News

Trump Says He’ll Shrink Utah National Monuments in December


Photo: Tim Peterson

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, President Trump told Utah Senator Orrin Hatch that he will change the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in December. The President plans to travel to Utah to make a formal announcement about — and presumably to sign an executive order that would instigate — the boundary changes. Any attempt to shrink the monuments will immediately be challenged in court.

In August, after an unprecedented review of national monuments, Interior Secretary submitted a report to Trump recommending unspecified boundary changes to six National Monuments and management changes to another four. The President has yet to take action on Zinke’s recommendations, but his call to Senator Hatch indicates that he is ready to take that next step.

This slow train wreck started in April, when Trump issued the order launching the monument review, and it looks like the cars will collide in December. The Conservation Alliance and our member companies have worked vigorously to demonstrate support for National Monuments, and to oppose any changes to their boundaries. Nearly three million Americans commented during the review period, 99 percent of which urged Trump to leave these special protected areas alone.

Native Americans, conservation and recreation groups, and outdoor businesses are prepared to sue Trump if he attempts to shrink the monuments, and The Conservation Alliance will make grants from our Public Lands Defense Fund to support this litigation. Ultimately, the courts will decide if the President has the authority to change monument boundaries, and 121 law professors clearly believe he does not.

But, Trump seems intent on ignoring overwhelming public sentiment and legal opinion to serve Utah’s political leadership, and specifically Senator Hatch, chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Trump’s top priority is to sign legislation that would issue $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, mostly to wealthy Americans and corporations. That legislation will need to pass through Senator Hatch’s committee. A cynic might conclude that Trump’s monument efforts are merely transactional; aimed at ensuring Senator Hatch is on his side with tax reform.

We will continue to keep you all posted as this issue evolves. Know that we stand by our National Monuments, and will do all we can to ensure our members’ voices are heard.

The Arctic Refuge Battle Continues in the Budget

Photo Credit: Florian Schulz

The battle to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling continues.

Two weeks ago, the Senate took the first step toward opening the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling by voting against an amendment to remove Arctic drilling from its budget resolution, then narrowly passing that resolution. Less than a week later, on Thursday, Oct 26th, the House adopted the Senate’s budget resolution in a 216-212 vote.

The good news? We have successfully fought this battle before. In 2005, the Arctic Refuge faced a similar threat. Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, and the White House, and all wanted to open the Arctic Refuge to oil development.  Republican leadership used the same convoluted budget process they are using today to advance Arctic drilling.  The Senate and the House voted then to drill the Arctic Refuge using the same sequence of votes in 2005 as they did earlier this month, but Arctic Refuge supporters remained steadfast. At the 11th hour, the cultural significance and unmatched beauty of the Arctic Refuge ultimately prevailed, and Arctic drilling was struck from the 2005 budget.

Endless Pressure, Endlessly applied.

Conservation Alliance members have added pressure. We are proud to report that 90 members joined us in a letter to Congress, and more than 20 companies joined us on October 12 for an Arctic Refuge social media day of action. This level of action makes a difference, and we have to keep it up. The budget process is a marathon not a sprint, and we have many miles left in the race.

Each step in the budget process demands our community’s attention. Now that Congress has passed a budget resolution, the next stage in the process is called reconciliation. Reconciliation is the part in the process where we will see actual legislation that would open the Arctic Refuge to drilling. This Thursday, November 2nd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing to discuss potential oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge (as instructed by the resolution).

It is important that our elected officials understand where we stand on this issue. Below are some suggested actions.

Call or Tweet Key Senators:

  • Call or tweet Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (202-224-6665 / @lisamurkowski) and Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan (202-224-3004 / @SenDanSullivan) and tell them that you do not agree with drilling in the Refuge and that the fast-tracked budget process is an unethical method to use on such an important topic.
  • Call Maine Senator Susan Collins (202-224-2523 / @SenatorCollins) and thank her for voting in support of the Arctic Refuge in the Budget Resolution process.
  • Call Arizona Senator John McCain (202-224-2235 / @SenJohnMcCain) and ask him to help the public understand his reasons for voting down the amendment that would have kept the Arctic Refuge out of the budget process.

Tweet at your Representative:

Message: [Your Representative] tell GOP leadership to keep #ArcticRefuge drilling out of the tax bill. #NoArcticRider #ProtectTheArctic

We are not giving up until the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is protected once and for all. Thanks for sticking with us for the long haul.

