Biden takes Day One action to protect Arctic lands and waters

January 22, 2021 By Tim Woody

Animals from the Porcupine Caribou Herd in the Arctic Refuge
The Hulahula River runs from Alaska’s Brooks Range to the cArctic Refuge’s coastal plain, which is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.EDWARD BENNETT/BENNETT IMAGES LLC

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After Trump’s sell off, the Arctic Refuge gets a reprieve

Just hours after being sworn into office, President Biden took a number of monumental actions to protect public lands, address the climate crisis and combat systemic racism, including an executive order that places a moratorium on all oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This occurred only one day after the previous administration issued leases for drilling in the refuge’s coastal plain in a rushed, flawed and likely illegal process.

Biden’s action was met with great enthusiasm, particularly by many Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples who have depended on and protected the refuge for thousands of years and rely on the caribou and other resources in the refuge to sustain their communities and cultures.

“Mashi’ choo, President Biden,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “The Gwich’in Nation is grateful to the president for his commitment to protecting sacred lands and the Gwich’in way of life.”

The executive order also reinstated President Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling—an order that had been reversed by the Trump administration. Protecting offshore areas from the threat of a major oil spill benefits not only marine species such as fish, seals and bowhead whales, but the coastlines of sensitive lands like the Arctic Refuge, too.

We are grateful to President Biden for his commitment to protect the refuge, address the climate crisis and respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples. We are also grateful to the millions of people who made today’s announcement possible by putting the climate and social justice first. This action is a result of years of advocacy from people across the United States, including members and supporters of The Wilderness Society, who refused to stay silent as oil corporations and their friends sought to put drilling rigs in the Arctic Refuge.

This action is a result of years of advocacy from people across the United States, including members and supporters of The Wilderness Society.

This does not mean the fight to protect the Arctic Refuge and the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd is over. The moratorium is temporary. But it’s a huge first step in Biden’s plan to review the legality of the Jan. 6 Arctic Refuge lease sale and the issuance of leases to the winning bidders.

We will continue to work with our Gwich’in and Iñupiat partners—as well as the Biden administration and our allies in the Congress and the conservation community—as we explore all options for ensuring that drilling never occurs on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. We’ll also keep putting pressure on corporations like banks and insurers.

But today we rest, raise a glass and celebrate a new day for the Arctic.

Trail-Building: Habitat Destruction by a Different Name

Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
September 2, 2017

“Impacts on and along trails result from the trampling of hikers and pack stock and the effects of trail construction and maintenance. … These impacts include the loss of vegetation and shifts in plant-species composition, exposure of bare mineral soil, soil compaction, and changes in microhabitats, including changes in draining and erosion. Where trail construction is carefully planned, most of these changes are of little concern; although pronounced. Most changes are localized and deliberate.” Dawson and Hendee, 2009, pp. 423-4

“The study revealed that almost 80% of extinction research in the country focused on cute marsupials such as kangaroos and koalas, whereas not-so-adorable critters such as bats and rodents held only 11% of research time, despite making up almost half of the species examined.”

Scientists are generally honest, in what they say – but not in what they choose to study. Despite a diligent search in one of the world’s best libraries (the University of California, Berkeley), I wasn’t able to find a single book or article on the harm done by trail-building. I notice that whenever I see a picture of a trail, I think “Oh, a trail – so what?” It takes an effort of will to think about the wildlife habitat that was destroyed in order to build the trail. And the habitat destruction isn’t restricted to the trail bed. As Ed Grumbine pointed out in Ghost Bears, a grizzly can hear a human from a mile away, and smell one from five miles away. And grizzlies are probably not unique in that. In other words, animals within five miles of a trail are inhibited from full use of their habitat. That is habitat destruction! If there were no trails, we would be confronted by our own destructiveness every time we entered a park. It is only because the habitat has already been destroyed for us, that we can pretend that we are doing no harm.

So why do we build trails? It doesn’t take much experimenting with cross-country travel to see that it is extremely difficult. There are many kinds of hazards – biological (e.g. poison oak, poison sumac, poisonous snakes, etc.) and physical (e.g. blackberry thorns, cliffs, rivers, volcanos, etc.). It is extremely difficult to find a passable-, much less an efficient, route. It would be very difficult to communicate our location to emergency personnel, without trails. So it is unlikely that we will eliminate trails in the near future, except from areas designated off-limits to humans.

That leaves only one option compatible with wildlife conservation: minimizing the construction, extent, and use of trails. For example, banning the use of off-road vehicles, such as bicycles, skateboards, and motorcycles would greatly reduce the use of the trails, the distance that people travel, and the harm done to the soil and the small animals and plants found on, under, or near the trails. Mountain bikers complain about being thereby “denied access”, but of course they can still walk. They just can’t easily travel as far as they can on a bike. On public land, especially, all trail construction should be thoroughly studied, and should be built only when officially authorized by the land manager, and only by thoroughly educated, authorized builders.

By far the greatest threat to wildlife habitat in so-called “protected” areas would appear to be mountain biking. Motorized vehicles are generally not allowed in natural areas. The most destructive use of trails is mountain biking. Knobby tires are perfectly designed to rip up the soil. Mountain bikers, with rare honesty, call their riding “shredding”. They also have a much greater range than hikers, and probably also equestrians. They also frequently ride illegally – where bicycles are not allowed.

