Winter 2010

Research, Outreach, and Advocacy to Keep Public Lands Public

Western Lands Update
Aspen, Colorado

Western Lands Project Seattle, Washington
Vol. 14, No. 2

Our Work Across the West & Beyond
Boise, Idaho


estern Lands Project remains the only organization in the country whose mission is to track and scrutinize any proposal that would put public land into private hands. Where alerted by citizens, whistleblowers, or news coverage, we extend our reach across the U.S., wherever our national public lands are threatened by privatization. Here’s the rundown on a few of the projects we are working on now.
In early October Janine was invited by the Pitkin County, Colorado Board of Commissioners and the Open Space and Trails Committee to participate in a public forum on land exchanges. The County is entertaining the prospect of establishing a policy on land exchanges, particularly those proposed through legislation. Some residents are feeling burned by a land trade bill in the U.S. Congress that would privatize some federal land in Pitkin County to expand a landowner’s empire, while bringing private land in a neighboring county into public ownership. Continued next page 

Arizona-based developer M3 Eagle is offering 12,000 acres of recreation land in the Boise Foothills to the BLM in exchange for 975 acres of land near its planned residential community on the Boise outskirts and 75 parcels of public land comprising about 8500 acres in northern Idaho. M3 Eagle would sell the 8500 acres to the Idaho Forest Group, the state’s largest lumber company. BLM’s Coeur d’Alene field office has rejected this proposal several times because it does not serve the public interest, so M3 Eagle is currently seeking to make the deal through Congress.

We recently gained what we hope is our final court victory against the Ray Mine land exchange in Arizona, which would have traded rare, perennial waters and wildlife habitat on public land for expansion of an open pit copper mine. In this ten-year fight we have been represented by Roger Flynn of the Western Mining Action Project.

Photo: Western Lands Project

—Continued from page 1

Salt Creek, Wyoming

The Muddy Mountain Land Exchange is one of the most lopsided trade proposals we’ve seen, in terms of the ratio of federal to private land. Howell Petroleum Corporation has offered 160 acres of land it owns adjacent to BLM’s Environmental Education Area on Muddy Mountain in trade for about 3500 acres of public land within the Salt Creek oil field.

Clearwater, Panhandle, & Nez Perce forests, Idaho

Superior National Forest, Minnesota

The PolyMet Land Exchange is part of the NorthMet Project, a proposed open pit copper/nickel/cobalt/precious metals mine, processing plant and tailings basin in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range northwest of Duluth. The federal parcels Polymet is seeking to acquire within the Superior National Forest would make it easier for the company to site the mine and allow for later expansion. There are significant negative impacts associated with this project: it is feared that the proposed mine would severely jeopardize water quality throughout the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and could diminish water levels in the region. The EPA has chastised the Forest Service for its shoddy initial environmental analysis of the proposal.

The Upper Lochsa Land Exchange in Idaho would exchange approximately 18,000 acres of federal land on the Palouse Ranger District for about 40,000 acres of checkerboard land in the upper Lochsa River watershed. Publication of the Draft EIS was delayed so that the Forest Service could add a purchase alternative to the analysis. This is a significant step forward, as we have been working for 13 years to encourage the agencies to include full or partial purchase as an alternative in land exchange proposals.

Palm Springs, California

The PolyMet mine jeopardizes water quality in the beloved Boundary Waters Wilderness.

We’re tracking a land exchange within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, between the BLM and the Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. BLM and the Tribe manage “checkerboard” lands within the monument under a cooperative agreement that allows the two entities to do land exchanges to consolidate ownership. The Tribe would acquire 5,799 acres of public land and the public would get 1,470 acres of tribal land. We respect the moral and legal claims of Indian tribes, but we don’t think the BLM went far enough in explaining the public interest to be served by the trade, nor to analyze the possible development that could occur on some of the lands going to the Tribe.

Western Lands Update


Winter 2010

Mt. Hood, Oregon

We await the issuance of an environmental impact statement for the Cooper Spur land exchange, mandated through legislation by Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats. Western Lands Project submitted testimony against the bill that included the land trade, because the exchange was concocted by private interests for their own benefit. Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort would unload an aging ski facility on the public and in return get 160 acres of prime developable real estate in the gateway town of Government Camp; Hood River Valley residents will be able to keep their views of Cooper Spur unmarred by further resort development. The US Forest Service opposed the deal when it was brought to the agency, so proponents got it put into a large bill establishing new Wilderness and other land use measures on Mt. Hood.

