April 24, 2014

Sierra Club’s Sierra Nevada Campaign

Mount Humphreys in the Sierra Nevada's John Muir Wilderness. Photo by Bob McLaughlin.

Mount Humphreys in the Sierra Nevada’s John Muir Wilderness, on border of Sierra and Inyo National Forests. Photo by Bob McLaughlin.

The Sierra Nevada Campaign is part of the overall Sierra Club Our Wild America program. Volunteer activists work on the various components of the campaign. Until recently we had excellent staff help from Sarah Matsumoto working from the San Francisco office. Recently Sarah was promoted to a supervisory position overseeing several other Sierra Club staff. We are pleased that Sarah’s skills at working with volunteers and utilizing Club resources to support our work has been recognized, but she will be sorely missed. We will carry on with our dedicated group of volunteers the best we can but we cannot be nearly as effective as we were with Sarah’s help. We are asking for a replacement for Sarah as soon as possible, but Club finances do not always permit immediate response for staff support.

We are currently working on the following issues.

National-forest planning

The Forest Service adopted new land-use planning regulations last year. Three of the national forests in the Sierra have been selected as “early adopters” using those regulations. They are Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra National Forests. The goal is to adopt new plans by 2015. All three forests have been conducting public meetings in the first phase of this process which is to conduct an assessment of the resources in each forest. That phase will end this fall, when the National Environmental Policy Act process will begin to develop the new plans. We have been successful in getting Club members to these meetings to learn about the process and to contribute their input. Alan Carlton is taking the lead on this.

Clearcutting

The Stop Clearcutting CA Campaign has local teams working to educate the public about clearcutting, including a promising new effort in San Francisco and the East Bay. Each team is fairly autonomous but has support from the campaign leadership.

Sacramento is working on bringing a resolution to ban clearcutting to their city council. Bay Area team members are also interested. The campaign is working on a bookmark to be used in tabling. Our coalition web site at StopClearcuttingCA.ORG (not yet functional as of Aug. 20, 2013) took a step forward when Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch volunteered to pay for professional web support.

Coalition members have been engaged in trying to stop AB 904, which would prohibit clearcutting in exchange for “lifelong” logging plans for forest owners with up to 15,000 acres. State agencies have stated that they don’t have the funding to oversee such large projects, and local agencies and the public will be shut out after the initial review. For more about AB 904 “Two key state bills that the Sierra Club opposes”.

Yosemite National Park

Two important wild-and-scenic-river management plans are close to adoption.

The Tuolumne River Plan has been the less controversial. We have commented on it and suggested improvements, and we expect that it will be an improvement over current management.

The Merced River Plan, however, has been controversial (for more information see “Protect and preserve Yosemite–comment now on Merced River Plan”. Our biggest disappointment has been the lack of dealing with impacts from public visitation. We have commented on the plan, and although we think there are some improvements, it largely ignores the more serious problems of too many visitors on peak summer days. Most of the public criticism has been about bicycle and river-raft rentals, and closure of swimming pools and an ice-skating rink, which we are less concerned about. Yosemite National Park is under a court order to adopt a new plan this summer, but will probably not meet that deadline. Local politicians have been very critical and are demonizing the proposed new plan, claiming it is an attempt to shut the public out of the park. This has made moving ahead by park staff difficult.

Alan Carlton is the chair of the Yosemite Committee.

Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

The wilderness management plan for Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks is being rewritten. There have been public sessions on the project, well-attended by Sierra Club members. Currently a Draft Environmental Impact Statement is being written and is expected to be released for public comment early next year. The National Park Service is under a court order to adopt a new plan in 2015.

We have been very supportive of the parks’ prescribed-burn program to restore healthy forest conditions and have asked the Forest Service to copy this success in its management of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

We are trying to recruit a group of volunteers to work on these issues. Joe Fontaine is taking the lead.

Lake Tahoe

The Forest Service is in the process of adopting a new management plan for the Lake Tahoe Management Area. A draft plan was released a few months ago which we commented on. There were good and bad points to the draft. A final plan is expected in a couple of months.

The Tahoe Regional Management Agency is a joint venture between California and Nevada. Nevada threatened to withdraw from that pact because it wanted weaker controls on private development at Tahoe, but has withdrawn that threat.

Marge Sill is our lead on Lake Tahoe.

Giant Sequoia National Monument

Sequoia National Forest adopted a new management plan for the Monument last year. Several interest groups including the Sierra Club appealed that decision. The chief of the Forest Service approved the new plan with a few minor changes. However Sequoia National Forest has adopted a project to restore forest health using prescribed fire in an area including giant sequoia groves. We asked for a few changes in the project, which were agreed to, and now we support that project, which does not include any mechanical treatment. We look forward to its implementation. Another forest-health restoration project including a giant sequoia grove has been proposed, and we hope it too will rely on prescribed fire.

For the first time in many years there is some hope we are being listened to. We have a Sequoia Task Force, which includes Joe Fontaine, that works on monument issues.

Wildlife

Richard Garcia of  the Kern/Kaweah Chapter works on wildlife issues in the Sierra. Richard was instrumental in getting California state legislation passed to prohibit hunting bears using dog packs. Currently we are working on legislation to control trapping of bobcats, primarily for pelts.

Richard monitors the proceedings of the California State Fish and Wildlife Commission to provide better management and protection of our wildlife.

Joe Fontaine, co-chair, Sierra Club Sierra Nevada Campaign

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