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Newsletter Archive


Sunset over the Henry Mountains and Capitol Reef National Park, Utah                                                            (Mike Painter)

 
June 8, 2021

Dear CalUWild friends—

On this day, 115 years ago, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906 into law. It gave the president the authority to designate national monuments for “the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest.” Initially it grew out of the need to protect archaeological sites in the Southwest from destruction and looting, such as pot hunting and grave desecration. The first national monument was Devil’s Tower (known as Bear’s Lodge by several Native American tribes) in Wyoming. Two years later, Pres. Roosevelt designated Grand Canyon National Monument. Many of our national parks “began life” as national monuments.

Over the years, all presidents (except Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr.) have designated monuments of various sizes, most of them under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. However, Bill Clinton’s Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt decided that large landscapes should be protected as well for scientific research and other purposes, and he established the National Landscape Conservation System. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah was the first of these, designated in 1996, and Congress codified the idea in 2009 (now called National Conservation Lands).

As we’ve reported numerous times over the last three years, the previous administration shrank Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50% and reduced Bears Ears NM by a whopping 85%. Pres. Biden campaigned on the promise to restore the two monuments, and shortly after his inauguration, he issued an executive order requiring the Department of the Interior to report on the options. Secty. Deb Haaland visited Utah and spoke with many interested parties. She submitted her report to Pres. Biden last week, but its conclusions have not been made public. In the meantime, the litigation over the reduction of the monuments is on hold.

We look forward to these monuments being fully restored—and possibly expanded in the case of Bears Ears. We also hope that Congress will act to strengthen the Antiquities Act to explicitly state that a president cannot reduce monuments established by a predecessor. (And in fact, Secty. Haaland introduced legislation doing just that when she was in Congress as a representative from New Mexico.)

Last month, the Biden Administration released its anticipated report on 30×30, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, the proposal to protect 30% of America’s land and oceans by 2030. It was short on specifics but did set out a broad framework.

Many in the conservation community expressed concern that the report cast too wide a net as to the level of protection from development that would ultimately qualify, because of the report’s strong focus on recreation and “working landscapes.” While important, saving them from commercial development doesn’t necessarily do anything to increase their value to biodiversity, which is the goal of 30×30. The Administration said that the overall effort would be broader than simply biodiversity, but that this was just the beginning of the process, and that it welcomes more input from all interested parties. So we’ll have to work to see that scientifically valid protections are implemented to achieve a full 30×30 result. (And this is just the start, because many scientists believe that we must protect 50% of the biosphere in order to ensure its continued survival.)

We’ll keep you posted on developments regarding these issues and how you can be effective advocates for them in Washington and elsewhere.

As always, many thanks for your interest and support!

 
Best wishes,
Mike

 
 
IN UTAH
1.   Red Rocks Bill Reintroduced in the House
          (ACTION ITEM)

IN CALIFORNIA
2.   Rim of the Valley Corridor Bill Reintroduced in the Senate
          (ACTION ITEM)

IN ALASKA
3.   Setbacks for Leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
          And for the Pebble Mine

IN NEVADA
4.   Lithium Mine Proposed at Thacker Pass
          (ACTION ITEM)

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

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

IN UTAH
1.   Red Rocks Bill Reintroduced in the House
          (ACTION ITEM)

California’s Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-47) today re-introduced America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act in the House of Representatives. The bill protects about 8.5 million acres of Utah BLM land as wilderness and is CalUWild’s longest-standing and most important legislative priority. It has 57 original cosponsors, with ten from California (including Rep. Lowenthal):

Doris Matsui   (D-6)
Anna Eshoo  &nbsp(D-18)
Jimmy Panetta   (D-20)
Julia Brownley   (D-26)
Judy Chu   (D-27)
Grace Napolitano   (D-32)
Karen Bass   (D-37)
Mark Takano   (D-41)
Nanette Barragán   (D-44)
Alan Lowenthal   (D-47)

If your representative is on the list, please call their office and thank them. If not on the list, call and ask them to sign on as a cosponsor. (The bill does not have a number yet.)

In the Senate, there are 14 cosponsors of S. 1535, including lead sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) is not a cosponsor, though he is a champion for California public lands. Please call his office urging him to sign on.

DC contact information and cosponsorship status for California’s congressional delegation can be found on CalUWild’s online California Congressional Information Sheet.

A full list of cosponsors nationwide may be found here.

 
In a related development, the Utah NPR station KUER reported last month that Utah’s senator Mitt Romney (R) and representative John Curtis (R) had introduced a bill to protect 289,000 acres of national forest land in Illinois, Sen. Dick Durbin’s home state, to get back at him for being the Red Rock champion.

We think Sen. Durbin should sign on as a cosponsor!

 
IN CALIFORNIA
2.   Rim of the Valley Corridors Bill Reintroduced in the Senate
          (ACTION ITEM)

Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) reintroduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, S.1769, the companion bill to Rep. Adam Schiff’s bill covering many of the mountains surrounding the San Fernando Valley. That bill passed the House earlier this year as part of H.R. 803, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. Sen. Alex Padilla is an original cosponsor.