All of this is well known. But what isn’t so well known or understood is the mountain bikers’ drive to build ever more trails. All park users seem to have a need for a certain amount of stimulation. A hiker or equestrian can satisfy that need on a relatively short trail, because they experience it fully, through all of their senses. They can stop instantly, and turn 360 degrees, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting anything they choose. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, tend to ride fast, often as fast as they can, seeking what they call an “adrenaline rush”. But even when riding slowly, the very nature of a bicycle requires one to focus almost 100% of his or her attention on the trail immediately in front of their front tire, or they will crash. The consequence is that they have to travel several times as far as a hiker, to have the same quantity of experience. And after riding the same trail a few times, they get bored with it and want to ride a new trail. And when they’ve ridden all their local trails, they begin demanding more trails to be built. Or, if their demands aren’t met, they begin secretly building illegal trails, or building illegal “trail features” (jumps, berms, log bridges, teeter-totters, etc.). The rain-forests of North Vancouver are the iconic example (which destruction continues to this day), but it has been emulated by mountain bikers all over the world.

If this were a matter of a few sites or a few trails, it wouldn’t be too significant. But it’s not restricted to one area. Mountain bikers, apparently ignorant of conservation biology, have destroyed thousands of square miles of wildlife habitat, and show no signs of slowing down or recognizing the harm that they are doing. IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) has been promoting mountain biking tourism, claiming that mountain biking brings economic benefits to communities that embrace it, of course ignoring the economic value of the intact ecosystems they are destroying. The mountain biking infrastructure is called “epic trails”, “ride centers”, “bike parks”, etc. They bait their demands with offers of volunteer trail-building and trail maintenance. (But, of course, their vision of a good trail (lots of humps, twists, and turns) is quite different from what the other trail users want.)

In the San Francisco Bay Area, projects were created to build two huge trails – the Bay Trail and Ridge Trail – each several hundred miles long, circling the bay near the water and along the ridgetops. The community enthusiastically voted for these projects, waxing poetic about all the “new opportunities” to “connect to nature”. Actually, no new habitat was created, and the trail construction (which still continues) destroyed an enormous amount of habitat. Nevertheless, I never heard anyone complain about this. People seem to think that trails somehow thread their way through the wilderness harmlessly, without touching it.

Haven’t we already destroyed far too much wildlife habitat? Isn’t it time we started telling the truth about trails and our construction and use of them?

Here are a few examples of the destructiveness of trail construction and use (for an online copy of this paper, where you can click on the links and won’t have to type them, see ):

100 Seconds of Trail Destruction with Matty Miles:
(Can you imagine what would happen to you if you happened to be on this trail?!)

Mountain bike trail building:

Illegal mountain bike trail construction, Hop Ranch Creek Squamish BC May 27,2014:

IMBA promotes trail-building:
“Saturday is National Public Lands Day
Get connected with your local IMBA chapter or club to see if it is hosting a volunteer trail day this Saturday. Trails don’t build themselves…show some love for the places you love to ride!
Dig In Applications Open Through October 6
IMBA is currently accepting applications for its new Dig In Campaign – a grant program that directly supports local IMBA chhapters [sic] with actionable trail projects. The project list will be published in early October so stay tuned to see what’s happening near you.”
Vancouver’s North Shore – All Built Illegally! (The video is 51 minutes long, but every minute is worth watching. Very enlightening!):

IMBA wants to create 500 more miles of trail!:

669 miles of mountain biking trail:

San Francisco Bay Trail: 500 miles:

Bay Area Ridge Trail: 375 miles, growing to 500 miles:

Long-distance trails in the United States:

Examples of Destructive Trail-Building:
Illegal Trail Building in Whistler (I am in no way implying that legal trail building is acceptable! They both destroy wildlife habitat!):

Glorification of illegal trail building:

IMBA: “IMBA is currently accepting applications for its new Dig In Campaign, a grant program that directly supports local IMBA chapters with actionable trail projects. We are committed to growing access for mountain bikers and increasing the pace of new builds in the U.S.” “It takes a village: that statement of wisdom is particularly true in the mountain bike community, where volunteers, experts and funders must come together to make great places to ride happen. In Wausau, WI, the Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC), an IMBA chapter, recently completed a multi-year project that resulted in a pumptrack, four bike-optimized downhill trails of varying difficulty and a beginner-friendly loop, all designed by IMBA Trail Solutions.”

“How To Build A Legit DH Bike Trail”:

Glorifying trail-building and mountain biking:

Day in the life of a Trail Builder: the upbeat background music clearly indicates the mountain bikers’ attitude: trail building – legal or illegal – is fun and has no moral implications

Building a Mountain Bike Flow Trail:

10 Ways to Make Your Mountain Bike Trail Awesome! – Part 1:

10 Ways to Make Your Mountain Bike Trail Awesome! – Part 2:

Build a Mountain Bike Trail:
Trail Building:

OUR DIRT: Mountain Bike Trail Building Documentary: no speed limit, will hit anything in the trail; too fast to appreciate anything; no knowledge of biology or conservation.

Don’t forget this one. This is what “rock armored” mountain bike trails turn into during heavy rains:
Because of all the damage done to our mountain slopes from too much trail building, they are building debris flow basins in our creeks, here — but the authorities won’t stop the mountain biking… It is costing us millions of dollars….

Here is more from British Columbia:

Delta, BC… (Illegal trail damage to riparian area)
This trail build was legitimate, but shows the damage done by too many people trail building, and pulling huge roots out, in a stupid kind of challenge race to see which team can build the most trail in the shortest time. Pure mayhem at work here (all through pristine area of forest, destroying the ground cover, and digging borrow pits to collect dirt and rocks to pack on the trails): (at the .24 mark, you can see a guy just tear out a large tree root…) “When Arc’teryx challenged MEC to a trail building competition, we jumped at the chance to get dirty… plus we couldn’t resist a little friendly competition. So on November 17, dozens of MEC staff and supporters met up with the NSMBA to dig, grub and mine for gold on the North Shore. Our goal was to build more trail than Arc’teryx over a few hours.”

