News

Take Action Tuesday: Expand Oregon’s Cottonwood State Park

Due in large part to the hard work of Conservation Alliance Grantee, Western Rivers Conservancy, Cottonwood State Park, located along Oregon's John Day River, recently opened to the public.  This 8,000 acre treasure is rapidly gaining in popularity and has the potential to more than double in size with your help.

The BLM is requesting input on whether to issue the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department a lease for 10,000 acres adjoining Cottonwood State Park, which would greatly expand public recreation opportunities along this stretch of the John Day River. This addition would make Cottonwood Canyon Oregon's largest state park at 18,000 total acres!
 
Please take a moment to tell the Prineville BLM you support the expansion of Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

You can send the scripted message found at the link provided or edit the letter to reflect your personal perspective. You can also learn more about the proposal here.

Photo: Wester Rivers Conservancy, Russ Schnitzer  

Colorado’s Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act Receives Bipartisan Support

It isn't often we hear about lawmakers in Washington working across the aisle to get things done, but in the Senate's Energy and Natural Resource Committee, this is exactly what is happening.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) joined Colorado's two Democrats in the Senate, Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), to praise the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act in a hearing last week before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is intended to protect the Hermosa Creek watershed in San Juan National Forest through the establishment of a management plan for the watershed.  When passed, the bill will designate 108,000 acres of San Juan National Forest as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area.

"Southwestern Colorado is home to some of the most stunning wildlands and important watersheds in the state," Udall said. "We don't inherit the land from our parents; we borrow it from our children. So we have a sacred responsibility to use the land responsibly and preserve it where we can."

To learn more about, click here.

Photo: Wilderness Support Center 

Favorites on Friday: Crossing the Divide. Collaboration in Colorado’s High Country.

 A guest post by Aaron Clark, IMBA Conservation Manager

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has been collaborating with the conservation community in Colorado to help re-craft and vet a land protection proposal in Colorado's Central Mountains and more recently on lands in Colorado's Gunnison County. These proposals intend to protect both the wild and remote backcountry landscapes of these areas through diverse designations, as well as the world class recreational opportunities and the economy that it supports. Mountain bikers cherish these lands and want to protect them and have reached out to help. With landscape additions and a few adjustments, IMBA is confident that the proposals can attract a broader base of support, and increase the likelihood of success in the future.

 In general, IMBA believes that land protection packages should expand on traditional designations and included more Special Management Areas for places that do not qualify as Wilderness. 

 Before IMBA became involved, numerous members of the MTB community joined in with the motorized community in vocally criticizing the land protection efforts underway in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties known as "Hidden Gems".  Many slapped "No H.G." stickers on their cars and wrote LTE's opposing the proposal.  People were concerned with both real and perceived threats. IMBA set to work in addressing both issues through education and amendments to the proposal in order to secure broad support. This concept has been embraced by the conservation community.

 IMBA has witnessed firsthand the progress that collaboration has led to on these proposals. With the goal of dispelling the myths and concerns and showing the progress made, IMBA organized numerous meetings in these counties including a set of educational Open Houses in Summit and Eagle Counties with local chapter Summit Fat Tire Society and Vail Valley Mountain Bike Alliance to help discuss the proposal.  The open houses drew nearly 100 attendees, which included motorized representatives, local elected officials, local business owners, conservationists, and area mountain bikers. Tough questions were asked yet opposition was not voiced. Meanwhile in Gunnsion County, IMBA has worked to draft a joint land protection proposal with numerous groups in both the sportsman and conservation communities. Proof again that collaboration early on is far more productive!

IMBA also spent the summer working on a short film that depicts IMBA's work on the Central Mountain's proposal. This film is due out this winter and in true double entendre form, has been given the name "Crossing the Divide".  The goal is for the film to help further generate broad support.

Continuing in the spirit of working together, in early Nov. 2013, IMBA co-presented with Wilderness advocates to an Eco-Flight (an Aspen-based small non-profit conservation outfit that uses small aircraft to provide aerial perspectives for land conservation) student program about the value of diverse designations and broad support for proposals in today's political environment. You can read more about this story at: http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/160118

Photo: Daniel Dunn 

Secretary Jewell: If Congress Won’t Act, We Will

Twice over the past two weeks, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said publicly that if Congress continues to drag its feet on moving broadly-supported legislation to protect wild places on our federal lands, President Obama will step in and designate these areas as national monuments. "If Congress doesn't step up to act, then the President will take action," said Secretary Jewell in response to a question following a speech she gave to the National Press Club. She went on to say:

"We need a comprehensive public lands package that conserves our nation's most special lands and waters, just like the one that President Obama signed into law in 2009. Those are the kind of commonsense, bipartisan actions that Americans want to see Congress take. But we cannot and will not hold our breath forever. We owe it to future generations to act. As he has already demonstrated, President Obama is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short."

We couldn't agree more. The Conservation Alliance has supported many efforts to protect special wild places throughout the US. These initiatives have resulted in more than 20 bills introduced into Congress where they are languishing due to the inability of Congress to pass even popular, bipartisan legislation. These stalled bills would protect more than three million acres of land, including two million acres of Wilderness. They would safeguard more than 200 river miles. Members of Congress have proposed Wilderness and other designations for: the Hermosa Creek Watershed and San Juan Mountains in Colorado; the Boulder-White Clouds Mountains in Idaho; Montana's Rocky Mountain Front; Oregon's Devil's Staircase, Cathedral Rock, Rogue River Watershed, and Molalla River; additions to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington; and special areas in Utah's Wasatch Front.

In every case, these bills represent countless hours of work by local people to identify places in their backyards that deserve protection. In many cases, communities want these protections because they benefit their local economies by preserving places that serve recreation and tourism. The last Congress was the first in more than 50 years that failed to protect a single acre of land.

