Newsletter Archive

Wild & Scenic River System stamps                                                                                                               (U.S. Postal Service)

April 30, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends—

There is only one main item this month, with three easy ACTION SUB-ITEMS dealing with Congress. We previewed these briefly in our January Update, and the time has come to act in support of them. They can all be done in the same phone call.

The second item is our regular IN THE PRESS section. Some of the articles in it are about issues we’ve covered in the past but which don’t require a separate item in the Update. Included are articles about the new Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt. His tenure is already as filled with controversy as Ryan Zinke’s, who was forced to resign last year. We’ll keep you posted on developments.

Public lands have been increasingly in the news with this administration, and there are often too many topics to cover in great detail. In response, we’ve been increasing the number of articles we link to. I hope you’ll read them to keep up-to-date on developments and to stay generally informed about public lands.

Last year was the 50th Anniversary of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. This year, the U.S. Postal Service is issuing First Class commemorative (Forever) stamps in honor of the system. Several are photos taken by friends of CalUWild, and we’re featuring them this month as the (slightly fuzzy) illustration for the Update. The stamps are being released May 21.

Best wishes,

1.   Legislative Update
          (3 ACTION ITEMS)
          a.   Utah’s Red Rock Wilderness Act Reintroduction Expected in May
          b.   3 California Wilderness Bills Introduced in April
          c.   ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019

2.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Legislative Update
          (ACTION ITEMS)
          a.   Utah’s Red Rock Wilderness Act Reintroduction Expected in May

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA) has consistently been CalUWild’s major legislative focus since our founding in 1997. It would designate land in Utah managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as wilderness. The bill was first introduced in 1989 by Utah Rep. Wayne Owens (D), and when he left Congress, he asked Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to take it on. It was later championed by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), and now the lead sponsor is California’s Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47). Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has been the Senate champion for many years.

You can see a map of the proposal as introduced in the last Congress here. (Some portions in Emery County—north and south of I-70—were designated as wilderness in the large public lands package that became law in March of this year, and they will be omitted when the bill is reintroduced.)

The bill is important for two reasons. The first, obviously, is to designate deserving areas as wilderness. The second, however, is equally important: It sets a standard against which all other proposals, either legislative or on-the-ground projects by the BLM, must be measured. By cosponsoring the bill, representatives indicate their strong support for it and its underlying protections. We can then usually count on cosponsors to actively oppose bad legislation when it is introduced.

Rep. Lowenthal and Sen. Durbin will most likely reintroduce ARRWA in May. We would like to see as many California representatives as possible, and both senators, sign on as cosponsors before reintroduction. Nicole Brown, the founder of Women Who Hike, and I spent a few days in Washington earlier this month visiting California congressional offices, informing them of the upcoming reintroduction of the bill. But they need to hear from constituents as well, so please call your representatives and senators and ask that they sign on as original cosponsors.

A list of previous ARRWA cosponsors from California and contact information for all California congressional offices in Washington may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

          b.   3 California Wilderness Bills Introduced in April

April 10 saw the reintroduction of three public lands bills for California, north, central, and south, in the House. Sens. Kamala Harris (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D) also introduced companion legislation in the Senate for each of the bills.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2) reintroduced his Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act (H.R.2250). The proposal would protect local wild lands, expand recreational opportunities, improve fire management, and restore impacted watersheds. The bill number in the Senate is S.1110.

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-24) reintroduced his Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R.2199). 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. The bill number in the Senate is S.1111.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-27) reintroduced her San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (H.R.2215). The bill would designate wilderness in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and enlarge the monument, as well as creating a national recreation area. The bill number in the Senate is S.1109.

More detailed descriptions of the bills may be found in this press release from the California Wilderness Coalition.

Please thank the House sponsors and both senators for their championship of each of these bills. (ALSO: If you haven’t thanked Sen. Feinstein for her California Desert Protection and Recreation Act, passed with the large public lands package in March, please do so as well!)

Contact information for all California congressional offices in Washington may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

          c.   ANTIQUITIES Act of 2019

As we have reported over the years, the Antiquities Act of 1906, signed into law by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, has been under attack from anti-public land forces. The law authorizes the president to declare as monuments “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” that are on federally-managed land, “the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

The Antiquities Act has since been used by presidents of both parties to create more than 130 national monuments.

The law has created controversy since its inception. A lawsuit was filed against Pres. Roosevelt, arguing that his designation of the Grand Canyon was an abuse of authority because of the monument’s size. However, the Supreme Court ruled that it was appropriate, given the canyon’s size. In more recent times, presidents have recognized the need to preserve larger landscapes for their scientific and ecological value. Beginning with Bill Clinton and his designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, the Bureau of Land Management has had landscape-scale monuments under its jurisdiction. These monuments continue to arouse opposition from some in the West—hence the sham review that the administration undertook at then-Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) instigation, resulting the reduction of both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments. Other monuments designated since 1996 remain at risk, although Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has said further review is not on his priority list. (We’ll see about that …)

To rectify this situation, the ANTIQUITIES Act was introduced in the last Congress and has been reintroduced in this one. The bill states unambiguously that “a national monument may only be reduced, diminished, or revoked by an Act of Congress.” It also gives congressional recognition to the 52 national monuments as originally designated since 1996, preventing the administration from tampering with their boundaries. Furthermore, it enlarges the Bears Ear National Monument to reflect the proposal originally made by the Native American Inter-Tribal Coalition. (Pres. Obama’s designation was somewhat smaller.) The bill also establishes a “National Monument Enhancement Fund” to be used for management planning and acquisition of needed land. (One questionable aspect, however, is that the fund is also to be used for development of recreational infrastructure, even though recreation is not one of the purposes for which monuments are to be designated.)

