Newsletter Archive

On Cedar Mesa, Utah                                                                                                                                             (Mike Painter)

December 4, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends—

I decided to delay publication of the November Update until today for a couple of reasons: First was last week’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend falling exactly at the end of the month; and second, I didn’t want to add to the tsunami of emails sent out for Giving Tuesday (or Cyber Monday).

Regarding membership, though: Many thanks to those who have sent in contributions in advance of our Annual Appeal. We will be sending that out in the next week or so, so please watch your U.S. Mail or email. (Or see the blurb at the bottom of this email.) We run CalUWild on a shoestring, but your support is needed and much appreciated.

Best wishes for the upcoming holiday season!

1.   General Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   House Natural Resources Committee Passes
          3 California Wilderness Bills
          (ACTION ITEM)
3.   Rep. Katie Hill Resigns

4.   Tongass National Forest Roadless Rule Exemption
          Proposed by Administration
          Comments Needed
          Deadline: December 17
          (ACTION ITEM)

5.   Park Service News

6.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   General Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act
We continue to wait for a firm date for the re-introduction of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and California Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) will still be the principal sponsors, and we hope there will be a large number of original cosponsors when it is re-introduced. We will let you know when the bill will be reintroduced, just as soon as we know!

In the meantime, if you haven’t already contacted your representative, asking them to be an original cosponsor, please do so. Please also contact Sen. Kamala Harris’s office. Phone numbers for all DC offices and a list of past cosponsors for the bill are included in CalUWild’s California Congressional Information Sheet on our website.

R.S. 2477 & Roads
We’ve written over the years about efforts by states to defeat wilderness designations by claiming old routes (sometimes no more than washes or cattle trails) as highways, under the repealed law R.S. 2477. Though most attempts have been unsuccessful, Utah continues to be a leader in this effort. The state recently requested the Interior Department to administratively give up its interest in the Manganese Road in Washington County, in the southwest corner of the state, by filing a “Recordable Disclaimer of Interest.” The Department has indicated it’s willingness to consider doing so.

In response, Sen. Durbin, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt pointing out that in 1996 Congress had prohibited the federal government from taking any action “pertaining to the recognition, management, or validity of a right-of-way … unless expressly authorized by … Congress.” (You can read the letter here.)

Sen. Feinstein has a long history of working for wilderness protection for desert areas, and R.S. 2477 issues arise on California’s public lands from time to time as well, so we are happy to see her sign the letter. Please call her DC office at 202-224-3841 with your thanks.

While you’re at it, a call to Sen. Durbin’s office, thanking him for all of his various efforts on behalf of Utah’s public lands, would be appreciated. His office phone number in DC is 202-224-2152.

Oil & Gas Development
In a bit of good news, it came to light in November that the BLM had suspended oil & gas production on 117 sites previously leased and restricted lease sales of a further 130 sites. This was done in response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Living Rivers. BLM’s decision was based on an adverse ruling it received in a Wyoming case, where the judge said that BLM’s failure to take energy production’s contribution to climate change into account invalidated its environmental analysis. The Utah lawsuit alleged the same facts, so BLM decided not to proceed with the projects.

Most of the proposed leases were in areas with wilderness characteristics, including the Bitter Creek, Desolation Canyon, Dragon Canyon, and White River areas in the Book Cliffs, and Eagle Canyon in the San Rafael Swell.

2.   House Natural Resources Committee Passes
          3 California Wilderness Bills
          (ACTION ITEM)

We’ve written about three California wilderness bills frequently over the years. The good news is that they all passed the House Natural Resources Committee in November and will now go to the full House for a vote. They can still use cosponsors, even at this stage of the process. Our online California Congressional Information Sheet lists them all (current through December 2), along with phone numbers. Please call to request their cosponsorship or to thank them.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D) is the principal sponsor of companion bills in the Senate for each, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) is a cosponsor of all, as well.

Click on the links below for the California Wilderness Coalition’s detailed description of each bill.

H.R. 2250, the Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2).

H.R. 2199, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-24). New cosponsor: Pete Aguilar (D-31)

H.R. 2215, the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act. Rep. Judy Chu (D-27). New cosponsor: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-17)

While we’re on the subject of cosponsorships, Reps.Jerry McNerney (D-9) and Barbara Lee (D-13) are longtime cosponsors of H.R. 1225, the Restore Parks Act. They were inadvertently not listed on our Information Sheet. They are among the strongest supporters of our public lands, and we apologize for any confusion.

