Keeping a keen eye on the the political transition of 2017
View this email in your browser


Things are changing fast for the the wild this year.  The Obama Administration left office, sweeping a blizzard of expensive and damaging “treatment” and energy projects out the door. Agencies have amassed vast sums in funding that is supposed to be used for sage-grouse conservation, but instead is being used on projects that please welfare ranchers and industry. WLD has commented on many of these – including major juniper clear-cutting in the cow-burned Owyhees the “BOSH”) project, and major new habitat fragmentation in Idaho and Oregon from the Tri-State “Fuelbreaks”, and many other projects.

A field of lupine blooms in the high desert of central Oregon.
Photo Copyright, Katie Fite
The Assault on EPA

Right after Trump’s inauguration, the EPA Beachhead Team was moved into start gutting the agency from the inside out … The EPA has long been held captive by industry, as shown by its continued authorization of the poison Rozol to kill prairie dogs (and innumerable non-target wildlife – badger, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, burrowing owl).

Gateway West

At the very last minute, out-going BLM Director Kornze signed the Decision for the highly controversial Gateway West transmission line, shoving one of the two lines south onto the Owyhee Front. Yes – Idaho Power/Rocky Mountain Power are not content with only one gargantuan powerline – they insist on two. For years as controversy over Gateway West raged, Idaho Power fought rooftop solar in Boise. The Gateway Project also contains a harmful crossing of Salmon Falls Creek that threatens wildlife habitat and recreational uses.

Gateway is a wasteful Dinosaur of a project – like its linked counterpart, Boardman to Hemingway, that is proposed to rip through eastern Oregon. These projects are based on a flawed, wasteful, and environmentally destructive energy model of remote siting of giant energy facilities often in vital wildlife habitats.  Power transported hundreds or thousands of miles away on ugly, expensive habitat fragmenting transmission lines. WLD and Prairie Falcon Audubon have appealed the BLM Gateway Decision.

Climate Change

Many of the national forests’ land & resource management plans are undergoing the revision process.  WildLands Defense is watching closely and participating in this process.  By use of the best available science, WildLands Defense advocates for the role of public lands and forests as ecological pools for carbon sequestration, emphasizing that natural processes themselves most effectively promote carbon storage. WLD will also educate on the dangers, pitfalls, and fallacies of active “restoration” using vegetation manipulation (logging, grazing, mining etc.) to supposedly make landscapes more “resilient” to climate change. WLD demands a full accounting of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to natural resource extraction, industrial recreation, and other “multiple uses” of public lands.

Forests fight climate change, Colville National Forest.
Photo Copyright Natalie Ertz

Pushing Back Against the Land Grab

The current assault on public lands and their irreplaceable values takes many forms.

1) Legislation aimed at outright transfer of lands to states or private interests (including in various “collaborative” deals).

2) Changes in federal regulations stripping away the already frayed protections for public lands — enabling ranchers and energy developers to run roughshod over wildlife habitats and watersheds.

3) Politicians and officials instilling fear in agency staff charged with managing public lands and enforcing protections on them, or acting to stifle enforcement.

3) Diminishing public participation – i.e. people become numb or weary, look away from what is happening, or processes are confusing, so they do not participate.

Now is the time more than ever for becoming engaged. Resist. Send in comments, track what happens. Submit photos of damage you see being done to public lands, write e-mails documenting concerns, and question what is taking place. Write to officials saying protections need to be strengthened, not stripped. Let us know if you need help in figuring out agency offices to contact, or the hurdles (or evasion) you might run into.

HERE are some projects Open for Comment now:

BLM Mineral Withdrawal

As part of the 2015 sage-grouse Plans, BLM proposed a Mineral Withdrawal of lands termed “Focal Habitats”. The Withdrawal would put these places off limits to new mining activity for 20 years.

