Take Action

We can’t protect the Eastern Sierra’s public lands without your help. By taking action today you can do your part to preserve the Eastern Sierra’s natural beauty for generations of people, plants, and wildlife.

Find contact information for Congressional, state and local representatives and department directors here.

Update on Issues Swirling locally and nationally (December 2017)

Conglomerate Mesa update-

On November 14th, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors discussed a letter to the Bureau of Land Managment regarding the Perdito exploratory drilling project at Conglomerate Mesa located in the southern Inyo Mountains north of Highway 190. Over 50 concerned citizens attended the meeting with 20 residents giving oral comments to the Board in opposition to the project. After discussion, the Board modified an existing letter to exclude any support of the project’s four alternatives and simply offered corrections to the BLM regarding omissions from the Environmental Assessment. The comment period for the project closed on Monday, November 20th. We expect a decision from the BLM in early 2018.  Read our comment letter here: BLM Perdito coalition comment letter FINAL.

Here’s the Inyo County Board of Supervisor’s letter: Letter to BLM RE Perdito 11 14 2017 Final (1)

National Monuments-

President Trump is expected to visit San Juan County, Utah in December to either announce the findings of Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s final report on monuments and/or issue an executive order to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. If Trump visits he will be the first standing president in US history to visit San Juan County.

HR 3990-

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) to gut the Antiquities Act, advanced out of the Natural Resources panel on a party-line vote in October. The bill will likely not go to the House floor for a vote until next year. Please continue reaching out to members of Congress to educate them about this bill and what it could mean for new and existing monuments.

HR 2936-

The deceptively named Resilient Federal Forests Act passed the House on Nov 1st (232-188).  The bill will now move to the Senate for a vote where it is expected to receive increased scrutiny. Please contact your Senators to express your opposition to this bill.

 

Action Alert: Conglomerate Mesa threatened by gold mining (November 2017)

Conglomerate Mesa is, once again, under attack from mining interests. This is the first roadless area in California targeted for development under the Trump administration. We are not being alarmist when we say these exploratory drill sites are only the beginning. The ultimate land management goals of the current administration are explicitly extractive: mine the land until it stops making money, and then abandon it with as little regulation as possible.

Conglomerate in a natural, wild state is precious and irreplaceable for the following reasons:

• Conglomerate Mesa is a spectacular wilderness quality landscape of Joshua tree and Pinyon-pine woodland with elevations ranging from 3,800 to 7,100 ft. From the top of the mesa, visitors can see expansive views of multiple wilderness areas, Owens Lake, the glittering Sierra Nevada and into the expanses of Saline Valley and Death Valley National Park.
• The historic Keeler-Death Valley trail, circa late1800’s, crosses the north end of Conglomerate Mesa and should be preserved for its cultural and historic significance.
• The area is prized locally for deer hunting.
• Multiple special status and rare plant species are found within the proposed project area and will be impacted by drilling.
● Local tribes oppose the project as the mesa is an important tribal site for traditional uses.
• The area is rich in heritage resources exemplified by the remains of historic charcoal and stone masonry sites used in the late 1800’s to supply the Cerro Gordo mine.
• Tourism and recreation remain the primary driver of Inyo County’s economy: total direct travel spending in the desert region in 2013 reached $6.2 billion. While mining comprises only 3% of employment in Inyo County, industries that include travel and tourism comprise 33%.

Industrial-Scale mining would forever and irrevocably impact a natural resource and a beautiful place.

• The ultimate objective of this project is an open pit (cyanide heap leach) gold mine. Such an operation would permanently damage the area’s wild character, degrade wildlife and plant habitat, and pollute scarce local water systems. It’s well documented that cyanide heap leaching poses significant hazards to plants and animals from gold mining and related toxic water issues. Mining operations are likely to provide only limited local revenue and employment, while creating lasting environmental damage that will not only scar the land but degrade Inyo County’s reputation as a scenic, outdoor recreation destination.

The Environmental Assessment, currently open for public comment through Nov 20th, has four alternatives:
1) No-action alternative,
2) Construction of an overland route
3) Opening a road restored by the BLM in the 1990’s
4) Helicopter access

Friends of the Inyo asks you to write the BLM to suggest the “no-action” option and deny any permitting whatsoever for this project.

Join us and let’s work together for this place.

