The background on my response can be found here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article96900372.html
There is recent advocacy to designate the Sierra National Forest as a “Monument”. Deanna Wulff has been the spokesperson behind this idea but the Sierra Club is also involved and favors monument status. The Fresno Bee is also sympathetic to the idea and provided a rather biased platform for Ms Wulff in their article. I sent a 200-word letter to the editor opposing the monument status for the Sierra National Forest and it was not printed so I now am expanding on my concerns here.
Let me begin by correcting some inaccuracies in the article. There is closer to 50 miles of the PCT not 20 miles contained in the Sierra National Forest. The endangered sheep are the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep not the California Bighorn Sheep. Additionally, The map shown in the Bee article lists only two wilderness areas in the Sierra National Forest John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness. There is also the Dinkey Lakes and the Kaiser Wilderness.
First there is the politics of the decision. There has always been a rivalry between the U.S. Forest Service that views forests as resources to be harvested and sources of recreation, and the National Park Service with its “hands off” limited access perspectives. Advocates of the monument status would really rather see the National Park Service manage the forest and monument status could change federal oversight to the National Park Service. One commenter referred to them as the “Gold Standard”. Ask folks who live near Yellowstone Park who lived through one of the worst forest fires in park history because of the “let burn” policy that got out of control by the National Park Service.
Second, Most of the Sierra National Forest is designated “Wilderness”. The spirit of the Wilderness act of 1964 was to “Leave No Trace”. I don’t know what one could accomplish in the way of preservation by adding National Monument status to the Sierra National Forest. One more layer of “protection” only adds to the confusion. As someone who has traveled thousands of miles on trails hiking and backpacking, I have had to reserve wilderness permits to travel on those trails if I intended to stay overnight. Access is limited on each trailhead in the Sierra National Forest each day for those wishing to stay overnight. The trails in the Sierra National Forest are disappearing. We need more access not less access.
Third, in the article Kevin Elliot the supervisor for the Sequoia National Forest and Monument stated, ““Some folks thought by designating the monument, surely that will bring some additional funding to address those objects of interest, and that didn’t happen and I don’t see that happening, to be honest,” Elliott says.
Fourth, I don’t see controlled burns as the answer to thinning forests.
As a Central Valley Resident, we already breathe some of the worst air in the U.S.
The Bee is portraying this as a “grassroots campaign” when in fact it is strongly supported by the Sierra Club which recently had one of it’s founding members Joseph LeConte name removed from the LeConte Memorial in Yosemite because he had made racist remarks. Are they also going to propose that the topographical maps have all references to his name removed also?
Ms Wulff is well intended but misguided in thinking that more protection will not mean less access. It is the same mentality that advocated for “protected’ status for the mountain lion when the lion was not an endangered or even threatened species. Now the mountain lion, an apex predator, with no population control is expanding beyond traditional boundaries and what is referred to, as “human encroachment” is actually mountain lion encroachment. The mountain lion has become the single biggest threat to the reestablishment of the truly endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep in their historic Sierra range.
The biggest argument against making the Sierra National Forest a monument is the example of the Sequoia National Monument where nothing really changed for the better.