Unauthorized bike trail damages “pristine habitat” in Forest Park:

Tracking the environmental impact of mountain biking in bushland:

Mountain bikers are also degrading forests and thereby contributing to global warming:

The damage mountain bikers do on Fromme Mtn. Seems one builder, MW, who left the NSMBA hasn’t gone away (still digging on the North Shore) — and the NSMBA continues to give a thumbs up to this sort of digging and building:

More trenches dug in the name of “sustainable” mountain biking…:

and this is what they dug up the forest to build (video of the jump structure in action):

How many buckets of gold dirt [mineral soil] and borrow pit digging was required to pack all that dirt on the eroded mtb trail on Mt. Fromme?:

This is what the NSMBA bragged about last year… How much more this year? For your trail building files/paper to show how devastating this all is:

Pleasanton Ridge Illegal Trails – Park Ranger Helicopter Incident 1-27-12 (NICA coaches taking high school mountain bikers on an illegal ride, in violation of their own “rules”; note the nasty comments from the mountain bikers):

Robert Moor: Only a single sentence negative on trails: “[W]e leave the most destructive trails, I think, of any group of animals” p.160

Proof That High School Mountain Bike Racing Is Environmentally Destructive:

Trees are falling, due to erosion exposing their roots:

Intact forests are the key to fresh water: (click on each photo with cursor to see the story behind the illegal trail building…. some of it at night time, hiding under darkness.) This is now celebrated and applauded….wrong became a right, overnight… This is how mountain bikers won CMHC… This is the sordid history of mountain biking on our North Shore…

So much digging for dirt to pour over their ever eroding and compacted trails. The riding style seen in the last part of this video is the reason why the trails become that way, eroded and compacted. Anyone who tries to paint this MTB sport as benign as hiking, etc. needs to watch this until their eyes pop out!:

Illegal trail building a vexing problem for public land managers:

An example of how a mountain biker role model rides:

Illegal mountain biking on Mount Royal is damaging its ecosystem, experts say. Repeatedly crossing the mountain’s soil loosens tree roots, affects Laurentian flora:

North Shore Mountain Biking Association Rationalizes Its Illegal Trail-Building:

Illegal trail-building in Kelowna, BC:

Endangered bees caught in middle of plan to add mountain biking trails in Minnetonka, MN:

Habitat destruction by mountain bikers using heavy equipment on Bowen Island, BC:

Photo showing the extra habitat destroyed by a winding vs. straight trail:

A 2,000-km biking trail set to open in the Balkans:

Profiting from habitat destruction (trail-building):

Mountain bikers build illegal trails first, then ask permission only if they get caught!: The same thing happened in both Victoria, BC and LaSalle, Ontario. Kids built dirt jumps in parks without permission. The cities razed them and the mtb kids whined…

It’s not trails that disturb forest birds, but the people on them
“We believe protected areas with forbidden access are necessary and important, and that new trails into remote forest areas should not be promoted. Visitors to existing forest trails should be encouraged to adhere to a ‘stay on trail’ rule and refrain from roaming from designated pathways.” : “Mountain bike riders are currently the park’s most destructive user group.”


Dawson, Chad P. and John C. Hendee, Wilderness Management – Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2009.

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Grumbine, R.E., Ghost Bears. Covelo, CA: Island Press, 1992.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods — Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Moor, Robert (, On Trails. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Newsome D., C. Davies, “A case study in estimating the area of informal trail development and associated impacts caused by mountain bike activity in John Forrest National Park, Western Australia”. Journal of Ecotourism. 2009 Dec 1; 8(3):237-53.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, “Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness”.Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J.,, especially, and

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

“The Wildlands Project”, Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

[NOTE: This paper can be found at, where you can follow the above links without having to type them.]

Stop the rock-stacking

A writer calls for an end to cairns.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston

Stones: We’ve built pyramids and castles with them and painstakingly cleared them out of farm fields, using them to build low walls for fencing. We marvel at the rocks in the Grand Canyon, Arches and Grand Teton national parks. Yet a perplexing practice has been gaining ground in our wild spaces: People have begun stacking rocks on top of one another, balancing them carefully and doing this for unknown reasons, though probably as some kind of personal or “spiritual” statement.

These piles aren’t true cairns, the official term for deliberately stacked rocks. From middle Gaelic, the word means “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.” There are plenty of those in Celtic territories, that’s for sure, as well as in other cultures; indigenous peoples in the United States often used cairns to cover and bury their dead. Those of us who like to hike through wilderness areas are glad to see the occasional cairn, as long as it’s indicating the right way to go at critical junctions in the backcountry.

Stone piles have their uses, but the many rock stacks that I’m seeing on our public lands are increasingly problematic. First, if they’re set in a random place, they can lead an unsuspecting hiker into trouble, away from the trail and into a potentially dangerous place. Second, we go to wilderness to remove ourselves from the human saturation of our lives, not to see mementoes from other people’s lives.

We hike, we mountain bike, we run, we backpack, we boat in wilderness areas to retreat from civilization. We need undeveloped places to find quiet in our lives. A stack of rocks left by someone who preceded us on the trail does nothing more than remind us that other people were there before us. It is an unnecessary marker of humanity, like leaving graffiti –– no different than finding a tissue bleached and decaying against the earth that a previous traveler didn’t pack out, or a forgotten water bottle.  Pointless cairns are simply pointless reminders of the human ego.

I’m not sure exactly when the practice of stacking stones began in the West. But the so-called Harmonic Convergence in 1987, a globally synchronized meditation event, brought a tighter focus on New Age practices to Sedona, Arizona, just south of my home. Vortexes, those places where spiritual and metaphysical energy are reputed to be found, began to figure prominently on national forest and other public lands surrounding Sedona. Hikers near these vortexes couldn’t miss seeing so many new lines of rocks or stacks of stones.

Since then, the cairns, referred to as “prayer stone stacks” by some, have been multiplying on our public lands.  Where there were just a dozen or so stone stacks at a much-visited state park on Sedona’s Oak Creek 10 years ago, now there are hundreds.  What’s more, the cairn craze has mushroomed, invading wilderness areas everywhere in the West.

