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Desert Wilderness Act and the California Desert Protection Act, did not include language such as that proposed here. Specifically, H.R. 2488 contains unprecedented language eliminating existing BLM authority to manage land under its control. It allows the Department of Defense to unilaterally install and maintain new buildings, equipment and temporary roads lasting up to 50 years inside wilderness areas. It allows unrestricted perpetual motorized access to wilderness areas, and it grants the military control over citizen access to wilderness areas.
None of this has ever before been granted to the Department of Defense in designated wilderness. We would not be opposed to bill language that protected military training needs related to the proposed Pilot Range Wilderness if they were based on language simiÎar to the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act and the California Wilderness Desert Protection Act.
However, the unnecessary practical effect of Section 2(f) in its entirety is to cede authority to manage public lands covered by this bill to the Department of Defense. In fact, the Department of Defense is given far greater control of proposed BLM wilderness in the Pilot Range than it has over ordinary BLM lands, even those BLM lands directly adjacent to the Hill Air Force Range some 20 miles to the east of Pilot Range.
Because H.R. 2488 is intended to serve as a template for a series of county-level wilderness bills throughout Utah, Congress must decide if it is willing to pass a series of bills that leave out large tracts of qualifying wilderness, permanently bar these deserving lands from protection as wilderness, reify unacceptable management language and leave the issue of wilderness protection in Utah unresolved and more contentious than ever.
For all these reasons, the implications of this bill extend far beyond the Pilot Range itself. Again, we cannot support H.R. 2488 as it is currently written. We recommend that an additional 27,000 acres in the Pilot Range be added to the bill and designated as wilderness and that the unprecedented harmful language be replaced by standard military overflight and equipment maintenance language, standard water language and standard release language or no release language at all.
Unless these and other changes discussed in our written testimony are made, we urge you to reject H.R. 2488.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Young follows:]
Statement of Larry Young, Executive Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, on Behalf of The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society, on H.R. 2488
Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands, we are pleased to have been invited today to present this testimony regarding H.R. 2488 on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and our 18,000 members in Utah and across the nation. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance was formed in 1983 as an advocacy and educational organization dedicated to the goal of protecting the public's unique and irreplaceable landscapes in Utah for future generations of Americans. The lands of most concern to our members are those administered by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency which holds in public trust more than 23 million acres land in Utah, predominantly in southeastern and western Utah. These lands, the spectacular mesas of sinuous canyons, the sandstone spires and graceful arches, the isolated desert mountains that rise like islands out of the sagebrush sea basins, are gems of unparalleled magnificence owned by
all Americans. What remains of these treasures in their national condition, unaffected by development, should be placed into the National Wilderness Preservation System, thereby maintaining a lasting legacy of protected land.
Concurring in our testimony today is The Wilderness Society, an organization of 200,000 members nationwide, founded in 1935 and dedicated to ensuring that future generations will enjoy the clean air and water, wildlife, beauty and opportunities for recreation and renewal that pristine forests, rivers, deserts, and mountains provide.
"In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States" leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness." Such was the intent of Congress in enacting the Wilderness Act of 1964.
To the chagrin of the majority of Utahns, we are fast losing the extent and variety of our wilderness. In Utah, of the 23 million acres administered on behalf of the public by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), only 40 percent still qualifies for designation as wilderness. Because so little remains, Congress would be wise to set aside more rather than less. Bold steps are necessary to protect for the future what remains of these national treasures that are international attractions. Nowhere outside of Alaska is this natural heritage more in evidence than in Utah.
Most people in Utah would like to see our political leaders be bolder in their approach to settling the wilderness question. And since these are truly lands of national interest, Americans deserve better. We in Utah and others across the country support protection of our country's last remaining wild places in overwhelming numbers. We firmly believe that enactment of America's Redrock Wilderness Act, now sponsored by 150 Members of Congress, is the wisest course to adopt.
H.R. 2488: FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED LEGISLATION
Unfortunately, H.R. 2488 does not share this vision. It would protect only 0.2% of the lands deserving of wilderness designation and included in America's Redrock Wilderness Act. Even within the Pilot Range, the proposal excludes more than half the land deserving of protection, even though these excluded lands contain no user conflicts, and their designation as wilderness would enhance both the experience of wilderness and the protection of wildlife and other wilderness resources. Worse yet, H.R. 2488 is saddled with unprecedented "hard release" language that would blacklist deserving wild lands from future wilderness designation, and unprecedented management language that would weaken the Wilderness Act of 1964. In several instances, the unacceptable management language serves no purpose other than to establish precedence for future wilderness bills in Utah and across the country.