 

90 Businesses and Recreation Groups Ask Congress to Keep the Arctic Out of the ’18 Budget

Photo: Florian Shultz. Arctic Refuge, Brooks Range, Alaska

The Senate has released its budget plan for 2018, which proposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling to help pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. For congressional leaders wishing to drill in the Arctic, the budget process is the vehicle of choice as it only requires 51 votes to pass and cannot be filibustered. Any other effort to approve Arctic drilling would require 60 votes, a feat proven impossible for more than three decades. So, with 52 Republican seats in the Senate, and the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence, the Arctic faces its greatest threat to date.
Ninety Conservation Alliance members and recreation organizations have  joined us in a letter asking Congress to keep the Arctic Refuge out of the 2018 budget process.





 

National Monument Update: New Legislation Would Gut the Antiquities Act

The Citadel, Bears Ears National Monument, UT Photo: Bob Wick, BLM

Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, introduced legislation yesterday that would eviscerate the Antiquities Act. Bishop’s bill, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (HR 3990), would: impose size restrictions on National Monuments; eliminate natural or geologic features as objects that qualify for protection; require county and state approval for any National Monument over 10,000 acres; and give the President unprecedented authority to shrink existing National Monuments. If it passes, HR 3990 will invalidate the Antiquities Act as an important tool for conservation, and put all existing National Monuments at risk.

The House Natural Resource Committee will vote on HR 3990 tomorrow, Wednesday, October 11th at 4 PM EST. Please call your representative in the House at 202.224.3121 and let them know that you oppose HR 3990. Tomorrow’s vote is only the first of many steps required to pass this bill, but it is important that we send a message to our members of Congress that we oppose this misguided proposal.

For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given presidents the authority to preserve special places for their cultural, archaeological, biological, and scientific values. Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Arches, Capitol Reef, Grand Teton, and Zion National Parks were all first protected as National Monuments, an later upgraded to park status. Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in 1906, 16 presidents from both parties have used the Antiquities Act to designate National Monuments, which have become some of our most important landscapes for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. Chairman Bishop’s proposal would halt this 100-year history of bipartisan work to preserve America’s natural and cultural heritage.

By including language to give presidents the authority to change the boundaries of existing National Monuments, Bishop’s bill concedes that President Trump does currently have that power. Earlier this year, Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 National Monuments to determine whether some of their boundaries should change. Trump is expected to attempt to shrink four National Monuments, including two in Bishop’s home state of Utah. Any attempt by Trump to reduce the size of monuments will immediately be challenged in court, and a group of 121 leading conservation law experts agree that he will lose. During that monument review, 2.8 million Americans submitted comments, and 99 percent of those comments urged Trump to leave our National Monuments alone. Bishop’s bill ignores the fact that the vast majority of Americans love their National Monuments, want them unchanged, and want future presidents to have the same authority to protect more lands and waters for future generations.

Bishop’s bill is the latest in what we expect to be a steady stream of attacks on our conservation laws and our public lands system. If you care about public lands and outdoor recreation, we ask that you call your House representative at 202.224.3121 and let them know you oppose HR 3990, and any other effort to undermine the Antiquities Act.

All Hands on Deck for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Take 1

Photo: Florian Schulz

 

Last week, the US Senate released its budget plan for 2018, which proposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling to help pay for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Senate Republicans, who have long sought to open America’s most pristine wilderness to oil rigs, are cynically using the budget process to win approval for Arctic drilling, which would never pass through normal order. Why? Because according to the Senate’s terribly confusing rules, a budget bill requires only 51 votes to pass, and cannot be filibustered. (Filibuster: an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly.) Any other effort to approve drilling in the Arctic would require 60 votes, which has proven impossible for over three decades. So, with 52 Republican seats in the Senate, and the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Vice President Mike Pence, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has never been more threatened. The House of Representatives’ version of the budget also includes Arctic drilling.

We can stop this assault on our most remote and wild natural landscape – but we need to act quickly.

Senate Democrats overwhelmingly oppose Arctic drilling, and a small number of moderate Republicans are either undecided or think the budget process is an inappropriate venue to decide whether to despoil America’s great wildlife refuge.

We have two opportunities to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil rigs: 1) Ask our Senators to strike Arctic drilling from the budget bill, and 2) If #1 fails, ask our Senators to vote down the entire budget bill.