Why should we care about a practice that can be dismantled with a simple foot-push, that uses natural materials that can be returned quickly to the earth, and that some say nature will remove eventually anyway?

Because it’s not a harmless practice: Moving rocks increases erosion by exposing the soil underneath, allowing it to wash away and thin soil cover for native plants.  Every time a rock is disturbed, an animal loses a potential home, since many insects and mammals burrow under rocks for protection and reproduction.

The multiplying rock stacks.
Robyn Martin

But mainly, pointless cairns change the value of the wilderness experience by degrading an already beautiful landscape. Building cairns where none are needed for route finding is antithetical to Leave-No-Trace ethics.  Move a stone, and you’ve changed the environment from something that it wasn’t to something manmade. Cairn building might also be illegal, since erecting structures or moving natural materials on public lands often comes with fines and/or jail time. Of course, I doubt the Forest Service will hunt down someone who decided that his or her self-expression required erecting a balanced stone sculpture on a sandstone ridge.  Yet it is an unwelcome reminder of humanity, something we strive to avoid as we enjoy our wild spaces.

Let’s end this invasive practice.  Fight the urge to stack rocks and make your mark.  Consider deconstructing them when you find them, unless they’re marking a critical trail junction. If you must worship in the wild, repress that urge to rearrange the rocks and just say a silent prayer to yourself.  Or bring along a journal or sketchpad to recall what you felt in the wild.

Let’s check our egos at the trailheads and boat launches, and leave the earth’s natural beauty alone. Her geology, as it stands, is already perfect.

Robyn Martin is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the column service of High Country News. She is a senior lecturer in the honors program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Trump admin to expand hunting access on public lands


  • Order aims to allow broader access to public lands to hunters, fishers
  • Interior Department says Obama administration was too restrictive

Washington (CNN)Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order Friday morning aiming to expand access for hunters and fishers to public lands and monuments.

In what is being described as an “expansive” secretarial order, Zinke’s rule would ultimately allow broader access across the board to hunters and fishers on public lands managed by the Interior Department, according to the order.
A section of the order also amends the national monument management plan to include or expand hunting and fishing opportunities to the “extent practicable under the law.”
The order cites a 2007 executive order from President George W. Bush to “facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat.” It directs agencies to to create a report and plan to streamline how best to enhance and expand access to hunting and fishing on public lands.
The Interior Department oversees national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands.
The secretarial order also aims to expand educational outreach for hunting and fishing to “under served” communities such as minorities and veterans as well as increase volunteer access to federal lands.
“Today’s secretarial order is the latest example of how the Trump administration is actively moving to support hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation on public lands,” Zinke said in a statement.
“Hunting and fishing is a cornerstone of the American tradition and hunters and fishers of America are the backbone of land and wildlife conservation,” he said.
Interior said Obama administration policies were too restrictive.
“Through management plans made under the previous administration, which did not appreciate access to hunting and target shooting like this administration does, access and usage has been restricted,” said Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift.
Zinke’s rule will not have to go through a formal rule-making process.
It is the second major action from Interior in the last few weeks.
In August, Zinke recommended shrinking the boundaries of a handful of national monuments, but stopped short of suggesting the elimination of any federal designations following a review ordered by President Donald Trump.
At Trump’s direction, Zinke earlier this year launched a review of 27 national monuments, a controversial move that could undo protections for millions of acres of federal lands, as well as limits on oil and gas or other energy production. Interior and the White House have so far resisted releasing the contents of Zinke’s full recommendations.
However some groups are arguing that the new order is a “stunt” by the department, aimed at moving the dialogue away from other recent controversial actions they’ve taken — including recommending the shrinking of national monuments and supporting increased fracking and logging.
“The real story is that, with this announcement, the Trump administration is trying to create a distraction from their plans to dramatically reduce the size of America’s national monuments, which would be the largest elimination of protections on wildlife habitat in US history,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.
He added that according to the Congressional Research Service, every national monument “that the Trump administration claims to be opening to hunting and recreational fishing is already open to hunting and recreational fishing.”
Drew McConville, a senior managing director at the Wilderness Society, called the order a “red herring.”
“This issue is … completely unnecessary, since national monuments are typically open to hunting and fishing already,” McConville said. “The Trump administration ‘review’ of places protected as national monuments is nothing more than an excuse to sell out America’s most treasured public lands for commercial gain by oil, gas and other extractive industries. This agenda inherently means a loss of access to premier places for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pastimes.”

BC Govt Plans a New Independent Wildlife Agency Managed by Guide Outfitters, Trophy Hunters, Trappers

Valhalla Wilderness Society

Box 329, New Denver, British Columbia, Canada V0G 1S0
Phone: (250) 358-2333, Fax: (250) 358-2748, E-mail:, Web:

18 May 2017
Call for action

BC Government wants to establish a new independent wildlife agency managed by hunters, trappers and guide outfitters Valhalla Wilderness Society was appalled when the BC government announced in late March that it intends to establish a new independent wildlife agency ( ) “as part of its long-standing commitment to healthy wildlife populations.” The proposed “independent” agency is a thinly disguised attempt by the BC government to privatize wildlife management. Equally concerning and outrageous is that this agency was cooked up with at least the following 5 organizations, the BC Wildlife Federation, the BC Guide Outfitters Association, the BC Trappers Association, the Wild Sheep Society of BC and the Wildlife Stewardship Council with whom the BC government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). These organizations whose members include hunters, trappers and guide outfitters who guide (trophy) hunters fully support the proposed agency whose mandate appears ironically to be “the growth of wildlife in British Columbia.”

