Sequoia Plan A Mixed Bag For Rivers And Wilderness

Sequoia Plan A Mixed Bag For Rivers And Wilderness 1024 683 California Wilderness Coalition

By Steve Evans, Wild Rivers Director

The draft plan for the Sequoia National Forest will determine the future of our wild lands and rivers in the southern Sierra Nevada for the next generation. Unfortunately, the plan fails to adequately protect wild lands and rivers for present and future generations. Only a tiny 4,900 acre addition to the Monarch Wilderness is recommended in the draft plan out of an inventory of 535,554 acres of potential wilderness. However, the draft plan has improved its eligible wild and scenic river inventory. An incomplete 1990s inventory of 75 miles of eligible rivers was increased to 341 miles, with several tributaries of the North and South Forks Kern River and the Kings River deemed eligible.

While recommending a tiny addition to the Monarch Wilderness near Kennedy Meadows, the draft plan fails to recommend wilderness protection for the 56,356-acre Golden Trout Wilderness addition, which encompasses and protects the deep canyon of the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River. Other key wild places not recommended for wilderness include additions to the Dome Land and South Sierra Wilderness, as well as new areas such as Cannell Peak and Stormy Canyon near Kernville, and a potential addition to the Bright Star Wilderness in the desert-like Piute Mountains.

The draft plan significantly increases eligible wild and scenic rivers, with a particularly focus on tributaries of the Kern and Kings Rivers. While identifying a number of North Fork Kern tributaries as eligible because of their restoration potential for native trout species, the draft plan fails to find eligible two other North Fork tributaries – Rattlesnake and Osa Creeks – that support remnant populations of the native Kern River rainbow trout. The one large glaring disappointment in the new evaluation is the failure to find eligible all of the North Fork Middle Fork Tule River which flows through Giant Sequoia groves the Moses roadless area, connecting it to existing eligible segments of the Middle Fork Tule and its South Fork.

North Fork Middle Fork Tule River

In regard to other conservation issues, the draft plan also produces mixed results. On the plus side, the plan encourages prescribed and managed naturally ignited fires to restore forest ecosystems, adds the northern goshawk to the list of wildlife species of conservation concern, establishes five large conservation watersheds to protect aquatic species, and recognizes the importance of providing a wide variety of high quality recreation opportunities. On the negative side, the plan provides inadequate protection for high quality old growth forest habitat for species like the Pacific fisher and spotted owl. It also needs to triple the amount of ecologically beneficial fire over the next 15 years in order to make a dent in the tree mortality problem and restore healthy forest ecosystems. It should also eliminate grazing from degraded meadows. More importantly, the draft plan utterly fails to address the Forest Service’s budget, which is shrinking and will eventually result in the closure of public campgrounds, trailhead access roads, and other recreational amenities.

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the plan considers five different alternatives. The inadequate draft plan is the Forest Service’s preferred alternative B. Alternative C recommends the most wilderness – 234,912 acres out of 535,554 acres of potential wilderness. Alternative E recommends less wilderness (161,543 acres) but uses wilderness boundaries proposed by conservationists to reduce conflicts with mountain bike and motorized trails for key areas. All alternatives include the 341 miles of eligible wild and scenic rivers.

What You Can Do: The deadline for public comments is 11:59 PM on Thursday, Sep. 26, 2019. CalWild has provided a sample email below that you can personalize and then cut and paste into the Forest Service’s public comment web page. Comments from people who live outside the region are important, particularly if you visit the Sequoia Forest to enjoy is wild lands and rivers. To submit your public comment before the Sep. 26 deadline, visit: https://www.calwild.org/action-alert-sequoia-nf-comments-sept2019

To review the Sierra Forest draft plan and EIS, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/landmanagement/planning/?cid=STELPRD3802842

For more information about this issue, contact Steve Evans, CalWild Rivers Director, email: sevans@calwild.org; phone: (916) 708-3155.

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