2020 March

April 1st, 2020

Globe Mallow, Cedar Mesa, Utah                                                                                                              (Mike Painter)

March 31, 2020

Dear CalUWild friends—

Welcome to the strange new world of coronavirus. I hope everyone and their families are able to stay healthy and safe. That needs to be the first priority.

However, we still need to pay attention to what’s going on in Washington, DC and elsewhere. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the rest of the administration are insisting on pushing full steam ahead with their anti-environmental agenda of NEPA rollbacks, oil and gas leases, and more. This comes despite pleas from employees who need to take time off and from Congress and citizens who need to be attending to other matters. Meanwhile the oil and gas industry is requesting leniency on enforcement, since many of them are now short of workers because of the virus. We’ll see what the response is to those requests.

So while we’re in for rough times ahead on many fronts, we all will need to do our best to get through. See ITEM 4 for ideas for things to do to that provide for some balance and relaxation.

Best wishes,

1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

2.   Wilderness Bill Introduced for Southern Colorado

3.   Job Opportunity: Western Watersheds Project

4.   The Pandemic and Public Lands

5.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest


1.   Red Rock Bill Cosponsor Update
          (ACTION ITEM)

There is only one new cosponsor for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act this month from California: Rep. Katie Porter (D-45). (Many of you may have seen video of Rep. Porter, in a Congressional hearing, forcing the head of the Centers for Disease Control to agree to free testing for the coronavirus.)

Please call her office to say thank you: 202-225-5611

We hope to get most of California’s representatives signed on soon as cosponsors, so please look at the California Congressional Information Sheet on our website and see where your representatives stand. And then call to thank or ask them, as appropriate.

A full list of cosponsors nationwide (74 in the House and 17 in the Senate) may be found here.

2.   Wilderness Bill Introduced for Southern Colorado

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) has introduced the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Additions Act (S. 3320), which would add some 40,000 acres to the existing wilderness area (of the same name) in the Rio Grande National Forest.

Sen. Gardner has faced criticism because he has not been a supporter of wilderness and public lands since being elected in 2015. Sen. Gardner has not spoken in favor of the CORE Act, introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet (D), which we wrote about in our January 2019 Update. The League of Conservation Voters says that in 64 out of 75 votes, Sen. Gardner voted against conservation interests. Conservation Colorado published an analysis of Sen. Gardner’s environmental record, which you can read here. Sen. Gardner is, however, credited with having changed White House thinking on funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

Conservation and outdoor recreation are important issues in Colorado, and Sen. Gardner is facing a tough re-election campaign this year. Therefore, many people there feel that this bill is merely a way to shore up his credentials, risk-free, since its acreage is a large proportion of the recommendation (58,000+ acres) already made by the Forest Service in its preferred alternative of the management plan for the forest.

We’ll see how it all plays out and keep you posted.

3.   Job Opportunity: Western Watersheds Project

Our friends at Western Watersheds Project are looking for …

… an Idaho Director to continue and expand WWP’s campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with an emphasis on livestock grazing and related environmental problems. The position will entail administrative and legal oversight of federal decisions, fieldwork, data collection and analysis, participation in agency planning processes, media outreach and legislative advocacy. The ideal candidate will be highly organized, self-motivated, be able to synthesize and understand ecological and biological concepts, and have strong written and oral communication skills.

Full details are on WWP’s website here.

4.   The Pandemic and Public Lands

With the coronavirus spreading around the U.S. and the world, many states, including California, issued orders restricting people’s activities to those considered “essential.” Fortunately, this included getting out for exercise. Unfortunately, many people decided this was reason to visit our public lands, near and far from their homes. The Park Service encouraged this by waiving entrance fees at all national parks and monuments.

Many areas found themselves overrun with visitors, defeating the purpose of stay-at-home orders for reducing transmission. Local roads were overwhelmed, severely restricting the ability of emergency agencies to function. Local officials put shutdowns into effect at some places immediately. Eventually, many national parks and monuments were closed to prevent public transmission of the virus but also to protect the employees of the sites.

