Newsletter Archive

Corn Cob Impressions in Mortar, Cedar Mesa, Former Bears Ears NM, Utah                                                  (Mike Painter)

March 1, 2021

Dear CalUWild friends—

Despite the events at the Capitol on January 6, which we wrote about in our January Update, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris peacefully took office on January 20. The changes in approach to governance and policy were immediately apparent. The Administration lost no time in rejoining the Paris Climate Change Accord and ordering a review and possible reversal of many of the previous administration’s anti-environmental decisions, including the rollbacks of the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments and some protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Pres. Biden also cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The fallout continues from the insurrection, however, with arrests of participants continuing across the country. Congress has vowed to set up a commission to investigate the event fully, and we urge you to support those efforts, so that something like this will not be repeated. Without a functional democracy, there is little hope for effective environmental protection or other issues that are important to us as Americans.

With Sen. Kamala Harris becoming Vice President, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla (D), California’s Secretary of State, to take her place in the Senate. As senator, Vice President Harris was a strong supporter of public lands and was the Senate lead sponsor of companion bills for those originating in the House. We hope Sen. Padilla will follow in her footsteps. It would be good to mention that to him when you contact his office for anything.

There is only one Action Item this month. As always, however, when a new Administration and Congress come in, there are too many topics of interest to cover in detail. So we’ll simply cover most with links to press articles. The headlines should give you the most important information, and you can read more if you like, rather than be overwhelmed in the Update. (Some are behind paywalls, however.) A few other topics will be covered in our March Update.

Our online California Congressional Information Sheet has contact information for all California representatives and Senators as well as listings of important legislation and cosponsorships (though that section is pretty empty at present, since the 117th Congress has just started). We will add to it going forward.

As always, thanks for your interest and support!

Best wishes,

1.   Red Rock Bill to Be Reintroduced in the House and Senate
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Other Utah Topics

3.   Pres. Biden Commits to 30×30
4.   Appointments at
the Department of the Interior

5.   House Passes Combined Public Lands Bill

6.   7th Annual Visions of the Wild Festival Continues
          Wednesday, March 17, 6:00 p.m. (PDT)
7.   Friends of Nevada Wilderness: Wild Speaker Series
          Thursday, March 4, 6: 45 p.m. (PST)

8.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Bill to Be Reintroduced in the House and Senate
          (ACTION ITEM)

CalUWild’s main legislative focus since our founding in 1997 has been America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA). This long-standing bill would designate land managed by the Bureau of Land Management as Wilderness, which is the highest level of land protection under the law. Over the years the included acreage has generally grown as more areas were inventoried for wilderness character. There have also been areas removed as they were designated Wilderness through stand-alone legislation or because of overlap with tribal lands. The bill currently stands at about 9 million acres.

While protecting the spectacular landscapes is one main purpose of ARRWA, and probably the most visible, a Wilderness designation has other important benefits as well. Utah is part of the important corridor of land running from the Grand Canyon clear up to Glacier National Park, providing migration routes for animals and potential habitat as climate change necessitates shifts. The acres also make up a significant portion of those needed to complete the goal of protecting 30% of our land by the year 2030 (commonly known as 30×30. More on this below.)

In addition, it stops oil & gas exploration, leaving the carbon-based resources in the ground. Yet another benefit is that restricting off-road vehicle use cuts down on an important source of the dust increasingly coating snow in the Rocky Mountains to the east. This causes it to melt faster, changing the hydrology of the Colorado River basin.

Finally, the bill establishes a “gold standard,” against which other legislation and proposals on the ground can be measured.

Our friends at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance have published 2 reports looking at some of these broader effects of ARRWA.

The Role of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in Protecting Biodiversity and Mitigating the Climate Crisis following up on their previous report: Contribution of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts

The original bill was introduced in the House by Congressman Wayne Owens (D) of Utah, but after he left Congress, the mantle was taken up by representatives from other states, the current sponsor being California’s Alan Lowenthal (D-47) of Long Beach. He expects to introduce it before the end of March (though that could change, of course). In the Senate, the long-time champion of the bill has been Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Besides actually voting for a bill in committee or when it comes to the floor, cosponsorship is the most important thing representatives or senators can do to signal their strong support for a bill.

Please contact your House Member and Sen. Padilla requesting that they become original cosponsors (meaning at the time of reintroduction) of ARRWA. Contact information is here.

If you would be interested in leading some virtual meetings with congressional offices in the months ahead, please contact Travis Hammill at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (, and he would be happy to discuss the possibility with you.

2.   Other Utah Topics

As mentioned in the introduction, Pres. Biden ordered an Interior Department review of the monument rollbacks by the previous administration. It was to be completed in 60 days, so we’re half way through. Rep. Deb Haaland, whom Pres. Biden has nominated to be Interior Secretary, was a chief sponsor, along with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) of the BEARS Act in the last Congress, which would have restored and expanded the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument to the proposal originally made by the Indian tribes. With her confirmation expected shortly, we are hopeful for a workable solution.