At the announcement, Bill Bennett, then MLA East Kootenay and Minister of Mines and Energy,
explained the need for a new agency as follows: “Government is afraid to manage wolves, for example,are afraid to manage grizzly bears in some cases because of the politics of that. Hopefully, an agency that is separate from government can make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of wildlife and just forget about the politics and do what is best for the animals.”

bc-government-operations/. Bill Bennett has left BC enough of a devastating legacy with the
Mount Polley mine tailing pond failure which continues to pollute Quesnel Lake.
The past president of the BC Wildlife Federation welcomed the announcement of the proposed agency by stating: “I think it’ll put more positive aspect into managing wildlife and getting away from the precautionary principles and get back to real numbers and managing wildlife the way it should be.” The government press release reports that the proposed agency will be funded with start-up funds of $5 million but “subsequently would be supported by hunting licence revenues of $9 million to $10 million each year.”
Valhalla Wilderness Society calls on all members to express their opposition to this outrageous scheme to not only privatize wildlife management in BC but to place it in the hands of hunters, trappers and guide outfitters. Notwithstanding the poor job the BC government has been doing in terms of “growing wildlife”, wildlife should be managed by government. The above-mentioned special interest groups lack the technical expertise to make wildlife decisions based on scientific evidence and are even unwilling to apply the precautionary principle, which- in the face of climate change -, is needed more than ever. The proposed agency can not be held accountable to the public like an elected government, especially as agency members will no doubt be gagged by mandatory confidentiality agreements. Nor can it be bound by the domestic and international legal obligations, such as the Canada-BC Species at Risk Agreement, that bind the Province directly or indirectly through the federal government`s signing of international legal treaties.
The proposed agency does not represent the majority of British Columbians and the fake “public
consultation” process that the BC government has set aside $200,000 for when the mandate,
stakeholders and funding have already been decided is an utter waste of tax payers’ money. Wild
management should not be reduced to the management of species which hunters, trappers and guide outfitters’ clients like to kill: a broad ecosystem approach is needed to ensure that BC’s “wildlife grows” and their habitat is protected. Last but not least, funding for wildlife management should not be contingent on hunting license revenue or on other funding from special interest groups. Please take the time to email John Horgan, leader of the NDP, Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party, and Christy Clark, leader of the BC Liberals, demanding that:
 this proposed agency be shelved and the MOU terminated with immediate effect. Wildlife
management must remain the responsibility of the BC government;
 all wildlife management decisions by government must be made on the basis of scientific evidence guided by the precautionary principle and on a broad ecosystem level, which would automatically remove politics from the decision-making process the $200,000 set aside for so-called “public” consultation on this proposed agency whose establishment has been set in motion by special interest groups be used for restoration of mountain caribou habitat;
documents and meeting minutes with the above-mentioned organizations and others involved in
the establishment of this proposed agency be immediately released to the public.

Contact details:
John Horgan, NDP Party leader
Room 201, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Tel: 250 387-3655
Andrew Weaver, Green Party leader and MLA
Room 027C, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Tel: 250-387-8347
Christy Clark, BC Liberal leader
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Tel: 250-387-1715

Health Care and the Environment

by Stephen Capra
The last few weeks have shown a new depth in Republican thinking. What would at first glance seem crazy, stealing heath care from up to 24 million Americans is at best going to be a very close vote that will likely mean less for average Americans and more tax cuts for the wealthiest in our country.

To accomplish this Republicans are willing to lie repeatedly, obfuscate and threaten. They will use misleading facts and create fear among the most vulnerable, to cajole their way to this warped vision of victory.

So when a party that dominates both Houses of Congress and the Presidency is willing to literally kill people to gain a tax cut, what is the potential that they will have concern or a sense of responsibility when it comes to the environment?

The answer is unfolding before our eyes. From Bear Ears and Monuments across the West to the fight on Climate Change or methane releases and the countless environmental regulations they have placed in the shredder, we are witnessing genocide of the planet on a level that few can remember. Republicans continue to use terms like freedom and choice to conceal and define a narrative that enriches corporate American off the backs of native wildlife, protected habitat and the health and welfare of people that love and respect wild nature.

Democrats in this process are fighting back, but also share some of the responsibility in the delays and Blue Dog member’s conflicts with important environmental legislation that stalled or was not implemented through Executive Orders until the final year of an Administration, regulations that should have passed in year one.

It has taken the Trump Administration 100 days to tack public opinion against environmental protection and to inspire this congress to go for the jugular in destroying generations of responsible environmental progress. While many in America are fighting back and town hall videos represent new voices of hope, we remain trapped with a President that has shown his shallowness, his vindictive nature and his willingness to destroy the foundations of our democracy. In his disturbed mind, he sees only those loyal to him and those who oppose him. Friendship and critical analysis are fed through money and his ability to profit. Dissension is met with paranoia and callous retribution.

So we stand at a precipice in time. In the next forty days a report will come back that could very well be the paper work the President desires to remove some of our most precious lands from Monument protection. What on the surface seems to be a very misguided and unthinkable prospect is in the Trump world another opportunity to harm those who most vehemently opposed him in the campaign-the conservation community. For those in the Steve Bannon inner circle, it is another way to blow up the Federal government, leading us towards an inevitable anarchy.

So the question for many remains what can we do? The answer is to first, never stop fighting. The second is to realize that we are approaching the bottom, many have spoken about. It is true Trump could move to disband our National Parks, but that is something that for now seems a remote possibility. No this President is trying to break our spirit and push us into a national depression that will force people to tune out and give him free reign. Next we must continue to educate ourselves, friends and family, it is simply amazing how many people are already tuned out. Finally, we must vote out these bastards, our planet simply cannot continue a cycle of bust and boom in terms of protection of our natural heritage, we are approaching life support and that demands our energy and perseverance. We can never surrender to evil, or ignorance.

