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2020 August

September 1st, 2020


Delaney Creek, Yosemite Wilderness, California                                                                                          (Mike Painter)

 
August 31, 2020

Dear CalUWild friends—

Summer is almost over, at least as far as schoolkids are concerned, but we’re still faced with major public health and wildlands fire concerns here in California and other areas around the West and country. But amid all that bad news, there was some good news in August, too.

The Great American Outdoors Act, which Congress had previously passed (see our July Update) was signed, providing full funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund and other funding for public lands. In the face of a massive outpouring of opposition from conservation groups and citizens, the Bureau of Land Management removed many parcels from a large oil & gas lease sale in Utah, scheduled for September. Most of the land would have been close to Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef national parks.

The administration announced its opposition to the Pebble Mine in Alaska, at least as currently proposed. Several high-ranking Republicans (including the president’s own son) opposed the project, and this likely tipped the balance, though the project is not completely dead.

See IN THE PRESS, below, for articles dealing with these in more detail, and other items as well.

The White House also withdrew the nomination of William Perry Pendley to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Again, this was done in the face of massive opposition by conservation groups and others. 390 groups, including CalUWild, signed a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee asking it to reject his nomination. Interior Secretary Bernhardt also faced mounting pressure to withdraw Mr. Pendley’s name. But like the Pebble Mine, this isn’t the end of the story; Mr. Pendley still remains in charge of the Bureau. See ITEM 2 for further details about this and other questionable Interior Department goings-on.

 
But even if summer is almost over, it’s never too late to read a good book! Two of CalUWild’s Advisory Board members have published books recently that are worth reading:

A Surfer in the White House, and other salty yarns, by Rob Caughlan, who’s long been active in political circles and is one of the founders of the Surfrider Foundation.

The Capitol Reef Reader, edited by Stephen Trimble, who’s a long-time Utah writer and photographer.

The links are to their Amazon descriptions, but please order from your local bookstore if possible.

 
Please stay safe from the fires, don’t inhale too much smoke, and stay otherwise healthy!

 
Best wishes,
Mike

 
IN GENERAL
1.   30×30 Resolutions in Congress
          Cosponsors Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Interior Department Activities
          a.   Secretary of the Interior
          b.   Bureau of Land Management
          c.   National Park Service
3.   Job Listings
          a.   Congressional Hispanic Caucus Resume Bank
          b.   Wilderness Workshop
          c.   Grand Canyon Trust
          d.   WildEarth Guardians

IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
4.   Links to Articles and Other Items of Interest

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IN GENERAL
1.   30×30 Resolutions in Congress
          Cosponsors Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

Some years ago, the great biologist E.O. Wilson proposed setting aside 50% of the Earth as natural areas, an amount he felt is needed to preserve the biodiversity of the planet. Other organizations have picked up on the idea, such as the WILD Foundation, with its Nature Needs Half coalition. This year, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) introduced resolutions in both the Senate and the House that would make significant progress toward this goal. Though not enforceable as law, the resolutions express “the sense of the [Senate and the House of Representatives] that the Federal Government should establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by 2030.”

Shorthand for this campaign is thus “30×30.”

S. Res. 372 in the Senate has 12 cosponsors so far, and I’m happy to report that both California Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kamala Harris (D) have signed on. Please thank them.

However, H. Res. 835 in the House has only 17 cosponsors, four of which are from California:

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-17)
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-32)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-33)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47)

Please thank them, too.

If your representative is not one of them, please call their offices and ask them to add their names as cosponsors. CalUWild co-founder Vicky Hoover, who is coordinating the Sierra Club’s volunteer efforts for the 30×30 effort, suggests something along these lines:

As a citizen concerned about the loss of biodiversity in our country and throughout the world, and knowing that Nature conservation can help combat the climate crisis, I am asking your boss please to sign on as a cosponsor of H. Res. 835, which expresses the “sense of the House that the Federal Government should establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by 2030.”

I hope that he/she will be willing to help this visionary new campaign by signing on to H. Res. 835, with Rep. Haaland’s office.

Contact information for all Senators and Representatives may be found on CalUWild’s online California Congressional Information Sheet.

Former Interior Secretaries Sally Jewell and Ken Salazar penned an op-ed in The Guardian that included support for the 30×30 proposal: Congress wants to fix public lands. It’s just a bandage on the wounds Trump caused

 
2.   Interior Department Activities

Our friends at the Center for Western Priorities do an excellent job of keeping track of what goes on in the various agencies in Washington, DC. Here are two reports from them, dealing with the Secretary of the Interior and the Directorship of the Bureau of Land Management.

 
          a.   Secretary of the Interior

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog released a report on Tuesday [Aug. 11] finding that political appointees at the department withheld public documents mentioning Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ahead of his confirmation hearing. The report was released approximately one year after Interior’s Office of Inspector General began investigating the department’s controversial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy that gives political appointees the ability to review public information requests prior to their release, and in some cases withhold material altogether.

