Summer 2009

Research, Outreach, and Advocacy to Keep Public Lands Public

Western Lands Update

Western Lands Project Seattle, Washington
Vol. 13, No. 1

Carving Up the Commons: Congress & Our Public Lands
Our New Book!
by Janine



n 2000, the Western Land Exchange Project (as we were then known) published “Commons or Commodity? The Dilemma of Federal Land Exchanges” to introduce the public, the media, policymakers, and conservationists to an issue that had received far too little attention and could be mind-boggling in its complexity. In 2001, we offered “The Citizens’ Guide to Federal Land Exchanges,” to get out to the public what we’d learned about land deals and the most effective ways citizens could have an impact on proposals to trade away public land—dramatically shortening the learning curve and exhorting our fellow citizens to take action. We’re happy to announce the availability of Carving Up the Commons: Congress and Our Public Lands. We cover myriad creative ways that the U.S. Congress has traded, sold off, or simply given away chunks of our public land— from the homestead acts to the present day. We describe projects stretching from Washington to Florida and ranging from a fraction of an acre to hundreds of thousands.

In Chapter 3, People, we show how well-placed members can spin complex, far-reaching deals that set the tone and establish the chemistry for what will happen to public lands for years on end. We include detailed stories on two Godfathers of public land deals— Republican ex-Rep. Jim Hansen of Utah, and the current Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. Chapter 4, Projects, looks at five land deals that illustrate the elaborate machinations and distortions of law that can characterize these projects, and the impact to the environment and to taxpayers. Chapter 5, Pure Politics, examines the emergence of the “quid pro quo” land bills of 2000 to 2008, a trend wherein conservation groups joined with land-dealing members of Congress to create bills that traded, sold or gave away public lands in one place while designating wilderness elsewhere. Had the book been completed in 2005 as intended, we likely would have ended on a note of mild despair. But the Democrats’ capture of the majority in 2006 and new leadership in the public lands committees have brought real hope for better public land policy and a downturn in, if not an end to, the outrageous deals that have so imperiled these lands in the 1990s and 2000s. Copiously referenced and illustrated, Carving Up the Commons is available in hardcopy at cost for printing and shipping ($10.00) or as a free downloadable PDF, by emailing

Chapter 1, the Past, lays the groundwork for understanding the origins of our public lands, and old attitudes, policies, and controversies still at play in 2009. Chapter 2, the Process and its Pitfalls, provides the gory details of the mechanics of congressional land deals and their often unforeseen consequences.

Reviving the Roadless Rule

emily crandall

ronmental movement gathered momentum. Unfortunately, attempts to protect roadless areas through a comprehensive, nation-wide policy failed until President Clinton established the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The 2001 Roadless Rule is widely known as the most significant conservation policy enacted by the federal government since the Wilderness Act of 1964. It protected nearly 60 million acres of wildlands by restricting road construction and logging in 42 states plus Puerto Rico. Long controversial with industry and development proponents who wanted more public lands privatized and made accessible to large machinery, the 2001 Roadless Rule faced multiple legal challenges and a string of contradicting mandates ensued over the years. In 2003, a Wyoming court determined the 2001 Roadless Rule to be illegal, prohibiting the Forest Service from enforcing its protections. Two years later, President Bush went even further, establishing his own version, the 2005 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The Bush plan gave states the right to draft their own roadless plans, effectively wiping out the original intent of the law to preserve the backcountry. The tug-of-war continued, with court decisions that rescinded the Bush Rule in favor of the Clinton Rule in California in 2006, followed by a Wyoming decision in 2008 calling the Clinton Rule illegal. Needless to say, the court disputes created a conflicting mandate for the Forest Service, giving it no clear authority to stop logging and road building. Today, our National Forest roadless areas have a year to catch their breath. In May 2009, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a oneyear reprieve on road construction and logging in the inventoried roadless areas halting the protracted court battles. After the

Roads and clearcuts have devastated Idaho’s National Forests. Photo: Dr. John Osborn


wo roads diverged in the woods… causing ecosystem fragmentation, massive soil erosion, a $10 billion dollar maintenance backlog for the U.S. Forest Service and a host of other ecological issues.

