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2019 July

August 2nd, 2019


Mountain Juniper, Yosemite National Park                                                                                                         (Mike Painter)

 
August 1, 2019

Dear CalUWild friends—

There are a few important Action Items this month, but it shouldn’t take a lot of effort to complete any them. Remember, you can combine messages to Congress in one phone call or email. A letter to the editor or comment on a proposal might take a little more time, but neither needs to be too complicated.

Again, as a reminder, we have an online California Congressional Information Sheet where we are keeping track of the cosponsorship status of the California delegation on some important bills. It is easier (and less cluttered) than listing the information for each bill in the Update every month. It also lists phone numbers for the Washington, DC offices of the delegation.

 
2019 is the 75th Birthday of Smokey Bear, the Forest Service’s wildfire mascot. To commemorate the event, the theme of the 6th Annual Visions of the Wild Festival is “Transforming Fire,” in recognition of the change in understanding about fire’s role in the ecosystem over Smokey’s lifetime.

CalUWild has been a partner in planning the Festival every year. Please join us September 12–15 in downtown Vallejo for films, art exhibitions, information tables, and other events. The Festival schedule and other information may be found on the Festival website.

 
Hope you’re having a good summer, with a chance to enjoy some of your public lands, and maybe time to read a book mentioned in ITEM 6.

 
Thanks for your interest and support
Mike

 
IN UTAH
1.   Bears Ears National Monument
          Management Plan Released
          (ACTION ITEM)

IN GENERAL
2.   Bureau of Land Management News:
          Controversial Relocation Plans
          And New Acting Director
          (ACTION ITEM)
3.   Forest Service Proposes New
          Public Comment Regulations
          DEADLINE: August 12
          (ACTION ITEM)
4.   Two Other Federal Public Lands Bills:
          Land & Water Conservation Fund and National Parks
          (ACTION ITEM)
5.   Job Listings
          The California Native Plant Society

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

 
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IN UTAH
1.   Bears Ears National Monument
          Management Plan Released
          (ACTION ITEM)

At the end of last week, the BLM released its final plan for the Bears Ears National Monument. No one expected it to be a good one, and that suspicion was confirmed. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance sent out the following response:

Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the final version of its rushed management plan for what remains of Bears Ears National Monument—and it’s a bad one.

As if illegally gutting 85% of the monument wasn’t enough, the BLM’s plan for the remaining 200,000-acre monument treats the Shash Jça and Indian Creek units of Bears Ears as garden variety BLM-managed lands, subject to the sort of damage and degradation that is all too common across our state.

That’s right. In many respects the Shash Jça and Indian Creek units of Bears Ears will be subject to the same aggressive mismanagement as millions of acres of other federal public lands in Utah, despite their national monument status. It’s nothing short of outrageous.

During former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s sham “review” of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, which President Trump ordered the secretary to conduct in 2017, Zinke argued that a reduced Bears Ears boundary would allow the agency to “concentrate preservation resources.”

But this final management plan proves that Trump’s illegal actions were never about protecting fragile cultural and paleontological resources; they were about a concerted effort to remove protections at every opportunity.

In fact, the management plan:

• Delays implementing a cultural resources plan in Bears Ears for at least two years—which means easily damaged artifacts and fragile petroglyphs and pictographs will have no protection in the interim.Ñ Increases the allowed group size at cultural sites to as many as 50 people, from the current group size limit of 12.

• Calls for increased chaining and other vegetation removal projects within the monument—projects that can destroy cultural artifacts along with vegetation.

• Allows for the development of new off-road vehicle trails in culturally sensitive areas, and in scenic areas like Indian Creek.

 
Please write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to draw attention to the objectionable plan. If you’ve been to the Bears Ears, make sure to mention that.

You can also send a message, letter, or make a phone call to the Department of the Interior objecting to the plan as a whole.

Email: feedback [at] ios [dot] doi [dot] gov

Online form

Phone: 202-208-7351

U.S. Mail:

U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

 
Press regarding the management plan and other monument news:

In the Salt Lake Tribune: Trump team releases Bears Ears management plan to outcry from environmental groups

In the Washington Post: Trump officials say a new plan will protect Bears Ears. Others call it ‘salt in an open wound.’

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune: San Juan County paid nearly $500K to Louisiana law firm to lobby for Bears Ears reductions (San Juan County is reportedly the poorest county in the state.)

 
IN GENERAL
2.   Bureau of Land Management News:
          Controversial Relocation Plans
          And New Acting Director
          (ACTION ITEM)

There were two major developments regarding the Bureau of Land Management in July.

The Department of the Interior announced plans, after long speculation, to move the BLM headquarters from Washington, DC to Grand Junction, Colorado. The rationale was that a location in the West would bring officials closer to the lands they manage. Of course, that reasoning is faulty, as something like only 4% of BLM employees actually work in Washington. The vast majority already work in state and local field offices all over the West. It may or may not be coincidence that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is from Rifle, Colorado, 60 miles away from Grand Junction.