3.   Rep. Katie Hill Resigns

As was widely reported in the news, Rep. Katie Hill (D-25) resigned from the House last month. She was a strong supporter of public lands. A special election will be held on March 3, 2020, which is the Primary Election date for California. Former Republican Rep. Pete Knight, whom Ms. Hill defeated in 2018, has announced his candidacy for the seat, as has George Papadopoulos, a 2016 Republican presidential campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia investigation.

4.   Tongass National Forest Roadless Rule Exemption
          Proposed by Administration
          Comments Needed
          Deadline: December 17
          (ACTION ITEM)

The administration is launching a major attack on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, at 16.7 million acres in size, the largest national forest in the U.S. Following a meeting with Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R), the president ordered the Forest Service to roll back protections on the 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the forest, accepting the state’s petition to exempt the forest from the Clinton administration’s 2001 Roadless Rule. The Forest Service reportedly had proposed less far-reaching changes to the management of the forest, and this is another example of the president directly interfering in his agencies’ work.

A public comment period is open until midnight (Alaska time), December 17. Please use the information below, compiled and slightly edited and condensed, from our friends at the Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Save Our Roadless Forests to urge the Forest Service to adopt Alternative 1, the No Action Alternative. This would leave the Tongass National Forest completely under the present Roadless Rule, which has worked well since being adopted in 2001.

As always, please use your own words, and if you have visited the Tongass (or plan to) please describe your personal experiences and why the area is important to you.

The Tongass stretches over the 500-mile-long Southeast Alaska Panhandle and covers 80 percent of the land. It is rich in natural resources and cultural heritage. Developed areas cover about 8 percent of the land. There are 32 communities, including the state capitol of Juneau, in Southeast Alaska.

This action opens pristine roadless areas of our largest national forest (an old-growth temperate rain forest) to logging and road development. Not only does this threaten habitat for wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, and salmon, it also sets a bad precedent that could open up roadless areas in wild forests across the nation.

The Tongass forest’s role in the global carbon cycle is significant—storing more carbon than any forest in the nation. It is the most productive carbon-trapping forest on Earth. The Tongass is among one of the world’s few remaining relatively intact temperate rainforests.

Alternative 6, the Preferred Alternative, would exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule and is fully responsive to the State of Alaska’s petition. This alternative would remove all 9.2 million acres of inventoried roadless acres and would convert 165,000 old-growth acres and 20,000 young-growth acres previously identified as unsuitable timberlands to suitable timberlands. Conservation of roadless values would be achieved through other means, including the Tongass Land Management Plan.

Talking Points
•   The Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule) safeguards roughly 15 million acres of roadless forest lands across both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests of Alaska. These publicly owned and managed areas in our national forests have been protected to conserve watersheds, wildlife habitat and recreational values for the last twenty years.

•   Changing the Roadless Rule for Alaska could irreversibly threaten national forest lands across the state, from ancient forests including thousand-year-old Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western red cedar. The Tongass is also home to species including brown bear, wolf, eagles, black-tailed deer, and world-class salmon habitat that support commercial and recreational fisheries. Once our roadless areas are gone, they’re gone forever.

•   The proposed action in U.S. Forest Service’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Alaska roadless rule would open vast tracts of America’s remaining ancient forest to logging and road building.

•   The Tongass National Forest contains nearly 10 million acres of Intact Forest Landscape (IFL)—the unbroken natural landscape of a forest ecosystem and its habitat. That amount is equivalent to more than half of the IFL in the lower 48 states and represents nearly 40 percent of the Intact Forest Landscape managed by the U.S. Forest Service that is left in this country.

•   The Tongass produces on average 28% of Alaska’s annual commercial salmon catch and 25% of the entire west coast annual harvest! The Forest Service estimates that the salmon industry generates $986 million annually.

•   In an August 2019 letter, Southeast Alaska fishermen and fisherwomen urged the Forest Service to select an alternative that broadly protects fish habitat, continues the phase-out of industrial-scale old-growth clear-cutting, and prioritizes the restoration of degraded watersheds and streams. Instead, the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service have proposed to renew large-scale logging that would adversely impact the tourism and commercial fishing industries of Southeast Alaska.

