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Animals
Brant at Izembek Lagoon. Kristine Sowl / USFWS

Groups Slam Zinke's 'Backroom Deals' to Build Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge

Ryan Zinke's Interior Department is working behind the scenes to build a controversial and long-contested road through the heart of Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, documents show.

The refuge was established more than 30 years ago to conserve wetlands and habitats for migrating birds, brown bears and salmon and other wildlife. 300,000 of its 315,000 acres has been designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

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White Sands National Monument. Howard Ignatius / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Congress Aims Killing Blow at Public Lands

Rep. Rob Bishop is moving legislation that would radically cut down the scope of the Antiquities Act, effectively blocking new protections of national monument lands.

Bishop's bill—in an Orwellian flourish, titled the "National Monument Creation and Protection Act"—would bar the Antiquities Act from being used to protect landmarks, prehistoric structures and objects of "scientific interest," switching the law's scope to the vague term "object or objects of antiquity."

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Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of 15 threatened wild places profiled in "Too Wild To Drill." Florian Schulz

These 15 Unique Wild Lands Are Threatened By Extractive Industries

A new report released Tuesday by The Wilderness Society raises the alarm about wild lands threatened by extractive industries eager to exploit the resources on or underneath them, including oil, gas and coal.

Too Wild To Drill identifies 15 unique places found on public lands that are at high risk of drilling, mining and other development—and the damage and destruction that inevitably follow. These lands provide Americans with important benefits such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and jobs and other socioeconomic benefits.

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Tom Reichner | Shutterstock.com

Trump Administration Proposes Repeal of Fracking Protections

Three days before oral arguments are scheduled in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Bureau of Land Management safety measures to regulate fracking operations on public lands, the U.S. Department of Interior is moving ahead with its plan to rescind the 2015 rule.

The rule, which was the product of nearly five years of agency work, expert input, public comments and hearings, never went into effect after it was challenged immediately by oil and gas industry trade associations. After a district court judge set aside the rule in 2016, BLM and citizen groups appealed to the 10th Circuit in late 2016.

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Business

Colorado Lands Outdoor Retailer After Utah Actively Undermines Its Public Lands

By Scott Miller

Outdoor Retailer has a new home for its three annual trade shows: Colorado, a state that really gets the value of our wild lands.

The Outdoor Industry Association announced in February that it was pulling its trade shows out of Utah, where they'd been located for 20 years, because the state's elected officials were undermining the future of America's public lands. The hosts decided they would not reward Utah with thousands of visitors and an economic impact of up to $110 million a year after the state actively undermined Utah's public lands and recreation economy that the outdoor industry relies on.

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Appalachian Mountain Advocate

Pipeline Route Lands This Virginia Town on List of State's 'Most Endangered' Historic Places

Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline were dealt a blow after the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) denied a hearing request to appeal the state's water quality certification for the controversial project.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that WVDEP secretary Austin Caperton signed a letter addressed to the environmental law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates denying its request for the hearing. The brief letter did not state a reason for denial.

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Trump Watch

Trump Asks Court to Give Another Gift to Fossil Fuel Industry

By Pam Eaton

The Trump administration is desperate to give another gift to the fossil fuel industry—and using every trick in the book to do it.

Last week, the administration asked a court to stop a rule designed to ensure taxpayers get a fair return from oil, gas and coal sold from mines and wells on public lands by asking for a "stay." The "Valuation Rule" was designed to prevent coal companies from pocketing millions of dollars that rightly should go to the American taxpayers. The Wilderness Society had filed court papers to intervene in the court case to defend the rule when the administration asked the court to put the rule on hold.

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Outdoor Industry Leaders: 'Enough Is Enough!' Protect Our Public Lands

The most anticipated outdoor recreation event of the year just finished in Salt Lake City, Utah, where hundreds of outdoor brands from small business outfitters to industry pioneers like Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment gathered to witness the cutting-edge in outdoor gear.

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's congressional delegation led by Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee are launching a vicious campaign to dispose of the very public lands that the convention celebrates.