This Republican Congress is making clear from Health Care to the removal of James Comey, that they are putting party first before the American people and our values. Power and control are the mechanisms that feed their trough and what was once considered a sacred responsibility to put county before party, has been destroyed in the haze of Citizens United and the thirst to move their radical agenda.

Should Democrats retake control of congress or eventually the White House, they must move in the first, not the eighth year of a Presidency to change environmental regulations or use Executive Actions so that they have a sense of permanency. Democrats must also be strong, not weak, in pushing aggressive environmental protections, wilderness and Monument protections and designations. That includes those in coal country.

Until such time as the American people fight in one voice to protect our environment, Republicans will continue to flourish from the poisoned money that flows from the fossil fuel, mining, NRA and corporate agenda. That money is breaking the Arctic ice packs, fouling our air and water, it is killing wolves in the West and Mid-West, and it is stealing protected lands from all Americans and allowing a deranged man to lead our county, while simultaneously tearing us apart.

We can do so much better, and we will. But we are in a war, there really is no other way to describe it and we have no choice but to fight with every fiber of our being. For those in the rust belt that made Trump our President, I would remind them that their vote and actions are helping to destroy our quality of life in the West. So we can fight one another, or we can unite to save our planet, our wildlife and the moral compass of a nation that has lost direction.

Get out into the Parks and Monuments, allow your spirit to heal and flourish, soak in the energy and life that nature provides, in that place of love and beauty, find the strength and resolve to save it from those who can never understand or fear that which is wild.

The road is long, but you are not alone, we are many and fierce in our love of that cathedral of life, that endless bounty that is nature.

We will fight and we will win.

But we will also suffer and hurt, yet in that pain is the resolve to never allow this to happen again. The health, not just of people, but of the planet is in our hands.
In such destiny is the power to change, and change we must or we will bear witness to our own demise.
I choose to fight.


Castle Peak and Castle Lake, Ernie Day photo, circa 1970.
In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world — the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. John Muir
A year ago on August 7, 2015, President Obama signed the bill that designated three new Wilderness areas in the Boulder-White Clouds.
They are:
White Clouds Wilderness, 90,769 acres
Hemingway-Boulder Wilderness, 67,998 acres
Jerry Peak Wilderness, 116,898 acres
Total: 275,665 acres
Boulder-White Clouds Council
Box 6313
Ketchum ID 83340

Among the First of the Climate Refugees

Map courtesy of United State Forest Service The Mission Project encompasses about 50,000 acres in the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek watersheds.

Map courtesy of United State Forest Service

The Mission Project encompasses about 50,000 acres in the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek watersheds.

Plan is part of ‘landscape vision’ for forest management

By Ann McCreary,

If nature were allowed to run its course, portions of the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek watersheds would have experienced natural fires every five to 15 years.

Those fires historically played a role in keeping forests healthy — burning at low intensity, clearing out smaller trees and brush, and ultimately preventing extreme wildfires that spread out of control and destroy forests.

Humans, however, have changed the natural course of fire throughout the West, just as they have in the Libby and Buttermilk watersheds.

“There would have historically been more frequent fires, about every 10 years in those dry, ponderosa pine sites,” said Mike Liu, Methow Valley district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.

“Since the 1940s and ’50s, it’s up to six cycles that fire has been suppressed. Because of effective firefighting, what fires did start we caught them small, so you didn’t see the historic under-burning,” said Liu.

As a result, the forests in the Libby and Buttermilk areas, like many forests around the nation, have become unnaturally dense, overgrown and vulnerable to extreme fire, insects and disease, according to Forest Service officials.

The Forest Service is developing plans to conduct thinning, prescribed burning and other forest and aquatic treatments in the Libby and Buttermilk watersheds as part of the “Mission Project,” which will employ the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Restoration Strategy for the first time in the Methow Ranger District (see related story).

The strategy aims to restore forests’ natural resilience to wildfire, insects, disease and climate change. It differs from past forest treatment practices in some key ways, most notably the size of the project area. The Restoration Strategy emphasizes evaluating and planning for large landscapes and developing interventions designed to benefit the entire area.

In the case of the Mission Project, the area encompasses about 50,000 acres in the two watersheds at the western edge of the Carlton Complex Fire perimeter.

Those watersheds are a priority for restoration because they are among the drier watersheds in the Methow Valley and have consequently missed numerous natural fire cycles, said Liu.

Support, suspicion

The prospect of forest restoration work in the Mission Project area is welcomed by some Methow Valley residents, and greeted with skepticism by others.

When Robert Rivard learned about the Mission Project, he wanted to make sure that Forest Service land bordering his property, near Buttermilk Creek off Twisp River Road, was included in the project.

The initial proposed boundary of the project ran along a ridge above the area where Rivard lives, and he wanted the lines redrawn to include densely wooded Forest Service land adjacent to about 80 homes and cabins in the area.

At the suggestion of Forest Service officials, Rivard helped organize his neighbors into a Firewise Community in October, because that designation improved the likelihood for funding treatments on adjacent federal forests. The designation also helps communities compete for funding to conduct treatments on private land. To be designated a Firewise Community, homeowners must obtain a risk assessment, create an action plan, conduct a firewise event and invest in firewise activities. 

“We were able to get this Firewise Community [designation] through the state in record time — nine days,” said Rivard, who worked for 15 years as a firefighter and smokejumper and is uneasy about the condition of nearby national forests.

“I look at the woods. I see the potential,” he said. “We asked that the thin strip between Buttermilk drainage proper be extended to include us.”

The Buttermilk area was threatened by the Little Bridge Fire in 2014, and the Twisp River Fire last summer, raising consciousness among his neighbors, Rivard said.

“The timing was right for the Mission Project. We felt we needed to talk to the Forest Service and some kind of joint agreement. And with another big fire season this year and with the [firefighter] fatalities, we felt we needed to get something going,” Rivard said.

