With the current round of public meetings concluded in July, wilderness visitors and user groups will have a unique opportunity to participate in one more roundtable discussion relative to the Draft Wilderness Stewardship Plan for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. All comments are due Monday, August 25, so the Thursday, Aug. 14, webinar will be important for those who need more information to ensure that their input is effective.
“If you just tell us that you don’t like an element, that’s not a meaningful response or what we are looking for,” said Nancy Hendricks, the local parks’ environmental protection specialist. “Tell us specifically what you are concerned about, where you have experienced what, and how we might remedy the situation.”
Hendricks said that what the parks heard from the 50 or so attendees at the Visalia public meeting on July 28 was that most folks, and specifically stock users, are concerned about access. She said the participants “were receptive and posed some great questions.”
“We’re not proposing to change access but we do know some use needs to be reduced so we can continue to give the most wilderness visitors the best possible experience,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks cited the Mount Whitney management area as one place where policy needs some fine tuning.
“It seems almost every hiker wants to climb Whitney but at capacity and on most days there are literally hundreds using the same trail,” Hendricks said. “We are hearing that maybe that’s too many people to guarantee a wilderness experience to those enjoying their brief time up on the tallest peak in the continental U.S.”
But Whitney is just one area that needs some tweaking. Hendricks also said the plan is looking to establish a more formal trail for Mount Langley. There are some remote backcountry areas like Evolution Pass and Darwin Canyon that are extremely popular and get lots of use.
“The plan tries to look at how much use is appropriate,” Hendricks said. “I think the parks’ preferred Alternative 2 strikes an appropriate balance.”
The two-volume study contains more than 1,000 pages and arguably raises the bar as wilderness policy-making supporting documentation. The goals of the preferred Alternative 2, as outlined in chapter two of Volume 1 (Volume 2 contains appendixes), are summarized in this statement:
“Visitor use and enjoyment of the wilderness is promoted while ensuring the preservation of the wilderness character. In this alternative, visitor use levels would be reduced in some popular areas to preserve opportunities for solitude or other wilderness-character qualities.”
Nadine Hack, who lives in Orinda, attended the Oakland public meeting. Hack is a life-long Mineral King visitor who said she agrees that Alternative 2 is the right policy choice.
“I like the plan, and I think Alternative 2 strikes a good balance that works for all wilderness users,” Hack said.
Hendricks said the upcoming webinar provides a good forum for wilderness users to examine proposals for their favorite areas and to make comments more site specific. With 97 percent of the parks acreage managed as wilderness, planning for its use is the key task for park planners to ensure that the NPS completes its mission to preserve and protect some of the planet’s most unique resources.
The webinar will be held on Thursday, August 14, from 3 to 4 p.m. The hour-long discussion will specifically highlight Alternative 2 with opportunities for participants to ask questions.
To register for the webinar, log onto yose.webex.com. The call-in number is 1-866-919-3108; use 4700949 for the password. If you miss out on the Thursday session, the webinar will be recorded and available for download.
For more information, call Nancy Hendricks (559) 565-3102.