Save Our Canyons reported a huge success this week; the introduction of the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act into the House of Representatives by Congressman Matheson (D-UT).
The Conservation Alliance has twice funded Save Our Canyons' Wasatch Wilderness Campaign and the introduction of this bill is reason to celebrate. While it is just one step in the process toward federal legislation that would expand wilderness and enhance watershed protection for more than 26,000 acres of Wasatch Front canyons, it is an important step.
"The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act not only protects some of the most treasured landscapes in the central Wasatch, it is a symbol that despite our differences, communities, local governments, the federal government, and industry can come together to do incredible things for the places we love and future generations," said Carl Fisher, executive director, Save Our Canyons.
The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act introduced by Mathenson will create new and additional wilderness areas on Grandeur Peak, Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks, and Lone Peak; sets aside more than 10,000 acres within "special management areas" to strengthen watershed protection while continuing permitted use by helicopter skiing; and resolves a conflict between backcountry skiers and Snowbird ski resort's proposed expansion into White Pine Canyon. It also provides access to maintain private water supplies and allows for avalanche control to ensure public safety.
To learn more about Save Our Canyons and the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act, click here
To send a note to Representative Matheson thanking him for his efforts, click here.
In 2011, The Conservation Alliance provided funding to the California Wilderness Coalition in support of their efforts to permanently protect 21,000 acres on Beauty Mountain and the proposed Agua Tibia Wilderness, located in the Southern California Desert. TheBeauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act would add over 7,796 acres to the existing Agua Tibia Wilderness and would expand the Beauty Mountain Wilderness by an additional 13,635 acres.
Last year, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act, but the bill is languishing in the US House of Representatives. If passed by the House, Representative Issa's bill would build on successful legislation passed in 2009 by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) whose "California Desert and Mountain Heritage Act" established the Beauty Mountain Wilderness and enlarged the Agua Tibia Wilderness that was established in 1975.
Take action today by writing to Rep. Issa and letting him know just how important this bill is to you.
Copy and Paste the sample letter below and click here to send to Representative Issa. Feel free to add in your own personal stories and anecdotes about why Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia are so important to protect.
Dear Representative Issa,
Thank you so much for introducing the Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act. Your bill would bring much needed protections to these spectacular areas in San Diego County. The chaparral-draped slopes and valleys of Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia provide homes to wildlife as well as hiking and horseback riding opportunities for locals and visitors. We need this bill!
Given the challenging climate in Congress and the future uncertainties that redistricting will bring, I hope that you are able to move the bill across the finish line in this Congress. Please let me know if I can help in any way to assist you with this important bill.
Thanks again for your leadership and vision for San Diego County's wild places.
About Beauty Mountain and the Agua Tibia
Characterized by deep canyons and rugged coastal sage scrub, Agua Tibia is enjoyed by thousands of hikers and equestrians each year who travel through the region via the rugged Cutca Trail. As its name implies, Beauty Mountain is a scenic jewel draped in chaparral, fascinating rock formations and oak woodlands. Both of these areas provide endless recreational opportunities as well as priceless habitat for endangered wildlife. Both areas serve as critical plant and wildlife corridors between Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the coastal mountains of Riverside and San Diego counties.
The Conservation Alliance board and staff spent two days this week in Washington, DC. The trip included a full day of board education on which the board heard presentations about conservation policy, including Wilderness, National Monuments, Land and Water Conservation Fund, the American Arctic, and the prospects for conservation legislation passing in 2012. On the second day, the Alliance board took to Capitol Hill, and met with Congressional offices to voice business support for legislation to protect wild lands and waterways.
Senator Wyden (D-OR) met with representatives from The Conservation Alliance, Wild Places, LLC, REI, The North Face, KEEN, CamelBak, Osprey Packs and Patagonia.
Represenative Polis (D-CO) met with John Sterling (The Conservation Alliance), Angela Owen (REI), and Gareth Martins (Osprey Packs)
Since 2007, The Conservation Alliance has contributed close to $100,000 to the Rivers Without Border's Taku Watershed Conservation Campaign; a campaign to secure a Critical Habitat designation for the Taku River watershed, keeping it wild and fully intact by preventing mining associated development activities.
