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Habitat Restoration or Destruction? Pinyon-Juniper Removal Under Scrutiny

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Are pinyon pines and Utah juniper invasive species?  The Department of Interior is enthusiastically proposing to cut down  large swaths of pinyon-juniper woodland across the Great Basin Desert, although conservation group Basin and Range Watch is raising doubts about the scientific basis for such projects.  The ostensible purpose of removing the pinyon-juniper is to help the greater sage grouse and reduce fire risk, although it appears more likely that the deforestation is to benefit private livestock grazing operations.  Interior's claims that the projects are intended to support the sage grouse were further undermined after Interior opened up important grouse habitat elsewhere to oil and gas drilling earlier this year, even though experts say protecting remaining habitat is the most important step we can take toward saving it from decline.

Restoring historic sage grouse habitat to the native shrub and grasslands that the species needs to succesfully forage and breed is not easy…

National Monument Review Remains in the Shadows

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The Department of Interior told me today that its lawyers are reviewing whether or not they will release Secretary Ryan Zinke's report on the future of our national monuments in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It is absurd that a team of lawyers must decide whether or not the public has a right to know the results of a supposedly public review process, and Zinke's legally questionable recommendations to diminish our national monuments.  The Trump administration is concealing significant documents regarding the future of natural wonders and cultural treasures that were passed on to us by our ancestors, and that we count on sharing with the next generation.

Trump, Zinke and foes of public land protections have ironically claimed that the establishment of new national monuments has historically lacked transparency and sincere public outreach.  Yet Zinke only released a short summary of his recommendations that lacked specific details regarding which…

An Open Letter to Sate Senators Kevin de Leon and Ricardo Lara

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You know that the Trump administration is targeting California's people and places.  Rolling back regulations and undoing progressive policies.  It should come as no surprise to either of you that California's desert wildlands are also in the crosshairs.  Trump is considering reducing multiple national monuments in California; an unprecedented attempt to exploit wild places that we should be protecting and passing on to future generations.  It is within your power to counter one of Trump's assaults by simply allowing a vote on Assembly Bill 1000.  If you fail to do so, you should know that you break from at least a century of effort by Californians to protect our desert public lands. 

California's desert wildlands are among its greatest treasures.  And Californians have long fought to keep them that way.  Minerva Hoyt of Pasadena worked for years in the early 1900s to call attention to the destruction of California's desert, and eventually secured the designa…

An Unlikely Ally for Trump's Attack on the Environment?

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The Trump administration and Cadiz company won an unlikely ally for their efforts to cut down a national monument designated by President Obama, roll back environmental protections and ignore science.  Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas signed a letter promoting the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year from Mojave Trails National Monument and sell it to Orange County.

Cardenas' letter regurgitates Cadiz talking points defending the company, and opposing Assembly Bill 1000 (AB1000), state-level legislation that would increase scrutiny of the Cadiz water deal to prevent the company from harming natural springs that wildlife depend upon for survival.  It's not clear at first glance why Cardenas would support the Cadiz plan (although he received at least $2,500 in donations from Cadiz). 

Writer Judith Lewis Mernit's wisdom probably sheds the most revealing light on the mentality driving Cardenas' support for Cadiz:   "[T]he persist…

Fight Back Against Potential Cuts to Mojave Trails National Monument

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Although Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's report to the President recommending significant cuts to a "handful" of national monuments remains secret, many people that appreciate desert wildlands are concerned that Mojave Trails National Monument is on the list.  That is because Congressman Paul Cook encouraged Zinke in June to remove protections from swaths of Mojave Trails  to accommodate the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year and sell it to an Orange County water district.  The Cadiz company owns a parcel of private land surrounded by the monument.  The proposal to cut the monument would open up a pathway for the company to build a pipeline to transport the water out of the desert; a plan hydrologists are concerned could dry up natural springs across a large portion of the Mojave.
If you are a California resident, please take a stand against this potential cut to Mojave Trails and follow this link to urge your state representatives to…

Paul Cook Twists History in Attack on Desert Monuments

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Representative Paul Cook published an opinion piece in the Desert Dispatch this week defending his recent request to slash monuments in the California desert.  His opinion piece is one of the first public  communications from his office r Harding President Trump's and Secretary of Interior's review of national monuments.  Up until now, Cook has only had private meetings and correspondence with select companies and the Secretary of Interior detailing his plan to cut the monuments down.  We only know about that because someone submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to force the Department of Interior to release Cook's correspondence.

Cook's letter ignores the years of public stakeholder conversation regarding management of our desert public lands, portraying the monuments as midnight decisions that came "out of thin air."  Cook's letter disingenuously characterizes the monuments as the result of "extreme environmental groups" and &q…

Documents Show Destructive Industry Influencing Monument Review

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President Trump and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke have arbitrarily selected 27 of our national monuments for review, and Zinke is expected to issue recommendations later this week on whether to reduce or eliminate some of the monuments as if they are contestants in some corrupt beauty pageant.  Zinke has already deemed six as worth protecting, citing reasons that could apply to all 27.  The other 21 face an uncertain future, probably driven largely by industry's desire to access and destroy more of our public lands for profit. 

Removing protections from these national monuments likely will spark a legal battle that will determine the future of vast swaths of public lands.  At issue is a simple question: is any President allowed to reduce or eliminate a national monument established by a previous President? If the answer is yes, we undo our promise of sharing millions of acres of protected wildlands with future generations.  Eagerly urging the administration's review of the…