•   Additionally, not only is the Tongass National Forest at risk if USDA moves forward with the proposed Alaska specific Roadless Rule, the Chugach National Forest in Alaska is also targeted. This plan gives one federal bureaucrat the ability to arbitrarily remove Roadless Rule protections from any of the currently protected 5.4 million acres in the Chugach, with no analysis of impacts and extremely limited public comment. This late-breaking addition underscores how the Alaska Specific Roadless Rule is yet another process designed to hand over Alaska public lands to clearcutting and other resource extraction companies.

You may submit comments in any of the following ways:

By Forest Service Online Comment Form

By email:

By U.S. Mail
USDA Forest Service
Attn: Alaska Roadless Rule
P.O. Box 21628
Juneau, Alaska  99802

The Anchorage Daily News published an op-ed opposing the plan: Exempting the Tongass from the Roadless Rule would be a mistake.

5.   Park Service News

Campground Planning Committee Disbanded
In ITEM 3 of last month’s Update we reported on the Park Service’s “Made in America Committee” that had recommended “improvements”—such as more private concessions, mobile camp stores, increased Wi-Fi, even food trucks—to campgrounds in the national parks. The committee also proposed other changes like limiting the use of Senior Passes for a 50% camping discount during certain time periods. Needless to say, public reaction to the recommendations was negative.

In mid-November, it was reported that Interior Secretary Bernhardt had disbanded the committee at the beginning of the month, without making any public announcement. It’s unknown whether this was because of the backlash; Secty. Bernhardt said it was simply because the committee’s work was done. However, he cannot have failed to note the public’s opinions on the matter. He said that nothing had been implemented and that he would be studying the recommendations. It will be important for the public to stay informed and be vocal. We’ll keep you posted.

5 Fee-Free Days for 2020
There will be five days next year on which you won’t be charged for entering a national park site that normally charges entrance fees.

The dates for 2020 are:

Monday, January 20—Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Saturday, April 18—First Day of National Park Week/
       National Junior Ranger Day
Tuesday, August 25—National Park Service Birthday
Saturday, September 26—National Public Lands Day
Wednesday, November 11—Veterans Day

ALSO: The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the U.S. military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

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.


Good news in an article in this Associated Press article on the closure of the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, which contributes to much of the haze over the Colorado Plateau, to say nothing of producing greenhouse gases: Long-Running Coal Plant on Navajo Nation Stops Production


An article with an interesting viewpoint about Hetch Hetchy Valley in Sierra by Jeremy Miller: Yosemite’s Accidental Wilderness\

An article in the Los Angeles Times: Fed up with Forest Service cuts, Mammoth Lakes and other towns are plotting a recreation takeover

An article in Courthouse News: Water Supplier Temporarily Backs Out of Contentious Shasta Dam Deal

An article in The Guardian: ‘Fire is medicine’: the tribes burning California forests to save them

Our friends at Friends of the River have produced a map and information page showing all the Wild & Scenic Rivers in California (and elsewhere).


An article in Courthouse News: Judge Finds Obama Expansion of Oregon Monument Invalid. This case was heard in Washington, DC. However, another federal court in Oregon previously found that the expansion was valid, setting up a conflict between the two. We’ll see how things play out as appeals progress, and we’ll keep you informed.

The Administration

An article in the New York Times: Interior Chief’s Lobbying Past Has Challenged the Agency’s Ethics Referees

More on the BLM’s move to Grand Junction, Colorado, in this article in The Hill: Relocated BLM staff face salary cuts and in this article in Greenwire (unfortunately behind a paywall): BLM to suffer major staff losses in move West. (Summary: The Bureau of Land Management appears poised to lose the majority of its Washington, D.C.-based staff as part of its plans to relocate out West next year. That could include dozens of employees in the departments that handle public lands planning, environmental compliance, management of hazardous materials, and oil and gas development on the 245 million acres BLM manages.)

Public Lands in General

Our friends at Headwaters Economics have been issuing a series of reports on State Trust Lands. Their latest looks at the economics of proposal to transfer federal lands to states. You can read about the report and download it here: State Trust Lands: Implications for Federal Land Transfer

An article in The Hill: Full funding of Land Water Conservation Fund passes key Senate hurdle

An op-ed in the New York Times: Our National Parks Are in Trouble


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