On March 12, 2012, the Taku River, the wild ecological heart of the British Columbia – Alaska transboundary region, has made the BC Most Endangered Rivers List. Of the ten rivers selected for this dubious distinction by the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, the Taku placed number 6. Given that a major Land Use Plan embracing all of the Canadian side of the watershed was completed in summer 2011, in large part to safeguard conservation values, it is unfortunate the spectacular, biologically rich Taku is once again on the list.
Here's why …
The Land Use Plan provides some important protections for the Taku. Until it was finalized, the entire 4.5 million acre/1.8 million hectare watershed – fully intact, virtually pristine and, not coincidentally, the transboundary region's most productive salmon system – was open for development. Now a significant portion of the watershed, including the main stem Taku and its Inklin and Nakina tributaries, is protected. The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in particular deserves credit for bringing about this noteworthy conservation success.
But the plan allows a mining district within the watershed in what is, from an environmental perspective, the worst possible location. The Tulsequah River is a major Taku tributary, joining the main stem just before it flows into Alaska. There is a block of mineral tenures at this juncture. Small scale mining occurred in the Tulsequah Valley into the 1950s. The long abandoned mine site has been bleeding acid into the Tulsequah River ever since. The pollution is not sufficient to cause far reaching impacts, but it's a vivid warning that the sulfide geology of the area, if disturbed by renewed, larger scale mining, will threaten downstream waters. For the Taku, it best salmon habitat, a maze of winding streams and backwaters vital to rearing juvenile salmon, is immediately downstream of the Tulsequah Valley. And virtually all of some two million salmon leaving or returning to the Taku system annually must pass the Tulsequah juncture.
Here is where two mine projects are now proposed by Chieftain Metals. Efforts to raise capital and get the projects permitted are advancing. Initial development work could start soon. Mining at Tulsequah would undermine the conservation gains of the Land Use Plan. It will mean construction of a road through remote Tlingit territory, and industrial barging impacting river habitat. Water pollution problems will be inevitable. Operational failures – a tailings impoundment blow out, for example, by no means unlikely in a remote, seismically active, high precipitation region – could have catastrophic consequences.
The Taku is at a crossroads, as the Endangered Rivers announcement underscores. Mining can be initiated in the watershed, bringing the short term profits of resource extraction. And with infrastructure in place, more development will surely follow. Or the Taku can remain as it is, one of the continent's top salmon strongholds, a wild river sustaining fish, wildlife, and people that depend on them for generations to come.
Chieftain's proposal – the only present threat to the entire Taku watershed – is on shaky grounds. Concern, and outright opposition, is growing on both sides of the border. Strong and concerted pressure can save the Taku, and insure that the conservation promise of the Land Use Plan is achieved. We look forward to a time, soon, when the Taku does not make BC Endangered Rivers List.
This month, a team of world class climbers will embark on the 2012 Everest Expedition to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest, via the difficult West Ridge route. The team, led by Conrad Anker, Conservation Alliance Board Member, The North Face Athlete, world renowned mountaineer, climber, and author, and all-around great guy, will attempt to repeat this historic feat on the world's highest peak. In 1963, Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld climbed Everest's West Ridge, and made their decent via the Southeast Ridge. This route has not been successfully climbed since.
The team will split into two groups; Conrad's group will retrace Hornbein and Unsoeld's route up the West Ridge and be supported by the second group who will climb up and down the Southeast Ridge route.
In addition to this historic mountaineering feat, the team will be conducting extensive scientific work on Mount Everest. While previous research of region has advanced our knowledge of the area, Everest continues to hold many secrets; this expedition will be instrumental in discovering some of them.
We are excited to announce that Aron Ralston will be the featured speaker at The Conservation Alliance Breakfast at the August, 2012 Outdoor Retailer tradeshow. The Breakfast is Friday, August 3, 7-9 AM at The Marriott in Salt Lake City.
Aron is an adventurer who inadvertently gained fame when he hiked into a remote area of Utah’s canyon country, and accidentally dislodged a boulder that crushed and pinned his right hand. After six days of entrapment alone, he amputated his arm with a cheap multi-tool knife and hiked to a miraculous rescue. Aron’s account of his experience, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was adapted into 127 Hours, a motion picture starring James Franco. With new prosthetic arms that he designed, Aron finished solo winter ascents of Colorado’s 59 Fourteeners, skied from the summit of Denali, and led a raft trip through the Grand Canyon. Aron is a strong advocate for wilderness protection, donating his time to organizations working to protect the landscapes that he knows well.