As a result of the Buttermilk landowners’ request, the Forest Service revised the Mission Project boundaries to include the small stretch of section of forest land where Buttermilk Creek comes into the Twisp River drainage by the Buttermilk neighborhood.

Pema Bresnahan, a resident of Libby Creek, has a different view of the Mission Project and has spoken publicly against it. “I see a lot of problems in the scale they are talking about, both in ecological effects and cost,” she said.

“The Mission area is my home.  It’s one of the remaining unburned areas and it’s an oasis for wildlife,” she said.

Bresnahan said she is concerned about the project’s potential impact on an18,000-acre roadless area within the project boundaries, and questioned the effectiveness of logging to improve forest resiliency.

“One can find volumes of research to show that this approach, especially in our area, is not economical or necessarily effective in reducing fire severity,” Bresnahan said. As an example, she cited a 2008 study in the Open Forest Science Journal, which found that while treatments to reduce forest fuels can be effective, the probability of treated areas encountering fire before fuels come back is lower than generally assumed.

Bresnahan said she is concerned that a “landscape-level logging operation on the Libby Creek and Buttermilk watersheds” will be the result of the Mission Project. “How much of it [the project area] is going to be actually impacted by huge machines that run on those tracks and destroy everything they go over?” Bresnahan said in a recent interview.

“I don’t think mechanical thinning is appropriate in that area, except in proximity to structures,” she said, suggesting that thinning be restricted to areas within one-quarter mile of residences. “I want a buffer zone around the houses and leave the rest of the reforest as is, and give the Forest Service the opportunity to do controlled burns.”

Liu said he understands why the public may question the Forest Service restoration plans.

“I think some of the individuals have looked at past logging practices and have been disappointed with that,” Liu said. “Maybe there is a lack of faith in the current science that’s being used, or a lack of confidence that what we’re proposing will in fact benefit the system.”

Forest Health Collaborative

The Forest Service is being assisted by the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative in moving the project forward. Formed two years ago, the collaborative includes conservation, timber industry, government and tribal representatives interested in increasing the scale and pace of forest restoration projects.

While the Mission Project will evaluate approximately 50,000 acres, the actual area of land to be treated is more likely to be about 10 percent of the total area, said Lloyd McGee of The Nature Conservancy, one of the organizations in the Forest Health Collaborative.

“We start with a landscape vision. This does not mean we’re going to log the whole landscape. What it means is when we do thinning, we want to be able to see where it fits into the larger landscape … where we can strategically place thinning treatments so that we don’t get a megafire,” McGee said.

“That 10 percent or so [to be treated] is based on where there is current access, and where there is no other protection prohibiting management because of endangered species or some other designation that does not allow mechanical treatment or prescribed burning,” McGee said. 

The Forest Health Collaborative hired Derek Churchill, a University of Washington researcher and forestry consultant, to conduct a landscape analysis and develop recommendations for possible treatments in the watersheds.

The landscape analysis looks at a range of factors, Churchill said. Using aerial photos and historical photos, it evaluates how much the area has changed from its natural, pre-fire suppression state; it evaluates the risk of extreme fire; it assesses the condition of habitat for species such as spotted owls and salmon.

“It really is a holistic landscape or watershed-wide approach. We’re looking at habitat, fire, insects and disease, aquatics across whole watersheds. We’re looking at all of those and the tradeoffs of those together in one framework,” Churchill said.

The analysis also evaluates how the watershed could be affected by climate change, and compares current conditions in the project area to historical conditions in drier watersheds to guide how treatment can take into consideration a warmer, drier future.

“We think Buttermilk in 50 years is going to be more similar to other watersheds in the region that are currently in a drier condition,” Churchill said.

To assist in the project, McGee and other members of the Forest Health Collaborative have conducted field surveys to gather information on potential aquatic restoration needs and proposed treatment areas.

Liu said the work done by the collaborative and Churchill has been helpful because much of his staffs’ time has been consumed by dealing with two consecutive extreme fire seasons.

“They’ve been able to keep this project moving forward even when we were occupied with fire suppression, suppression repair and recovery,” Liu said.

Liu said he expects the collaborative to provide the Methow Ranger District the results of the landscape analysis and recommendations for areas that could benefit from treatment before the end of the year.

“We’ll review that recommendation and I’m sure modify as we feel necessary,” Liu said. “That will be packaged up as a proposed action, which will be sent out for scoping as we initiate the NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] process. Scoping could begin in January — that’s a rough target.”

After public comments are gathered, the district will draft an Environmental Assessment, which would be available sometime in the spring of 2016, Liu said.

Human Population Growth: “Anomalous and Unnatural”

“There is one especially interesting aspect of the current political landscape, and that is the matter of human populations. At one time a widely debated and much analyzed problem of the day, human population pressure has mysteriously slipped from both political and popular ‘environmental’ agendas.”[

[So wrote the late Canadian naturalist, and outspoken author, John A. Livingston in his 1994 book, Rogue Primate, back when there were only 5.67 billion of us as opposed to today’s 7.3 billion.]

“There is plenty of talk about food distribution (there is enough food for everyone in the world if we could only get it to them) and both industrial and low-impact agriculture, but the matter of absolute human numbers appears to have receded, if not from our private reflections, from our public utterances.

“The deadliest and most insidious form of thought repression is self-censorship. It has

8 is enough, but 13 is definitely too many for anyone!

8 is enough, but 13 is definitely too many for anyone!

become popular…to label those who would dare weigh the interests of Nature in the context of human populations as “ecofascists.” Yet another trump card [like the derisive term “food Nazi” often used against vegans by hard line meat eaters]. Charges of fascism and misanthropy, as well as of racism and Malthusianism are familiar to all who tend the vineyards of Nature’s inherent worth in the face of the human blight. The self-censorship that sometimes can follow, though craven and submissive, is usually defended as necessary and unavoidable pragmatism.

