Newsletter Archive

April 27, 2010

Dear CalUWild friends and supporters –

The Western Wilderness Conference at UC Berkeley 2 weeks ago was a great success. Over 500 people attended over the course of the 4 days, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The Conference received a last minute offer to videotape the proceedings, so we’re hoping to make the keynote speeches and panel presentations available online. We’ll keep you posted as that happens.

It was great to meet so many CalUWild members, too. Thanks to everyone who attended and who worked so hard to make the Conference a success!

On the financial front, funding for CalUWild this year is reflecting the generally dismal state of the economy. We don’t spend a lot of time or money mailing out numerous funding appeals during the year, but we’ll again include a brief reminder this month. If you haven’t sent in your 2010 dues, please consider doing so. Dues have always been voluntary, and we keep expenses to a minimum by using email as much as possible. Contributions of any size are welcome and will be put to good use.

Because dues may be used for lobbying expenses, contributions made payable to CalUWild are not tax-deductible. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution, your check should be made out to Resource Renewal Institute, our fiscal sponsor. Either way, though, mail your contribution to:

P.O. Box 210474
San Francisco, CA  94121-0474

Thanks to everyone who has supported CalUWild so generously over the years.

Best wishes,

1. Wilderness Bill Introduced for National Forest Lands
Along the Wasatch Front

2.   Settlement Reached Protecting Nine Mile Canyon Rock Art

3.   Signatures Filed to Place Parks Funding Initiative
On November Ballot

4.   Wilderness Encampment in San Diego County
May 22-23

5.   Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Planning
DEADLINE: June 7, 2010

6.   America’s Great Outdoors Initiative


1. Wilderness Bill Introduced for National Forest Lands
Along the Wasatch Front

On April 13, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson (D) introduced the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act of 2010, H.R. 5009, to add areas in the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The bill was a compromise involving several ski areas that wanted to preserve heli-skiing, which is prohibited under the 1964 Wilderness Act. So some of the originally-proposed acreage is being set aside as special watershed management areas, rather than being designated as wilderness. The management areas are contiguous to designated wilderness, and with the exception of heli-skiing, they are to be managed to preserve their wilderness character.

One of the proposed new designations is above Mill Creek Canyon and would be named the Wayne Owens Grandeur Peak-Mount Aire Wilderness. Rep. Owens was the original Utah author of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

There is no companion bill in the Senate.

2.   Settlement Reached Protecting Nine Mile Canyon Rock Art

We’ve written before about Nine Mile Canyon in Utah, sometimes called the world’s longest art gallery. Located in the Bookcliffs of Utah and stretching for nearly 40 miles, Nine Mile Canyon is home to numerous rock art panels and archaeological sites. The canyon itself and the plateau in which it lies have also been leased for energy development. As a result, truck traffic through the canyon has increased dramatically in the last few years, and there is evidence that the dust kicked up by vehicles is beginning to damage many of the panels along the road. In addition, chemicals spread on the dirt roads, acting as dust suppressants, may actually eat away at the rock even more corrosively.

During the previous administrations, BLM took advantage of “categorical exclusions,” which exempted the agency from rigorous environmental reviews of areas being leased for energy development. Several conservation groups-the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, and the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition sued BLM over its use of these exclusions, arguing that it was improper to use them when “extraordinary circumstances” are present.

Such circumstances include potential damage to historic and cultural resources, the environment, or to other important resources. At the end of March, the BLM settled with the organizations and agreed to conduct environmental reviews whenever projects threaten these types of resources. In addition, BLM agreed to undertake a study of the effects on the rock art of dust and dust-suppressing chemicals in Nine Mile Canyon.

Reaction from Utah’s Sen. Bob Bennett (R) was swift and negative. The New York Times quoted Sen. Bennett as saying: “I find it outrageous and cynical that on the same day that the president is attempting to persuade Americans that he is supportive of new oil and gas development, a secret deal is announced … that will result in gutting one of the key energy streamlining provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005-ironically a bipartisan legislative achievement that both he and Secretary Salazar supported when in the Senate.”

It’s unlikely, however, that BLM will completely end the use of exclusions; rather it will simply look more carefully before employing them.

In other BLM-related oil & gas news, the trial of Tim deChristopher, the University of Utah student who bid on leases in December 2008 has been scheduled to begin June 21 in Salt Lake City. Although the leases were ruled illegal by a court and the Interior Department subsequently withdrew them, the U.S. Attorney is still pursuing the case. Mr. deChristopher has a website at with more details.

3.   Signatures Filed to Place Parks Funding Initiative
On November Ballot

Two weeks ago, a coalition of conservation organizations submitted 760,000 signatures to the California Secretary of State in support of an initiative that would add $18 to California annual vehicle registration fees. This would fund the state park system and allow vehicles with California plates free access to state parks. 433,931 valid signatures are required, so it seems likely to qualify.

The measure is expected to raise close to $500 million annually. 85% of the funds would go to the state parks, and the other 15% to the Department of Fish & Game, and other state conservation agencies. The park system’s current operating budget is about $380 million, so it looks like the system will have some extra funding to work with after the recent cutbacks.

4.   Wilderness Encampment in San Diego County
May 22-23

Our friends and colleagues at Wilderness4All in San Diego, the Sierra Club, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness, are hosting the following event. Here’s their announcement:

“Wilderness Encampment” to Bring Wilderness Advocates Together on May 22/23 in the Cleveland National Forest

Join dozens of enthusiastic wilderness and wild river advocates at this Wilderness Encampment convening on Saturday – Sunday, May 22-23, at Oak Grove Forest Service Campground and Community Hall, located midway between the communities of Aguanga and Sunshine Summit on SR79 in the Cleveland National Forest. Participants will enjoy rousing presentations, stimulating discussions, hikes, great food, and fellowship at this coming together of organizations and individuals who are working to establish federal wilderness and wild & scenic river protections for federal land in San Diego County.

From the vantage point of our car-camp location at Oak Grove, we will enjoy splendid views of the Palomar range including Agua Tibia Proposed Wilderness to the south, and Beauty Mountain Proposed Wilderness to the north. These pristine areas in San Diego County comprise Congressperson Darrell Issa’s “Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act of 2009” (H.R. 4304), which would add 13,635 acres to the Beauty Mountain Wilderness, and 7,796 acres to the Agua Tibia Wilderness – which were established in Riverside County in 2009 by Congressperson Mary Bono Mack.

Sierra Club CA/NV RCC Wilderness ( and Forest Committees are joining with the venerable Durango, Colorado-based group Great Old Broads for Wilderness (, and Wilderness4All ( in San Diego County to stage this momentous event.

Here are some details…

Audience: Sierra Club members and guests who care about preserving wild places — from various places in California and Nevada, especially southern California

Guest speakers: Rick Halsey of The Chaparral Institute, Land management agency officials, and other guests

Format: Campout Friday night followed by sit-down wilderness meeting Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, group dinner (provided) in campground, with evening walk or program. Group breakfast Sunday (provided)

Hike: Sunday morning hike in the Beauty Mountain Proposed Wilderness Addition led by Geoffrey Smith, finished by 3:00 pm

Meeting agenda topics include: Current Wilderness legislation, wilderness management issues, agency reports, forest updates, off-road vehicle concerns, public lands fees concerns, outing reports and listings, and more.

Meals: Lunch provided during Saturday meeting. Saturday camp night dinner and Sunday breakfast provided; donations will be requested to cover meal costs.  Bring own utensils, cups, bowls, etc.

Costs: $10/person camping fee; $10/person fee for catered Saturday dinner (RSVP by May 12); $3 each donation for Saturday lunch and Sunday breakfast, both prepared by acclaimed gourmet camp cook Vicky Hoover.

Sound fun?  It will be!  For more details and to register, write to (preferred), or call 858.442.1425.  Hope to see you there!  – Geoffrey Smith

5.   Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Planning
DEADLINE: June 7, 2010

2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is updating its Comprehensive Conservation Plan and is seeking public input. Comments should be submitted by June 7, and may be sent by email, fax, U.S. Mail, or through the Refuge’s Comment Form on its planning website, also linked to below.

By Email:

Include “Arctic NWR CCP” in the Subject line.

By Fax:   907-456-0428, Attn: Sharon Seim, Planning Team Leader

By U.S. Mail:

Sharon Seim
Planning Team Leader
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 – 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK  99701

Our friends at Wilderness Watch have sent out the information below giving background and suggested issues and talking points. Please follow the links in their alert for more detailed information.