Tonto National Forest, Arizona

For several years, legislation has been pending to effect a land exchange between the Forest Service/ Interior Department and Resolution Copper. The copper company would receive 2,400 acres of Tonto National Forest land, including an area called Oak Flat, which received special protection for its recreational value under an Executive Order issued by President Eisenhower in 1955. Resolution Copper would conduct drilling operations for copper extraction. In exchange for the Oak Flat parcel, it would give the Forest Service and Interior about 5,400 acres of scattered parcels, including some important riparian areas along the San Pedro River. Western Lands Project has opposed the bill through several iterations because it circumvented National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and directed that the exchange occur within a short deadline. We also generally oppose land trades going through legislation. In this case, proponents pointed out that legislation was necessary in order to override the Executive Order, and because land exchanges cannot be done administratively when two departments (Agriculture and Interior) are involved. Western Lands submitted testimony against the bill several times, most recently in 2009. We suggested that if legislation were to be proposed, it should merely authorize the Forest Service to consider the exchange, and proceed along the full administrative route. Recently, Democrats in the House and Senate drastically changed the language of the bill, restoring full NEPA compliance and leaving it to the discretion of the Forest Service whether to complete the exchange—essentially adopting the approach we had favored. The fate of the bill, which is part of a large omnibus, will be decided within days or hours of this writing. If the omnibus does not go through, the new majority Republicans will likely bring the bill back next year in one of its earlier, worse forms.

Western Lands Project is on Facebook! Check us out & become a fan today.

St. George, Utah

We have been keeping close watch on the BLM field office in St. George, Utah. In the BLM, each field office manages public land in its jurisdiction according to a Resource Management Plan (RMP), which is updated approximately every ten years, and provides the framework for how resources will be used, as well as what lands may be “suitable for disposal” by way of exchange or sale. Normally, we do not monitor RMPs or weigh in at the planning level because we have our hands full simply tracking individual projects. We are making an exception to that rule this year in reviewing a new RMP for St. George. Our motivation stems from our having seen questionable land deals and poor NEPA implementation coming out of that office since 1997. The establishment of a desert tortoise Habitat Conservation Area nearby has made private inholdings desirable for public ownership and thus extremely valuable, spurring realestate speculation. In addition, a piece of national legislation passed in 2009 aims to facilitate more land trades and sales in the area, so St. George will bear watching over the long term.

Western Lands Update


Winter 2010

Rick McGuire Recognized
We want to congratulate Western Lands Project member Rick McGuire of Seattle, who recently received the Karen M. Fant Founder’s Award from Washington Wilderness Coalition for his years of citizen activism. Rick is legendary in the wilderness and public lands community here, known for his work to preserve Wild Sky Wilderness, the Pratt Valley, Boulder River, and Middle Fork Snoqualmie, among other places. We at the Project know him as an articulate, determined, and deeply principled environmentalist. Rick deserves our gratitude and this recognition. Photo: Tom Hammond

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Western Lands Update


Winter 2010

Update: Solar on Public Lands
s our readers are aware, we at Western Lands have been deeply concerned about Big Solar developments on public land and the virtual privatization that results from these projects. There are currently more than 100 applications in the queue for solar plants on federal land in the desert Southwest, encompassing more than a million acres. Fourteen “fast-track” projects are rushing to get permits in order to qualify for generous government grants and loan guarantees available only this year. During the summer of 2010, we, along with several desert activists, engineers, biologists, and energy wonks, formed a new coalition called Solar Done Right. SDR is focused on highlighting the biological richness of our desert ecosystems, the irreversible damage that industrial-scale solar will bring to these public lands, and the multifaceted superiority of Distributed Generation (DG)—small-scale, point-of-use solar energy installations in the built environment.


With special funding from a public lands benefactress, four members of Solar Done Right, including Janine, traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to meet with congressional staff and members. Our goal was to educate them about the impacts of Big Solar and the growing efficacy and cost-effectiveness of DG. On the way to D.C., several of us met in California’s Ivanpah Valley for an encampment at the site of the Ivanpah Solar Electricity Generating Station, the first project approved by the Interior Secretary under a fast-track process. Our purpose was to draw attention to the issue, and we received coverage both on National Public Radio and in the Las Vegas Review Journal. From late September to this writing, Secretary Salazar has approved 5 fast-track projects in California and 2 in Nevada, with a combined footprint of just under 34,000 acres.

