You are on page 1of 10

Winter 2012

Volume 16, No. 2

Western Lands Project
P.O. Box 95545 Seattle, WA 98145-2545 (206) 325-3503

Salazar has to go


In This Issue:

3 4 5 8

Boundary Waters Land Exchange Saving Privately Owned Ryan Groundwater Mining in Nevada Memberships and donations

hat if we had an Interior Secretary who really cared about our precious public lands and water, imperiled wildlife, wilderness, and environmental sanity? It is way past time. Common wisdom says that our current Secretary Ken Salazar will be leaving his post soon—a prospect that could offer hope for our battered public lands and native species. Salazar has done excruciating damage with his mad pursuit of industrial-scale solar and wind. But he has also made a host of other bad decisions, including: •  “Warranted but precluded” listings of endangered species, including wolverines, sage grouse, and Sonoran desert tortoise—this designation essentially means, “yeah, they’re endangered but we are not going to do anything about it.” •  A cowardly about-face on a wildlands policy that was to bring protection to more public land. Salazar ran for the hills as soon as the Utah delegation began bloviating about the policy. Of course, in our view the worst consequence of Salazar’s tenure has been the assault on our magnificent deserts for the sake of renewable-energy projects that really belong on rooftops, landfills, developed areas, and contaminated sites. He has approved a plan that would keep 19 million acres of public land in the Southwest open for utilityscale solar developments. Salazar has been able to get away with all of this with faint opposition from the national environmental groups. Because they share his Capitol Hill habitat, the big greens only occasionally raise their voices, and mainly cleave to whatever their masters in the Democratic Party want—so Salazar gets a pass. Last year at an environmental law conference I attended I was appalled to listen as representatives of big green groups ran through a list of betrayals and reversals by Salazar and
Continued on page 2

Western Lands Update • The Newsletter of the Western Lands Project •

Raúl Grijalva (Photo: Western Lands Project)

Interior Secretary…
From page 1

Obama, and then, frowning thoughtfully, pondered the positive changes in environmental policy that might come in a second Salazar/Obama term. Enough! Just as we did back on 2009, many of us in the grassroots community want to see a real environmental leader heading up Interior, and we choose Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Grijalva, who represents the Tucson area, has been a stalwart for the environment as Chair and now Ranking Member of the public lands subcommittee in the House. He likes

public land a lot; he doesn’t like legislated land trades, privatization, uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, or other bad things. He is outspoken, progressive, and consistently pro-environment. At this writing, more than 230 grassroots groups from across the country have signed on to a letter to President Obama calling for the nomination of Grijalva to replace Salazar. There is also an online petition on the White House’s petition site. Please consider reading and signing the petition. Use the link below, or do a search. Thanks! — Janine appoint-congressman-raul-grijalva-51stsecretary-interior/p6Sc2HLv


Western Lands Update

Winter 2012

Vol. 16 # 2

74 groups warn against nasty Boundary Waters land exchange


n our last issue, we told our readers

about a very bad land trade bill sponsored by Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack concerning lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The legislation would trade State lands within the Boundary Waters to the Forest Service in exchange for land in the Superior National Forest (SNF). Mining companies covet lands in the SNF, where mining is currently prohibited, and the trade would open those lands up to exploitation. The bill passed in the House in September, and word began to circulate that Minnesota’s two Democratic Senators were looking at introducing a Senate version. While in Washington, D.C. in September, Janine met with staff from both Senators’ offices to convey the big picture on land exchange legislation. Then, in the hope of staving off a Senate bill, in midNovember, Western Lands Project, Save Our Sky Blue Waters, and Wilderness Watch issued an open letter to Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, asking that they refrain from introducing a Senate version of the land trade bill. In part, the letter reads: •  The land exchange is mandated so that no consideration of negative consequences can get in the way. •  The bill stipulates that the exchange is “not a major federal action,” a covert way of waiving the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with its environmental analysis, disclosure, and public involvement requirements. •  The bill would sidestep Native American Tribal consultation normally required under federal law. •  The bill calls for appraisals to be done in accordance with a methodology fashioned by the Minnesota Legislature that