National Monument Update (September 18, 2017):

The Washington Post has published a leaked copy of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s National Monument report. Read it here. It has the following suggestions:

  • Bears Ears National Monument, Utah: Shrink (separate reports suggest by as much as 1 million acres) the National Monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah: Shrink the National Monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  • Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon and California: Shrink the National Monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and  drilling in protected areas.
  • Gold Butte National Monument, Nevada: Shrink the National Monument and allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas.
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico:  Allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas; leaves open the possibility of shrinking the Monument.
  • Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico: Allow ‘traditional’ uses like mining, logging and drilling in protected areas; leaves open the possibility of shrinking the Monument.
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine – Specifies that logging should be allowed in the National Monument; leaves open the possibility of shrinking the Monument.
  • Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Atlantic Ocean – Allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the national monument; leaves open the possibility of shrinking the Monument.
  • Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, Pacific Ocean – Shrink the National Monument; allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the National Monument.
  • Rose Atoll National Monument – Shrink the National Monument; allow industrial-scale commercial fishing in the National Monument.

While California Monuments adjacent to the Eastern Sierra have been spared (for now), this is a historic threat to American public lands. A threat to one is a threat to all. Contact your legislators and the Department of the Interior and voice your support for National Monuments.

September 2017 Policy Updates:

The White House stalls on releasing Zinke’s report on National Monuments

All summer long we have been working with our state and national colleagues to pressure Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to listen to the 2.8 million comments received (99% in support) of saving national monuments and the defense of public lands. Thursday, August 24 was Zinke’s deadline for his final report on National Monuments and the White House is still keeping everyone in the dark about their plans. We did learn that Zinke is recommending to drastically reduce at least four national monuments. You can read Department of Interior’s 2 page summary here. Let’s be clear: any potential degradation, shrinking or modification of our protected public lands is unacceptable no matter how the Administration is spinning it to the public. Any actions that would dismantle these natural wonders will result in the destruction of Native American archaeological sites, lost access for hunting and fishing, and economic harm to local businesses. The actions of this administration and our response is precedent setting- if we don’t defend public lands throughout the state, the Eastern Sierra could be next! Any attempt to shrink our monuments will be met with swift legal action. We are following the process closely and will send updates out as soon as the full report is released.

Tell your California state legislators to support A.B. 1000

Water is essential to the desert’s fragile landscape. Our California desert is home to unique archaeology, ecology and culture and is enjoyed by millions of Americans. Thanks to the Drumpf administration reversal of previous policies, The Cadiz, Inc. water mining project is moving forward without an environmental review. The water project will pump groundwater from a rural aquifer in the Mojave Desert every year for 50 years. The aquifer supports remote springs and landscapes that Native American tribes consider sacred and that support a variety of desert wildlife, including bighorn sheep, endangered desert tortoises and kit foxes. The project would be sited in the heart of Mojave Trails National Monument, near Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. It is no coincidence that the Drumpf administration wants to reduce the size of Mojave Trails National Monument so they can push this project through.

In July 2017, members of the California State Legislature began considering a bill (Assembly Bill 1000, the California Desert Protection Act) that would safeguard national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and state lands from groundwater mining projects in the California desert. The bill would help protect the Mojave from projects like Cadiz by bolstering state reviews and requiring the California State Lands Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to ensure that any transfers of desert groundwater do not adversely affect the region’s natural or cultural resources.

Friends of the Inyo strongly supports AB 1000 and is asking you to contact your representatives to support the bill today. AB 1000 will likely receive a vote sometime in September so your calls and letters are critical right now.

Note: this action alert is restricted to residents of California.

Mammoth Base Land Exchange

In late August we submitted comments of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Mammoth Base Land Exchange.  Under the Proposed Action, the Forest Service would exchange approximately 35.6 acres of National Forest System lands within the boundaries of the Inyo National Forest, and currently managed as part of a Ski Area Term Special Use Permit to Mammoth Main Lodge Redevelopment, LLC in exchange for approximately 1,296.7 acres of privately owned lands located within the boundaries of the Inyo, Plumas and Stanislaus National Forests and one 1.4 acre parcel in Bishop, CA adjacent to the White Mountains Visitor Center.

We expressed our concerns that the EIS did not adequately address impacts to wildlife, groundwater and recreation at Mammoth Mountain. We also provided recommendations for future management of the parcels that would become public land. If you wish to receive a copy of our comments please contact jora at jora@friendsoftheinyo.org.

National Monument Review:

Comment Period Closed July 10, 2017. Results and report of the Review due August 24, 2017.