Reaction to the proposal has been almost unanimously negative among conservationists. (See below for several articles.) Residents of Colorado are likely to be disappointed, as only 27 employees will actually go to Grand Junction, and another 54 to the Colorado State Office. It’s hardly the boon to Colorado that its elected officials, particularly Sen. Cory Gardner (R), had been expecting. More than 200 employees will move to other Western State Offices, totaling about 84% of the BLM’s DC employees.

Many people see the BLM proposal as a step along the way toward eventually dismantling the agency altogether, given the strong antipathy to public lands by many conservative and reactionary members of Congress and the public (and now the Acting Director—see below).

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ra£l Grijalva has promised hearings in September, after Congress returns from its current recess. He was quoted in an excellent article in Outside, The Turmoil at the BLM Is Threatening Public Lands:

Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability. The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward. The agency will lose a lot of good people because of this move, and I suspect that’s the administration’s real goal here.

Other press samples:

More details of the move and employee reaction may be found in this article in the Washington Post: Top Trump officials tell Bureau of Land Management staff most of them must leave D.C. by end of next year

and this one in the Denver Post: Grand Junction included in plans to move part of Bureau of Land Management’s Washington staff out West

An article in Bloomberg Environment: Former BLM chiefs say moving the BLM headquarters is the first step to turning over public lands to the states

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times regarding BLM’s move by CalUWild Advisory Board member Stephen Trimble: Pushing the BLM out of Washington puts our public lands in peril

The second important piece of news is that this week Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order appointing William Perry Pendley as Acting Director of the BLM. This is a disturbing development for at least two reasons.

First, until just a few weeks ago, Mr. Pendley was the head of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the conservative anti-environmental law firm set up by James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s disastrous Secretary of the Interior. Mid-month he was appointed policy director at BLM. But what really raises a red flag is that he wrote an article in 2016 titled The Federal Government Should Follow the Constitution and Sell Its Western Lands. This viewpoint has been rejected by the Supreme Court, but that doesn’t seem to stop opponents from bringing it up repeatedly. The appointment of people to agencies whose missions they are opposed to is unfortunately a hallmark of this administration.

The second issue is that he’s being appointed “Acting” Director. This means that he’s not subject to Senate confirmation, whereas a permanent director would be. The administration is thus free to pursue its policies without any initial questioning from the Senate. Again, these kinds of appointments are very common, and many observers feel it is a deliberate strategy.

There were quite a few articles in the press. A representative one was in the Washington Post: Trump’s pick for managing federal lands doesn’t believe the government should have any.

An in-depth article examining these issues and more was published by Westword: Swamped! The Forty-Year War on Public Lands Comes to a Head.

 
Please contact your senators and representatives objecting to both the BLM move out of Washington and to the appointment of Mr. Pendley as Acting BLM Director. Contact information may be found on CalUWild’s Online California Congressional Information Sheet. This is especially important if your representative is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, marked with ” ** ” on the sheet.

 
3.   Forest Service Proposes New
          Public Comment Regulations
          DEADLINE: August 12
          (ACTION ITEM)

The Forest Service recently announced proposed regulations that would severely undercut the public’s ability to be informed and comment on projects in our national forests. It’s an important issue for CalUWild, since citizen involvement at many levels is one of our main focuses. Please submit a comment before August 12 using your own words. The following talking points come from our friends at The Wilderness Society:

 
Reject the roll-back of protections for our national forests
Proposed Rule would eliminate public input while expanding clearcutting, mining, road building

On June 13, the U.S. Forest Service published a proposed rule that would eliminate Public participation and the role of science in the vast majority of land management decisions for the nation’s 193 million acres of national forest lands.

The rule would gut one of the essential bedrock laws that protects the right of the general public to know about and participate in decisions that affect federal public land, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Specifically, these changes would create loopholes to increase the speed and scale of resource extraction including logging and mining — while eliminating public awareness and input on up to 93% of proposed projects. The Forest Service has proposed several new “categorical exclusions” that would allow the agency to move project planning behind closed doors by cutting out the public from the decision-making process and eliminating any science-based review of impacts to water, wildlife, and recreation.

Why the proposed rule should be rejected

Shuts the public out of decisions about public lands. This rule would favor corporate interests in the extractive industries over the public interest by creating back-room deals with little or no public involvement. The owners of these national forests are the American people, and they must have a voice in how our shared public lands are used.

Puts clean drinking water at risk of pollution. Millions of people in the U.S. depend on clean water that originates in our national forests. These forests serve as natural purifiers. Logging, mining, road building and related activities degrade streams and waterways and pollute water. To safeguard the nation’s supply of clean drinking water, the Forest Service should reject this rule.