says the lands traded need only be “substantially equal” in value, and that, regardless of value, the State shall not receive fewer acres than the Forest Service. •  It is not clear whether the mineral interests the State owns under its lands within the BWCAW would be conveyed to the U.S. along with surface rights. The Minnesota Constitution requires that the State reserve mineral rights on land it trades. This leaves the potential for further controversy in the future. •  HR 5544 is a taking of public lands in order to facilitate controversial mining that would pollute the Superior National Forest and the two international watersheds of Lake Superior and the BWCAW.

For more frequent news updates visit our website at, and our Facebook page at WesternLandsProject

Continued on page 7 A painting of an open-pit mine hangs in Senator Amy Klobuchar’s reception area (Photo: Western Lands Project)

Western Lands Update

Winter 2012

Vol. 16 # 2


Helping fans of a desert ghost town


yan, California, is a pristine, pri-

vately-owned ghost town in California’s Death Valley. It was a company town of U.S. Borax, and once a center of the borax mining industry in the United States. Today it is owned by multinational mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. Although the borax mine is inactive, Rio Tinto maintains the town and the mining equipment for possible future operations. Ryan is adjacent to public lands, both BLM-managed lands and Death Valley National Park. Save Historic Ryan, an

informal citizen group, is worried that Rio Tinto could expand its mine onto those public lands, possibly via land exchange, if it were to re-start mining operations. These citizens have tried repeatedly to get information on the camp’s future and have been rebuffed. The Save Ryan folks found us and asked for help, and Western Lands Project has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to both the BLM and the Park Service to learn what plans may be in the works.

Ryan Camp in Death Valley (Photo: Save Ryan)


Western Lands Update

Winter 2012

Vol. 16 # 2

Water and public lands: Groundwater mining in Nevada
Readers may recall our battle a few years ago against a spate of quid pro quo wilderness bills—trading wilderness protection in one area for sell-offs, exchanges, and outright giveaways of public land elsewhere. One of these was Senator Harry Reid’s “Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004.” Among the bill’s worst provisions was the conveyance of a free, half-mile wide, 300+ mile-long right-of-way across public land for construction of a pipeline that would take water from counties in eastern Nevada and send it to Las Vegas. Susan Lynn, a member of Western Lands Project and former coordinator of the Great Basin Water Network, explains the impacts and implications of the project. ver the course of a decade-long drought, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has widely circulated alarming photos of Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring,” showing the striking decline of the reservoir that holds Las Vegas’ water supply from the Colorado River. SNWA has aggressively pursued ways to supplement its Colorado River water allocation, and the water authority’s manager, Pat Mulroy, is determined that Las Vegas must continue to grow, and that to do so it will need more water. Mulroy is well-known for her cold dismissal of anyone who objects to her plans. As early as the late 1980s, SNWA was tying up unclaimed groundwater rights in Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine counties, north and east of Las Vegas. Because they were only recently acted upon by the Nevada State Engineer, these applications have prevented economic growth in rural areas for nearly a quarter of a century. Now, the fate of northern Nevada’s towns, ranches, and farms will be determined by the extent to which SNWA is able to exploit the water rights and transport the water. This last August, the Bureau of Land Management issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline and SNWA’s plan to remove 200,000 to 300,000 acre-feet of water every year from eastern Nevada and western Utah with the aid of the pipeline.