In California, monuments under review include Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, San Gabriel Mountains, and Giant Sequoia. The California State Legislature and Attorney General have already sent their messages to the Drumpf administration: Leave California’s Monuments Alone!  Comments including mention of the economic importance of monuments to local rural economies, reference to unique landscapes, cultural or historical treasures, and personal experiences are most impactful. View Friends of the Inyo’s comments on all California monuments here.

If you live in the Eastern Sierra, contact Congressman Paul Cook to voice your support for retaining the current boundaries and protections for California’s national monuments. Representative Cook recently signed a letter from the Western Caucus to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, supporting, among other things, the reduction in size of California’s Mojave Trails and San Gabriel Mountains National Monuments. Representative Cook did not seek input from his constituents regarding his decision to support the reduction of these monuments, nor did he post the letter on his website, probably because all available data indicates that monuments enjoy overwhelming bi-partisan public support in California and across the West. The Western Caucus letter is also in direct contradiction to bipartisan support from state lawmakers for California monuments. View our response to Cook here.

Issues to Watch:

H.R. 2936 – Rep. Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 contains dangerous language including NEPA roll backs, weakening of the Endangered Species Act, undermining of protection for roadless areas, redirecting of funds from restoration to logging and constraining the ability of citizens to challenge federal forest management decisions in court. Our Executive Director’s OpEd on the Westerman bill appeared in the July 13th edition of the Mammoth Times.

H.R. 2936 was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in June but it is not expected to come up for a vote by the full House until after the August recess. We still have time to voice loud opposition to this bill. Contact your Congressional representatives today to oppose this bill.

 

S.B. 32– Senator Diane Feinstein’s latest desert protection bill (the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2017) received a hearing on July 26th. Friends of the Inyo and our partner, the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, are gathering letters of support for the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area portion of this bill. The bill also contains additions to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, designates new wilderness and wild and scenic rivers, closes loopholes to provide true permanent protection for conservation-designated lands in the Desert District, and provides protections from Cadiz and other water export projects (see AB1000 below for more info). Thank Feinstein for moving this legislation forward.

S.B. 249– The State of California’s Department of Parks and Recreation has a large off-road vehicle recreation program that is largely funded by our gas taxes. The program manages a system of off-highway vehicle parks and gives millions of dollars every year to the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to help these agencies manage OHV use. Senate Bill (SB) 249, sponsored by State Senator Ben Allen, will reauthorize this important program and will ensure that grant money continues to flow to our federal public lands where it is desperately needed. Call your local Assembly members today and ask them to support SB 249.

AB1000- Water is essential to the California desert’s fragile landscape. Our California desert is home to unique archaeology, ecology and culture and is enjoyed by millions of Americans.  It is currently under threat from the Cadiz water project, which will pump groundwater from a rural aquifer in the Mojave Desert every year for 50 years. Thanks to the Drumpf administration reversing previous policies, the Cadiz, Inc. water mining project is moving forward without an environmental review. This aquifer supports remote springs and landscapes that Native American tribes consider sacred and supports a variety of desert wildlife, including bighorn sheep, endangered desert tortoises and kit foxes. The project would be sited in the heart of Mojave Trails National Monument, near Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. It is no coincidence that the Drumpf administration wants to reduce the size of Mojave Trails National Monument so they can push this project through.

In July 2017, members of the California State Legislature began considering a bill (Assembly Bill 1000, the California Desert Protection Act) that would safeguard national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and state lands from groundwater mining projects in the California desert. The bill would help protect the Mojave from projects like Cadiz by bolstering state reviews and requiring the California State Lands Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to ensure that any transfers of desert groundwater do not adversely affect the region’s natural or cultural resources.

Friends of the Inyo strongly supports AB 1000 and is asking you to contact your representatives to support the bill today. AB 1000 will likely receive a vote sometime in September so your calls and letters are critical right now.

Please tell your California state legislators to support A.B. 1000
Note: this action alert is restricted to residents of California.

Proposed Federal Budget: In March, 2017 the Drumpf administration released its proposed budget, including substantial cuts to agencies that protect and manage public lands: Environmental Protection Agency (31%), Department of Agriculture, which includes the Forest Service (21%) and Department of the Interior (12%).

Federal Agency Review: On March 13th 2017, the Drumpf administration signed Executive Order 13781 requiring development of a plan to reorganize the executive branch including recommending agencies, programs, and functions for elimination. Friends of the Inyo submitted detailed comments in support of maintaining or increasing funding for those agencies that manage and support our public lands, including the Forest Service, the Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.