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Executive Director’s Report, Sept 2019

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

This month, final public comments for the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests’ management plans are due.

Accordingly, we are asking local residents and others who recreate in the region to share their thoughts with the Forest Service.  You can submit your comments by clicking here for the Sierra NF or here for the Sequoia NF. (SORRY BUT THE COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED SEPT 26TH)

CalWild’s Wild Rivers Director Steve Evans is our point person on this effort. He has worked closely without several of our friends and partners to wade through the thousands of pages that make up the draft plans.

As you may expect, our primary role is to determine the eligibility of wilderness areas, as well as wild and scenic rivers. This work is painstaking, but essential to CalWild’s mission of protecting our state’s remaining wild places.

The process has been quite informative.

The Sierra forests are under great stress. The recent drought led to a tree die off and increase in bark beetle infestation. It also suffers under the strain of 100% fire suppression policies that have increased fuel loads in the region increasing the likelihood of high severity fires.

In our organizing and media work, we received a lot of comments about CalWild’s advocacy. Many have questioned whether or not these plans are the proper vehicle to be advocating for wild rivers and more wilderness. And we must make it clear that we’ve heard this feedback and feel the anxiety of those living in the region.

We understand this perspective. For us, the future of our work and others like us relies on having wild places for Congress to designate as wilderness and wild and scenic rivers.

Between the adoption of these plans and the next bill protecting the Sierra’s wilderness areas, we must make sure areas there today are not lost to logging and other extractive projects or the development major road systems.

Our work for incremental protections through management plans is all part of the slow, collaborative (and sometimes contentious) effort in which CalWild engages every day. We don’t believe we’ll see wilderness designations all the time; until this year it had been 10 years since the last wilderness bill in California.

Instead, CalWild plays the long game.

These are opportunities to recognize special wild places in these forests that meet the criteria of a wilderness area or wild and scenic river. Then as we organize for our next bill, we’ll have these maps and descriptions, in addition to the greater protections that set the stage for future wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers.

One key example of the opportunities these plans present is the work we did on the Inyo National Forest. In response to our detailed comments, public support,  and a formal objection we filed with our allies, the final plan recommends an additional 25,128 of wilderness eligible acres in Mono County and nearly 29 miles of additional stream segments found eligible for wild and scenic river protection. Here is our full write up on the final Inyo Plan.

So, if your hope is to continue to protect the wildness of the Sierra, these plans are your opportunity to ensure they remain intact for the next major conservation success in future years (and maybe decades).

I hope had a chance to take action on the Sierra and Sequoia.


Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at cmorrill@calwild.org.