Not quite as poetic, is it? There are over 500,000 miles of public and private roads in the backcountry of our National Forest System. To put that into perspective, the entire U.S. Interstate Highway System includes only 46,826 road miles (as of 2006). The sheer size of the road system in our National Forests makes the areas without roads that much more extraordinary and worthy of permanent protection. Forest roads cause countless environmental impacts. Not only are they incredibly expensive to build, maintain and decommission, they divide plant and animal habitat, and lead to increased spread of invasive species and erosion. By bringing polluting vehicles- both on and off-road - into our National Forests, they destroy the solitude that wildlands provide. In 1979, these problems were beginning to be recognized by the American public and a growing number of politicians as the envi-

Western Lands Update


Summer 2009

first year, a second year time-out is possible. Vilsack’s directive effectively halts all road construction and logging in more than 45 million acres of National Forests across the US, excluding Idaho. Because it has already finalized its state-managed forest plan, Idaho’s roadless areas are not affected and logging and road construction continues there today. It isn’t a permanent solution, but it is a sign that the Obama administration is serious about its commitment to protecting our

wildlands. This latest move allows the Forest Service time to craft a comprehensive policy to preserve these lands before they are irreversibly damaged, so that our kids and grandkids will have a chance to enjoy wilderness as it should be- without roads. Could it be that after eight years of limbo and legal challenges, the Roadless Rule might stage a comeback? We sure hope so. For those of us who want to preserve and protect untouched public lands, it would make all the difference.

The U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
by Janine

It’s a lawless zone—but not in the way you’re thinking
blaeloch sional Research Service (CRS) has characterized this as the broadest waiver of law in American history. Fourteen different federal land areas from San Diego to Brownsville are cut through or otherwise affected by the Border Wall— one piece of the wall is being built into the Otay Wilderness Area in California. Construction through critical wildlife corridors has isolated animal populations and cut wildlife off from water sources. The wall has caused significant flooding and erosion The Border Wall. problems and construction roads and stag- Photo: ing areas have created vast swaths of bullJay Johnson-Castro


n late April, I took a special excursion to Washington, D.C. and into a public lands issue new to us—the massive, 600+-mile, environmentally devastating Border Wall that divides this country and Mexico. My friend Dinah Bear, former General Counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality and now an advocate for “sane border policy” asked me to come to D.C. to participate in the Border Wall Lobby Week. I happily agreed because I knew the wall sliced through large areas of public land and wildlife habitat, and because we know what can happen when officials reject environmental laws as mere obstacles to progress. In 2005, under the REAL ID Act, the U.S. Congress gave Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff authority to waive any law to expedite construction of the Border Wall. Using this authority repeatedly, Chertoff cast aside the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy & Management Act, Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act… In all, 36 federal statutes have been waived, as well as “state, or other laws, regulations, and legal requirements of, deriving from, or related to the subject of these laws.” The Congres-

Western Lands Update


Summer 2009

dozed and flattened ground. Take a look at The impact on some human communities has also been devastating. Native American cultural and grave sites have been desecrated. One particularly appalling story is of the Friendship Park in San Diego, a cross-border meeting place where family members separated by the border have for years been able to meet a new grandchild, hold hands with a spouse, or exchange family news through a fence—but where DHS recently rammed through a wall that makes such communication impossible. See All of this might be just slightly less painful if the Wall were effective, but its only efficacy is, as one activist puts it, “as a rhetorical point used by politicians… to claim they are working to protect the homeland.” The CRS has found that the Wall has had “no discernable impact” on undocumented entries into the United States. While Governor of Arizona, current DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said “You show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder…That’s the way the border works.” Drugs are not coming across in the backpacks of wall-scalers, but in vehicles,

through insufficiently-staffed ports of entry. The focus of our eight-team lobbying effort was to support legislation sponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009, that would reinstate the rule of law along the border. Grijalva’s bill, HR 2076, simply calls for reassessing the “one size fits all” approach to wall construction; compliance with laws that protect the environment, cultural resources, wildlife, health, and safety; and more transparency and consultation with local communities. It’s not too late to make these changes— not only is the Wall not yet completed, but some die-hard Wall enthusiasts are calling for more: a “double layer” wall across the entire length—two walls with a militarized dead zone in between. Surely we can reinstate the rule of law before compounding this multifaceted error. If you would like to know more about border wall issues, has excellent information and photos. On broader immigration issues, www.reform comes highly recommended.

