WWP Opens Office in California

Online Messenger #74

Here is the news release sent out today (2/25/04) by WWP's Media Director, Keith Raether, announcing the new WWP California Office:

Western Watersheds Project Opens Office in California

Expanding its conservation reach to another key area of the West, Western Watersheds Project has opened an office in Tehachapi, Calif., under the direction of conservationist Todd Shuman.

Shuman will lead a three-member team in California that includes biodiversity director Dr. Elizabeth Painter and field director Jane Baxter. All three conservationists have extensive background in range science and management of public lands.

"A Western Watersheds presence in California is needed to assure that the state's valuable natural resources on public lands will survive the relentless assault of the Bush Administration," Shuman said.

Shuman, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has worked on several public lands conservation projects in collaboration with the Sierra Club, California Trout, Trout Unlimited and the California Mule Deer Association. His efforts helped halt abusive livestock grazing on two large allotments in the Golden Trout Wilderness of Inyo National Forest at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

"While we are sympathetic with those public lands ranchers who face economic difficulties due to conflicts with threatened native plants and wildlife," Shuman said, "we will not hesitate to challenge the public lands ranching lobby and its agency allies whenever their operations and plans wreak havoc on our endangered natural heritage."

He added that WWP looks forward to working with public lands ranchers in California to promote voluntary livestock grazing permit buyout legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A native of Wyoming, Painter has graduate degrees in botany and range ecology from Colorado State University. She has conducted floristic and rare plant surveys on public lands for more than 20 years.

Before joining WWP, Painter worked for the University and Jepson Herbaria of the University of California, Berkeley, contributing to the Jepson Manual and Jepson Desert Manual.

Baxter's involvement in conservation issues dates back to 1973, when she conducted the original research that led to the purchase and preservation of Madrona Marsh, one of the last remaining vernal pools in Southern California. She has a degree in recreation management from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Baxter founded Range Watch in 1992 after witnessing for many years the damage by domestic livestock to Sequoia National Monument. Like WWP, Range Watch works to educate the public about the ecological and economic costs of commercial grazing on public lands.

"The timing and planning of WWP's effort in California couldn't be better," she said. "It's a great fit with what I am doing with Range Watch."

Baxter's work with Range Watch has been featured on the McNeil Lehrer News Hour and in the PBS special "Sierra In Peril." She is a co-founder of the Sierra Nevada Alliance and served on its board of directors from l993 to l999.

"California truly needs more range reformers, as activists working on this issue frequently have to shift focus to help save our California trees," she noted. "In California's national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, the vast majority of grazing decisions are made without public input that establishes legal standing. WWP's legal resources and litigation track record will be very appealing to individuals and groups that are working on grazing issues in California."

Based in Hailey, Idaho, WWP now has regional offices in Boise, Idaho; Mendon, Utah; Pinedale, Wyo.; Missoula and Bozeman, Mont. and Tehachapi, Calif., as well as ongoing conservation work in nine western states. The group's chief target is public-lands livestock grazing that destroys western watersheds and threatens or endangers species such as wolves, bighorn sheep and native fish.

Founded in 1993 by conservationists Jon Marvel, Linn Kincannon and Lynne Stone, WWP works in partnership with several other conservation organizations in the West to protect and restore wildlife and watersheds. The organization is one of six steering committee groups leading the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign, whose voluntary grazing permit buyout concept has reached Congress in the form of two bills introduced by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut) and Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona). "Western Watersheds Project welcomes the opportunity to help turn public lands management in the Golden State in favor of healthy watersheds and wildlife habitat," said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP.