Newsletter Archive

Gardisky Lake, Hoover Wilderness, California                                                                                  Mike Painter

October 21, 2010

Dear CalUWild friends—

There are a few California-specific items with imminent deadlines, so we’re sending out the October Update this week to deal with them on their own. We’ll send out another Update next week, covering other items of interest around the West.

Until then, thanks for your interest and efforts,

1.   Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Farm Permit
          Open Houses Scheduled in the Bay Area
          NEXT WEEK
          COMMENT DEADLINE: November 22
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Mono County Supervisors Vote To Take NO ACTION
          On Bodie Hills Resolution Supporting WSA Release
          (ACTION ITEM)

3.   Giant Sequoia National Monument Planning
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: November 3
          (ACTION ITEM)

4.   Public Lands Legislative Update:
          A.   Pinnacles National Monument
          B.   Sacramento River NRA
          C.   Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area
          (ACTION ITEM)

5.   November 2 Election
          (ACTION ITEM)

6.   In the Press


1.   Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Farm Permit
          Open Houses Scheduled in the Bay Area
          NEXT WEEK
          COMMENT DEADLINE: November 22
          (ACTION ITEM)

We’ve reported over the years on the controversy regarding the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s commercial permit in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Here’s a brief historical summary:

Pt. Reyes NS was established in 1962. It contained working dairy ranches and an oyster farm on the shore of Drakes Estero; these were allowed to continue to operate. In 1972, the oyster farm was given a 40-year operating permit. In 1976, Congress created the Phillip Burton Wilderness. The land on which the oyster farm is located was included in the bill, designated as “potential” wilderness because of the pre-existing 40-year commercial lease on the land. The intent of Congress was clear: the land would become part of the wilderness area without further legislative action upon expiration of the lease, i.e., automatically.

The present owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company bought the business in 2005, knowing that the lease would expire in 2012 and that the Park Service had no authority to renew it because of the wilderness legislation. Since that time, the owner has worked to have the lease extended by various means, most recently via a rider attached to the FY 2010 Interior Appropriations bill. This rider was never fully discussed by the Congress, and in our view was a backdoor method of getting legislation passed that might not otherwise have been approved in the normal committee process. The rider gave the Secretary of the Interior the authority to extend the permit (but did not require an extension, as had been originally proposed).

The Seashore recently announced that it will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a possible 10-year extension of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s permit. The scoping period is open, and there will be three public open house meetings in the Bay Area next week where citizens can get more information, talk to officials, and submit comments.

All meetings run from 6 – 8 p.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Dance Palace Community Center
503 B Street
Point Reyes Station

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Multi-Purpose Room, Bay Model Visitor Center
2100 Bridgeway

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Community Room, REI Berkeley
1338 San Pablo Avenue

CalUWild has no objection to the present operation of the oyster farm. Our concern is with the procedure that has been followed to try to extend the permit. Only Congress can designate Wilderness, and if there are to be changes to Wilderness status, then Congress must be the body to do it, through open, public discussion, not via riders that pass the final decision along to others.

We recognize that there are other issues involved, such as the importance of local agriculture, family businesses, and the historic or at least traditional use of the property. The Seashore, therefore, needs to look at all options, including the possibility relocation to nearby Tomales Bay, as it prepares its EIS. But it should not grant an extension of the commercial permit.

Pt. Reyes is not accepting comments via email. Comments may be submitted online here.

Comments may be sent by US Mail:

c/o Superintendent
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA  94956

Written comments will also be accepted at the public meetings.

The comment deadline is November 22. You may download the scoping notice from this page.

2.   Mono County Supervisors Vote To Take NO ACTION
          On Bodie Hills Resolution Supporting WSA Release
           (ACTION ITEM)

On September 21, the Mono County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to take no action on a resolution to support H.R. 6129, the so-called Mono County Economic Development Act of 2010. The main provision of the bill would release the Bodie Wilderness Study Area from its protected status in order to allow a gold mining company to conduct further exploration in the area.

While the result is certainly favorable, it’s not a total victory. One supervisor said he would like to have the entire issue of WSAs in the area “resolved.” Several supervisors made it clear that they were irritated by rushed nature of the resolution, regardless of its merits, coming less than a week after the bill was introduced in Congress. The total lack of information about the mining company’s plans was also a factor.

On the other hand, people from all over the West sent in more than 300 letters opposing the resolution. One supervisor specifically commented how impressed he was that these letters were personalized and not just form letters. It was good to hear him comment this way. It shows that letters can have an impact, and in this case, they certainly did.

So, many thanks to all who wrote last month. If you haven’t written yet, please send Rep. McKeon a letter letting him know your views on the bill. Suggested talking points were in last month’s Update, which you can read by clicking here.

Because of irradiation, it’s best to send a fax to DC or send US mail to one of Rep. McKeon’s local offices. Full contact information can be found here. Please send a copy of your letter to both Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Contact info can be found by clicking on their names.

