411 on PUBLIC LAND ISSUES NOW

There’s a lot of noise, lots of high quality noise, about public land issues in the U.S.. Still, It’s hard to know what you’ve already signed, what you’ve read about in depth, or what you haven’t even heard about. Thus, here’s an overview of current public lands issues you should consider engaging with. This list by no means comprehensive. Please comment or email me about other important issues and I’ll add to the list. CLICK AWAY!

**1. Brooks Range **

**“Road to Ambler” (VERY TIME SENSITIVE!) **

Send an email TODAY (by January 31st):

The issue:

Here’s the email I sent:

To: blm_ak_akso_amblerroad_comments@blm.gov

Subject: Ambler Road Environmental Impact Statement

Dear BLM scoping committee,

The proposed Ambler Road concerns me because of its potential effects on local people, local economy, wildlife and of course, the environment.

An industrial access road through the Brooks Range could negatively impact populations and water quality for sheefish, chum, king salmon and the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, not to mention subsistence lifestyles of native people and the tourism economy in the region.

I believe a better alternative could be investing in local tourism, a sustainable industry already functioning in celebration of public lands, clean water, clear air, and wild spaces

Thank you for considering my comments.

Sincerely,
Clare Gallagher

+ AND sign the petition here.

2. Utah** Monuments:**

After President Trump rolled back the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase in December, Representative Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah, introduced legislation to establish the “Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve.”
“But a reading of the bill, H.R. 4558, reveals it as a Trojan horse, appearing as a gift to the public while eroding federal environmental protections on public lands. If it becomes law, the bill could set a precedent with enormous consequences nationally, all of them bad for the national parks and the park service, which celebrates its 102nd birthday this August. It is, in fact, a model for the piecemeal unraveling of the more than 400 national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, recreation areas and other places in the park system.” (NYTimes)

**What can we do? ** [Continue to call your state’s senators and your representative ](https://www.contactingcongress.org/)and urge the importance of protecting public lands and keeping national monument boundaries pre-Trump. The way Congress works, this bill cannot be passed without the support from other senators and representatives.

**3. Oregon Monument: **Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Another one of the National Monuments under threat of being shrunk: this biological paradise in Eastern Oregon is a prized area for the state. Both senators and the Oregon Governor are fighting to keep its boundaries intact.
“Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have led the fight to protect this majestic landscape. Just after Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the ‘review’ of national monuments, these senators sent him a letter urging him to protect Cascade-Siskiyou. In a recent video, Senator Merkley spoke about why we can’t stay silent.” (League of Conservation Voters)
What is it? This area has unique and exquisite flora and fauna across its varied ecosystems: from oak woodlands to old-growth conifer forests and from lush mountain meadows to high desert juniper and sage. Established in 2000, it’s the only National Monument that protects an area designated with *outstanding biological diversity. *Reducing its boundaries would strip the area of its biological value. Scientists would lose their research opportunities, and commercial logging would desecrate old growth forests, which are the reason the area has protection in the first place.
Unlike other BLM managed lands, this area cannot support commercial logging because its value is in the unique tree and plant life. Additionally, “despite claims to the contrary, protecting the monument does not affect public access or sportsmen’s opportunities…there are hundreds of miles of roads open to motor vehicles inside monument boundaries. All monument lands have remained open for hunting and fishing and other recreational pursuits.  The monument is an increasingly popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and is strongly supported by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and many local businesses benefiting from the resulting economic activity.”
**What can we do? **
There is no open comment period for this specific National Monument. Like with Utah’s National Monument’s we can continue to call our own state’s senators and representatives urging the protection of pre-Trump National Monument boundaries.
You can sign up for the Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou newsletter here.

4. National Park Service Fee Increase

(Comment period closed December 22, 2017)
This is one of those “open comment periods” that I hope you didn’t miss. But yes, I know that it’s hard to know when comment periods are open. I’ll update this when any decisions are released.
In the meantime, read about the potential fee increase and why it’d fail to accomplish anything worthwhile for our national parks, but instead prevent access to people who cannot afford the fee increase. Talk about anti-public lands…

“We should not increase fees to such a degree as to make these places – protected for all Americans to experience – unaffordable for some families to visit. The solution to our parks’ repair needs cannot and should not be largely shouldered by its visitors.” – Theresa Pierno, the chief executive of the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NY Times).

“For families that want to get out [to parks], that cost barrier is not just perceived, and it disproportionately affects families of color.” – Gabe Vasquez, New Mexico coordinator for Latino Outdoors, a group that helps Latino communities get outside (National Geographic).

“Under the new pricing structure, national parks will be able to charge higher rates during the summer months, when the most visitors come. If prices go up during peak season, visitors who can’t handle the $70 price tag may be more likely to visit during quieter times of year. And that, says Kitty Benzar, is exactly what private hotel and campground operators have wanted for decades: to fill more hotel beds and campsites in May and October, while turning away fewer paying customers in June and July.
In other words, ‘Rich people can see wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park at the best time of year, and poor people can’t see them at all.’ ” (High Country News).

Photo: Johnie Gall