According to the report, Interior withheld over 250 pages of records it was required to produce under the terms of a lawsuit. Hubble Relat, an appointee in the Secretary’s office, directed attorneys in the Solicitor’s Office to “withhold any documents that were sent to or from Bernhardt, or that referenced him in any way, from upcoming FOIA releases related to the litigation,” the report states.

The report also bolsters lawmakers’ claim that Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani lied to members of Congress when asked about the FOIA awareness review process for political appointees during his own confirmation hearing, stating, “I, myself, don’t review FOIAs or make determinations.” He followed this claim with a subsequent written response to Senator Ron Wyden in which he said he “typically did not review records prior to their release under the FOIA” and also flatly denied the existence of a separate FOIA review process for top political officials at the department. However, documents released as part of the investigation into the FOIA review process indicate that not only was Jorjani aware of the “awareness review” policy at Interior, but often examined FOIA material before it was released himself.

Sources:

Office of Inspector General Report: Alleged Interference in FOIA Litigation Process. There is a link to a PDF of the full report on that page.

Article in The Hill: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer

Article in the Huffington Post: Interior Department Withheld Trump Nominee Docs Ahead Of Confirmation, Watchdog Finds

Mr. Jorjani’s response to the Senate Energy & Natural Resource Committee

 
          b.   Bureau of Land Management

A new document acquired by the Associated Press shows that acting Bureau of Land Management (BLM) head and anti-public lands extremist William Perry Pendley signed the succession order that made his own position the agency’s default leadership post, a method of keeping him in power that legal experts have concluded is very likely illegal.Pendley, who has effectively led the BLM for far longer than the 210 days allowed under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, was recently nominated to head the agency by President Trump. It was the administration’s first nomination to the agency in 4 years, and Interior faces two lawsuits from Pendley’s extended stint. However, within weeks of the announcement, his nomination was withdrawn after it became clear that the Senate would have overwhelmingly rejected him due to his history of calling for the sale of public lands and overt racism. Nevertheless, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt intends to rely on a highly questionable succession order to keep Pendley in place as de facto director of the agency.

Legal experts from around the country have confirmed that the recently uncovered succession order is dubious and may violate the Constitution. Pendley was the one who wrote and signed the order that gives himself the authority to act as director indefinitely. “It is the ultimate in bootstrapping because Pendley, who is in my view not serving legally in this job, is naming himself at the top in the order of succession,” said Nina Mendelson, a professor of law at the University of Michigan and an expert on administrative law.

Difficulties in acquiring succession orders also raise questions about the orders even existing in the first place: the National Park Service FOIA office stated that they had no responsive records for a similar succession order, and a FOIA request for Pendley’s succession order is still pending. “I find it highly unlikely that the National Park Service wouldn’t just have those documents,” said Anne Weismann, chief FOIA council with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It’s just not credible.” The order now shows that it was signed just days before Bernhardt announced that a department succession order allowed Pendley to remain in charge indefinitely.

Sources:

BLM Succession Order

Article from the AP: Public lands chief hangs on despite nomination getting nixed

Article in The Hill: Lawyers question public lands chief move leaving himself in power

Article in the Missoulian: Bullock sues to block Pendley from BLM job

Op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune: William Perry Pendley is not fit to lead the BLM

Article in The Intercept: Trump’s Pick To Manage Public Lands Has Four-Decade History of “Overt Racism” toward Native People

Article in the Anchorage Daily News: Trump to withdraw Pendley’s nomination as public lands chief

Article in E&E News: BLM chief signed an order to keep himself in power

 
          c.   National Park Service

The administration has largely sidestepped the Constitutional requirements for many Executive Branch officials to receive Senate confirmation by appointing acting directors for many agencies. The Bureau of Land Management (discussed above) and the National Park Service are just two. Earlier this month, David Vela announced he was retiring from the Park Service, where he had worked for 30 years. Secretary David Bernhardt announced that Margaret Everson would serve as Acting Director. She has no experience working for the Park Service, though she has served as Principle Deputy Director of the Fish & Wildlife Service since 2018 and as counselor to Mr. Bernhardt. Prior to that, she worked for Ducks Unlimited and as legal counselor to various state and federal agencies.

Soon after her appointment, she caused controversy by stating that any shortage of rangers caused by the Coronavirus pandemic should not be used as an excuse to limit access to outdoor areas of national parks, including campgrounds, picnic areas, overlooks, open areas at forts, and other spaces. Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks responded:

This directive from Acting Director Everson demonstrates her complete lack of understanding regarding how parks operate and what National Park Service employees actually do. Her comment should disqualify her from serving as the acting director, as it demonstrates her lack of experience and support for NPS staff and the protection of park resources. Her suggestion that all outdoor facilities, including campgrounds and picnic areas, should be open despite staff shortages suggests she thinks these facilities run themselves. They do not.

