NPS plans Cahoon Meadow restoration

The National Park Service is initiating public scoping on a proposal to evaluate a full range of ecological restoration options to address a large erosion gully in Cahoon Meadow, located within the John Krebs Wilderness of Sequoia National Park. The meadow is located in a road-less, trail-less area in the southern portion of the park between Hockett Meadow and Homers Nose at an elevation of 8,000 feet. There are giant sequoia groves in the area.

The meadow is named for George Cahoon, a cattleman who homesteaded 160 acres in the area in 1885. The meadow was part of Cahoon's summer pasture and he built a cabin there.

There are still Cahoon descendants residing in Three Rivers. Several other places in Sequoia also bear the Cahoon name: Cahoon Rock (and the former Cahoon Lookout), Cahoon Creek, Cahoon Creek Grove (of giant sequoias), Cahoon Gap, and Cahoon Mountain.

The purpose of this project is to protect and restore wetlands in Cahoon Meadow. To obtain supplemental information about the proposed project, please visit the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki.

Cahoon Meadow lies within a parcel of land that was acquired by the NPS in 1980. While in private ownership, the meadow was heavily damaged by cattle grazing. Erosion of the bare soil created by overgrazing formed a deep gully that has drained over five acres of wetland and threatens 14 additional acres.

The gully, at its largest extent, is 17 feet deep and 92 feet wide, and runs for approximately 1,200 feet, about 75 percent of the length of the meadow. The gully has caused a loss of wetland function and rare fen (peat-accumulating) habitat in Cahoon Meadow, the second largest wetland in the East Fork of the Kaweah River.

Wetlands are important for flood reduction, water filtration, water storage, and wildlife habitat. If no action is taken, the existing meadow would continue to degrade, possibly leading to total loss of wetlands at Cahoon Meadow.

In order to restore ecosystem function to this meadow, the NPS has identified preliminary draft alternatives. These alternatives range from stabilization to full ecosystem restoration and consider a full range of tools such as utilizing hand crews to utilizing earthmoving equipment transported by helicopter.

One alternative could stabilize the abrupt vertical drop at the leading edge of the gully and protect 14 acres of intact wetland from further damage by constructing log or rock structures.

A second alternative could additionally restore an intermediate level of ecosystem function to five acres of drained meadow by constructing a series of check dams within the full length of the gully, with the long-term goal of slowing water flow, trapping sediment and raising the water table.

Under both of these alternatives, construction could be done by hand crews and stock, or could include limited use of small earthmoving equipment, such as a mini-excavator, to provide deeper anchoring of logs. This would minimize long-term dam repairs and increase construction feasibility and the likelihood of success.

A third alternative would evaluate restoring the meadow to a fully functioning, sustainable wetland with no long-term maintenance. This could be achieved by utilizing several pieces of large earthmoving equipment, such as a bulldozer, over a period of several months, which is incongruous to this wilderness area but an allowed activity as it is resource utilization.

The NPS is interested in any public concerns, potential issues, or opportunities related to the proposed restoration. After analyzing comments received during scoping, the NPS will determine the level of analysis needed.

Questions about the project may be directed to Athena Demetry, restoration ecologist, at (559) 565-4479.

All written comments about this project must be transmitted, postmarked, or hand-delivered by January 23, 2015.

To respond electronically, submit comments via the PEPC website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki.

To submit written comments, send them via mail or hand deliver to: Superintendent, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Attn: Cahoon Meadow Restoration Plan, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271.

Faxed comments will be accepted at (559) 565-4202. Before including address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in the comment, be aware that the entire comment, including personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. 

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