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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sierra Club comments on natural resources title of the NDAA

"All told, the natural resources title of the NDAA designates approximately 245,000 acres of new wilderness. Considering  the 112th Congress was the first since 1966 not to protect one single acre, it's tempting to declare this package a significant victory. Unfortunately, the inclusion of egregious land exchanges and other harmful provisions far outweigh any conservation gains.
Among those harmful provisions is one that hands over federally protected land in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona - land that is sacred to local Native American tribes, to the Rio Tinto mining company to expand the Resolution Copper mine. This measure was brought to the House floor twice last year, but it was pulled both times because there weren't enough votes to approve it.  Using the NDAA as a vehicle for harmful, controversial legislation that privatizes our precious public lands is inexcusable.
In addition, this bill will transfer important areas of Alaska's Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation. In doing so, Congress will sacrifice dozens of the best undeveloped coves, bays, and recreational areas in favor of commercial logging. This piece of the lands package causes irrevocable damage to vital fish and wildlife habitats and jeopardizes the livelihoods of several small communities and other  users that depend on the forest.
Trading away our public lands to mining and timber companies for commercial gain is not conservation. As we look to a new Congress, the Sierra Club will continue to work to pass clean public lands bills that truly protect America's lands, waters and wildlife."


Marni Salmon
Sierra Club
http://www.sierraclub.org/lay-of-the-land/2014/12/congress-passes-lands-bills

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fax the Senate! 47 Public Lands, Wilderness & Environmental Groups Blast Riders in Defense Bill

47 Public Lands, Wilderness & Environmental Groups Blast Riders in Defense Bill

Posted by Matthew Koehler on 8 December 2014, 8:34 am
http://forestpolicypub.com/2014/12/08/47-public-lands-wilderness-environmental-groups-blast-riders-in-defense-bill/

A coalition of 47 public lands, Wilderness and environmental organizations from across the country have issued a letter to all members of the U.S. Senate demanding the removal of damaging public land “riders” that have been added to the Defense Authorization Bill, which passed the U.S. House last week and now awaits action in the Lame Duck senate.
Title XXX (30) of the bill includes several controversial and harmful public land proposals, including an exchange of National Forest land to a foreign-owned mining company seeking to operate a mine on land sacred to the Apache, a giveaway of 70,000 acres on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corporation, notorious for its scorched-earth logging practices, and a stealth provision that removes protections from two Wilderness Study Areas in eastern Montana. The bill also contains numerous public land conveyances as well as Wilderness bills with special provisions allowing helicopter use and habitat manipulation.
The coalition of 47 organizations is calling on the Senate to remove Title XXX from the Defense Bill. Some proposals thrown into the mix would gain the groups’ strong support as stand-alone legislation, but the bill’s numerous “poison pills” mean that too high a price would be paid for a few conservation gains. The groups are submitting their letter to Senators ahead of its being brought to the Floor.


NCCC is a signatory on this, and our major concern here is that one of the provisions mandates building a new road in the upper Stehekin Valley:
Stephen Mather Wilderness boundary change to allow upper Stehekin Valley road to be relocated, sets a terrible precedent of removing land from the protection of Wilderness established more than 25 years ago to accommodate building a road in a remote valley that does not connect to any other road. Truly a “road to nowhere,” the upper Stehekin Valley Road has routinely been washed out since it was built to access now defunct mining claims, and the National Park Service deemed it impossible to repair in place and prohibitively costly to relocate out of the river’s floodplain after it was last severely damaged by floods in 2003.  Although proponents claim a new road is needed to provide access for the public, in fact the public cannot drive to this road; the only cars in Stehekin are barged in and belong to the few who live there.  The Park Service even found that visits to the upper Stehekin Valley did not change after the road was washed out. The site of the former road has grown over and rewilded in the last 10 years without motor vehicles and is now enjoyed by hikers as one of the only non-steep trails in the area. There is no justification either economically or environmentally for building a new road there, and it will set a precedent that Wilderness boundaries can be moved at will to accommodate roads.

You can and should write your own letter of opposition and fax it to all Senators! Fax the letter above with the Stehekin paragraph to your Senators and to as many other Senators as you have time. Friend or foe, Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter. Most if not all have their fax numbers on their website. THANK YOU!

Looking for more info on the Stehekin Valley Road? Check out what the National Park Service has to say:
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=327&projectID=15383&documentID=36378