Start them young!

Public lands will be protected only as long as every generation experiences their wonders. Janine, sitting, with sister Joann at Denny Creek, Mt. BakerSnoqualmie National Forest, 1963.

Western Lands Update


Summer 2009

Southwest Coloradoans fight Forest Service land trade
by chris Krupp he Forest Service is preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed land trade near Durango, Colorado with Tamarron Properties Associates, a resort corporation. The proposal, first announced in 2007, is not all that big—265 acres of San Juan National Forest land adjacent to Tamarron Resort for 320 acres of inholdings—but it has raised the ire of the local community, prompting the agency to do an EIS rather than the less-comprehensive environmental assessment typical for a land trade this size. Tamarron owns the Glacier Club resort and wants to develop residential units and nine additional golf holes on the adjacent Federal land. Apparently the substantial downturn in the real estate markets for resort and second-home property hasn’t dampened Tammaron’s enthusiasm, and the developer could seek an increase in allowable density after the trade. Tamarron is offering two 160-acre parcels, known as Hermosa Park and Mitchell Lakes, in the exchange. The Forest Service claims it has wanted to acquire both inholdings for decades and that both are susceptible to development. Yet critics of the proposal say access to the Mitchell Lakes parcel would require an expensive new road, and that the area is under snow much of the year. These access problems combined with the tanking market have raised suspicion that this is really about the Forest Service catering to Tamarron.


The public land that would be exchanged is part of Haviland Park, an extremely popular recreation area that Durango residents use for hiking, snowshoeing, and horseback riding. The potential loss of the area prompted an flood of public comments during the scoping period for the EIS. Of 400 scoping comments, only 36 were wholly in favor of the trade. A recent cultural resources survey and report found five previously unknown segments of the Animas City-Silverton Wagon Road and the Rico-Rockwood Wagon Road, old roadways that once linked the historic mining centers of Silverton and Durango and are eligible for nomination to the National Register for Historic Places. One of the segments, located completely within the Federal public land that would be exchanged, still retains its historical integrity and shows distinctive characteristics of late 19th century mountain wagon roads. According to the cultural report this segment is likely to be destroyed if the trade goes through. More than 1,500 people signed petitions asking the Forest Service to reject the proposal. An group of citizens has coalesced as Save Haviland Recreation Area to fight the proposal. To learn more, see The draft EIS is expected some time in July, 2009. To request an electronic or paper copy, contact the San Juan National Forest at or 970.247.4874.

Western Lands Update


Summer 2009

Schooling Newfound Public Land Activists
As an agile organization with a trim budget, Western Lands Project takes on many tasks to carry out our mission. We watchdog, we challenge, we play the part of squeeky wheel (some might even say monkey wrench!). And while those activities may gain attention now, it’s our role as a teacher that will impact our public lands for years to come. Public education and outreach is one reason Western Lands Project is able to accomplish so much. While there are only three of us in the office, the real “workforce” includes the many people across the country we help in their efforts against land privatization. In a conversation with one of our supporters, a Senate staffer recently remarked that Western Lands Project has at least as much influence on land policy in Congress as the generously-staffed national groups. Our out-sized impact is due in large part to our ability to teach people how to take action and organize their community’s response to local land privatization. And it’s our members that make this possible. Your dollars allow us to continue working with new public land activists every day. Without your support keeping our doors open, we could not share our expertise and empower local activists. When citizens get involved in the democratic process governing our public lands, we all win. School is out for summer, but not for us. Our fight to keep public land public through public education and outreach continues. Whether you are a first time donor or longtime member of Western Lands Project, please consider supporting our efforts today.

As always, thank you! Western Lands Project

P.O. Box 95545 Seattle, WA 98145-2545 phone 206.325.3503 fax 206.325.3515

Going strong since 1997…
In the current economy, many nonprofits have been forced to start focusing on resourcefulness and efficiency. Since our founding, Western Lands Project has always taken that approach and stayed lean and mean. Our consistent ability to do more with less has kept us stable (so far). Western Lands Project has several months of funding in hand, thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors. We are very hopeful about our prospects in 2010, but equally circumspect, considering the recent blows to both foundations and individuals. Rest assured we’ll keep you in the loop.

