The Sierra National Forest in California features some of the most iconic wild places in the central Sierra Nevada. In 2017, the Forest Service released a draft plan for the Forest that recommended no new wilderness. Thousands of people commented on the plan urging additional protection for wild places. In mid-2018, the Forest Service will release a supplemental draft plan, which will give the public a second opportunity to urge protection for threatened wild lands. In addition to outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, many of these wild places provide refuge and critical migration corridors necessary for plants and animals to survive climate change. CalWild advocates for the protection of the following wild places in the Sierra Forest Plan:
Devil Gulch-Ferguson Ridge (47,000 acres) – Located in Mariposa County, this unusually large and undeveloped low elevation area includes the South Fork Merced Wild & Scenic River and is contiguous to Yosemite National Park and contains ecosystems under-represented in the wilderness system. The area possesses an extremely rare example of undisturbed Ponderosa pine forest in the Bishop Creek Research Natural Area. It also includes the unique ecology of the Devil’s Peak Botanical Area, which supports three rare plants. The roadless nature of the area contributes to the high biotic integrity of the South Fork Merced. The Hite Cove Trail along the South Fork features one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the central Sierra. The MiWuk Indians gather traditional materials in this area for basket weaving.
Monarch Wilderness Addition (43,500 acres) – Located in Fresno County, this potential wilderness addition straddles the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. This large low elevation addition to the Monarch Wilderness is split by the Kings River, which forms one of the deepest canyons in North America. The addition would nearly double the size of the existing Monarch Wilderness and would facilitate the migration of wildlife and plant species in response to climate change by connecting foothill areas at 1,000 feet elevation with the 14,000-foot peaks of the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park. The area supports ecosystems under-represented in the system, including oak woodlands and Giant Sequoia groves. These diverse habitats support Pacific fisher, slender salamanders, and mountain yellow-legged frogs. The Kings River National Recreation Trail follows the Kings River into the potential wilderness addition. Rich in historical and Native American cultural values, the river is also a popular destination for whitewater rafting and is famed for its wild trout fishery. The roadless area contributes to the high biotic integrity of the Kings River.
Kings Wild & Scenic River (12 miles) – Located in Fresno County, the upper segments of the Kings and its Middle and South Forks are already protected as a Wild & Scenic River. But a 12-mile segment of the Kings River downstream in the Monarch Wilderness potential addition lacks permanent protection from the long-proposed Rodgers Crossing Dam. This river segment was determined eligible for Wild & Scenic protection by the Forest Service because it possesses outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreation, fish, wildlife, geological, and historical/cultural values.
Dinkey Creek Wild & Scenic River (30 miles) – Located in Fresno County, Dinkey Creek flows from high snowy peaks for nearly 30 miles to its confluence with the North Fork Kings River. Dropping almost 9,000 feet in elevation, the creek has carved its way through a spectacular landscape of granite domes, ancient sedimentary rocks, rugged gorges, and waterfalls. The creek’s ecological diversity supports more than 800 plant species (including three rare plants) and 121 species of birds. Old growth forests along the creek are home to the Pacific fisher, pine martin, and spotted owl. Dinkey Creek offers some of the most diverse recreational opportunities in the Sierra Nevada, including popular wilderness hiking routes, family camping for generations of regional residents, and outstanding whitewater that attracts expert kayakers from throughout the world. The creek is also rich in Native American cultural and historical values.
Dinkey Lakes Wilderness Additions (25,500 acres) – Comprising four separate units located in Fresno County, these potential additions would nearly double the size of the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. The additions reach down to 7,000 feet, which would diversify the ecosystems and vegetation protected in the wilderness, as well as provide important migration corridors for animals and plants in reaction to climate change. Boundaries for these additions can be drawn to avoid conflicts with existing legal OHV trails. The additions include many small lakes, meadows, streams, and trails that lead into the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. The Bear Mountain addition includes the spectacular Dinkey Dome and upper Dinkey Creek, which tumbles down a series of smooth granite chutes and plunge pools. This area attracts expert kayakers, rock climbers, hikers, equestrians, anglers, and hunters. Old growth red fir and mixed conifers provide habitat for Pacific fish, pine marten, and spotted owl. The area is culturally sensitive and is of special interest to local Native Americans.
Sycamore Springs Wilderness (17,650 acres) – Located in Fresno County, this low elevation area encompasses the lower segments of Dinkey Creek. The area supports mixed oak, savanna and foothill pine ecosystems that are rare in the wilderness system. Outstanding scenic features include the many waterfalls, rock chutes, and plunge pools formed by Dinkey Creek, as well as the highly visible rock formations of the Patterson Bluffs, Indian Rock, and Black Rock in higher portions of the area. Virtually trail-less, the area offers truly wild recreation opportunities, including whitewater kayaking for experts, canyoneering, hiking, fishing, and hunting. Rich in cultural and historical values, the area is of special interest to local Native Americans.
Ansel Adams Wilderness Addition – San Joaquin River (37,000 acres) – Located in Fresno and Madera Counties, this addition to the Ansel Adams Wilderness encompasses the rugged canyon of the San Joaquin River downstream of Mammoth Pool Reservoir. The addition would extend the existing wilderness down to 2,400 feet in elevation, providing critical migration corridors for plants and animals. The addition includes nearly 16 miles of the San Joaquin River determined eligible by the Forest Service for Wild & Scenic River protection due to its outstanding scenic and recreation values flow. The historic French Trail, a route used by Native Americans and early miners and traders, traverses much of the San Joaquin’s canyon slope and enjoys three-season accessibility. The trail is an important component of the 73-mile San Joaquin River Trail, which will ultimately connect Millerton Reservoir with Devil’s Postpile National Monument. The area is culturally sensitive and is of special interest to local Native Americans.
Ansel Adams Wilderness Addition – Raymond Mtn. (9,000 acres) – This potential addition to the Ansel Adams Wilderness is directly adjacent to wilderness in Yosemite National Park. It encompasses the unprotected southern slope of the South Fork Merced Wild & Scenic River near Mt. Raymond. In addition to the wild South Fork, the area includes several large lakes, streams, meadows and rich old growth conifer and fir forests. Six trails cross through the area, including the Iron Creek Trail, which provides access to the South Fork and Yosemite Park. This roadless area contributes to the high biotic integrity of the South Fork Merced Wild & Scenic River. The area is culturally sensitive and is of special interest to local Native Americans.