We agree with Secretary Jewell that the current Congress needs to pass these popular measures. If Congress fails, we know the President has the authority to protect these places as national monuments. And we're pleased to hear the Interior Secretary confirm that he intends to do so.

More on Secretary Jewell's comments from the Los Angeles Times.

Take Action Tuesday: Support the Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Act

Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) is working to protect Colorado's Central Mountains, and it's important that we make our voices heard and show our support of this proposal.

The Holy Cross, Tenmile Range and Maroon Bells are the iconic peaks of Colorado's Rocky Mountains.  Udall's Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Act would protect then and nearly 240,000 acres of Colorado's most ecologically important public lands through Wilderness and similar designations. This proposal would not only add to our nation's rich Wilderness legacy, but support local economies of Summit, Eagle and Pitkins counties.

Senator Udall has initiated a public conversation about the Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Act and we should let him know we are in support.

Click here to Send Senator Udall a message of support for his Central Mountain's Outdoor Heritage Act.

A large and diverse set of supporters, from the local counties to Vail Resorts, have endorsed this vision for protecting these remaining Rocky Mountain gems. The proposal reflects years of stakeholder outreach to incorporate the input of off-road vehicle enthusiasts, mountain bikers, and the ranching community. 

Photo: Conservation Colorado 

Favorites on Friday: Success in Yellowstone

Conservation Alliance Grantee, Winter Wildlands Alliance, celebrated the Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan from the National Park Service, governing snowmobile and snowcoach use in Yellowstone Park.  The Plan provides protections for this pristine winter refuge, limits noise and emissions, and provides for a cleaner, quieter experience for skiers and snowshoers. 

Beginning in winter 2014-15, this new winter use plan will take effect. This plan puts in place strong noise and emissions standards and manages over-snow vehicle use throughtransportation events. A transportation event is one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles (with a daily average group size not to exceed 7 snowmobiles). 110 transportation events will be allowed each day split among the different Park entrances and no more than 50 events per day can be snowmobile groups.  The plan also sets aside specific roads and trails for skiing and snowshoeing and protects all of Yellowstone's winter backcountry areas for wildlife habitat and for human-powered access.  

When WWA first got involved in the Yellowstone winter use issue, as many as 1,800 two-stroke snowmobiles entered the park each day. With no restrictions on noise or emissions, air quality got so bad that park rangers at the entrance gates were issued gas masks. 

Learn more about Success in Yellowstone, click here

It’s a new day for Utah’s Red Rock country: Court Strikes Down Controversial Federal Land Use Plan

The Conservation Alliance has funded work by Earthjustice and Southern Utah Wilderness Association in their efforts to protect roughly three million acres of spectacular, wilderness-quality public lands in Utah's red rock country from destructive oil and gas drilling and off-road vehicle use. 

This week, the United States District Court for the District of Utah struck down significant parts of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Resource Management Plan and halted a Bush-era management scheme that prioritized motorized recreation over all else.  The plan developed by BLM threatened world-renown southern Utah wilderness landscapes like the Dirty Devil Canyon complex (including Butch Cassidy's infamous hideout, Robber's Roost), the Henry Mountains (the last mountain range to be mapped in the lower 48 states) and Factory Butte.  See photos here.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled the Bureau of Land Management failed to minimize the impacts of motorized use on the land and its resources and to inventory archaeological sites as required by federal law.

"It's a new day for Utah's Red Rock country," said Heidi McIntosh of Earthjustice.  "This far-reaching decision means BLM can no longer dismiss the value of wilderness, scenery, wildlife, and areas of cultural importance to Native Americans in favor of destructive ORV use."

Learn more:

http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2013/court-strikes-down-controversial-federal-land-use-plan

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57083197-78/blm-plan-plans-richfield.html.csp 

Photo: Ray Bloxham

Take Action Tuesday: Rivers Without Borders Launches Wild Border Watersheds

Conservation Alliance Grantee, Rivers Without Borders, in conjunction with The University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre, unveiled a collaborative website this week, Wild Border Watersheds.

This website aims to raise awareness of the extraordinary conservation values of the transboundary watersheds shared by British Columbia and Alaska, and to highlight the growing development pressures on those watersheds. The website is also a framework to highlight the recently revised Canadian and British Columbian regulatory processes for mining and hydroelectric permitting and environmental assessment.

Wild Border Watersheds can be found here: www.wildborderwatersheds.org

"The website is called Wild Border with good reason" says Will Patric, Executive Director of Rivers Without Borders. "The transboundary region of northwest British Columbia and southeast Alaska embodies some of the wildest country left on the planet. In a time of diminishing wild salmon, the international watersheds here rank among thetop salmon producers on the West Coast. And in a time of accelerated climate change, the significance of these still largely intact ecosystems as reservoirs of biodiversity can hardly be overstated."

 Numerous mining and energy projects are currently targeting transboundary watershed headwaters and tributaries. British Columbia's Northwest Transmission Line, now under construction, is bringing industrial power north into the region to facilitate development. At the same time, scientists are increasingly pointing out that transboundary rivers like the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, with diverse and interconnected mountains-to-sea habitat, are extremely important climate change sanctuaries for fish and wildlife. They are also profoundly important to First Nations and communities in the region that depend on the rivers. While their mineral and energy development potential may be substantial, so too is the intrinsic worth of keeping them intact, sustaining commercial and sport fishing, subsistence uses, clean water, recreation and tourism.

"With this new website we hope to create broader public awareness of these spectacular and threatened watersheds," says Patric. "We want to encourage ecosystem-based planning for their future because what happens in one part of a watershed can impact the entire river system."

Photo: Taku River by Flannigan MacKinnon 

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