Although passage of H.R. 2488 would do very little to actually resolve the contentious Utah wilderness debate, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance would gladly support the bill if it protected all lands in the Pilot Range that are included in America's Redrock Wilderness Act and if it included clean management language that offered genuine wilderness protection that did not undermine the Wilderness Act of 1964. However, because H.R. 2488 ignores worthy lands in the Pilot Range and includes unacceptable management language, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance does not support H.R. 2488 in its current form.
Furthermore, our opposition to H.R. 2488 extends beyond our concern with its inadequacies with respect to the Pilot Range. Congressman Hansen has already acknowledged his intent to introduce a series of wilderness bills on a county-by-county basis (Salt Lake Tribune, July 17, 2001, p. A4) and H.R. 2488 is intended to serve as a template for these future bills. Congress must decide if it is willing to pass a series of wilderness bills that shortchange acreage within proposed wilderness units, permanently bar deserving lands from protection in the National Wilderness Preservation System, reify unacceptable management language, and leave the issue of wilderness protection in Utah unresolved and more contentious than ever. For all these reasons, the implications of this bill extend far beyond the Pilot Range itself.
Below, we discuss our concerns with H.R. 2488 in detail. We address the following:
• The Pilot Range: Land Worthy of Genuine Wilderness Designation Not Offered by H.R. 2488 (pp. 2-5). This section provides a description of the Pilot Range, with special emphasis on proposed wilderness units that are partially included in H.R. 2488.
• Critical Places Omitted: Half a Wilderness (pp. 5-8). This section focuses on excluded portions of the Pilot Range.
• Problems with Management Language (pp. 8-11). This section focuses on the unprecedented "hard-release" and military use language, as well as other serious management language problems in H.R. 2488.
• H.R. 2488 and Utah's Wilderness: A Terrible Template for the Future (pp. 1112). This section summarizes our opposition to H.R. 2488 as it is currently written.
THE PILOT RANGE: LAND WORTHY OF GENUINE WILDERNESS DESIGNATION NOT
OFFERED BY H.R. 2488
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, along with the more than 200 other conservation groups that make up the Utah Wilderness Coalition, has long been a proponent of adding lands within the Pilot Range to the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Pilot Range, located in the Great Basin on the Utah-Nevada border, is an outstanding example of BLM lands in northwest Utah deserving of wilderness designation. The Pilots" typically snow-covered peaks are more than an historic landmark-they are a haven both for wildlife and for human visitors seeking solitude, spectacular views, outstanding hunting opportunities, and untrammeled natural conditions. Utah's Pilot Range wilderness includes alpine meadows and basins, pinon-juniper forest, sage-covered slopes cut by rocky canyons, and rare perennial streams; it is home to herds of elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer, and Utah's only population of threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout. The Pilot Range deserves permanent protection by appropriate wilderness legislation-unfortunately, H.R. 2488 is not it.
The Pilot Range includes three proposed wilderness units. Unfortunately, H.R. 2488 includes only limited portions of the southern two units: the Pilot Peak Unit and the Central Pilot Range Unit. All of the Bald Eagle Mountain Unit is excluded. Below is a description of the two partially included units followed by a description of deserving portions of the Pilot Range that have been excluded from H.R. 2488.
Pilot Peak Unit Description: The Pilot Peak Unit straddles the Utah/Nevada state line, with approximately 27,000 acres on the Utah side and 23,000 acres on the Nevada side, giving this wilderness unit a total of about 50,000 acres of public land. The BLM has inventoried the Utah side of the Pilot Peak unit and found it to have wilderness characteristics. Unfortunately, of the 27,000 acres in Utah, about 14,000 acres of this deserving unit, including portions of a BLM-designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern, are excluded from H.R. 2488.
Pilot Peak is one of the gems of the Great Basin. Its 10,716-foot symmetrical shaped top was a landmark for early explorers and later for such famous wagon trains as the Donner-Reed Party, which passed to the east and north of this range in 1846. This wagon train was so badly weakened and so far behind schedule from traversing 80-plus miles of desert playa salt flats before reaching the life-giving spring at the edge of this peak, now named Donner Spring, that they became snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas that fall. The peak was named by John C. Fremont during his expedition in 1845. Kit Carson, the expedition's guide, sent ahead to locate water, found a line of springs at the eastern base, now known as McKeller Springs. Carson is reputed to have guided the rest of the Fremont's expedition across the salt flats by sending up smoke signals from the peak, hence Fremont's name for it.
The Pilot Peak Wilderness Unit encompasses bench lands starting at 4,300 feet, and climbs to lofty alpine regions of the peak and ridges at 10,716 feet, more than a mile above the valley floors below. Pilot Peak features two perennial streams, Donner and Bettridge Creeks (both inexplicably excluded from current or future wilderness designation by H.R. 2488). In April of 1977, a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) fisheries biologist sampled Donner Creek at the request of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and discovered Lahontan cutthroat trout. It is believed they were transplanted into Donner Creek in the early 1900's. The Lahontan cutthroat trout derive their name from Lake Lahontan, an ancient inland freshwater lake which existed during the ice age in Nevada. The lake extended from what is now Wells, Nevada, on the east, to what is now Pyramid Lake on the west. The great lake disappeared about 13,000 years ago, leaving a remnant population of the trout in lower lakes and streams of the Lahontan Basin in Nevada and California.