In the House the bill number is H.R.1050, and in the Senate, it’s S.367.

At present, there are 98 cosponsors in the House and 24 in the Senate. We would like to see more cosponsors in both chambers, especially among freshman representatives in the House. There are 29 California representatives currently cosponsoring. Freshmen California House members missing from the list are Josh Harder (D-10), TJ Cox (D-21), Gilbert Cisneros (D-39), and Harley Rouda (D-48). Both Sens. Harris and Feinstein are cosponsors.

Please call your representatives and both senators as appropriate to either thank them or ask them to become cosponsors of these bills.

A list of current ANTIQUITIES Act cosponsors from California and contact information for all California congressional offices in Washington may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

2.   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.

Department of the Interior and the administration

An article in the Washington Post on then-nominee/Acting Interior Secretary Bernhardt: Interior Dept. watchdog reviewing allegations that acting secretary violated Trump ethics pledge

From our friends at the Center for Western Priorities, in Westwise: Hidden calendars show Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary met repeatedly with drilling, mining industries

In the New York Times: Senate Confirms Bernhardt as Interior Secretary Amid Calls for Investigations Into His Conduct. It’s disappointing that three Democrats, particularly Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) who is a strong defender of public lands, voted to confirm Mr. Bernhardt.

An article in Politico: National Archives joins investigation into Interior chief’s missing calendars

His first day on the job, and the New York Times had this article: Interior Dept. Opens Ethics Investigation of Its New Chief, David Bernhardt

And the Interior Secretary isn’t the only one with ethics problems, as you can read in this article from The Hill: EPA administrator failed to disclose former lobbying client

We’ve reported for years on the proposal to build a road in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, much of which is designated wilderness, most recently in our January 2018 Update, when then-Secretary Zinke signed a land exchange agreement. Our friends at Wilderness Watch, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society sued to overturn the agreement and were successful. The same day, the judge ruled that the administration’s decision to open Arctic and Atlantic waters to drilling was also illegal. You can read about both decisions in the Washington Post: Federal judge declares Trump’s push to open up Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas drilling illegal. You can read the Izembek ruling here. The ruling in the drilling case is similar to the one hoped for in the national monument rollbacks cases—that the president doesn’t have the authority to diminish protections put in place by a predecessor.

Another judge ruled that the Interior Department is barred from overturning the Obama Administration’s moratorium on coal mining on public lands without undertaking a NEPA analysis. An article in the New York Times: Judge Delivers Major Setback to Trump Policy to Increase Coal Mining on Federal Land

An article in the Harvard Law Review: The Trump Administration and Lessons Not Learned from Prior National Monument Modifications

An article in High Country News about the Hammond family in Oregon, whose prison sentences set off the Bundy occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: Fire-starting ranchers get a new blessing from BLM. A bizarre turn of events …

An op-ed in The Guardian: Trump’s EPA wants to put a toxic mine in pristine Alaska. What could go wrong? We’ve written about the Pebble Mine several times, most recently in May 2017.

Bears Ears National Monument

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Democrat-controlled San Juan County formally withdraws from Bears Ears court case

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Feds stack Bears Ears advisory group with critics of southern Utah monument

An editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune: Bears Ears committee is a monument to bad intentions

An excellent graphical representation in the Washington Post: What Remains of Bears Ears

In the Salt Lake Tribune: Southern Utah environmental group sues feds over public lands leased for oil and gas development in Alkali Ridge. The area is adjacent to the Bears Ears National Monument.

Public Lands in General

An op-ed in The Guardian: We must ensure US public lands stay public, or risk ‘demolition of society’

A judge says: “It is simply delusional to maintain that all public land within the boundaries of Nevada belongs to the State of Nevada.” Cliven Bundy’s public lands claim is ‘simply delusional,’ judge rules

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: I was a national parks slacker. It took a foreigner to open my eyes.

An article in The New Republic: How Instagram Ruined the Great Outdoors. And on a related note, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Moab is drowning in tourists, and Utah is making Grand County spend millions a year to invite more

An op-ed in the New York Times: Why Are We Still Slaughtering the American Bison?

The Arts

The Los Angeles Times recently gave Terry Tempest Williams its Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, for writing about the West. The paper published an interview with her: Terry Tempest Williams on nature writing: ‘My heart is very deep in these wild lands’. Terry is on CalUWild’s Advisory Board.

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