We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

3.   Giant Sequoia National Monument Planning
          Comments Needed
          DEADLINE: November 3
          (ACTION ITEM)

We wrote in August about Giant Sequoia National Monument releasing a Draft EIS on its new management plan. We didn’t have any comments on the plan at the time, but we said we’d try to get information out in time for the comment deadline of November 3. The Sierra Club, which has long been involved in Monument issues, has prepared the following talking points. You do not need to mention every one, and please use your own words. If you have visited the Monument, write about your experiences.

Support the “Citizens’ Park Alternative” for the Giant Sequoia National Monument

A decade ago President Clinton designated the Giant Sequoia National Monument to forever protect the magnificent Giant Sequoia ecosystem. Unfortunately once again, this national treasure is under threat. After a failed attempt to provide a legally sufficient plan to protect the Giant Sequoia ecosystem, the Forest Service is apparently repeating the same mistakes as the past. The newly released draft Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan EIS continues to promote a failed logging agenda, with some proposed alternatives calling for more tree removal than prior to the monument’s designation.

Because of these past and present agency failures, citizens have now come forward with their own management alternative that will forever protect the Giant Sequoia ecosystem. Please tell the Forest Service to adopt the “Citizens’ Park Alternative.”

The “Citizens Park Alternative”

•   Restore the vision of President Clinton’s Proclamation and protect the giant sequoia ecosystem from continued proposals for logging and other dangers, as proposed in the Forest Service’s preferred alternative.

•   The Monument’s Giant Sequoias Groves and intertwined forest ecosystem should be managed in the same fine manner as Sequoia National Park.

•   This means that fire should be used as the preferred method of ecosystem restoration and fuel reduction treatments.

•   The plan must prioritize the protection and restoration of healthy habitats for sensitive wildlife species, including fisher, martens, owls, and goshawks.

•   Alternative C is not really a park style management alternative and goes too far by eliminating all dispersed recreation.

•   Historical recreation is OK, so long as it is consistent with protecting the Monument’s natural resources, including the use of trails and dispersed camping

•   Park style management should focus on ecosystem restoration, not recreation management.

•   Any mechanical thinning for fuel reduction should be focused in areas directly adjacent to structures.

•   Tree removal from the Monument is prohibited by the Clinton Proclamation, unless absolutely necessary, and must be scientifically justified for ecosystem restoration and maintenance or public safety.

•   This means that any larger trees that are cut should be left in the monument because they generally are not the type of material that causes unwanted fire behavior and are needed for ecosystem restoration.

•   Any removal of trees, tree limbs, and slash should be focused on small diameter material, which is the type of material that could cause unwanted fire behavior.

•   Salvage logging should be expressly prohibited because it is only done for commercial purposes and prohibited by the Clinton Proclamation.

•   The Forest Service should cancel the three remaining commercial timber sales in the Monument still under contract that were held illegal by the Federal Court:  Frog, Saddle, and White Mountain.

•   All Roadless Areas should be managed to maintain their Wilderness potential, and the Forest Service must keep its promise from the last plan revision to recommend the Moses Roadless Area as Wilderness.

Please write the Forest Service today and ask them to adopt the Citizens’ Park Alternative for managing the Giant Sequoia National Monument.


On the Web:

By US Mail:

GSNM – DEIS Comments
Sequoia National Forest
1839 S. Newcomb St.
Porterville, CA  93257

4.   Public Lands Legislative Update:
          (ACTION ITEMS)

There have been a few California public lands bills that had hearings in Congress or were recently introduced. Though not all involve wilderness, they nevertheless offer important protections for more of California’s natural heritage.


A.   Pinnacles National Monument

S.3744, Sen. Boxer’s bill to re-designate Pinnacles National Monument a national park (and companion bill to H.R.3444 by Rep. Sam Farr (D-17)), had a hearing last month before the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks. It was sent to the full Senate for a vote. In addition to renaming the monument, the bill would enlarge add several thousand acres to the new park and would designate more wilderness within it.

The Park Service supported the bill in the hearing, although last year it testified against the proposal at a House hearing on Rep. Farr’s bill.

B.   Sacramento River NRA

The following (slightly edited) comes from the California Wilderness Coalition:

Please thank Senator Barbara Boxer for introducing S.3879, the ”Sacramento River National Recreation Area Act of 2010.”

On September 29, 2010 Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) introduced S.3879 in the US Senate, the ”Sacramento River National Recreation Area Act of 2010,” a bill to designate 17,000 acres of public land south of Redding and east of Red Bluff as the “Sacramento River National Recreation Area” (NRA). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) immediately signed on as a cosponsor.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 17,000-acre Sacramento River Bend Area in northern Tehama County and southern Shasta County is the most undeveloped portion of the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. The river twists and turns through the heart of the area, thus earning its “Bend Area” nickname. This stretch of the river includes the steep and highly scenic Iron Canyon and it hosts some of the best salmon and steelhead trout spawning grounds in California (the astounding “Salmonzilla,” an 85 pound, 51-inch Chinook salmon, was found dead in the northern part of the area in 2008).

Remnants of the great riverside forests that once followed the Sacramento from its source to the San Francisco Bay still exist in the area, and above the river blue oak woodlands and grasslands thrive. Seasonal wetlands dapple the grasslands and serve as rest stops for migrating waterfowl. The proposed NRA is a great place for horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, rafting, hiking, picnicking, scenic driving, wildlife viewing, hunting and mountain biking. The area is noted for its truly spectacular spring wildflower displays. To learn more about the area, visit the BLM’s website.

Designating the area as an NRA will ensure that the BLM’s current effective management continues into the future and that the agency receives additional funding for land acquisition and restoration. This is extremely important because private lands adjacent to the proposed NRA face increasing development pressure as the Shasta-Tehama region grows.

It is very important to thank our elected officials when they do something positive for California’s public lands. Please thank Senator Boxer for working to protect this important area, and thank Senator Feinstein for supporting her!

Please tell her that you strongly support her legislation to establish the Sacramento River NRA. If you have visited the Sacramento River Bend Area, please tell her what you did there and explain that you want others to be able to enjoy such activities in the future. Mention which of the proposed NRA’s recreational, scenic and natural values are most important to you.

For more information, contact Ryan Henson of the California Wilderness Coalition at or 530-365-2737.

C.   Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area

Rep. John Garamendi (D-10) and Sens. Feinstein and Boxer introduced legislation  in the House (H.R.6329) and Senate (S.3927) to create the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area. The bill is designed “to protect and promote the cultural, historical, and natural assets of the region” according to Rep. Garamendi’s office. The bill would set up a framework for federal agencies to cooperate with local governments on such efforts, and authorize appropriations to do so.

For a map and more information, click here. A press release is here.

Reps. George Miller (D-7), Doris Matsui (D-5), Jerry McNerney (D-11, and Mike Thompson (D-1), all the representatives of districts included in the proposed NHA, cosponsored the House bill.

If you wish to write to any of the legislators sponsoring the above bills, contact information for them can be found by clicking on:

Barbara Boxer
Dianne Feinstein
John Garamendi

5.   November 2 Election

Proposition 21 would provide permanent dedicated funding for California’s State Park System by adding an $18 annual surcharge on vehicle registration. 85% of the funds raised would go to a trust fund for the state parks. A small amount would go toward administration of the fund, and the remainder to other wildlife and conservation programs. In exchange, personal vehicle registered in California would have free access to all state parks. (The surcharge would not apply to commercial vehicles.)

In an ideal world, the legislature and governor would appropriate adequate funds to maintain and expand our state park system. However, California’s State Park System has been woefully under-funded for many years, and in the last several budget cycles, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed closing many of them to save money. No one has come up with an alternative that preserves the ecological, recreational, and historic values that our state parks protect. As with all resource issues, once those values are degraded or disappear, it is extremely difficult or impossible to retrieve them.

We cannot afford to wait any longer. Prop. 21 may not be a perfect solution from a procedural point of view, but it provides funding for parks that benefit all Californians, and gives support to local economies. Just about all conservation organizations in the state, and CalUWild, too, urge a YES vote on 21.

Proposition 19 would legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana. There are many differing opinions about various philosophical and practical aspects of the proposal, and we’re not taking a position on it. We do want to point out one topic, though, that is sometimes overlooked: the huge impact that illegal “plantations” have on our public lands. Cultivated areas destroy natural habitat. Pesticide use is unregulated, and runoff poisons streams. Personal safety can be a concern for rangers and for hikers who unwittingly come across growing areas. Here’s just one example from  Sequoia National Park:

“On Wednesday, September 29, law enforcement rangers removed an illegal marijuana plot, with a total of 13,077 plants (worth over $52 million), from Sequoia National Park. In addition, rangers found several hazardous materials that can cause harm to the natural environment at the site, including trash, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The plot is believed to have ties to a Mexican drug trafficking organization. No arrests have been made yet. An investigation is ongoing. This law enforcement operation has reduced threats to visitors, park resources, etc.”

Please consider this aspect when deciding how to vote.

Proposition 23 would overturn California’s landmark greenhouse gas bill. While not directly a public lands bill, our best science indicates that climate change resulting from human-produced carbon dioxide and other gases is having and will continue to have a profound impact on our landscape. Rising sea levels and higher temperatures that force animal and plant species to migrate or become extinct are just two examples.

A list of the major donors in support of Prop. 23 may be found here. Major donors to the campaign opposed may be found here. It was just announced today that Bill Gates has contributed $700,000 to the campaign against the proposition. Interestingly, George Shultz, Secretary of State under Pres. Reagan, is the honorary co-chairman of the campaign opposing Prop. 23. He can hardly be considered a wild-eyed environmentalist!

CalUWild urges a NO vote on 23.

Please remember to VOTE on November 2 or by mail in advance!

6.   In the Press

An interesting look at science in the wilderness: research in Dusy Basin on the decline of the Sierra Yellow-Legged Frog

A brief look at the controversy over the development of solar power in the California desert