Newsletter Archive

Near Lunar Crater, Nevada                                                                                                                                     (Mike Painter)

May 31, 2020

Dear CalUWild friends—

In this time of public health challenges, political uncertainty, and social unrest, it is especially critical to let our representatives know that there are other concerns that must be addressed at the same time. The administration continues its attacks on our environment, and Congress is the main shield available to citizens, though many organizations are resorting to action in the courts (and successfully, too!).

Please take a few minutes to call your representatives and senators, letting them know your concerns in general and also regarding the two specific issues below, in ITEMS 1 & 2. Contact information may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet. In District 25, Santa Clarita, Mike Garcia (R) was elected to fill the term of Rep. Katie Hill (D), who had previously resigned. It remains to be seen what happens with her various cosponsorships.

In the meantime get outdoors as much as you can. While parks and other public lands are beginning to open up again, there are concerns that it might be too soon, exposing employees and the public to increased health risks. So please observe any social distancing and mask requirements.

Best wishes,

1.   Red Rock Bill Gets 2 New California Cosponsors
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Desert National Wildlife Refuge Protection Bill
          (ACTION ITEM)

3.   Oppose E-Bikes on Public Lands
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: June 9
          (ACTION ITEM)

4.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Bill Gets 2 New California Cosponsors
          (ACTION ITEM)

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (H.R. 5775) gained two new cosponsors from California this month: Reps. Mike Thompson (D-5) and Tony Cárdenas (D-29). They joined 14 other California representatives and lead sponsor Alan Lowenthal (D-47) on the bill. Sen. Kamala Harris (D) is not on the bill yet, despite her otherwise strong public land credentials. There are now 81 House cosponsors and 19 in the Senate.

Please contact their offices to say thank you. And if your representative is not on the bill yet, urge them to become a cosponsor. With everything else that’s going on, they often need an extra push from their constituents.

A full list of current and former California cosponsors may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

A full list of cosponsors nationwide may be found here.

2.   Desert National Wildlife Refuge Protection Bill
          (ACTION ITEM)

The Air Force is proposing to expand its operations in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would preserve the Refuge for wildlife: H.R. 5606 and S. 3145, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Nevada Test and Training Range Withdrawal and Management Act.

Our colleagues at Friends of Nevada Wilderness sent out the following alert requesting people to call their representatives in support of the legislation:

May 20th marked the 84th anniversary of the creation of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, located in southern Nevada. The 1.6 million acre refuge was established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 to protect the iconic desert bighorn sheep, Nevada’s official state animal. Located just north of Las Vegas, the Desert Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska. This pristine, wild landscape must be preserved not only for the sake of the wildlife who depend on it, but also for the public who recreates there, and to protect and honor the incomparable historic and cultural resources present throughout the refuge. Currently the Air Force shares jurisdiction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of over 800,000 acres of the western portion of Refuge. The military’s use is intended solely for training purposes and these areas are closed to the public. Now the Air Force is asking Congress to expand their reach in this rich desert landscape.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service needs to retain full management of the entire refuge and no more land in the refuge should be given over to the military. Opening up more land for the potential bombing of critical bighorn sheep habitat and sacred Native American sites is not acceptable. Please don’t lock the American people out of the remainder of this incredible wildlife refuge.

While national defense is important to all of us, a balance must be established that includes cultural and historical preservation and conservation of wildlife habitat and public access. The Nellis Test and Training Range already has 2.9 million acres that are off limits to the public. We ask that when the time comes, please vote in the interest of Nevada’s wildlife and the public. Protect the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

Contact information may be found on our online California Congressional Information Sheet.

3.   Oppose E-Bikes on Public Lands
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: June 9
          (ACTION ITEM)

The Bureau of Land Management has an open comment period on a proposal to allow electric bikes (e-bikes) to be classified as ordinary bicycles under some circumstances. Please submit comments. Our friends at Wilderness Watch sent out the following alert and talking points:

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is undergoing rule-making to open up our federal public lands to electric bikes, or e-bikes. This means that all trails open to bikes will now be open to motorized bikes, and although individual managers can close individual trails to e-bike use, most will be loathe to do so. This rule-making effort is being made to implement Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt’s Secretarial Order from August 2019 to do so.

