Newsletter Archive

On Cedar Mesa, in the former Bears Ears National Monument                                                                            (Mike Painter)

March 1, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends —

The 116th Congress is underway, with a significant public lands bill passed and on its way to the White House (ITEMS 1 & 4), new legislation introduced or waiting to be introduced (ITEMS 2 & 3), and promised oversight hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on March 13, delving into the administration’s monument review. The landscape in Washington, DC has decidedly changed.

Good news in Utah: The Canadian mining firm that had staked claims in the rescinded areas of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument announced it would not develop those claims.

The League of Conservation Voters just released its Scorecard for the 115th Congress. It provides good information, ranking all members based on key environmental votes. Follow the links here to access it.

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTES: With the efforts to recruit cosponsors for the new bills mentioned below, it became clear while putting the Update together that listing each one for each bill would take up a lot of space, so I’ve posted a Congressional Information Sheet on the CalUWild website. It includes the phone number for the DC office of each California senator and representative, as well as cosponsorship status. In the future we’ll keep it updated and use it as our main reference, adding new and important information where relevant. Bookmark it if you wish for future reference.

As for the number of ACTION ITEMS this month, it may look like a lot, but they can all be accomplished by a single phone call. You should be able to tailor your message to your representatives based on the Information Sheet.

Thanks for your interest and your efforts, as always!

Best wishes,

1.   Emery County Bill Passes Both Senate & House,
          Heads to White House for Signature
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Red Rock Wilderness Bill Introduction in April
          (ACTION ITEM)
3.   Bears Ears Expansion Act
          And ANTIQUITIES Act
          Introduced in the House
          (ACTION ITEM)

4.   Big Public Lands Package Passes Both Senate & House,
          Heads to White House for Signature
          And Information on 2 Other Bills
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Job Announcement: Conservation Alliance
          DEADLINE: March 8

6.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Emery County Bill Passes Both Senate & House,
          Heads to White House for Signature
          (ACTION ITEM)

Utah wilderness was handed its biggest victory ever in February when the Emery County bill, protecting large parts of the San Rafael Swell and other areas, passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It was part of the larger public lands package. (See ITEM 4, below for more details about the larger bill.) The bill now moves to the White House, where indications are that it will be signed (though who can predict? However, the legislation passed with veto-proof margins.).

The bill designates nearly 663,000 acres in the San Rafael Swell and other areas of Emery County as wilderness and incorporates some 60 miles of the Green River into the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. It also establishes the John Wesley Powell National Conservation Area in the Swell and a Jurassic National Monument, protecting a fossil field. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has an excellent overview of the Emery County legislation. Click here to see it.

The Utah Wilderness Coalition initially opposed the bill through several iterations, but Illinois’s Sen. Dick Durbin (D), the Senate champion on Utah wilderness issues, negotiated with Utah interests and stayed strong , thereby securing significant wilderness additions. In the end, the UWC finally supported the bill, and it was included in the package put together at the end of the last (115th) Congress. This shows the degree to which strong and widespread public support can lend credibility and strength to a legislator’s bargaining position. Thank you for constantly speaking out over the years.

Though Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) held up consideration of the bill, because it contained no exemption for Utah from future national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, it was reintroduced immediately in the new (116th) Congress.

The final vote in the Senate was 92-8. As expected, Sen. Lee voted against the bill. However, Utah’s new senator, Mitt Romney (R), voted for the bill. In the House the vote was 363-62.

All the Democratic members of the House voted in favor of the bill. Three Republican members of the California delegation also voted in its favor and deserve thanks from their constituents:

Tom McClintock (R-4)
Paul Cook (R-8)
Ken Calvert (R-42)

The other four GOP representatives from California voted against the bill:

Doug LaMalfa (R-2)
Devin Nunes (R-22)
Kevin McCarthy (R-23)
Duncan Hunter (R-50)

Both California Senators, Feinstein and Harris, voted for the bill.

Please call your representatives and senators to thank them for voting in favor of the bill. Phone numbers are listed on CalUWild’s Congressional Information Sheet.

2.   Red Rock Wilderness Bill Introduction in April
          (ACTION ITEM)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) of Long Beach is planning to reintroduce America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) sometime in April. This has been CalUWild’s #1 legislative priority since we were founded in 1997. As introduced in the last Congress, the bill would designate over 9 million acres of BLM land in Utah as wilderness. With the Emery County bill expected to become law, that number will be reduced by the acreage designated, but otherwise the fundamentals of the bill will remain the same.

When the bill is introduced, it is important that there be a large number of original cosponsors—other members publicly show their strong support for it. This signals that it’s an important piece of legislation. Cosponsors also can usually be counted on to defend the areas in question when threats to their integrity arise. California, with its 53 House members, has always been an important part of that support network, and that’s true even more so now that ARRWA’s chief sponsor is from California.

We would like to see the all the likely House Members from California sign on as cosponsors.