Due to hybridization with other trout species throughout its original range, the Donner Creek population is now believed to be the only pure strain of the Pyramid Lake variety of the Lahontan cutthroat trout in existence. For this reason, in May of 1988 the BLM designated approximately 1100 acres, including the watersheds of both Donner and Bettridge Creeks, as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern
(ACEC), thus providing greater protection and management of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout. The species was originally listed as endangered in 1970 (35 Fed. Reg. 16047) and was reclassified as threatened (40 Fed. Reg. 29864) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. Unfortunately, all but the northern edge of this ACEC would be excluded from current or future wilderness designation by H.R. 2488-completely excluding Donner and Bettridge Creeks.
Vegetation in this region is quite diverse depending on elevation, water, and slope angle. The upper reaches of this peak and north-facing slopes have pinon and juniper forests, cliffrose, mountain mahogany, aspens, willow, sagebrush and lupines. Pinon and juniper forests, which provide diverse habitat, extend down in places to around 5,000 feet along the bench lands. South-facing slopes and high ridge tops are dominated by sagebrush, native grasses, and mixed mountain brush communities. Lower elevations, bench lands and drainage bottoms are a mix of rabbitbrush, native grasses such as Indian ricegrass, and greasewood.
Wildlife is abundant, consisting of mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain lion, bobcat, badger, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail, various ground squirrels and rodents. The deer population is minimal throughout the Pilot Range, but the perennial streams and associated dense vegetation within the ACEC make this area quite important to deer year-round. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has identified much of this unit as "high priority" mule deer and elk habitat. Raptors found within the ACEC, and throughout the unit, include the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, kestrel, great horned owl, and Coopers and sharpshinned hawks. An active red-tailed hawk nest has been located in the Donner Creek drainage. Upland game birds in the ACEC consist of the mourning dove and chukar partridge. Sage grouse and Hungarian partridge are found in Pilot Range. Reptiles that commonly occur in the area include the Great Basin rattlesnake, Great Basin gopher snake, and the Salt Lake horned lizard.
Views from Pilot Peak and surrounding mountain areas are impressive. A visitor has an expansive 360-degree view of the Grouse Creek, Hogup, Promontory, Cedar, Stansbury, Deep Creeks and the Wasatch Mountains on the Utah side of this range and into Nevada, ranges such as the Toano, Delano, Goshute, Pequops and the Ruby Mountains, along with many others into the Great Basin can be seen. Rising above the vast playa salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert, once covered by ancient Lake Bonneville around 15,000 years ago, one can see the Silver Islands, Crater Island, Lemay Island, Pigeon Mountain and the Newfoundland Mountains.
Precipitation in this area mostly comes in the form of snow in the winter months from October through April. Precipitation varies from around six inches at the lower elevations to around sixteen inches at the upper elevations of Pilot Peak. Numerous springs are a direct benefit from this precipitation, providing critical wildlife habitat. Opportunities for hiking, backpacking, camping, horseback riding, scenic photography, hunting, wildlife viewing, backcountry skiing and sight seeing are abundant throughout this entire unit.
Central Pilot Range Unit Description: The Central Pilot Range Unit is situated in the middle of the Pilot Range in the northwest corner of Utah while a small portion of the western flanks enters Nevada. It has a north-south orientation that is typical in the Great Basin. The southern boundary utilizes the impressive Patterson Pass jeep route with its many granite rock outcroppings-while the northern boundary uses the many private inholdings and routes at the historic mining area of Copper Mountain. The eastern boundary is a well-used route and an aqueduct system that provides water for local ranching and for the railroad at Lucin. The western boundary, which at times is in the state of Nevada, uses private ownership. This wilderness unit encompasses bench lands from 5,300 feet in elevation, to alpine ridges at 7,800 feet, with the impressive Box, Cook, and Hogans Alley canyons on the west and McGinty Canyon on the east. Vegetation at higher elevations and on north-facing slopes is dominated by pinon and juniper forests, mountain mahogany, and mixed mountain brush communities. South-facing slopes and high ridge tops are dominated by sagebrush, native grasses, and mixed mountain brush communities. Lower elevations, bench lands and drainage bottoms are a mix of rabbitbrush, native grasses, and greasewood.
Around 15,000 years ago, the inland sea of Lake Bonneville was shaping much of what is these bench lands today. Several ancient lake shorelines can be seen, and impressive deltas were formed from sediment flowing into the lake and settling. This is most obvious on the western portion of this unit.