Gives extractive industries supremacy on public lands. The primary beneficiaries of the new rule are logging, mining and oil and gas companies who would directly benefit from broad discretion the forest service would now have to approve massive extractive projects with no public or scientific involvement.

Reduces Backcountry Recreation Opportunities. The new provisions of this rule could result in thousands of miles of new roads being built into our last remaining wild places, with no public involvement or notification. Once these roads are built, they will forever change opportunities for backcountry recreation into our last remaining wild places.

Wildlife and Pristine Forest Land. This rule will result in dramatic increases in mining, oil and gas leasing and clear-cut logging that will have irreparable consequences on wildlife and carve up our public lands turning them into industrial parks.

 
You can submit comments through the Forest Service’s online page at

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FS-2019-0010-0001

though there have been some problems reported with the portal. It’s probably easier to simply email them to:

nepa-procedures-revision [at] fs [dot] fed [dot] us

When emailing your comment, be sure to include your name, address, city, state, zip code, and phone number.

You may also submit your comment via U.S. Mail to:

NEPA Services Group, c/o Amy Barker
USDA Forest Service
125 South State Street, Suite 1705
Salt Lake City, UT 84138

Again, the deadline is August 12.

 
4.   Two Other Federal Public Lands Bills:
          Land & Water Conservation Fund and National Parks
           (ACTION ITEM)

We are starting to keep track of cosponsorships of two other public lands funding bills in Congress, one for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the other a special National Parks funding bill.

The LWCF is a program that provides funding for purchases of private land from willing sellers for various public uses: urban parks and recreation areas, inholdings in national parks and forests, and sensitive wildlife habitat, among others. It is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas development, but the full funding of $900 million annually has only rarely been appropriated. S. 1081 and H.R. 3195 would mandate funding at the full level every year.

The second bill, “Restore Our Parks” (S. 500 and H.R. 1225) would put $1.3 billion per year for four years into a new fund created from federal energy revenues to reduce the maintenance backlog for our national parks. This is a very popular bill with 295 bipartisan cosponsors—more than 2/3 of the House and 40 Senators on board. Both Senators Feinstein and Harris are cosponsors, and most of the House delegation.

Calls are needed to those House members on both bills who have not cosponsored yet. And please thank those who have! See the right-most two columns on the Congressional Information Sheet for status information.

 
5.   Job Listings
          The California Native Plant Society

Our friends at CNPS have two positions open. From their announcement:

The Director of Plant Science will be involved in some of the most exciting work going on anywhere, leading a great team that is accomplishing big things.

Then, the Publications Editor will get to share all the good news and inspiring success stories coming out of the work our community is doing.

Job descriptions are available by clicking on the linked positions or at https://www.cnps.org/about/jobs

 
IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
6. 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.

Utah

NPR’s Morning Edition: When Everybody Wants A Piece Of ‘God’s Country’

And on PBS’s NewsHour: Utah restaurateurs fight Trump cuts to national monument

An article from utahpolicy.com: Bishop makes it official. He won’t run for a 10th term in 2020

California

An article in the SF Chronicle about a resolution to the controversy over trademarks of traditional names in Yosemite Valley: The Ahwahnee is coming back: Yosemite settles lawsuits to regain trademarks

Jon Mooallem has an excellent article in the New York Times Magazine looking at last year’s Paradise fire and some of its implications for California’s fire future.

Alaska

An op-ed in the New York Times on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: A Rush to Drill, Just Because We Can

Alaska Public Media reported: Feds withdraw appeal of Izembek Refuge road decision. Two days later the report came out, but unannounced by the Interior Department: It’s back: Interior signs new land swap for King Cove road

Arizona

A lengthy article in AZ Central reflecting on Bruce Babbitt’s long career: He took down dams, freed wolves and preserved wildlands. Bruce Babbitt is still at work

New Mexico

An article in High Country News: Staffers allege misconduct at BLM’s busiest oil and gas office

Department of the Interior

An article in the New York Times: Ethics Office Investigates Whether Interior Dept. Officials Violated Transparency Laws

An article in The Hill: Democratic senator vows to fight Trump Interior nominee after requesting perjury investigation

Public Lands In General

An article in National Parks Traveler: How Secure Is Wilderness In The National Park System?

An op-ed in the New York Times: This Land Was Your Land

An article in the New York Times on public lands that are sometimes overlooked: Rich in Surprises and Secrets, There’s a State Park Waiting for You

Books

CalUWild Advisory Board member Stephen Trimble has edited a book of essays, The Capitol Reef Reader, about the national park, one of the more (undeservedly) overlooked national parks in the country. National Parks Traveler has a review of it here.

The New York Times has a review of Escalante’s Dream: On the Trail of the Spanish Discovery of the Southwest.

A review by New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, of a book about George Grinnell, The Forgotten Man Responsible for Our Most Iconic National Parks.

The Los Angeles Times has a review of Christopher Ketcham’s book This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West.

 
 
 
 
 

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