1. Convince the Senate to strike the drilling provision from the budget bill.

How?

PHONE CALLS! Please make eight important phone calls, TODAY.
As early as the week of October 16th, the Senate will consider amendments to the budget bill that would remove the Arctic drilling provision. Between now and then, we need to do everything we can to ensure Senate Democrats support that provision, and we need to convince three Senate Republicans to join them.

Please call your own Senators with this message (202.224.3121): I was incredibly disappointed to hear that the Senate intends to use the budget process to try and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. I oppose any bill that would open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Specifically, please keep drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the budget process.

Most importantly, give these Republicans a call with the same message:

  • Susan Collins, Maine – (202) 224-2523
  • John McCain, Arizona – (202) 224-2235
  • Lindsay Graham, South Carolina – (202) 224-5972
  • Cory Gardner, Colorado – (202) 224-5941
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona – (202) 224-4521
  • Dean Heller, Nevada – (202) 224-6244

SOCIAL MEDIA! Join us in a social media day of action for the Arctic on Thursday, October 12th.

If you haven’t already, sign-up for Promoboxx – it’s a wonderful tool that allows Conservation Alliance members to share curated content from us, with a single click of a button. Signing up is simple, just visit conservationalliancecontent.com. Promoboxx is home to a complete Arctic Refuge social media toolkit. We are encouraging our community to join us in a social media day of action for the Arctic on Thursday, October 12th.

Not on Promoboxx but want the Arctic content? Email Kirsten at kirsten@conservationalliance.com

2. If we can’t get it out of the budget, convince 51 members of the Senate to vote against the entire budget bill.

If the amendments fail, we will have one final chance to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. That would require that 51 Senators vote no on the budget. The same moderate Republicans will be the targets under this scenario, with the addition of Bob Corker (Tennessee), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), and Rob Portman (Ohio). (If you want to include Corker, Alexander, and Portman in your calls right away, you get extra credit. We just thought it was a lot to ask people to make 11 phone calls).

You will hear from us several times as this process unfolds. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been in the crosshairs for nearly 40 years, and this is the greatest threat it has faced to date. Drilling proponents came close to opening the Refuge to drilling in 2005, but our community of outdoor enthusiasts, businesses, and conservation groups succeeded in fending off that threat. To succeed again, we need everyone to step up like never before.

Thank you for your participation in this important effort.

We are proud to report that to date, 90 of our members and recreation organization friends have joined us in a letter to Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, asking them to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the budget. Don’t see your name? Add your voice here: https://goo.gl/forms/AeQglhJicRVqmfTD2 

 




Grantee Update: The Trinity Divide Project and the Land Water Conservation Fund

A young man playing guitar and enjoying a hammock near Bull Lake, part of the future Trinity Divide acquisition.

The Conservation Alliance awarded the Pacific Crest Trail Association a $50,000 grant in September 2016 to support their Pacific Crest Trail-Trinity Divide land acquisition project. This purchase, in partnership with the landowner, will permanently protect 10,600 acres, the headwaters of four rivers, 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), nine alpine lakes, and numerous mountain meadows and springs. Megan Wargo, the Director of Land Protection for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, explains why conservation of this area is so crucial and how you can support this effort and other public land acquisition projects funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

For most of the 2,650 miles of the PCT from Mexico to Canada, you can experience some of the most sublime outdoor scenery in the world. But in far too many spots along the way, this experience is being threatened by development, clear cuts, inappropriate barriers and unsafe road walks. Nearly 50 years after the 1968 Congressional designation of the PCT as one of the first National Scenic Trails, it is still not completely protected. Approximately 10 percent of the trail remains on private land with little in place to help protect the trail experience for future generations.

In most cases, there are trail easements on these private parcels that grant hikers and equestrians the right to pass through. However, many of these easements are less than 30 feet wide and do not protect the larger landscapes surrounding the trail. New construction and development could happen at any time on private property along the PCT. If it does, it could forever alter the trail experience.

Trinity Divide—Many Public Benefits


Trinity Divide, CA Photo: Megan Wargo

The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), The Trust for Public Land, the Michigan-California Timber Company and the U.S. Forest Service are spearheading the effort to protect this northern California timber property that includes 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and we’ve secured funding for the first of three phases for this important project.

The Michigan-California Timber Company (MCTC) is seeking to sell and protect its Trinity Divide property just west of Mount Shasta, where today, the PCT threads a narrow 10-foot-wide private easement along a scenic ridge with expansive views of mountains, lakes and forests.