Ms. Everson now faces the same problem as William Pendley at the BLM. She’s an “acting director” at an agency that hasn’t had a full director since the beginning of this administration. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, positions requiring Senate confirmation may only be filled on a temporary basis by: 1) a qualified official appointed directly by the president; or 2) the “first assistant” to the former director. Ms. Everson is neither, not having been appointed by the president, nor being Mr. Vela’s “first assistant.”

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Western Watersheds Project amended a lawsuit they had previously filed, substituting Ms. Everson for the contested appointment of Mr. Vela as “Acting” Director.

Under the law, actions taken by officials not complying with the law’s requirements are “without force or effect,” nor may they be ratified subsequently. This throws any and all actions Ms. Everson may take under legal suspicion.

We’ll keep you posted on developments.

 
3.   Job Listings

We’re always happy to post listings from organizations that we work with or that might be of interest to our members. Please feel free to apply or to pass these along to anyone you know who might be interested.

 
          a.   Congressional Hispanic Caucus Resume Bank

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has re-launched the resume bank again this year. They are planning to make resumes from the bank available to any Members and Committees seeking to diversify their teams!!!

If you are aware of anyone who is interested in being included in the resume bank, please encourage them to fill out this questionnaire and upload their resume.

 
          b.   Wilderness Workshop

Wilderness Workshop is excited to announce that we have two opportunities for people to join our highly effective team fighting to protect western Colorado’s public lands and wildlife! We’re looking for a Director of Community Organizing and a Communications Director, and detailed information about the positions and application process can be found on our website.

Both positions are incredibly rewarding, interesting, fun and occasionally challenging. The issues we work on are pressing and directly impact our communities. Wilderness Workshop is a vibrant and collaborative organization, and our team is passionate about the work we do.

Briefly, for the Director of Community Organizing, we are looking for someone who can create a culture of activism in our local community and energize the public in support of our public lands conservation efforts. For the Communications Director, we are searching for a media professional with excellent writing and editing skills, social media-savvy, and a keen ability to effectively communicate our multi-faceted work through a variety of channels.

 
          c.   Grand Canyon Trust

Standing up for Utah’s public lands is more than just a job. We’re looking for a new Utah Public Lands director who is passionate about conservation, Indigenous traditional knowledge, and ensuring the public has a voice in decisions that affect Utah’s public lands.

If this sounds like you, please apply: https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/utah-public-lands-program-director

 
          d.   WildEarth Guardians

WildEarth Guardians is hiring a Climate and Energy Program Attorney. Here’s the job announcement with more details: https://wildearthguardians.org/about-us/careers/#CEattorney. DEADLINE: September 4

 
IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
4.   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.

In Utah

An article in the Los Angeles Times: Trump administration backs off plans to open land near Utah national parks to drilling

In California

National Geographic had an article on the history and potential renaming of the Alabama Hills, which we mentioned in our Fourth of July Update: This famous California landscape has a complicated history—and a promising future

An article in ProPublica: They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

A book review in the Los Angeles Times: Griffith Park finally gets the book it deserves. Take a hike with its author

An op-ed by CalUWild friend Jacques Leslie in the Los Angeles Times: Warren Buffett can save the Klamath River Basin. Will he?

Yosemite National Park has put its Parsons Memorial Lodge Summer 2020 Series Virtual Celebration online.

In Alaska

Two articles in the Washington Post regarding the Pebble Mine:

Republican push to block controversial Alaskan gold mine gains the White House’s attention

Trump administration says Alaska’s Pebble Mine can’t be permitted ‘as currently proposed’

An article in Politico: The Man Determined to Deliver Trump’s Alaskan Oil Promise: A political appointee at the Department of Interior has played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in opening a pristine wildlife refuge to drilling.

In Arizona

An article in High Country News, dealing with the border wall: A wildlife refuge under siege at the border

An article in The Guardian: ‘This land is all we have left’: tribes on edge over giant dam proposal near Grand Canyon

In Idaho

An article in the Washington Post: Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy arrested after maskless protesters storm Idaho capitol. Bundy was arrested a second time the very next day, and carried off in a wheelchair.

In General

An article in the New York Times: Trump Signs Landmark Land Conservation Bill

An article in the Washington Post: Quoting ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ judge strikes down Trump administration rollback of historic law protecting birds

An op-ed in The Hill: Monumental: Why public lands are still worth fighting for. The writer, David Gessner, is the author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West.

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof’s annual column on hiking, wilderness, and public lands: Fleeing the Trolls for the Grizzly Bears

An essay: Andrew McIntosh: Wilderness, Fear, and Creativity

An article in the New York Times about old WPA National Parks posters: Meet the National Parks’ ‘Ranger of the Lost Art’

An article in the Wall Street Journal: The Scariest Part of the Great Outdoors? The Brand New Camper. (The article may be behind the paywall, but if you click on the X at the upper right of the blue box covering the article, it should become visible.)

A lengthy article in The Nation, looking at efforts at “rewilding” in the Netherlands: When Humans Make the Wilderness

 
 
 
 

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