Comments can be e-mailed to:

Sample Comments on BLM Mineral Withdrawal Draft EIS:

– Lands proposed in the DEIS alternatives for mining Withdrawal are only a small fraction of occupied sage-grouse habitats in the West. BLM must consider a greatly expanded land area for an effective Withdrawal to conserve the sage ecosystem and sage-grouse. BLM must provide for viability of all populations. Under the current DEIS alternatives, several populations would not receive any withdrawal protections. BLM is “triaging” populations with this much too limited Mineral Withdrawal proposal.

– BLM must develop a range of new EIS Alternatives that expand land areas for Withdrawal. This must include areas where mining is an imminent and serious threat, like lands in central Nevada, lands in western Colorado and many more areas. These were entirely omitted from the proposed Withdrawal DEIS alternatives. The expanded land area must include the sage-grouse Priority and General Habitats identified in 2012, and all other essential habitats.

– BLM must discard the alternative that Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was allowed to insert into the DEIS. The Otter Alternative makes a mockery of the purpose of a Withdrawal. It would only Withdraw lands with ‘Low” mining potential.

The Otter proposal seeks to exclude two large areas in Owyhee County within the largest remaining block of sage-grouse habitat in the world. These are Dickshooter Ridge and the South Fork Owyhee country west of Duck Valley Reservation. Otter claims “potential” for diatomaceous earth mining (used for Kitty Litter). Curiously, these Kitty Litter deposits happen to correspond with areas grazed by powerful cattle interests — the Simplot ag-conglomerate and the wealthy Jackson cattle operation – both are among the largest public lands welfare ranchers in the nation. Otter also excludes large areas in the Big Lost River country, near Craters of the Moon, the Lemhi region, and other vital habitats in central Idaho. If Otter gets away with cutting these lands out, it is a significant step in getting BLM to downgrade their importance as habitat to the birds.

BLM should also consider withdrawing the most important sage-grouse habitats from Livestock Grazing in this EIS process across western states. Highly subsidized cattle and sheep grazing pose the most widespread and pervasive threat to sage-grouse across their range. Grazing causes flammable cheatgrass and other weed invasion, loss of native vegetation components and loss of meadow and spring habitats essential to sage-grouse.

BLM site:

Sawtooth Minidoka Ranger District Albion-Raft River Aspen Habitat “Treatment” Project

This proposal would burn or otherwise destroy aspen clone areas over > 8000 acres in Utah and Idaho. It would log conifers critical for many songbirds and other wildlife. Yet the Forest refuses to analyze the severe livestock grazing disturbance impacts on aspen communities in these same places. TELL the Forest they must do an EIS taking into account the weeds and other harms from burning, the lack of modern day controls on livestock grazing in the affected allotments and across the Minidoka District, and the large battery of other expensive vegetation “treatments” (pinyon-juniper killing, regular logging) taking place. This project will result in major destruction of northern goshawk and migratory songbird habitat. WLD has been actively involved in opposing several other large-scale “treatments” proposed by Ranger Poppert in this District – which is plagued by abusive grazing practices.

Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Ely Ranger District White Pine Range – “Sagebrush Habitat Restoration Project”

There have been past wildfires and other Forest Service pinyon-juniper killing projects in the White Pine Range. The Forest now aims to destroy large areas of remaining forest in the lovely White Pine Range west of Ely. These lands are threatened by both hard rock mining and foreseeable Oil and Gas leasing – activities that these treatments denuding the landscape will make much easier. Grossly overstocked cattle and sheep herds have long been hammering the tiny springs and fragile sage-grouse meadows of the White Pine Range, and spreading cheatgrass across the uplands. Tell the Forest Service an EIS must be prepared that takes a hard look at the full range of threats to this landscape (pervasive livestock grazing, mining, oil and gas and other energy development, and the loss of biodiversity from the plethora of treatments. Ferruginous hawk, pinyon jay, and many migratory songbirds are threatened by this senseless clearcutting. or

Copyright © 2016 WildLands Defense.  All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
14 W. Bullion St.
Hailey, ID  83333