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2010 December

October 24th, 2011

Professor Valley, Utah                                                                                                                   Mike Painter

December 31, 2010

Dear CalUWild friends—

The last day of the year is upon us, with a new year ahead, providing a time for reflection and planning. We have had a good year here at CalUWild. Thank you for all the letters and comments you’ve submitted and phone calls you’ve made to the BLM, Forest Service, Park Service, Congress, and the editors of newspapers and magazines. They have made a difference. If you’ve made a financial contribution this holiday season, many thanks for your generosity. And if you haven’t gotten to it yet, it’s never too late! (Details at the end of the Update.)

We are looking forward to 2011. Though the political landscape has changed, making the likelihood of legislative success somewhat less, we will still have many opportunities to influence the on-the-ground management of our public lands. As you’ll read in ITEM 1, the administration is making progress in that regard. ITEM 2, though, gives a foretaste of what it will be like dealing with Congress. (We have a good-news/bad-news edition with which to end the year.)

I hope that 2011 brings you the chance to enjoy our wilderness areas and other public lands in person, through the stories that people share, and through photographs, books, and films.

Happy New Year!
Mike

IN GENERAL
1.   Interior Secretary Salazar Repudiates
          Norton-Leavitt No-More-Wilderness Settlement
          Thank You Letters Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)
2.   Congress Stalls on Omnibus Public Lands Bill

IN THE PRESS
3.   Articles of Interest

SUPPORT CALUWILD
4.   Make a contribution
          (ACTION ITEM)

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

IN GENERAL
1.   Interior Secretary Salazar Repudiates
          Norton-Leavitt No-More-Wilderness Settlement
          Thank You Letters Needed
          (ACTION ITEM)

The day before Christmas Eve, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey announced that the BLM would once again use wilderness character as one of its criteria in land management planning and decision-making. The announcement reverses the policy in place since the 2003 settlement of a lawsuit by the State of Utah against the BLM over certain wilderness study areas (WSAs) and the BLM’s program of ongoing wilderness inventories.

At the time, Secretary Gale Norton disavowed BLM’s authority to conduct wilderness inventories, even though the Federal Land Policy & Management Act of 1976 authorizes them. Conservationists have fought against the settlement in court and have urged the administration to repudiate the settlement since Pres. Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Our voices have finally been heard and acted on!

In making the announcement, Secty. Salazar said the original settlement “frankly never should have happened and was wrong in the first place.” That kind of blunt talk is nice to hear. Now what needs to happen is that the previously-designated WSAs be re-designated and inventories resumed. Mr. Salazar and Director Abbey said that a new planning category would be created: Wild Lands. It is not at all clear that these will have the same protections as WSAs. BLM will be issuing regulations, subject to a 60-day comment period, and we’ll let you know when the time comes.

From the wording of the order, though, BLM has left itself a loophole, by allowing development on Wild Lands when “appropriate and consistent with other applicable requirements of law and other resource management considerations.” This will almost certainly be a point of future conflict, so it needs to be made clear to the Department at the outset that citizens want this to be interpreted narrowly and that areas that qualify for WSA status are given that status.

Reaction from Utah’s politicians was swift. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Senator Hatch (R) called it a “‘brazen’ move to ‘kowtow to radical environmental groups.’” The Tribune wrote that Rep. Rob Bishop, the incoming chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, called the new policy “simply a present to far-left extremists.”

You may read the Secretary’s order here.

The Department’s announcement, including links to the Secretary’s and the Director’s prepared comments, may be found here.

The New York Times, which has an editorial policy consistently supportive of wilderness protection in Utah published an editorial on December 29 praising the announcement. You may read it here.

Please write Secretary Salazar a letter, with a cc to Director Abbey. In it, thank him for making the protection of lands with wilderness characteristics a priority once more. But include a request that the loophole allowing development when “appropriate” be closed. Now that Mr. Salazar has repudiated the Norton-Leavitt settlement, the situation should revert to where it was before. In fact, given the pace of industrial development and the imbalance caused by the agreement, BLM needs to make it clear that it will use the new policy to its fullest to protect wild places.

          Hon. Ken Salazar
          Secretary
          U.S. Department of the Interior
          1849 C Street, NW
          Washington, DC  20240

          Fax: 202-208-6950

          Mr. Bob Abbey
          Director
          US Bureau of Land Management
          1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
          Washington, DC  20240

          Fax: 202-208-5242

2.   Congress Stalls on Omnibus Public Lands Bill

Sen. Harry Reid’s (D) omnibus lands bill, the America’s Great Outdoors Act, S.303, went nowhere in the Senate this month. Despite bipartisan support for many of the individual bills included in it, it became increasingly clear that it would be blocked. Sen. Reid tried breaking the bill up into parts that contained non-controversial provisions, but Republican senators placed holds on those as well. So in the end, nothing got through.

We hope that many of the bills included will be reintroduced in the 112th Congress beginning next month and will be approved.

IN THE PRESS
3.   Articles of Interest

New York Times on Rangers Duty on Public Lands

San Francisco Chronicle on Bay Area Wilderness Trainers: taking inner city kids to the outdoors

SUPPORT CALUWILD
4.   Make a contribution
          (ACTION ITEM)

CalUWild needs your financial support. It takes a lot of time and energy gathering all the news and condensing it for our members. We also submit comments and letters on our own, in addition to supporting the efforts of other organizations.

We don’t spend money on direct mail campaigns, and while we occasionally include a mid-year request, we only have one membership appeal at the end of the year. This is your chance to help us keep our efforts going. So if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, please print and fill out the form and mail it with your contribution to the address below.

Thanks!

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