Newsletter Archive

On Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah                                                                                       (Mike Painter)

April 22, 2023

Dear CalUWild friends & Supporters—

Today is Earth Day, and yesterday was John Muir’s birthday. But the timing of this Update is just coincidental—we try to make every day Earth Day, working with our partners and trying to keep up on information and developments that affect wilderness and our shared public lands.

In addition to the two ACTION ITEMS below, there are other positive developments to report. Earlier this month the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would be developing new regulations to enshrine conservation as an official mandate for the agency, in managing the lands under its jurisdiction. A public comment period extends into June, so we hope to have further details next month. In Congress, legislation is being reintroduced to protect areas in California and around the West. Finally, the list of possible national monuments awaiting designation by Pres. Biden continues to grow. We will keep you informed as things develop, especially if there is opportunity for public input.

As always, thank you for your interest and support for wilderness and public lands, and for CalUWild, too.

Best wishes,
Mike Painter, Coordinator

1.   Red Rock Wilderness Act
          To Be Reintroduced—
          Original Cosponsors Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Pres. Biden Designates
          Two New National Monuments:
          Avi Kwa Ame & Castner Range
          (ACTION ITEM)

3.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Wilderness Act
          To Be Reintroduced—
          Original Cosponsors Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

Every two years, after the start of each new Congress, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is reintroduced. The bill has long been CalUWild’s major legislative priority. It would designate more than 8 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah as wilderness, the highest level of protection under U.S. law.

Originally sponsored by Utah’s Rep. Wayne Owens (D), the bill has had several champions in the years since his retirement. The most recent was California Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D), who retired at the end of the last Congress. Second-term Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) of New Mexico, is now the lead sponsor. Rep. Stansbury was elected to fill the seat vacated by Deb Haaland after her appointment as Interior Secretary. In the Senate, the original and long-time champion has been Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois.

Some of the areas included in the legislation are the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, the Book Cliffs, the West Desert, the San Rafael Desert, and currently unprotected parts of Desolation and Labyrinth canyons on the Green River.

The bill would be a big step toward protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, known as the 30×30 initiative, which the Biden Administration has endorsed.

Because the landscape of Utah is of national—and, indeed, international—significance, it is important that support for its protection come from a wide spectrum of people and organizations, especially given the lack of support from Utah’s own congressional delegation. The largest group of supporters is the Utah Wilderness Coalition, of which CalUWild is a longtime member, made up of over 150 organizations. Last year, in a historic move, the Navajo Nation endorsed the bill, the first Tribe to support it. And we’ve just learned that the Hopi Nation has passed a resolution in support of the bill, due to its ancestral and continuing ties to the Bears Ears region. As evidence of its significance, the resolution was the first ever written in Hopi since their contemporary government was set up in 1936.

This leads us to our ACTION ITEM. In Congress, the most important way for members to show support for bills is by becoming cosponsors of them. That means their names are formally attached to a bill in addition to the main sponsor’s. In the case of the Red Rocks Bill, cosponsorship also indicates that they are likely to stand up for wilderness values when other legislation or administrative actions come along that might threaten Utah’s public lands.

When the Red Rocks bill was introduced in the last Congress, it had 57 original cosponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate—meaning they were cosponsors on the date it was introduced. These are impressive numbers.

The date for reintroduction in the 118th Congress was just recently announced: April 27. So that gives us only a few days to makes calls next week. The Utah Wilderness Coalition hosted a week of congressional meetings in March with citizens from around the country flying in, so most offices are aware of the bill and have already been asked. Now is an important opportunity to give that effort extra support.

So please call your representative and Sen. Alex Padilla, asking that they become original cosponsors of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. While representatives who have cosponsored in the past are more likely to become original cosponsors now, all offices should be asked, nevertheless. A full list of the California delegation, with DC telephone numbers, may be found here, along with an X if they are a previous cosponsor—in which case, thank them for their previous cosponsorship first. (It’s always good to have something to thank them for, too, when making a request.)

Thank you!