As we’ve said before, though wilderness has long been a non-partisan issue, in recent years designations have received little support from GOP officeholders, especially here in the West. Therefore, we are not expecting any Republican representatives to sign on as cosponsors. However, if you are represented by a Republican it is a good idea to contact the office with the message that you support wilderness, public lands, and national monuments. They need to hear that from as many of their constituents as possible.

A list of those representatives who have cosponsored in the past is included on our Congressional Information Sheet.

When contacting new members of the delegation (marked in yellow on the Information Sheet), it may be helpful and necessary to give them more details about the bill. For information on the history of ARRWA, click here. A 4-page fact sheet is available here. You may find a map of the various areas proposed for designation, click here. Feel free to pass any of this information along to the staff people you talk with.

Offices should contact Rep. Lowenthal’s office to be added as cosponsors.

In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) has been an author and champion of California conservation bills, but she has not signed on as a cosponsor to the Red Rocks Bill as of yet, so it is important that she hear from many Californians in support of the bill. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will once more be the chief Senate sponsor, so her office should contact him.

3.   Bears Ears Expansion Act
          And ANTIQUITIES Act
          Introduced in the House
          (ACTION ITEM)

Two other bills we’ve discussed in the past have been introduced in the House and have attracted nice-sized lists of cosponsors.

— The Bears Ears Expansion And Respect for Sovereignty (BEARS) Act (H.R. 871) would expand the Bears Ears National Monument to 1.9 million acres, reflecting the original proposal by the Native American Inter-Tribal Coalition. This is larger than the 1.6 million acres designated by Pres. Obama in 2016. The bill also directs the Interior and Agriculture Secretaries to “promptly carry out the provisions of the [original Obama] Proclamation, including the provisions requiring the Secretaries to meaningfully engage the Bears Ears Commission.” The chief sponsor of the bill is Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).

As an aside, with the new majority of the San Juan County Commission being Navajo, it recently passed a resolution supporting the Bears Ears National Monument (reversing the Commission’s previous position) and asking the federal government to restore the monument to its previous boundaries. The resolution also told the county attorney to withdraw his motion in federal court, requesting to intervene in the litigation over the administration’s reduction of the monument.

Another result of the election is that some of the now-minority Anglo politicians are proposing to split San Juan County into 2 parts. The headline on this article in the Salt Lake Tribune says it all: A state lawmaker says a San Juan County split should be on the table, after a court-ordered redistricting that ‘disenfranchised’ his voters.

— The America’s Natural Treasures of Immeasurable Quality Unite, Inspire, and Together Improve the Economies of States (ANTIQUITIES) Act (S. 367 in the Senate and H.R. 1050 in the House) gets the “Most Original Title to Fit the Acronym” Award. More importantly, though, it confirms legislatively all 52 national monuments designated by proclamation since 1996, many of which were the subject of the Interior Department’s review in 2017 and 2018. The bill restates the principle that only Congress has the authority to shrink or revoke national monuments. It also creates a “National Monument Enhancement Fund” for the various agencies to prepare management plans, to acquire land, and to develop and enhance recreation opportunities (although monuments are not supposed to be managed for recreation, rather for their historic, scientific, or landscape qualities). Finally, it designates wilderness in Clark County, Nevada. The chief sponsors of the bills are Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM).

A list of California cosponsors for each bill may be found on our Congressional Information Sheet. Please call your representative and Sens. Feinstein and Harris to thank them for cosponsoring or ask them to cosponsor, whichever is appropriate.

4.   Big Public Lands Package Passes Both Senate & House,
          Heads to White House for Signature
          And Information on 2 Other Bills
          (ACTION ITEM)

As mentioned above, both the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to pass the large public lands package that originated at the end of the last Congress. The bill contains several important sections that CalUWild has supported over the years, including the Emery County bill mentioned in ITEM 1.

— The Land and Water Conservation Fund would be permanently reauthorized. Another of CalUWild’s priorities over the years, this fund has never had permanent authorization, and although it has been one of the most popular conservation programs in Congress, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) let it expire last year. The Fund provides money to buy lands for recreation and conservation purposes in both urban (city parks and playing fields, river walks, etc.) and rural areas (private inholdings in or lands adjacent to national parks, forests and wilderness areas). Unfortunately the bill does not provide for permanent funding levels, but other legislation to do that will hopefully be introduced soon.

— The California Desert Bill was included. It designates 375,500 acres of wilderness in the desert, both new and additions to existing areas, as well as designating more than 70 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers. It enlarges Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks and Mojave National Preserve by almost 40,000 acres. It also creates the 18,600-acre Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. A separate bill in the package establishes the St. Francis Dam Disaster Memorial Monument near Santa Clarita in southern California, commemorating the collapse of that dam in 1928, killing more than 400 people.

— Every Kid in a Park, a program begun by Pres. Obama to give fourth-graders and their families free admission to national parks, would be extended for another seven years.

