Newsletter Archive

Detail, Mortar and Wall, Former Bears Ears National Monument, Utah                                                        (Mike Painter)

July 31, 2020

Dear CalUWild friends—

Many thanks to everyone who sent in comments responding to the July 4th Update. The unanimously positive response has been gratifying. The conversation continued last week as the Sierra Club attracted national attention when its executive director wrote a blog post distancing the organization from comments John Muir made and examining some of its history. See ITEM 3 for links to it and a few responses.

Though CalUWild doesn’t endorse candidates for office, we have always emphasized the importance of voting. In general, California does a good job running and monitoring elections. 2020, however, has been a strange year, and it is a good idea to check one’s voter registration status in advance. The California Secretary of State has a website set up where you can do just that:

Residents of California and other states can also check their status here:

Turbovote will also send you notifications about any election changes in your community (and you can unsubscribe at any time. It’s FREE.)

The White House has been attacking the U.S. Postal Service for months now, and there are fears that cutbacks and policy changes will interfere with Vote-by-Mail efforts. The Washington Post published a story yesterday Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November

So if you do vote by mail, please make sure you give yourself adequate time both to receive and return your ballot. (And let your Representatives and Senators in Congress know that they need to support the U.S. Postal Service.)

Best wishes,

1. Public Lands Legislation Moves Forward

2. Huey Johnson

3. Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1. Public Lands Legislation Moves Forward
Great American Outdoors Act

Last week the House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, by a vote of 310–107. The Senate had passed the bill, 73–25, in June, as we reported last month, so now it goes to the White House for the president’s signature. He had promised to sign it, but no date has been set yet.

The bill is significant because it finally accomplishes the longtime goal of providing full and permanent annual funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund. This fund, in the amount of $900 million per year from offshore oil royalties, is used to purchase inholdings in national parks and forests, connect already protected areas, establish trail networks, protect wildlife habitat, and even to create urban parks and build playgrounds. The LWCF also supports conservation efforts on privately held lands. There is probably not a congressional district in the country that has not benefited in some way from the LWCF.

Retiring Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) temporarily blocked passage of the bill early in the month because he has been a longtime opponent of the LWCF, particularly fully finding it, and especially now permanently (though his district has received money for projects over the years). He failed, however, in his attempt to prevent the bill’s passage.

The Outdoors Act also established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, meant to address the huge backlog of deferred maintenance projects on federal lands. It’s estimated that up to $9.5 billion will be available over the next 5 years for various projects under the fund, also coming from oil & gas royalties on public lands.

After the bill’s passage, former Secretaries of the Interior Sally Jewell and Ken Salazar wrote an op-ed in The Guardian: Congress wants to fix public lands. It’s just a bandage on the wounds Trump caused.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

Three items are of interest here: Various public lands bills which had already passed the House as H.R. 2546 were added to the House version of the NDAA, including four from California: Northwest Forests, Central Coast, San Gabriel Mountains, and the Rim of the Valley proposal. Also included were the Colorado Wilderness Act and the Wild Olympics Act. There had been no action in the Senate on that combined bill, so these were added to the NDAA in the hopes that they could be kept in the final version, to be worked out in conference between the Senate and House.

In other good news regarding the NDAA, neither House nor Senate version contains language authorizing for the expansion of the Nevada Test and Training Range into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-UT) amendment that he sneaked into the bill was removed after vocal opposition from the Nevada congressional delegation and many others. Friends of Nevada Wilderness reports that the White House has threatened to veto the NDAA if the expansion is not included in the bill.

The House also attached the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, which we discussed in our January 2019 Update, to the NDAA.

The White House has previously said it’s not happy with any amendments to the NDAA in general, particularly concerning the renaming of military installations named after Confederate military personnel. We’ll see how this plays out.

2. Huey Johnson

We are very sorry to report that CalUWild Advisory Board member Huey Johnson died at home this month, after sustaining injuries in a fall. Huey was 87 years old.

I had the privilege of working with Huey while working for Resource Renewal Institute (CalUWild’s fiscal sponsor) in the 1990s, several of those years as his assistant, and then afterward. He introduced me to many interesting ideas and people. It was sometimes a challenge, because Huey’s mind was free-ranging, and he was a font of ideas, so you never knew what particular day might bring.

Huey had a penchant for starting organizations, and he always said: “If there isn’t an organization doing what you want, start one of your own.” That was the inspiration for starting CalUWild after leaving RRI. A couple of years later, Huey generously took us on as a fiscally sponsored project. Huey was always available to talk about things.

Huey had a remarkable career , which spanned many years. He was the first employee of The Nature Conservancy west of the Mississippi and eventually became Acting Executive Director. He founded The Trust for Public Land, which was followed by a stint as California’s Secretary for Natural Resources in the first Jerry Brown Administration. After leaving government he founded the Resource Renewal Institute. While at RRI, he worked to found Green Belt Movement International, supporting the work of Wangari Maathai’s women’s tree planting organization in Kenya. The Grand Canyon Trust also started under his auspices at RRI, and various other projects continue there as well. In 2001, he was awarded the Sasakawa Prize, the United Nations’ highest environmental honor.

CalUWild friend, filmmaker John de Graaf, made a documentary about some of Huey’s work at RRI, examining environmental planning ideas—known as Green Plans—from the Netherlands and New Zealand, with the hope of establishing similar plans here in the U.S. You can watch it online on Vimeo, entering “Resource Renewal Institute: Green Plans” (with the quotation marks) in the search box. (I’m not providing the exact link because emails containing video links have frequently bounced back, rejected as SPAM. If you can’t find it, send me an email.)

We will miss Huey’s energy and inspiration.

Bay Nature published an interview with Huey several years ago: Huey Johnson takes the long road. The San Francisco Chronicle published a lengthy obituary, which you can read here. The Marin Independent Journal‘s obituary is here.

3. 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.

In Utah

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Donald Trump Jr. touts the shrinking of Utah’s Bears Ears as opening land to public

An article in the Deseret News: Critics say now is not the time for oil and gas leases in Grand County

In Alaska

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a final EIS for the Pebble Mine, the subject of controversy over many years and several items in past Updates. The New York Times published and article about the project: Gold vs. Salmon: An Alaska Mine Project Just Got a Boost. California Rep. Jared Huffman (D-2) immediately introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 spending bill to prohibit the Army Corps from spending any funds to issue a final decision approving the project. An article in The Hill: House-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction

And in other good news on a subject we’ve followed for many years, a federal court has once again ruled against the Interior Department’s plans to build a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt negotiated a behind-the-scenes lands exchange. The court found that the Secretary failed to provide a reasoned explanation for reversing an Obama Administration finding that the road would cause significant environmental damage.

The National Parks

An article in the New York Times: Western Outbreaks Threaten Tourist Season at National Parks.

An essay in National Parks Traveler: National Parks As An Impediment To The Sixth Mass Extinction

In General

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune’s blog post (mentioned above) on the Club’s founding and history. In response the California Sun published an essay He was no white supremacist by Muir biographer Prof. Donald Worster and an interview with him: John Muir and race: Biographer argues for nuanced view of the environmentalist.

Muir’s great-great grandson, Robert Hanna, had a conversation with Black author and educator Carolyn Finney about the Muir controversy and the question of history, social justice, and inclusion. You can watch it on YouTube, entering The Robert Hanna Show #4 in the search box. (If you can’t find it, send me an email.)

The Center for American Progress issued a report: The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America

An article in Bloomberg Law: White House Mum on Land Projects Sped Up for Virus Recovery

An op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle: Investment in the outdoors can bring jobs, health, conservation


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