2.   Pres. Biden Designates
          Two New National Monuments:
          Avi Kwa Ame & Castner Range
          (ACTION ITEM)

In late March, Pres. Biden fulfilled a promise he made last October by designating Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Nevada. At the same time, he designated the Castner Range National Monument near El Paso, Texas. Both had long been the subjects of proposals by local Indigenous tribes and citizens groups.

Avi Kwa Ame, also known as Spirit Mountain, is an area sacred to numerous tribes in the Mojave Desert region at the southern tip of Nevada. Castner Range is a closed army base that was used for testing and training before 1966. It contains many archaeological sites and contains important wildlife habitat. It also contains a lot of unexploded ordnance. Therefore, it will be managed by the Department of Defense at least until it is cleaned up and the public can access it safely.

The New York Times ran an article about the dual designations: Biden Creates Two National Monuments in the Southwest (gift link for non-subscribers).

You may read the Presidential Proclamation for Avi Kwa Ame here. The Nevada Independent published this article: ‘It’s a place of reverence:’ Biden designates Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument. The Las Vegas Review Journal, published a photo-spread on the monument just before its designation: Where the Spirit Dwells.

You may read the Presidential Proclamation for Castner Range here. El Paso Matters published this article: Biden declares Castner Range a national monument.

Please thank Pres. Biden for designating Avi Kwa Ame and Castner Range national monuments and at the same time urge him to continue designating monuments during his administration, particularly the Molok Luyuk expansion at Berryessa Snow Mountain here in California.

You can comment via the White House webform here.

The number for the White House comment line is:


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. Gift links are temporary links from some websites, allowing non-subscribers to view articles for free. As always, inclusion of an item in this section does not imply agreement with the viewpoint expressed.

In Utah

An op-ed (with quite a few pictures) in the New York Times: The Colorado River Is Running Dry, but Nobody Wants to Talk About the Mud (gift link for non-subscribers)

A related op-ed in the New York Times by Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior: Before Western States Suck the Colorado River Dry, We Have One Last Chance to Act (gift link for non-subscribers)

In California

A judge ruled against the proposed Tejon Ranch project 65 miles north of Los Angeles and in favor of the California Native Plant Society and Center for Biological Diversity. The proposal was for a new development in a totally undeveloped area, for as many as 57,000 people. The area is in a high fire danger zone in addition to being an important habitat link in the Tehachapi Mountains. You can read the press release from CBD and CNPS here.

This announcement just came in yesterday, so sorry for the short notice: The film River’s End: California’s Latest Water War will be shown on PBS World channels this Sunday, April 23, 9:30 a.m. PDT, and across the country as well, with some additional showings on some stations. Click here for a full listing of showings.

In Alaska

An op-ed by Denis Hayes in the New York Times, concerning the Izembek road project, which we’ve written about in the past: Will the Future of Alaska’s Wild Lands Hang on a Dispute Over a Gravel Road? (gift link for non-subscribers). Shortly after that op-ed was published, this news appeared, also in the New York Times: Biden Voids Trump-Era Deal to Open Alaskan Wildlife Area (gift link for non-subscribers).

There were other articles in the New York Times as well: Biden Administration Approves Huge Alaska Oil Project and How Biden Got From ‘No More Drilling’ to Backing a Huge Project in Alaska (gift link for non-subscribers)

In Arizona

An article in the Arizona Central: Tribes, lawmakers urge Biden to protect Grand Canyon region with a new national monument

In Nevada

An article in Inside Climate News: Las Vegas Is Counting on Public Lands to Power its Growth. Is it a Good Idea?

In General

An article in The Colorado Sun: To bolt or not to bolt? Federal proposals to ban climbing anchors sparks a wilderness climbing outcry. A related article in National Parks Traveler: National Park Service Opposes Legislation To Allow Fixed Climbing Anchors In Wilderness

An article in Yale’s Environment 360 by CalUWild friend Jacques Leslie: As Projects Decline, the Era of Building Big Dams Draws to a Close

A photo essay in the New York Times, with text by Lydia Millet: Elegy for an Altered Planet (gift link for non-subscribers)


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