— Other wilderness areas would be designated in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte national monuments, as well as enlarging the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, all in New Mexico. In Oregon, the bill would designate the 30,000-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness, designate more than 140 miles of the Rogue River’s tributaries as Wild & Scenic, as well as expand Wild & Scenic protection for tributaries and the main stem of the Elk River and the Molalla River.

Please thank Sens. Feinstein and Harris and your representative for their YES votes on the bill.

It’s an unfortunate fact that bills this large almost invariably contain provisions that aren’t so favorable to conservation, and this bill is no exception. It extends a program granting federal land to Vietnam-era Native Alaskans, which has the potential to be a privatization scheme. Another section open to potential abuse declares it U.S. policy to “facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on Federal land.” The concern is that the language will give federal land managers license to manage those as priority uses when not appropriate.

An editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on the Public Lands Bill: A moment of bipartisanship in Congress could mean good news for conservation

5.   Job Announcement: Conservation Alliance
          DEADLINE: March 8

The Conservation Alliance, the public lands protection arm of the outdoor industry, is looking for a Membership and Development Program Manager. We received the following job announcement (slightly edited) from them.

The Conservation Alliance is Hiring!

The Conservation Alliance is excited to announce that we are looking to add a new member to our team. We are looking to hire a full-time Membership and Development Program Manager, based in Bend, Oregon. The Program Manager will oversee a comprehensive program to grow The Conservation Alliance membership in the outdoor and sister industries, focusing on: 1) membership recruitment and retention; 2) membership-driven fundraising promotions; 3) all membership-related communications; and 4) managing our events contractor. We’re looking for someone is excited to build our membership in the outdoor industry, and expand our membership in other business sectors. We are a small, mission-driven team of four staff that works in partnership with a board of directors comprised of leaders of the outdoor and craft brew industries.

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please check out the job description, and note that the application deadline is Friday, March 8, 2019.

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.

The Department of the Interior

David Bernhardt, who has been Acting Secretary of the Interior, was nominated this month to take the place of departed Secretary Ryan Zinke. The press is staying on top of the story, with many articles being published. Here are a few.

Before the nomination was announced, the Salt Lake Tribune published an op-ed: Next interior secretary must show more respect for public lands

An article in Westwise: Everything you need to know about Trump’s new pick for Interior Secretary. The Washington Post reported last Fall that Mr. Bernhardt has so many conflicts of interest that “he has to carry a small card listing them all.”

An article in The Hill: New Interior chief nominee calls agency’s ‘ethics challenges’ an ‘inherited’ mess. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Mr. Bernhardt made no mention of former Secretary Ryan Zinke as part of that “inheritance.”

An article in The Hill regarding apparent discrepancies between published and official calendars: Top Dem demands schedule details from Interior nominee

An article in the Los Angeles Times: Elizabeth Warren demands investigation of Interior nominee’s alleged conflicts

An article in Outside Online: The David Bernhardt Scandal Tracker: Trump’s nominee for Interior secretary hasn’t even been confirmed, but he’s already mired in at least 12 scandals

And the press continues to follow developments concerning former Secretary Zinke, as this article in the Washington Post demonstrates: Grand jury is examining whether former interior secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal investigators

An article in the Washington Post: ‘It’s way too many’: As vacancies pile up in Trump administration, senators grow concerned. 41% of the Interior Department positions needing Senate confirmation remain unfilled.

Oil, Gas, and Coal

An article by the Associated Press in the Durango Herald about lands between Bears Ears and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments: Conservation group sues over federal oil, gas leases in Utah

An article by the Associated Press about Chaco Canyon: US delays oil-and-gas lease sale near sacred tribal land

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune about the Alton coal mine near Bryce Canyon National Park: Trump administration approves 2 coal mining projects in Utah. We wrote about the proposed mine in our December 2011 and July 2012 Updates.

An article in the NY Times: Tests for Oil in Arctic Refuge Won’t Happen This Winter, Officials Say

An article in the Reno Gazette Journal on a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate to ban oil & gas leasing in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains

Public Lands in General

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: Trump’s stance on national monuments is straight out of the 19th century

April Sall, director of the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, of which CalUWild is a member, wrote an op-ed in the Palm Springs Desert Sun:
Government shutdown made clear a new deal is needed for America’s public lands

An article in The Hill: Agencies reduce grazing fees for federal land. At $1.35 per “animal unit month” (a cow and her calf), that’s the lowest fee the law allows.

An article in the Los Angeles Times, with some background on the woman who pushed for the establishment of what is now Joshua Tree National Park:
Behind the story: Uncovering the history of Minerva Hamilton Hoyt

From The Guardian’s “This Land Is Your Land” section: ‘Yanked from the ground’: cactus theft is ravaging the American desert

Two op-ed pieces by CalUWild friend Jacques Leslie on watershed restoration, the first in YaleEnvironment360: For a Warming World, A New Strategy for Protecting Watersheds





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