E-bikes are bicycles turned into motorbikes. They use an electric motor, rather than a gas-powered one, to propel the bike forward. On some bikes, the electric motor provides an assist while peddling, on others the electric motor alone can power the bike. E-bike use has taken off in recent years, and new technologies are now being developed to manufacture e-bikes that can drive up to 55 miles per hour.

For far too long conservationists have ignored the threat that mountain biking poses to wildlands, wildlife and Wilderness. Modern bikes employ technological advances in suspensions, materials, drivetrains, brakes, and even tires that allow mountain bikers to access backcountry areas that would have been unheard of a decade or two ago. Even today, many conservationists err in promoting mountain biking as a benign “human-powered” activity, even though the human power is enhanced with a great deal of high-tech machinery that allows even average riders to reach places unreachable not long ago. Motorized, electric-powered bikes—e-bikes—are becoming the norm and will greatly exacerbate the ecological and political problems created by mountain bikes.

Like all recreation, mountain bikes displace wildlife. Because they travel farther and faster than hikers or equestrians, then can impact a much greater area in the same amount of time. They also have a very asymmetrical impact on foot travelers, who are seeking a quiet, contemplative, non-motorized and non-mechanized experience and are disrupted by a machine racing by. But beyond these direct impacts to nature, a significant segment of the mountain biking community has become one of the most ardent opponents of Wilderness designation and, more significantly, is pushing to open existing Wildernesses to bikes. This push will presumably include e-bikes if they’re treated like non-motorized bikes on public lands.

The new rule-making efforts pose significant problems for wildlife, other trail users, and protected areas like Wilderness. Please submit comments to the Bureau of Land Management expressing your opposition to opening up non-motorized trails on federal public lands to motorized e-bikes.

1. E-bikes should be treated as motorbikes, not bicycles. New e-bikes are being developed now that will drive up to 55 mph. E-bikes should instead travel only where motor vehicles are allowed.

2. Because of their speed and quiet nature, e-bikes can travel much farther into the backcountry, and startle and disturb wildlife over far greater distances.

3. Because of their speed and quiet nature, e-bikes also conflict with other non-motorized trail users like hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists.

4. Because there is almost no enforcement now for trespass, illegal off-trail riding, and illegal trail development by some bikers, e-bikes will increasingly trespass into Wilderness and other protected areas with no consequences. This illegal use will degrade the wild character of these lands and should not be permitted.

Please submit comments to the BLM by June 9. Use your own words and identify your comments with this code:

RIN 1004-AE72

You may submit your comments by clicking on the Comment Now! button here as well as finding more information about the proposed rule on that page.

You may also comment by U.S. Mail at this address:

U.S. Department of the Interior
Director (630), Bureau of Land Management
Mail Stop 2134 LM
1849 C St. NW, Attention: RIN 1004-AE72
Washington, DC 20240

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.

The Administration

An article in The Hill: Interior sued over temporary appointments of top officials. National Parks Traveler posted a copy of the complaint on its website.

An article in The Hill: Court sides with California, blocking Trump’s water diversion

An article in The Guardian, from its “This Land is Your Land” project: He opposed public lands and wildlife protections. Trump gave him a top environment job

An op-ed in High Country News by former California BLM State Director Jim Kenna: Bureau of Land Management leaders have lost their way

In Alaska

An article in the Washington Post: EPA opts not to delay controversial Alaska mine for now.

In Arizona

An article in the Arizona Daily Sun: Feds approve initial Little Colorado River dam permits; developer eyes third permit

In Nevada

An article in E&E News about the Bundy family and Gold Butte National Monument: Bundy’s trenches may force confrontation with BLM

In Oregon

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle: Hammonds drop appeal to compete for lost grazing allotments The Hammonds are the ranchers whose jail sentences kicked off the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.

National Parks

An article in National Parks Traveler: Court Orders National Park Service, Federal Aviation Administration To Develop Air Tour Guidelines

An article by Jeremy Miller in The Guardian, from its “This Land is Your Land” project: ‘We’ve never seen this’: wildlife thrives in closed US national parks

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Crowds cause Arches National Park to shut gates just three hours after opening


An article in the Los Angeles Times: Desert mystery: Why have pronghorn antelope returned to Death Valley?

An article in Courthouse News about a lawsuit filed by Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund: Endangered Jaguar at Crux of New Border-Wall Fight


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