This region has abundant wildlife, with big game animals such as elk, mule deer, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope inhabiting many portions of this unit. Mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, bats, ravens, and several species of reptiles also inhabit this unit. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has identified this area as "high priority" habitat for mule deer and elk. This region
also lies along a major migratory route for such raptors as the golden eagle and the red-tailed hawk, which feed on the many small mammals and rodents. Occasionally, turkey vultures can be seen soaring above searching for a meal.
Views from this area are breathtaking. From the upper reaches of the unit, a visitor has an impressive 360-degree view of the Grouse Creek, Raft Rivers, Hogup, Promontory, Cedar, Stansbury and Wasatch Mountains on the Utah side of this range, and into Nevada, ranges such as the Toano, Delano, Pequops and the Ruby Mountains can be seen. In the expansive playa salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert, which was once covered by Lake Bonneville, one can see the Silver Islands, Crater Island, Lemay Island, Pigeon Mountain and the Newfoundland Mountains. To the south, along the ridges, 10,716-foot Pilot Peak looms over the desert landscape below.
Precipitation in this area mostly comes in the form of snow in the winter months, providing the necessary ground water to feed the many springs in this unit. Visitors to this area are immediately struck by the overwhelming feeling of solitude and remoteness. Opportunities for hiking, backpacking, camping, horseback riding, scenic photography, hunting, wildlife viewing, and sightseeing are abundant throughout this entire unit.
CRITICAL PLACES OMITTED: HALF A WILDERNESS
Without explanation, H.R. 2488 excludes more than half the Pilot Range's wilderness in Utah. Of the 49,000 acres that qualify for wilderness protection, H.R. 2488 omits 27,000 acres—leaving only 22,000 acres of proposed wilderness in the bill. When H.R. 2488 was introduced on July 12, it proposed to designate 37,000 acres of wilderness—but its sponsors already have rolled back even this truncated wilderness proposal to the current inadequate 22,000 acres. (Representative Jim Hansen and Utah Governor Mike Leavitt agreed last year that the Pilot Range wilderness should be at least 37,000 acres, and Rep. Hansen himself introduced last year a 37,000-acre Pilot Range wilderness as part of H.R. 3035. Yet now H.R. 2488 has moved the goalposts to a minimal 22,000 acres.)
H.R. 2488's boundary excludes the entire 12,000-acre Utah Wilderness Coalitionproposed Bald Eagle Mountain Unit at the north end of the range. Though there is a communication tower at the northern edge of this area, this does not detract from its remoteness or wildness; the Bald Eagle Mountain unit is still predominantly natural in character and deserving of wilderness protection.
Inexplicably, the bill also cuts off 15,000 acres of BLM-identified wilderness from east and south sides of the Pilot Peak Unit-this omitted wilderness clearly meets all standards set out in the Wilderness Act, has been confirmed by the BLM as wilderness quality land, and has been recommended by the Governor of Utah and the previous Secretary of the Interior for wilderness designation. It provides spectacular views, solitude, and wildlife habitat-yet H.R. 2488 fails to protect it. The Pilot Range deserves at least 49,000 acres of wilderness, not the minimal 22,000 acres proposed in this bill.
Why exclude parts of the Pilot Range that have been determined by the BLM to have wilderness characteristics and that previously have been proposed for wilderness designation by Governor Leavitt and Congressman Hansen? One possible explanation is that these lands are primarily bench lands falling at the foot of the mountain range. But these excluded benches and creeks (including creeks currently a part of the BLM designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern) are an integral part of the Pilot Range's Great Basin wilderness landscape. The BLM has recognized that these lands enhance the experience of solitude and recreation, and protect wildlife and other wilderness resources. In its 1999 FLPMA 202 Wilderness Inventory of another Great Basin mountain range, the Cedar Mountains, the BLM explicitly recognized that bench lands enhance solitude and offer critical wildlife habitat (see BLM Utah Wilderness Inventory, http://www.ut.blm.gov/wilderness/wrpt/ wrptnwcedar.html). The same is true for the Pilot Range's eastern bench lands which offer views of vast open spaces to the Silver Island and Newfoundland Mountains. The bench lands by themselves would be worthy of wilderness protection, given that they would constitute a unit of more than 10,000 acres that offer recreational opportunities, stunning views, and the protection wildlife. When added to the Pilot Peak Unit, they become even more valuable.
Inexplicably, Congress is being asked not only to exclude these lands from wilderness designation, but to determine that they are "nonsuitable for wilderness designation" (see Section 3 of H.R. 2488). This finding is particularly repugnant because the BLM has identified these lands as having the necessary qualities for entry into the National Wilderness Preservation System, and because the sponsor of