Above and beyond the monetary costs, the anticipated impacts of withdrawing water from already dry public land deserts and valleys are truly alarming.
The project is estimated to cost $15.6 billion. Above and beyond the monetary costs, the anticipated impacts of withdrawing water from already dry public land deserts and valleys are truly alarming. •  The water table will drop from 10-200 feet within 200 years in the four valleys approved by the Nevada State Engineer. •  The land surface will subside 5 feet across 525 square miles. •  Nearly 35,000 tons of wind-blown dust will be spread every year. •  Another 180 to 340 miles of lateral pipelines will crisscross the landscape. •  144 to 174 wells will be installed, with accompanying roads and power lines. Many of these valleys are within the Colorado River flow basin, but SNWA will be intercepting groundwater flows to the Colorado River before they reach Lake


Continued on page 6

Western Lands Update

Winter 2012

Vol. 16 # 2


Groundwater Mining…
From page 5

Western foothills of Snake Valley looking to the S. Snake Range and Great Basin National Park (Photo: D. Ghiglieri)

Mead while simultaneously tapping its Colorado River rights. According to the Final EIS, the project would imperil 305 springs, 112 miles of streams, 8,000 acres of wetlands and 191,506 acres of shrub land wildlife habitat for sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. In addition, Great Basin National Park and its carbonate caverns(Lehman Caves), and at least three federal and state wildlife refuges will see impacts from the water withdrawals. Tribes with reserved water rights and sacred sites, along with existing senior water rights holders, are very concerned about severe declines in groundwater, and it is anticipated that withdrawals will jeopardize ranching, irrigation, and community water systems. To many, this would constitute “groundwater mining,” supposedly prohibited by most western states wishing to maximize “beneficial use.” It is widely feared that the pipeline project will create “the next Owens Valley,” a reference to the California Valley that was dewatered via pipelines built by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the early 20th century (and dramatized in the movie “Chinatown”). Great Basin Water Network has challenged the State Engineer on SNWA’s water rights applications in the 7th District Court, State of Nevada. Briefings are due January 30, 2013 with oral arguments scheduled for June 2013. In the meantime, the Network, along with its many allies, is awaiting BLM’s Record of Decision on the pipeline, expected to be issued soon. You can follow this story by going to http:// -Susan Lynn

The project would imperil 305 springs, 112 miles of streams, 8,000 acres of wetlands and 191,506 acres of habitat for sage grouse, muledeer, elk and pronghorn.
6 Western Lands Update Winter 2012 Vol. 16 # 2

Boundary Waters…
From page 6

Western Lands T-Shirts

But the letter was not from us alone—all told, 74 grassroots groups from across the country—California to Kentucky to Vermont—signed on. Our purpose in gathering this support was to remind the Senators that Wilderness and National Forest lands are the concerns of all American citizens, and that this exchange cannot be treated merely as a Minnesota issue. Perhaps partly in response to our open letter, the Senators have stepped back for now, and apparently will not introduce a bill in the lame duck session. But the issue bears watching. The land exchange is being touted as a jobs issue, and a lovely painting of an open-pit mine graces the wall of Senator Klobuchar’s reception area.

Through Café Press, we are proud to continue offering Western Lands Project t-shirts. To view design, color, size and style options, visit westernlands and order yours today! (Note: the organic cotton tees run small).
Western Lands Update Winter 2012 Vol. 16 # 2 7

Please Join Our Monthly Donors


list are monthly donors. While we greatly appreciate any and all contributions, our monthly donors do have a special place in our hearts. They remind us of their commitment to public land 12 times a year! All three of our staff members give monthly and so do several other longtime Western Lands friends. Some give $10 a month, others give $50 a month. Over the course of a year, it really does add up. Have you thought about this option? You save time and a stamp – and we won’t bug you with any more fundraising letters. At the end of the year, we’ll send you a thank-you for your total donations. It’s more stable funding for us and less work for you, and you can opt out at any time. To become a monthly donor, your enrollment options are only limited by your bank. As a Chase bank customer, I was able to set up monthly donations online. Other banks require you to visit a branch in person. Or you can always set-up a monthly gift through a charity gift site like Just Give ( or Network for Good (www.networkforgood. org) — although there may be a fee. Contact your bank or give me a call if you’d like some help figuring out how you can become a monthly donor. And thank you. No matter how you choose to support Western Lands Project, it makes a tremendous difference. — Emily

erhaps you’ve noticed that some Western Lands supporters on our

Western Lands Project is proud to be among the grassroots groups who receive a portion of the profits from the sale of these stickers. Found in museum shops or online at, these stickers were created by artist Philip Krohn to help environmental groups working to protect biodiversity and wild nature.
8 Western Lands Update Winter 2012 Vol. 16 # 2

