In a talk attended by 30 people at the Three Rivers Library on Thursday, Jan. 7, Gene Verbeet presented his book Golden Trout Wilderness: The Forty Year Struggle to Preserve the Ancient Territory of the California Golden Trout, that he co-authored with Larry M. Holochwost in 2015. Gene discussed how the book came to be written and screened the 1975 film “Golden Remnant,” which reveals the conservation side of a decades-long controversy between the Forest Service and their logging interests and wilderness conservation proponents.
The book chronicles the efforts of a little-known hero of conservation Ardis Walker (1901-1991), who devoted his life between 1937 and 1978 to preserving the Kern Plateau of the southern Sierra mountains, which extends from the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park south to Highway 178. The 303,511-acre area includes portions of Sequoia and Inyo national forests, features rolling hills, high mountain peaks, coniferous forests and granite soils, the main fork of the Kern River, the South Fork, and the Little Kern River, and is home to California’s State Fish, the Golden Trout.
According to Gene, in 1951, Ardis Walker and his wife, Gayle, built a home in Kernville made of pumice to avoid cutting down trees. In the process of fighting for preservation, Walker saved all correspondence and paperwork that he ever sent or received in regards to his fight to preserve the Kern Plateau.
Thirteen years after Congress created the Golden Trout Wilderness and upon his death in 1991, Ardis’s estate revealed that he donated all of his papers and the other contents of his home to the Kern River Valley Historical Society. The estate also bequeathed his Kernville home, now referred to as the Walker House, to his alma mater, University of Southern California. The Kern River Valley Historical Society maintains the house and has the option to buy it if USC sells it.
Though well-preserved, the papers were not organized, so in November 2011, a curator asked Gene and Larry to “write a book or something.” The authors spent three years discovering, assembling, and archiving over 6,000 documents associated with Golden Trout Wilderness history.
There were 40 years of letters to and from local citizens to U.S. congressmen, Sierra Club directors, lumber company executives, U.S. Forest Service supervisors, Secretaries of Agriculture, magazine editors, and conservation organizations.
Upcoming library programs are:
Thursday, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m.— Danny Gammons, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks wildlife biologist: Bear Ecology and Management.
Thursday, March 10, 6:30 p.m.— Isaac Chellman, Sequoia-Kings Canyon wildlife biologist: Snakes in the Foothills.
April (date to be determined), 6:30 pm— Jonathan Nesmith, NPS ecologist, and Eric Frenzel, NPS botanist: Wildflowers in the Foothills.
A copy of Golden Trout Wilderness has been purchased by the Three Rivers Library by the Friends of the Three Rivers Library and is available for loan at the library. To purchase the book, call the Kern River Valley Historical Society at (760) 376-6683.