoes for you to borrow. Dress in warm clothing. We will provide details on conditions on February 21st. Please let us know if you need guidance on gear or what to bring.

RSVP to wendy [at] friendsoftheinyo [dot] org with the number in your party and any questions you may have.

4.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

There were many articles in the past month regarding politics and public lands.

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.

The Government Shutdown

An op-ed in The Guardian’s This Land is Your Land section, by Jon Jarvis, former head of the National Park Service: Keeping US national parks open during the shutdown is a terrible mistake. It was republished in High Country News.

An article in National Parks Traveler: Groups Request Investigation Into Legality Of Keeping National Parks Open

An article about Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, in The Hill: Group asks watchdog to investigate recall of furloughed Interior workers. This request was made to the Government Accountability Office, which is open. The Interior Inspector General’s Office, the subject of the previous article is closed for the shutdown.

California Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman: Dems deliver trash from national parks to White House, reported in The Hill.

An editorial in National Parks Traveler: Gagging The National Park Service, The Information Blackout In The Parks

An article in Outside: Interior Remains Open for Business—for Oil Companies

The Washington Post reports: Court: No new offshore drilling work during federal shutdown

An article in the New York Times on the economic effects of the shutdown: Next to National Parks, a Winter of Worry

An article in the New York Times: Joshua Trees Destroyed in National Park During Shutdown May Take Centuries to Regrow

Department of the Interior

An article in the Washington Post: Justice Dept. investigating whether Zinke lied to inspector general. Another article about former Secretary Zinke, from the Associated Press: Former US Interior boss takes job at investment company

The administration has not nominated anyone to be the next Secretary of the Interior, and speculation continues over who it might be. An article in The Hill: Grijalva backs Bishop over current acting Interior Secretary

Public Lands in General

A lengthy article in the Washington Post on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: A DIMINISHED MONUMENT: Trump cut Grand Staircase-Escalante nearly in half to spur a mining boom. But those lost protections may not yield big profits.

An article in the New York Times: Why a Border Wall Could Mean Trouble for Wildlife

An article in the Washington Post: Trump’s executive order will cut more forest trees — and some of the public’s tools to stop it

An article in The Guardian’s This Land is Your Land section: ‘It’s tough sleeping at night’: ranchers seek to protect herds as wolves move in

An essay in National Parks Traveler by Alfred Runte: Ancient Wrongs And Public Rights Reconsidered

A new study from Headwaters Economics showing that recreation counties, especially in non-metro places, draw new residents and have higher incomes and faster earnings growth than places without recreation.

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