“It was not always thus. There was a period in which a great deal of attention was given to exploding humanity. From the later1940s to the early 1970’s there was a formidable outpouring of articles and books on the social and ecological implications of unrestrained human breeding.…

“The inexorable laying waste of Nature has broadened, deepened, and accelerated proportionately. By 1975 the world’s human population was no longer 2000 millions [as it was in 1948] but 4000 millions.…

“The fact that the human population bubble has not yet burst in all its horror does not mean that it will not. The fuse is no longer sputtering. It is burning steadily now. No organism can increase its numbers infinitely.

“No doubt the familiar devices of distancing and denial are at work in the disappearance of the population question. It has seemed to me for quite some time that the continuing reportage of the Ethiopian and Somalian famines tends to focus on the human misery, the ‘failure’ of the rains and the bitterly drawn-out political violence. Little attention is given to the human role in the ecological synergy that causes desertification. Although much is made of the hideous suffering of the children, few commentators note that if there were such a thing as natural justice, these little ones would not have been. Even fewer address the ironical human ability to proliferate even under the most appalling privation. No wild animal can do that.

“There are machismo tenets in some human cultures that much rigidly reject family planning no matter what the consequences. In others, repeated reproduction has become a perceived means of offsetting child mortality. There are those whose ‘leaders’ are sufficiently chicken-hearted and sexist to deny women a choice in the matter of abortion. There are still others with ‘policy-makers’ bent on providing more customers for the chain stores, more victims for the financial institutions, and more non-corporate taxpayers by enhancing natural increase through immigration. There are even governments desirous of rapid population increases for purely political reasons. In all nations, rich or poor, there is unanimity on the point that the effect of human numbers on Nature is a second-order consideration, and externality.

“Anyone who knows anything about living organisms knows that the human reproductive wave is anomalous and unnatural. No other animal, especially a large one, could possibly get away with it. In Nature, explosions do occur at times, but either they are cyclic and normal, as with lemmings, or there is some unusual, local reason for them (more often than not traceable to human activity). In either case they tend to die back as suddenly as they arose. [Humans may not have arisen “suddenly,” but one thing is for certain, they will die back.]

Other Evils of the Livestock Industry

The following is by Rosemary Lowe:

Thinking Beyond the Animal Factories to Save This Planet

 Those out there who are concerned about this planet, the wildlife, the wild places, really need to understand how very destructive the Livestock Industry is, and not just for the factory farming aspects (as horrendous as they are).
Even many Vegans, who rightly abhor  what goes on in animal factories,  ignore, (or are unaware of), the plight of billions of native wild species in the U.S. and around the world. Wild species’ populations are in severe decline , some near extinction, due to livestock grazing on the last open, wild places.
Since the 1880’s the western livestock industry in the U.S., has been responsible for the slaughter of Billions (not millions) of coyotes, bears, wolves, prairie dogs, birds of prey, mountain lions, bobcats, beavers, ferrets, and other wild fauna and flora. This industry is also killing our rivers, streams,  forests, not to mention increasing the volatile gas, methane, that is a by-product of grazing, &  increasing global climate change.
So, while most people are now at least aware of the evil animal factories,  the horror of what goes on “out there” on the range– the vast expanses of our public lands– is hardly mentioned or thought about. It is crucial to also understand that western public lands–wilderness areas, BLM, National Forests, National Grasslands,  National Wildlife Refuges, and state lands–are becoming Domesticated Feed Lots because of the ranching industry. These public lands are the last refuge for wildness, in this Climate Change world!
 No matter how livestock grazing is packaged, it is an industry which is  removing what is wild and replacing it with  Domestication. Every so-called “wildlife problem” west of the Mississippi is really about The Livestock Industry, whether it be actual  grazing, or the raising of crops used for grazing domestic sheep and cattle. The western livestock interests are powerful, vocal, and determined to keep wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, wild horses, & thousands of other species “controlled/managed” with emphasis on aerial shooting, roundups, poisoning, trapping, hunts,  subsidized by taxpayers.
Now, some misguided animal groups, like IDA, and HSUS are falling for the PZP “birth control” method for horses, deer and other wild ungulates–which means more “taming” of the wild west.
What does this trend mean for the future of The Wild, when even so-called “animal people” start Sleeping with The Enemy?
 The great naturalist, professor, author, John A. Livingston, wrote, in Rogue Primate that: “to domesticate…is to amputate its wildness, to tame it; to train or otherwise coerce it into living with, and being of use, to us; to make it a part of our (human) infrastructure.”

We who care, still have a chance to save what is left of wildness, but we don’t have much time. Worse yet, the other living beings–wild non-humans-are fast running out of time.
And John A. Livingston also wrote (and ahimsaforever commented), One of my favorite quotes of Livingston catalogs why he and other people (including me) who care about animals can be misanthropic:

“In the alchemist’s dungeon that is almost any well-appointed shopping center in the “developed” world, you can buy cosmetics, transmission fluid, and pet food made from whales; you can buy the hide of lynx in the form of a hat, or gloves made from the skin of an unborn lamb; you can buy a coat made from seal whelps; you can buy a tropical finch in a metal cage and a Siamese fighting fish in a plastic bag; you can buy firearms and whammo ammunition and multiple hooks with barbs on them; you can buy sharkskin shoes and the unspawned eggs of a sturgeon; you can buy the pulverized enlarged liver of a force-fed goose and the testicles of a bull and the brain of a calf . . . . You can buy the sterile eggs of an untrod chicken and the tongue of a feed-lot steer that spent its last weeks hock-deep in its own manure; you can buy medicines made from the blood and viscera of living laboratory animals . . . . You can also buy the Holy Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights.” The John Livingston Reader (2007), p. 149.