To find out more about the issue visit…

Janine with Chris Clarke of the Desert Protective Council and Laura Cunningham of Basin and Range Watch, at Camp Ivanpah. Photo: Linda Campbell

And in Washington, D.C., four days later. Not pictured is solar engineer and lobby team member Bill Powers. Photo: Bill Powers

Western Lands Update


Winter 2010

We couldn’t do it without you… & you… & you
When people first learn about Western Lands Project, they are impressed by our big impact on public lands in spite of our small staff and our modest budget. And then they want to know how we do it. The answer is simple: you, our members, make it all possible. Your financial support, enthusiasm, and watchful eye over local public lands allow us to have an impact that far outweighs our trim operations. Western Lands Project is so much more than just our small Seattle office and tiny staff– it’s a wide network of almost 1,000 public land activists spread across 41 states plus DC, all working together to protect our country’s forests, open spaces, deserts, and grasslands. Because you’re such a big part of Western Lands Project, we’d like to keep you in the loop about how we’re doing financially. The snapshot below shows this year’s income and expenses, so far. 2010 was a tough year for us, as it was for many of you. The lingering recession forced two of our longtime foundation supporters to pull or phase out their funding and many individual donors just weren’t able to give like they used to. In response, we’ve trimmed our spending down and stayed under our already low budget. But that doesn’t mean we backed down from fighting public land privatization! In fact, as you can tell from this newsletter, we’ve been as busy as ever. From ongoing litigation against an open-pit mine that started ten years ago to our newest initiative keeping utility-scale solar development off public lands, our docket continues to be as diverse as the western landscape itself. Thank you for being part of this important work to keep public lands public. If you haven’t already made your taxdeductible contribution this year, we hope you’ll consider supporting Western Lands Project. Join us today to become a part of this amazing group of public land activists.

Thank you members & warm wishes for a wonderful 2011,

Western Lands Project

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

Board of Directors

Erica Rosenberg, President, Washington, DC Marianne Dugan, Sec’y-Treasurer, Eugene, OR Sandra Perkins, Seattle, WA 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


Winter 2010

Thank you, wonderful donors!*
Dave & Alice Adams, Marlin Ard, Molly Attell, Bob & Laurel Ballou, Gregory Bartha, John Bentley, Kitty Benzar, Janine Blaeloch, Andy & Jen Bowerman, Steve Boyte, Martin Bunker, Bob Buselmeier, Linda Campbell, Mel & Sheila Canal, Roald Cann, Rob & Joyce Castleberry, Holly Coccoli, Mark Collier, Emily & Drew Crandall, Craig & Lynn Dible, Patricia Donovan, Linda Driskill, Sheila Dugan, Mark & Lois Eagleton, George Early, Paul & Gladys Raye Eaton, Kevin Emmerich & Laura Cunningham, Michael Frome & June Eastvold, Linda Garrison, Harrison Grathwohl, Ellinor Green, Marshall & Elizabeth Hamilton, Charles E. Hancock, Ann Harvey, Roger & Janice Inghram, Dave & Corey Jacobs, Dave Kaiser & Kristin Temperly, Paul Kampmeier & Stacy Kihlstrom, Doug Kilgore & Ellie Belew, Thad King, Keith Kopischke, Fayette Krause, Chris Krupp, Lisa Lefferts, Conway Leovy, Mike Maloney, Ed Marston, Clyde & Joan McClelland, Ann McConnell, Rick McGuire, Russell McMullen, John Middleton, Andrew Nelson & Teresa Ward, Rich Nelson, George Nickas, Mary O’Brien, John & Rachael Osborn, John Osgood, Debra Patla & Merlin Hare, Sandra Perkins & Jeffrey Ochsner, Scotty Phillips, Hank Rate, Anne Rickenbaugh, Roberta Roberts, Bill Rodgers, Beth Rogers, Paul Rogland, Erica Rosenberg & Dan Sarewitz, Lin Rowland, Susan Saul, Justin Schmidt, Gordon Schochet, Mary Ann Schroeder, Paul Siegler, Sid Silliman, Jim Sims, Don Steuter, Paul Strople, Paul Swetik, Steve Tempelman, Janet Torline, Jeanne Turgeon, Utah Environmental Congress, Sally Vogel, Cathy Weeden, Nat & Jean White, Steve Wolper
* These lists include donations/grants received from June 2 to December 8, 2010. If your gift was received after this date, you’ll be acknowledged in our next newsletter. We are grateful to have your support.

We  our monthly donors, shown in bold. Become one today.

We are grateful for the foundations & businesses supporting our work!
Anonymous Foundation Aveda Earth Fund Buffalo Exchange- Tokens for Bags Program Conservation and Research Foundation Deer Creek Foundation Fund for Wild Nature Horne Family Foundation Lucky Seven Foundation The Maki Foundation New-Land Foundation Weeden Foundation The White Pine Fund
Western Lands Update 7 Winter 2010

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


Keeping public lands in public hands …

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We’re scrappy... & we get the job done!
Western Lands Project


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