The anti-conservation agenda of these politicians includes: a reversal of the newly appointed Bears Ears National Monument in Utah; stripping the Antiquities Act, an invaluable conservation tool that enables the president to designate national monuments; and selling off our public lands for oil and gas, mining and other development.

Their relentless assault on wildlands is a sharp sting of betrayal that has been felt across the outdoor recreation industry.

This week, outdoor industry leaders have said "enough is enough."

In an open letter to President-elect Trump and Congress, more than 100 outdoor industry leaders led by REI have called upon elected officials to protect public lands and the integrity of the outdoor recreation industry, which powers $646 billion in gross national product.

The letter, signed by Patagonia among other big-hitters like Osprey, Clif Bar & Company and Chaco states:

It is an American right to roam in our public lands. The people of the United States, today and tomorrow, share equally in the ownership of these majestic places. This powerful idea transcends party lines and sets our country apart from the rest of the world. That is why we strongly oppose any proposal, current or future, that devalues or compromises the integrity of our national public lands.

Yet as the 115th Congress begins, efforts are underway that threaten to undermine over one hundred years of public investment, stewardship and enjoyment of our national public lands. Stated simply, these efforts would be bad for the American people. They include the potential of national public lands being privatized or given to states who might sell them to the highest bidder. This would unravel courageous efforts by leaders from across the political spectrum up to the present day, including Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

This is not a red or blue issue. It is an issue that affects our shared freedoms. Public lands should remain in public hands.

More Outdoor Leaders Speak Out Against the Assault on Our Wild

The outdoor industry letter comes on the heels of a scathing op-ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune from Peter Metcalf, founder and former CEO for Black Diamond Equipment. In that Jan. 10 op-ed, Metcalf demanded that Utah's political leadership stop its assault on public lands. If they don't, Outdoor Retailer, which pours $50 million into the state of Utah, should find a new home to host its biannual convention, he wrote. Metcalf relocated Black Diamond to Utah in 1991 for the state's impressive public lands, but said that Outdoor Retailer should "leave the state in disgust."

"The Utah delegation has wasted no time in the first days of 2017 to enact their destructive agenda and now the outdoor industry, too, must respond boldly and unified while we are here in Salt Lake," Metcalf wrote.

A day later, Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard joined Metcalf by issuing a press release stating:

"Every January and August, Patagonia and hundreds of other companies spend gobs of money to show our latest products at the Outdoor Retailer show. The whole thing is a cash cow for Salt Lake City. You'd think politicians in Utah would bend over backward to make us feel welcome. But instead, Gov. Gary Herbert and his buddies have spent years denigrating our public lands, the backbone of our business and trying to sell them off to the highest bidder. He's created a hostile environment that puts our industry at risk."

No doubt that many neighboring western states would be happy to pick up the recreation business that Utah's politicians are taking for granted.

"New Mexico is open for business," state Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted.

These industry leaders are making it rightfully clear that if politicians continue to attack our wildlands, there will be consequences.

With powerhouse brands like REI, Patagonia and Black Diamond at the helm, members of the outdoor industry are welcome partners in safeguarding Our Wild and are a strong frontline of defense against the growing assault on public lands.

We praise them for taking a stand and encourage other outdoor retailers to join the movement to defend Our Wild from development.

Facts and Figures:

  • 122,000: Number of jobs generated in the outdoor recreation sector in Utah.
  • 84 percent: Percentage of Utahns say that living near and enjoying outdoor recreation on public lands is a factor in choosing to live in the West.
  • 60 percent: Percentage of Utah voters who view national public lands as belonging more to all Americans than to people in Utah specifically.

Learn more about the Our Wild movement to protect our lands from development.

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McAfee Knob near Roanoke, Virginia, a popular lookout point along the Appalachian Trail, could look out on ugly pipeline infrastructure. Photo credit: Ksteryous / Flickr

This Pipeline Would Cut Through America's Most Celebrated Hiking Trail

By Caroline Mosley

The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would carry natural gas 300 miles from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia, crossing the Appalachian Trail and clearing trees on its way.

Cutting through one of the most celebrated hiking trails in America, the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens wildlife habitat, recreational lands and the health of local Appalachia communities, while setting a terrible precedent of building energy infrastructure through our national forests.

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