According to Sen. Feinstein’s office, the bill gives National Park Service the authority to:

• Add more than 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
• Implement capital improvements, including new trails, roads and public facilities.
• Monitor and study wildlife and ecosystems.
• Participate in cooperative conservation and recreation planning.
• Provide technical assistance for resource protection and recreation planning.
• Contribute financially to projects that protect important natural resources.
• Acquire land through donation, exchange or purchase.

For a map of the lands covered by the legislation, click here.

Please call Sens. Feinstein and Padilla to thank them for introducing the legislation. Contact information may be found here.

 
IN ALASKA
3.   Setbacks for Leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
          And for the Pebble Mine

Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reversed a decision made just two weeks before the end of the previous administration, when she suspended oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Department said that the approved leasing program contained “multiple legal deficiencies” including “insufficient analysis” required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Secty. Haaland also said that the program failed to analyze alternatives to leasing. So she placed a temporary moratorium on all activities and ordered “a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”

We’ve written several times about the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska, most recently in our November 2020 Update, when the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to the Canadian mining company saying its plan to deal with waste from the mine did not comply with the Clean Water Act. The mine, if developed, would threaten the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world’s most productive sockeye salmon fishery.

 
Today it was publicly announced that the Pedro Bay Corp., the local Native Alaska corporation, had agreed to sell conservation easements to the Conservation Fund. The easements would prohibit development on some 44,000 acres of land controlled by the corporation, including the land over which the most feasible road to the mine would need to be constructed.

The project isn’t totally dead, however, as the mining company has appealed the Army Corps’ permit denial and claims there is an alternative route available for its road. But it may not be economically feasible, if potential investors are reluctant to fund it.

We’ll continue to follow both issues and keep you informed.

 
IN NEVADA
4.   Lithium Mine Proposed at Thacker Pass
          (ACTION ITEM)

Controversy has been brewing over a proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass, northwest of Winnemucca, Nevada. Approved only five days before the end of the previous administration, the proposal threatens land culturally significant to the local Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, which has never agreed to the project. In addition to being critical sage grouse and pronghorn habitat, Thacker Pass has golden eagle nesting areas and is home to many plants used by the tribes for traditional medicinal purposes. The project also threatens Indigenous burial sites and groundwater resources.

Our friends at Western Watersheds Project, Great Basin Resource Watch, Basin & Range Watch, and Wildlands Defense filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management, claiming that the mine’s approval—which was fast-tracked—violated NEPA and the Federal Land Policy & Management Act.

The plaintiffs announced today that Lithium Nevada Corp. and BLM had agreed to not engage in any activities that would disturb the ground before July 29, giving the court a chance to look at evidence in support of their case against the project. Their press release goes into some detail about their objections to the project. More information may be found at protectthackerpass.org and the gofundme page set up by the tribes.

Please sign the Change.org petition started by the Paiute and Shoshone tribes. More information about the project can be found on the petition page. You can also voice your opinion about the project on the Department of Interior’s contact page or by direct email.

 
IN THE PRESS & ELSEWHERE
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 in the New York Times: The Promise and Pressures of Deb Haaland, the First Native American Cabinet Secretary

From the White House: A Proclamation on Great Outdoors Month, 2021

30×30

The Washington Post reported on the America the Beautiful report: A narrow path for Biden’s ambitious land conservation plan

An article in Vox: The right-wing effort to derail Biden’s conservation plan, explained

An op-ed in The Hill by CalUWild friend Erik Molvar: How best to conserve public and private lands under the 30×30 initiative

An article in Yale Environment 360: How Returning Lands to Native Tribes Is Helping Protect Nature

In Utah

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by CalUWild Advisory Board Member Stephen Trimble: President Biden, take the next step at Grand Staircase-Escalante

In California

Several articles about Pt. Reyes National Seashore

A long but interesting article in the Pacific Sun about Indigenous culture at Pt. Reyes National Seashore and how the Park Service and others have ignored it while promoting ranching: Tamál Húye: Coast Miwoks Fight for Recognition of Point Reyes’ Indigenous History

High Country News published an article about the Pt. Reyes controversy examining the Tule Elk controversy: The battle over Point Reyes’ tule elk

An op-ed in Outside: Yvon Chouinard Says We Need to Protect Point Reyes

An op-ed in RealClear Policy by Violet Sage-Walker: President Biden Should Designate Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. The author is vice chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council.

In Idaho

An article from the Associated Press: Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy runs for Idaho governor

In Oregon

An article in The Guardian: Amid mega-drought, rightwing militia stokes water rebellion in US west

In General

An article in the Washington Post: Higher prices and hard-to-find reservations: What to know about outdoor adventures this summer

An article in The Conversation: Overcrowded US national parks need a reservation system

 
 
 

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