The national monument shrinkages were one of the most controversial actions of the previous administration, and their possible reversal continues to attract press attention:

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by CalUWild Advisory Board member Stephen Trimble: Restore Utah’s national monuments and make the fix permanent

An article in The Guardian’s “This Land Is Your Land” section: Hope grows that Biden will restore US national monuments shrunk by Trump

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: President Joe Biden’s order to review Utah monuments leaves options open, but expansion all but certain

Other Utah articles:

An editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune: Utah has a chance at a better approach to managing public lands

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Zion National Park gets $33 million federal grant for electric shuttles

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Why noise from off-road vehicles is making life miserable in Moab

3.   Pres. Biden Commits to 30×30

The need to protect 30% of our land by the year 2030 (30×30) is rapidly becoming an important umbrella concept for conservation efforts, a goal that is easily grasped, though likely more difficult to achieve. It is a stepping-stone to the proposal by eminent biologist E.O. Wilson to set aside 50% of the planet as natural areas, the proportion he feels is necessary to preserve biodiversity.

A week after his inauguration, Pres. Biden issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Sec. 216 directs the Secretary of the Interior to consult with Cabinet and other officials and prepare a report recommending steps the government should take to achieve the 30×30 goal. They are to get input from state, local, and tribal governments, as well as other interested stakeholders, in identifying strategies and proposing guidelines for how lands and waters would qualify.

Here are two press items:

An article in The Guardian‘s “This land is your land section:” ‘America, send us your ideas’: Biden pledges to protect 30% of US lands by 2030

An article in National Parks Traveler: A National Park Roadmap To “30 By 30”: Adding To The National Park System Would Reveal Overlooked Wonders And Help Protect Biodiversity

As an aside: California passed a 30x3o resolution last year. To receive information about state efforts, send an email to outreach [at] resources [dot] ca [dot] gov with 30×30 in the subject.

4.   Appointments at the Department of the Interior

As we reported in our December Update<>, Pres. Biden nominated Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) as Secretary of the Interior. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held two days of hearings last week. Republicans on the committee were hostile to her nomination, questioning her pointedly on her views on fossil fuels and energy extraction, particularly in light of Pres. Biden’s announced moratorium on federal leases. She replied consistently that she would follow Pres. Biden’s policies regardless of her personal opinions, and that she recognized the difference between being a congressional representative her district and a Cabinet secretary, where she had to take all American’s viewpoints into account. Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he would vote to confirm her despite his initial misgivings, since West Virginia is a coal-producing state. The full Senate is likely to follow suit.

CalUWild joined more than 500 organizations in signing a letter to the Senate urging her confirmation.

Rep. Haaland’s nomination has attracted quite a bit of attention in the public and in the press, as she is the first Native American to be nominated to a Cabinet position and the Interior Department oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A sampling:

An op-ed column by Timothy Egan in the New York Times: After Five Centuries, a Native American With Real Power

An article in E&E News: Republican opposition to Haaland grows more vocal

An op-ed in USA Today by former senators Mark Udall and Tom Udall: Vehement opposition to Deb Haaland ‘motivated by something other than her record’

A subsequent article in the New York Times: Haaland, With a Key Vote in Her Column, Appears Headed for Confirmation

In other very good news for public lands, Pres. Biden appointed Nada Culver to be the Bureau of Land Management’s Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. (This is the position that was held until the end of the previous administration by William Perry Pendley, whom we reported on many times.) Ms. Culver was most recently Vice President for Public Lands and Senior Policy Counsel at the National Audubon Society. Prior to that she directed the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center in Denver. We look forward to having someone at BLM who understands the need for public lands and their role in conservation, rather than just for energy production and grazing.

Ms. Culver has her work cut out for her. The previous administration had moved the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, which resulted in the departure of many of its career employees. BLM also manages the government’s oil & gas leasing program. Other issues needing to be addressed are inventories for Wilderness Study Areas, renewable energy siting, and R.S. 2477, the phantom roads that crisscross the West.

We wish her the best!

Related press:

An article in the Washington Post: Trump officials moved most Bureau of Land Management positions out of D.C. More than 87 percent quit instead.

An op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune: Vera Smith and Kya Marienfeld: Restore science and accountability to BLM’s management of western landscapes. Kya Marienfeld is a wildlands attorney at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Vera Smith is a senior federal lands policy analyst at Defenders of Wildlife.

An op-ed in The Hill: Clean energy is an important step. But it can’t come at the cost of public lands

An article in the Washington Post’s (unfortunately discontinued) blog “The Energy 202:” Biden administration puts freeze on federal fossil fuel leases and permits

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle: Biden halts new oil drilling on federal lands. Here’s what major climate move means for California

5.   House Passes Combined Public Lands Bill

Last week the House passed H.R. 803, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. These bills had passed the House in the previous Congress, but the Senate refused to act on them, so they were able to bypass the regular committee process (to the dismay of some GOP representatives). But in the end several Republican representatives, including Mike Garcia (CA-25), voted in favor of the package, with a final vote of 227 – 200.