Thank you, wonderful members!
Marlin Ard Molly Attell Bob and Laurel Ballou John Bentley Janine Blaeloch* Alan Blalock Denise Boggs Chris and Sandy Boothe Gene L. Brenowitz and Karen B. Domino Bob Brister Dr. Bart and Martha Brown Martin Bunker Bob Buselmeier Linda Campbell Holly Coccoli Mark Collier Charles Couper Emily & Drew Crandall* April Crowe Frank and Patsy Culver Betsy Dennis Craig and Lynn Dible Patricia Donovan David and Martha Doty Linda Driskill Mark and Lois Eagleton George Early Paul and Gladys Raye Eaton Neil Elliott Judith Enich Jared Fuller Linda Garrison Lydia Garvey Steve Gilbert Shaun Gonzales Jeffrey Grathwohl Marshall and Elizabeth Hamilton Charles and Catherine Hancock Ginger Harmon Roger Harmon Brendan Hughes Dave Kaiser and Kristin Temperly* Steve Kelly Doug Kilgore and Ellie Belew Keith Kopischke Fayette Krause Chris Krupp* Louise Lasley Joseph Lee and Susan Eisner Lisa Lefferts Phyllis Lindner John Livermore Connie Lonsdale Sandy Lonsdale Susan Lynn Jean Maier Joseph T. Maier Mike Maloney* Brandt Mannchen Ed and Betsy Marston Joan and Clyde McClelland W. G. McElhinney Rick McGuire Russell McMullen John Middleton Andrew Nelson and Teresa Ward Rich Nelson Dr. John and Rachael P Osborn John Osgood Giancarlo Panagia Dr. Forrest Peebles Sandra Perkins and Jeffrey Ochsner Scott Phillips Theresa H. Potts Bill Powers Prof. Bill Rodgers Paul Rogland Maureen Ryan and Pete Trenham Susan Saul Dr. Justin Schmidt Mary Ann Schroeder Sidney Silliman Don Steuter David Tillotson Janet Torline Wolter and Anneka Van Doorninck Wade and Shirley Vaughn Sally Vogel Chris Vondrasek Cathy Weeden* Edward and Victoria Welch Steve Wolper* Raymond Ziarno *Monthly donors

We are grateful for the foundations & businesses supporting our work! Astrov Anonymous Foundation Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Cross Charitable Foundation Deer Creek Foundation Elkind Family Foundation Firedoll Foundation Kuehlthau Family Foundation Maki Foundation New-Land Foundation Weeden Foundation White Pine Fund Wolcott Family Foundation - pledged

The donations and grants shown were received between June 7, 2012 and December 6, 2012. If your gift was received after this date, you’ll be acknowledged in our next newsletter. Thank you for your support- we could not do this work without you!

OPT-OUT: Would you rather not receive any mailings from Western Lands Project? Just send us a quick email at or call (206) 325-3503.


Western Lands Update

Winter 2012

Vol. 16 # 2

Western Lands Project P.O. Box 95545 Seattle, WA 98145-2545

We’re scrappy… & we get the job done!
Making a donation is easy. You can give online or by mail – for yourself or to honor your Erica Rosenberg, Washington, DC (President) family and friends. No matter how you give, your generosity helps Western Lands Project keep public lands public. To make your donation today, please complete and return this form Marianne Dugan, Eugene, OR with your tax-deductible contribution. Steve Gilbert, Helena, MT

Board of Directors

David Gladstone, Snohomish, WA Sandy Lonsdale, Waldport, OR Sandra Perkins, Seattle, WA Rebecca Rundquist, Portland, ME

Name: Address: City: State: Fax: regular $35 contributing $125 Send me your e-newsletter Email: student/optional low rate $20 Public Lands Advocate $500+ Zip: Phone:

Janine Blaeloch, Director Christopher Krupp, Staff Attorney Emily Crandall, Development Manager