The future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is being decided and we need your help to Keep it Wild! The Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning to revise the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). The Plan will make important decisions regarding the degree to which the Refuge will remain natural, wild and free. It will guide many aspects of Refuge management, especially “on the ground” activities and uses of the Refuge. This also presents an historic opportunity to recommend the Plan include a wilderness review for all non-Wilderness Refuge lands, including the coastal plain.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an irreplaceable national treasure, the crown jewel of America’s wilderness. It has no comparison in its vastness, remoteness, awe-inspiring landscapes and wildlife. Protecting the Arctic from both incremental changes caused by visitors and development/industrial exploitation is a great challenge that must be addressed by the revised plan. A strong, effective plan is essential to keeping the Arctic wild.

We’ve posted information below on the Refuge, suggestions for ensuring a strong CCP, and other resources. Please be sure to bookmark this page and keep checking back for updates to this page, including alerts and more information.

Take Action Now:
Help keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wild by sending in your comments today. Fish & Wildlife Service is looking for public input on important questions regarding the Refuge’s future, including whether additional areas should be designated as Wilderness. Comments are being accepted through June 7, 2010.

The Alaska Chapter of Wilderness Watch has brought together the collective knowledge of veteran Arctic Refuge activists and former agency stewards to identify provisions that will be essential for an effective plan. Included in these suggestions are:

• Wilderness and Ecological Values
• Indigenous Cultures and Subsistence Use
• Recreation
• Information and Interpretation
• Access
• Inholdings
• Climate Change
• Agency Actions

Please consider incorporating some of this information in your comments. You can read the Suggested Provisions online or download a Word document by clicking here.

1) Go to the Arctic Refuge planning website.
2) Download the Planning Booklet.
3) Use the comment form to provide your comments-send them electronically or print the form and send via mail.
4) Request to be placed on the mailing list.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Facts:

• Originally established by Executive Order in 1960 for “preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values,” Congress doubled its size in 1980 through enactment of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
• At 19.3 million acres, the Nation’s largest refuge. It extends 200 miles north to south.
• Has 8 million acres (40% of the Refuge) of Wilderness.
• Contains a full range of arctic and subarctic habitats.
• Inupiat Eskimos and the Athabascan Indians have lived here for thousands of years.
• More than 20 rivers run through it, with three designated Wild Rivers-the Sheenjek, Ivishak and Wind.
• Home to 45 species of land and marine mammals, 36 species of fish, and more than 194 species of birds from six continents. Wildlife includes:

– The 120,000 Porcupine Caribou herd migrates throughout the Refuge and uses the coastal plain to give birth and raise young.
– Muskoxen and thousands of Dall sheep.
-All three North American bears live here-black, grizzly and polar.

• No roads, trails or commercial developments-visitors must travel by foot, boat or plane.
• According to FWS, “The Arctic Refuge is a place where the mystery of nameless valleys remains alive, where visitors can experience solitude, self-reliance, exploration, adventure, and challenge.”

Resources and Links:

• Arctic NWR website
• FWS Map of the Arctic NWR
• FWS Arctic NWR brochure
• Celebrating a Wilderness Legacy, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, essay by Roger Kaye
• To download a Word document letter to FWS by Johanna Eurich, urging an end to game spotting by plane, click here.
• Proceedings of the National Academy of Science paper: Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild

For More Information:
Fran Mauer, Wilderness Watch Alaska Chapter Representative
George Nickas, Wilderness Watch Executive Director: 406-542-2048

6.   America’s Great Outdoors Initiative

On April 16, President Obama kicked off the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. In a speech and signing ceremony, the President announced a program to help “Reconnect Americans, especially children, to America’s rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms and forests, great parks, and coasts and beaches, by exploring a variety of efforts.”

An 11 minute White House video of the President’s comments and signing may be watched here. The President’s memo may be read here.

This is just the beginning of a process that will include public listening sessions and more. Some of the topics we would like to see addressed include:

• Wilderness designation & proper wilderness management
• Establishment of a formal system of wildlife corridors
• Adequate funding levels for land management agencies
• Restoration of degraded areas
• Establishment of new parks and recreation areas at all levels
• Pitfalls of privatization of public resources

We’ll keep you posted a things develop. In the meantime, you can check out the Department of Interior’s website for the Initiative. They are already accepting comments and suggestions. Please speak up for the issues you care about.