If you plan to be at the OR Show in August, we hope to see you for this very special presentation. As always, The Conservation Alliance Breakfast is open to the public. Click here for full details.
In 2010 and 2011, The Conservation Alliance funded Our Ocean's Oregon Marine Heritage Campaign to designate and implement Oregon's first-ever coast-wide network of six ecologically significant marine reserves and protected areas. These are areas within Oregon's Territorial Sea or adjacent rocky intertidal area and protected from all extractive activities.
In late 2011, the State of Oregon designated the first two of these reserves at Otter Rock and Red Fish Rock, totaling 3.9 square miles of near-shore waters.
This month, three additional areas, Cape Falcon, Cascade Head and Cape Perpetua have received the Oregon State Legislature's approval to be designated as Marine Reserves. A signature from Governor Kitzhaber is all that is required to preserve these "ecological savings accounts". His signature is expected any day.
Shell Oil has filed suit agains Conservation Alliance grantees Alaska Wilderness League and National Audubon Society and several other conservation organizations that have raised concerns about the oil company's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean this summer. The defendants are scratching their heads trying to understand the logic behind the suit.
"What are they trying to do, get the courts to declare something legal that hasn’t been challenged as illegal? It seems premature, and potentially unnecessary," said Whit Sheard, senior advisor to Oceana.
Apparently, Shell is worried that the conservation groups will sue over the company's oil spill response plan, but will do so just before the window opens for drilling this summer. An injunction in such a suit could delay any drilling until 2013. So Shell is trying to get the courts to declare the response plan legal before any opposition formally challenges it in court.
Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League had this to say:
“In a true-life David vs. Goliath parable, Royal Dutch Shell, a foreign company that makes millions of dollars in profits per hour, is forcing Alaska Wilderness League, a grassroots-based nonprofit with the sole purpose of advocating for Alaska’s lands, waters and native people, into court – and seeking fees and costs against us. I suppose if you're like Shell, and you have billions of dollars to throw around, you can engage in this desperate ploy, instead of proving on the ground that you can actually clean up an oil spill in Arctic conditions.
"My response to Shell is this: Alaska Wilderness League will not be bullied. We will take the time we need to evaluate whether Shell’s oil spill response plan, for the most aggressive course of Arctic Ocean drilling ever proposed in history, meets the letter of the law. We owe that much to the Inupiat people who have thrived on Alaska’s Arctic coast for thousands of years, and the extraordinary Arctic ecosystem that is among the most vital in the world.”
Since 1912, the Colorado Mountain Club has been an unwavering advocate for the protection of Colorado's wild, remote, and quiet places.
Last week, CMC's ten-year campaign for more Wilderness in central Colorado took a step toward victory when Senator Udall announced the Central Mountains Proposal. The Central Mountains proposal could encompass as many as 32 areas in Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties, expanding existing wilderness areas in the region, including Holy Cross, Eagles Nest and the Maroon Bells.
This is a great step; but there is much more work to be done.
Senator Udall is now calling for public comments. This is our chance to make our voices heard in support of Udall's Wilderness Proposal and to let him know that there are additional wilderness-quality lands, such as Lower Piney and Basalt Mountain, which would make great additions to the proposal.
On Tuesday, February 28th, the full flow of Whychus Creek, located just 9 miles north-east of Sisters, Oregon, was redirected to its historic channel through Camp Polk Meadow, for the first time in 47 years.
The Deschutes Land Trust, a Conservation Alliance Grantee, has been working in collaboration with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes National Forest for the past decade on the planning and implementation for this project; a major step in the return of salmon and steelhead to the upper Deschutes Basin.
"It's incredible to see a project in which so many have worked patiently for so many years finally come to fruition. The Land Trust has worked toward this day for over 15 years, but we couldn't have done it without our many partners, funders and volunteers. Together, we've created a slow, meandering new stream channel that can provide essential spawning and rearing habitat for the historic return of salmon and steelhead," said Brad Chalfant, the Land Trust's executive director.
To learn more about the Whychus Creek Project and see 4 time-lapse videos of restoration, click here.