You might not know it if you were out there, but starting just north of the Gumboot trailhead and continuing for nearly 30 miles to the Scott Mountain trailhead, PCT users pass through a checkerboard of public and private land.

The checkerboard ownership pattern is the legacy of the 1862 railroad land grants, which gave every other section of federal land along a proposed rail corridor to the railroad companies. It was a way of opening the West to settlement and development as well as increasing the value of the remaining public land in a bygone era. In more modern times, this public-private land pattern has created problems for public access and ecological management across the western United States, and is the leading cause for private inholdings within national forest boundaries.

The Trinity Divide is a key property for the protection of the PCT that includes many public benefits:

  • Acquire 10,600 acres—more than 16 square miles—for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, camping and exploration. The land would be added to the Klamath and Shasta-Trinity national forests.
  • Secure a protected corridor for the PCT along 30 miles of the trail, 17 of which cross private property on a narrow right-of-way easement.
  • Conserve wildlife habitat of renowned biological diversity, including: meadows, lush valleys, low marshes and cold water springs.
  • Protect waters for four river systems, including salmon and steelhead habitats in the Trinity and Klamath river basins.
  • Open new public access to 10 alpine lakes that are on private property.
  • Enhance access to existing public lands through the potential to develop new loop hikes using the Sisson-Callahan Trail, which crosses these private lands.

Land and Water Conservation Fund – First Phase Secured


Trinity Divide Project Location, CA Photo: Rachid Dahnoun

An acquisition project of this size is generally accomplished over many years and purchased in phases. We are excited to tell you that we’ve secured $4.5 million in federal funding for the first phase of the project through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The PCTA, The Trust for Public Land and MCTC worked with the Forest Service to submit a request for LWCF dollars for the 2017 federal Fiscal Year. It’s the largest appropriation the PCT has ever received in a single year and the largest appropriation for a Forest Service project this year

The LWCF sets aside a small percentage of the royalties from offshore energy production for state and federal conservation programs. Think of it as a mitigation program. Oil and gas explorers pay the American people for the rights to extract energy with the realistic expectation of environmental impacts, and then a small portion of what they pay is set aside to preserve land elsewhere that might otherwise be developed or exploited. For more than 50 years, the LWCF has protected parks, forests, wildlife refuges, public lands and other community spaces through locally driven conservation efforts. Without spending any tax dollars, this program supports water quality enhancement, protection of fish and wildlife habitat, agriculture and forestry on private lands and access to public land for recreation.

The LWCF is an overwhelmingly popular program with the American people and has maintained bipartisan support in Congress. The omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017, which Congress passed in April, included $400 million for LWCF.

Fiscal Year 2018 Land and Water Conservation Fund—What Can You Do to Help?

The LWCF will be a crucial part of the funding needed to complete the Trinity Divide protection project. While we continue to move forward on the first phase of the acquisition, efforts are already underway to try and secure LWCF funding for our second phase of the project. This acquisition remains a high priority nationally for the U.S. Forest Service, however, federal land acquisition is not a priority for the current administration.

The president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal calls for drastic cuts for federal land acquisition programs. The president’s budget would gut the LWCF by 84 percent. This funding level would cover administrative costs only, no new land acquisitions. Failure to fund the LWCF in Fiscal Year 2018 and provide continued funding to the Trinity Divide project, could mean a lost opportunity to acquire and protect this property forever.

The House has approved a FY2018 Interior Appropriations bill that would fund LWCF at $275 million, far below the $900 million allowed under the program. While the House vote is a welcome rejection of the administration’s proposal, it would still cut LWCF by 32% over FY2017 levels. The Senate Appropriations process is still underway. Senate Interior Appropriations Committees are working with agency leaders now to prepare the FY2018 Interior Appropriations Bill, which includes the LWCF. Your congressional representatives need to hear from you. Tell them that the LWCF and the legacy of the Pacific Crest Trail and our public lands are important to you. Here’s a searchable website that will help you find contact information for your senators and Congress members.

Please contact your representatives in the House and the Senate to insist on:

—At least $400 million in overall funding for LWCF consistent with Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels.

—$54.8 million allocated for 72 projects along national scenic and historic trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail Trinity Divide Project in Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California.

—Permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund: H.R. 502 and S. 569 amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.

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