The Sequoia National Forest in California features some of the most iconic wild places in the southern Sierra Nevada. Last year, the Forest Service released a draft plan for the Forest that recommended no new wilderness and identified only a handful of streams eligible for Wild and Scenic River protection. Thousands of people commented on the plan urging additional protection for wild places. In early 2018, the agency will release a supplemental draft plan, which will give the public a second opportunity to urge protection for these wild places. In addition to outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, many of these wild places provide refuge and critical migration corridors for plants and animals to survive climate change. CalWild advocates for the protection of the following wild places in the Sequoia Forest Plan:
Golden Trout Wilderness Addition (44,000+ acres) – Located in Tulare County, this potential addition includes ecosystems currently under-represented in the wilderness system that provide habitat for an amazing array of animals, including the Pacific fisher, and several rare plants. It also protects the biotic integrity of the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River by adding two major tributaries – Rattlesnake and Durwood Creeks – to the wilderness and allowing for the migration of species from the low elevation river canyon to the higher elevations of the Kern Plateau. CalWild proposes a boundary that significantly reduces potential conflicts with existing motorized and mountain bike trails.
Domeland Wilderness Additions (45,300 acres) – Located in Tulare County, these potential additions would expand the existing Domeland Wilderness to the west and to the north. The additions have astonishing botanical diversity, including mixed forests of red fir, Jeffrey and foxtail pine, oak woodlands, chaparral, and extensive meadows. It also includes ecosystems currently under-represented in the wilderness system. These varied ecosystems support diverse wildlife, including Pacific fisher, goshawk, and California spotted owl. The additions would also protect a significant portion of Trout Creek, which supports golden trout, as well as the source of Salmon Creek, a stream proposed by CalWild for Wild and Scenic River protection. Adding these areas to the wilderness would improve and protect biological connectivity between the existing wilderness, the Kern Plateau, and the North and South Forks of the Kern River.
Bright Star Wilderness Addition (49,800 acres) – Located in Kern County, this potential addition would add National Forest lands to the Bureau of Land Management’s existing Bright Star Wilderness. Located in the Piute Mountains, this area is a biological crossroads between the Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mountains, Mojave Desert, and the Central Valley. It includes ecosystems currently under-represented in the wilderness system that support plant and animal species only found together in this area. Rare Piute and Bodfish cypress grow here, pinon pine and juniper are found in the higher elevations, and Joshua trees dot the lower slopes. CalWild proposes a boundary that significantly reduces conflicts with existing legal motorized trails.
Cannell Peak Wilderness (31,000 acres) – Located in Tulare County, this potential wilderness encompasses steep slopes east of the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River, providing a dramatic and scenic backdrop for the thousands of people who visit and recreate along the river. Elevation ranges from approximately 3,000 feet to 9,500 foot Cannell Peak, supporting an incredible diversity of plants and animals. The area includes ecosystems currently under-represented in the wilderness system, including grasslands, oak woodlands, chaparral, and pockets of mixed conifer forest. The entire area provides important biological connectivity between the North Fork Kern and the Kern Plateau. Salmon Creek, a stream proposed by CalWild for Wild and Scenic protection flows through the area. A major scenic feature is Salmon Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the southern Sierra Nevada. CalWild proposes a boundary that avoids conflict with existing motorized use on the Rincon and Cannell Meadow Trails.
Salmon Creek Wild & Scenic River (11 miles) – Salmon Creek rises from its source springs high on the slopes of Sirretta Peak in a potential addition to the Domeland Wilderness, and flows through the heart of the ecologically unique Kern Plateau. On its journey, the creek drops more than 5,500 feet, flowing through diverse forests, rich meadows, and rugged bedrock gorges. It eventually tumbles over 450-foot-high Salmon Creek Falls in the Cannell Peak Roadless area on its way to the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River. Its outstanding ecological values are associated with its dramatic elevation change and diversity of habitats and vegetation. CalWild believes that the stream is free flowing and possesses outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, and ecological values. It should be determined eligible for National Wild and Scenic River protection by the Forest Service.
Stormy Canyon Wilderness (47,800 acres) – Located in Tulare and Kern Counties, this potential wilderness encompasses much of the west slope of the North Fork Kern Wild & Scenic River. It provides a scenic backdrop for the thousands of visitors who picnic, swim, camp, kayak, and raft the North Fork and contributes significantly to the biotic integrity of the river. It also supports ecosystems under-represented in the wilderness system and provides important biological connectivity between the Kern Plateau, North Fork Kern, and the Greenhorn Mountains. Home to many “rock-loving” rare plants, this potential wilderness includes the Baker Point Botanical Area and the scenic Baker Point Trail. Another the popular route in the area is the Whiskey Flat Trail, which parallels the undeveloped bank of the North Fork Kern Wild & Scenic River.
Lower Kern Wild & Scenic River (33 miles) – Located in Kern County, the lower Kern River downstream of Isabella Dam was found eligible for Wild & Scenic protection by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Even though some of the river is diverted for hydroelectric generation, the river was determined to be free flowing and to possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, wildlife, and cultural/historic values. The lower Kern has carved a dramatic granite canyon and it offers a wide variety of class II-V whitewater boating, as well as day use recreation opportunities for Central Valley residents seeking relief from the summer heat. Its lush riparian habitat supports numerous wildlife species, including the rare Kern Canyon slender salamander. The canyon is also rich in the remnants of historic gold mining and Native American cultural values.
South Sierra Wilderness Additions West (5,035 acres) – Located in Tulare County, these small but important additions to the South Sierra Wilderness includes distinctive Jackass Peak. The additions expand the existing area’s ecological integrity and untouched wildlife habitat, while providing outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation and solitude. The Hooker Meadow Trail traverses the southwestern portion of the proposed addition.
Slate Mountain Wilderness (16,000 acres) – Located in Tulare County, the Slate Mountain area possesses outstanding ecological values, including Giant Sequoia groves and the Slate Mountain Botanical Area. The Summit National Recreation Trail and the Nelson Trail provide popular access to this area. Unfortunately, more than 100 years of fire suppression and five years of drought have resulted in heavy tree mortality in parts of this area. Some are calling for its wholesale logging, making the Slate Mountain area one of the most endangered potential wilderness areas in the state.
North Fork Middle Fork Tule Wild & Scenic River (14 miles) – The Forest Service only found the 2.8-mile segment of this river flowing through the Moses Research Natural Area to be eligible, in recognition of its outstanding Giant Sequoia groves. But there are Giant Sequoias upstream and downstream of this eligible segment, along with scenic waterfalls, diverse habitat, and popular hiking trails. CalWild believes that at least 12 miles of the North Fork Middle Fork Tule should be determined eligible.