However, the Park Service so far has refused to close Grand Canyon National Park, despite calls from its superintendent, park employees, and local and national officials. It’s unclear what the reasoning might be.

So in short, this is not the time to plan a trip to Moab or the Bears Ears. Neither place has the capacity to handle any problems that visitors might have on top of expected coronavirus patients. (Moab’s hospital has a total of 17 beds.) The Navajo Nation needs its facilities for its own citizens. In recognition of this, the SE Utah Health Department issued an order closing all restaurants, bars, and movie theaters for 30 days. In addition, it directed that all lodging be rented only to only “essential” or primary residents of Carbon, Emery, and Grand counties.

In California, all National Forest and State Park campgrounds are closed, though hiking trails are open. However, long-distance driving for hiking is not considered “essential.”

So what to do instead? Use your local parks and open spaces for exercise, obeying all travel and parking restrictions. Maintain your distance and awareness when you’re out. Wash your hands when you get home!

And afterward there’s no need to be bored at home.

Many national parks and other places have webcams, which you can watch over the Internet, so you can check in on some of your favorite places. (No webcams in wilderness, however!) A CalUWild friend sent in a link to a page from which you can take virtual tours of some of the most well-known national parks. (Google Earth is required.)

Many arts organizations, museums, and other institutions are making their archives available free of charge.

For example, the Metropolitan Opera will be streaming CalUWild Advisory Board Member John Adams’s opera Nixon in China on Wednesday, April 1, beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The MET is streaming one opera every night from its Live in HD movie theater screenings, and they are available for the following 23 hours. Details may be found by following the links here.

The Smithsonian announced Smithsonian Open Access—“where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking.”

The California Academy of Sciences has Academy @ Home

The Internet Archive announced this week it was making a “National Emergency Library” available with over 1.4 million volumes, free of charge.

Google Arts & Culture has virtual tours of reportedly 2,500 museums!

For the younger folks in your life: Open Culture has an archive of 6,000 historical children’s books and coloring books from 113 museums available for free download. They have lots of other free materials of interest, too.

Please support your local arts organizations and businesses as much as you can during the time ahead!

5.   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 article from the New York Times: Coronavirus Doesn’t Slow Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks, as mentioned in the introduction.

Specifically related to the BLM headquarters move:

An article in The Hill: BLM exodus: Agency loses half of DC staff slated for relocation

An article in the Washington Post: Trump’s bid to move hundreds of jobs from D.C., possibly separating families, was based on unsupported assumptions, report says

An article in The Hill: Natural Resources chair threatens to subpoena Interior Department


An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: Cattle could return to Escalante tributaries under new Grand Staircase monument plan. This is on the same topic as the op-ed by John Leshy in the New York Times that we linked to last month.

The Atlantic published a photo essay on Utah.


An article in the Reno Gazette Journal: District court judge deals blow to Las Vegas pipeline plan. We’ve written on the proposed pipeline and its potential effects on Spring Valley in Nevada and Snake Valley on the Utah-Nevada border previously.


An article in the Washington Post on wildlife crossing for animals encountering freeways: Safe Passages

Related to Coronavirus and Public Lands

An op-ed in National Parks Traveler: The National Park Service’s Battle With Politics And Common Sense

An article in the Los Angeles Times: This Trump agency downplayed coronavirus. Two days later, it praised his ‘decisive’ response

CalUWild friend writer Jon Mooallem had an op-ed in the New York Times adapted from his new book on the 1964 Alaska Earthquake: This Is How You Live When the World Falls Apart. Jon’s book “This Is Chance! The Shaking of an All-American City, a Voice That Held It Together,” was published this month and is available from your local bookseller or Amazon.

Public Lands in General

An article in Courthouse News: National Monuments Shown to Boost Economy of American West

An article in the New York Times: A Mustang Crisis Looms in the West


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