Board of Directors

Erica Rosenberg, President, Phoenix, AZ Marianne Dugan, Sec’y-Treasurer, Eugene, OR Steve Gilbert, Helena, MT David Gladstone, Snohomish, WA Sandy Lonsdale, Moab, UT Rebecca Rundquist, Portland, ME

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

Western Lands Update


Summer 2009

Many thanks to our wonderful donors*

Anonymous, Marlin Ard, Jerry & Mildred Asker, Dave Atcheson, Molly Attell, Lynne Bama, Gregory Bartha, Dinah Bear, David Beebe, Janine Blaeloch, Rosemary Blalock Gunning, Joann Blalock, Joseph & Susan Bower, Bart & Martha Brown, Linda Campbell, Roald Cann, Irene Cannon-Geary, Robert Castleberry, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Couper, Emily & Drew Crandall, Richard Denison, Craig & Lynn Dible, Karen Domino, David & Martha Doty, Sheila Dugan, Paul & Gladys Raye Eaton, Veronica Egan, Jim Erickson, Alan & Myra Erwin, Deborah Filipelli, Katie Fite, Will Friese & Staci Mayer, Michael Frome, Jared Fuller, Lydia Garvey, Steve Gilbert, Thelma Gilmur, Tony Gioia, Nunzie Gould, Marshall & Elizabeth Hamilton, Charles Hancock, Ginger Harmon, Ann Harvey, Rebecca Haseleu, R.J. & Annie Haskins, Joanne Hedou, Ralph Heft, Mitchell Hobby, Randall Holmberg, Hadryn Holton, Janice & Roger Inghram, Dave & Corey Jacobs, Julian Hatch, Dave Kaiser & Kristin Temperly, Steve Kelly, Jonathan Krakoff & Leslie Touger, Chris Krupp, Jessica Langsam, Deborah Lans, David & Teri Leibforth, Conway Leovy, Curt Lindner, Craig Lorch, Jack MacDonald, Victor Magistrale, Joseph Maier, Mike Maloney, Betty Manning, Louise Mariana, Jon Marvel, Clyde & Joan McClelland, Ann McConnell, W.G. McElhinney, Laurene McLane, Russ McMullen, John Middleton, Ralph Nader, George Patrick Nease, Andrew Nelson & Teresa Ward, George Nickas, Lyle Oberg, Rachael & John Osborn, Charles Otterson, August Pasquale, Forrest Peebles, Sandra Perkins, Scotty Phillips, Theresa Potts, Marian Robertson, Bill Rodgers, Paul Rogland, Gil Rone, Beth Rosenberg, Erica Rosenberg, Lin Rowland, Erich Schimps, Marvin Schinnerer, Justin Schmidt, Gordon Schochet, Michael Sherman, Paul Siegler, Richard Slagle, Robert Stivers, Sally Strain, Richard Strickland, Dave Tillotson, Kay Tornborg, Jeanne Turgeon, Wolter & Anneka Van Doorninck, Sally Vogel, Chris Vondrasek, Wade & Shirley Vaughn, Roger Waha, Paul Waitrovich & Amy Mergen, Stephen Wallace, Mary Welke & Rich Bleyhl, Ellen White, Jerry Williams, Steve Wolper, Guy & Molly Yogi, Ray Ziarno *This list includes donations received from December 5, 2008 to June 11, 2009. If you’ve sent your donation after this date, you’ll be acknowledged in our next newsletter. Thanks for your support!

We  our monthly donors, shown in bold. Become one today.
The focus of the Western Lands Project is unique in the environmental world. No group has more integrity, and its work has made a real difference.
—Dinah Bear, former government official & friend of Western Lands

Our sincere thanks to the foundations supporting our work
Ben & Jerry’s Foundation Clif Bar Family Foundation Conservation and Research Foundation George and Miriam Martin Foundation The Good Works Institute Horizons Foundation The Norcliffe Foundation The Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Inc. Patagonia Foundation The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation Matching Gifts from: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation The JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Western Lands Update

Summer 2009

Western Lands Project
PO Box 95545 Seattle, WA 98145-2545


Keeping public lands in public hands …

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