The package contained a total of eight bills:

— The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation,
          and Working Forests Act (Huffman)
— The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (Carbajal)
— The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act (Chu)
— The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act (Schiff)
— The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Kilmer)
— The Colorado Wilderness Act (DeGette)
— Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act (Neguse)
— The Grand Canyon Protection Act (Grijalva)

The House Natural Resources Committee released this detailed fact sheet about each of the overall bill’s components.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where there is no companion bill yet.

6.   7th Annual Visions of the Wild Festival Continues
          Wednesday, March 17, 6:00 p.m. (PDT)

Our exploration of the 38th Parallel continues with a discussion: Nature, Sculpture, Community, with:

Steve Oliver, curator of the Oliver Ranch in Sonoma County and former Chairman of the Board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art;
Dana Turkovic, curator of exhibitions and manager of the permanent collection of the Laumeier Sculpture Park; and
Karen Mullen, Laumeier’s Curator of Education.

Please join us for a visit to two beautiful places along the 38th parallel. Both feature large outdoor sculptures, several by the same artists, and they share a mission of doing civic good. We’ll learn about their collections and how they engage with communities around them.

Oliver Ranch (38.72°N) is located in Sonoma County, California. The 100-acre property is home to 18 site-specific installations by some of the most recognized contemporary artists. Steve and Nancy Oliver bought it in 1981 to graze a few extra sheep for, as Steve says, “My daughter’s 4-H project gone bad.”

Laumeier Sculpture Park (38.55°N) is located in St. Louis County, Missouri. Founded in 1976 from the gift of Matilda Laumeier, it is one of the first and largest dedicated sculpture parks in the country. It features more than seventy large works spread across 105 acres.

The event is free, but you need to register in advance here. More information about the presentation and links to several projects may be found on the registration page.

Earlier presentations were Travelling the 38th Parallel, a Global Plastic Art Challenge, the Silk Road, daguerreotypist Solomon Carvalho, Tajikistan, Land Art, and the film The Sacramento, at Current Speed and a discussion following are archived on the Visions of the Wild homepage.

An upcoming event, Landscape Music: Earth Year, is scheduled for April 21. Registration for it is open here.

7.   Friends of Nevada Wilderness: Wild Speaker Series
          Thursday, March 4, 6: 45 p.m. (PST)

Join Friends for their March Wild Speaker Series, “Beautiful Gold Butte: A Hidden Gem In The Mojave Desert” online in a Zoom presentation. Brenda Slocumb, Operations Manager for the Friends of Gold Butte, will be the guest speaker. Gold Butte National Monument covers nearly 300,000 acres of remote and rugged desert landscape in southeastern Nevada, where dramatically chiseled red sandstone, twisting canyons, and tree-clad mountains punctuate desolate stretches of the Mojave Desert. The area is sacred to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and includes thousands of petroglyphs, and traces of human habitation, such as agave roasting pits and shelters, dating back over 12,000 years.

More information and registration here.

8.   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 op-ed in The Guardian, part of its “This Land Is Your Land” project: Trump’s assault on the environment is over. Now we must reverse the damage

An article in the New York Times: Restoring Environmental Rules Rolled Back by Trump Could Take Years

The Washington Post is keeping a running count: Tracking Biden’s environmental actions

An interview in the Salt Lake Tribune with author David Gessner: Presidential ‘superpower’: the federal Antiquities Act and its use in carving out national monuments Mr. Gessner wrote Leave It As It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt’s American Wilderness and All the Wild That Remains: Abbey, Stegner & the American West

An op-ed in The Hill by Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association: For Biden’s climate agenda to succeed, he must start with parks

Land & Water Conservation Fund

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by CalUWild friend Tim Palmer: We need open space, and Washington can help us get it

An article in Roll Call: Congressional mandates unfulfilled by Trump’s Interior Department

Interior Announces Plans to Strengthen LWCF

In California

An op-ed in Bay Nature: Point Reyes: Planning or Performance

News from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife: Dispersing Gray Wolf Travels from Oregon to the Central Sierra Nevada. This is the farthest south a wolf has come into California from Oregon.

And other wolves in this article in the Mt. Shasta News: Wolves in California: Siskiyou is home to a new pair

An article in the Los Angeles Times about the Mono Lake Kutzadika Paiute tribe: A century-old fight for tribal recognition simmers over the eastern Sierra Nevada’s Mono Lake. The Bodie Hills, which CalUWild is working to protect with our friends in the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, lie just north of Mono Lake.

In Montana

An article in the Missoulian discussing the transfer of the National Bison Range to the Flathead Indian Reservation: Bison range officially transferred to CSKT

In Oregon

An article from Oregon Public Broadcasting: Hammonds’ grazing permit rescinded by Biden administration. It was the Hammonds’ jail sentences that provoked the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by the Bundys and others.

An article in The Oregonian: Armed occupation of Malheur refuge was ‘dress rehearsal’ for violent takeover of nation’s Capitol, extremist watchdogs say

A related article in The Guardian’s “This Land Is Your Land” section: Capitol attackers have long threatened violence in rural American west


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