Sierra Nature Notes, Volume 8, May 2008
Sierra Nevada Crest National Parks:
A Proposal to Expand Parklands
W. Derlet, MD
Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
University of California, Davis
|Charles Goldman, Ph.D.
Environmental Science & Policy
University of California, Davis Davis, CA
|Proposed area of expanded Sierra National Parks (light blue).
(Click map to enlarge)
We propose the creation of a series of new national parks to span the full length of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California. These parks would parallel and straddle the existing Pacific Crest Trail, which would serve as the axis of a 350-mile long parkland. Such an increase in National Park lands would allow for consistent and integrated monitoring and management of natural resources in the Sierra Nevada. Currently, there is no unified management of Sierra resources as there is in, for example, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Sierran ecosystem is no less complex and is in critical need of integrated management by all land management agencies involved, as well as their nearby communities.
Starting from the north, these new parks would follow the high crest of the mountain range and link Lassen National Park with Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Parks in the south. Landmarks in between would include existing Yosemite National Park, portions of the Lake Tahoe Basin, and many 13,000 foot high peaks in the John Muir Wilderness. The proposal also includes the areas south of Sequoia National Park currently designated as Golden Trout Wilderness and Giant Sequoia National Monument. We base our proposal from our knowledge, experience, and the scientific studies we have been involved with in this mountain range over the past 40 years.
Additional national parks are needed to provide a higher level of protection to this unique mountain range. The National Park Service under the U.S. Department of Interior has an excellent track record of land management that results in preservation of the natural state of land and preservation of watersheds. National Park wilderness and backcountry areas are managed with a no-human impact philosophy, and non-wilderness park areas accessed by road have strict regulations to protect the natural environment. Preservation of what John Muir termed the “range of light” is important for the reasons we have outlined below. The reasons for increasing the domain of U.S. National Park Service in the Sierra Nevada are multiple and include the following:
To preserve a watershed that ensures clean water for California’s future: California is dependent on the Sierra Nevada snow pack to provide nearly 50% of its fresh water. The watershed in the Sierra Nevada, outside the boundaries of current national parks, is threatened with increasing pollution unless new measures are adopted to protect these watersheds. Over the past 20 years a serious decrease in overall water quality has occurred with increases in oxygen sapping algae, and an increase in health threatening bacteria, soaps, chemicals and toxins. Cattle and sheep grazing activities in some alpine wilderness areas result in tons of manure being deposited into previously clear streams and lakes in the Sierra, essentially raw sewage dumped into pristine streams. Earlier spring thaws expose water to polluted ground elements for longer periods of time. Heavy metal pollution from mining poses a serious problem with a devastating impact on the states’ children.
To provide a healthy environment for the people of California: Preservation of the natural ecological system is important to a highly populated state. Trees filter air and provide new oxygen, and the multiple species of living organisms serve to improve the environment, and impart break down toxic substances introduced into the atmosphere. Healthy, natural microorganisms of national park ecosystems enrich soil, improve downstream crop production, and compete against destructive organisms thus decreasing the potential for human disease.
To help further preserve the National treasure: Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe basin has been proposed for national park status four times between the 1890s and the 1930s. Retrospectively, the reasons used to prevent conversion to national park status now seem silly compared to the benefit for all that would have resulted from these lost opportunities. Despite extensive efforts over the past 40 years, decreases in water clarity and quality have occurred. The only way to totally ensure high water quality would come from national park status.
To provide open space for the public: The large population of Californian needs open space to escape from the tension and stress of modern day urban life. Open space also increases public knowledge and awareness of the importance of conservation and preservation. The unique alpine beauty will be forever lost unless protected.
THE SPECIFIC PROPOSALS: These new national parks would add over 4,000,000 acres to the National Park System, and be equivalent to creating six additional “Yosemite” parks in total size:
Eureka National Park, 900,000 acres. This would extend from the southern boundary of Mt. Lassen National Park to Lake Tahoe to provide protection for this area. This narrow corridor about 16 miles wide would stretch 90-miles along mountain tops, straddling both the east and west sides the Pacific Crest National Trail. Currently, most of the land is under USDA Forest Service Administration. Bucks Lake Wilderness Plumas Eureka State Park and several proposed wilderness areas are within this area.
Lake Tahoe National Park: 400,000 acres. This national park would extend from Highway 80 to south of Lake Tahoe and include Desolation and Granite Chief Wildernesses, as well as vital watershed areas on all sides of the lake under current Federal or State administration. The proposed Caples Creek and Meiss Wilderness area, as well as the upper Truckee river watershed to near Highway 88 would be included. In addition, this would include Lake Tahoe beaches currently under public domain. For example, Bliss State Park in California and adjacent areas could easily be included, as well as Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks and appropriate connecting and adjoining land.
Mokelumne National Park: 800,000 acres. This new park would include the 60 miles from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park and include Mokelumne (105,000 acres), Carson-Iceberg (161,000 acres), Emigrant (151,000 acres) and Hoover Wilderness areas, as well as adjacent tracts of land deserving wilderness status. This park would straddle the crest of the Sierra, and measure 25 to 35 miles in width. State Highways 4, 88, and 104 would cross through the park, similar to the Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite. It would include the beautiful 7,000 to 10,000 foot elevation, high rolling, alpine country in the Highway 88- Silver Lake area.
John Muir National Park: 1,200,000 acre. Encompassing all of the current John Muir Wilderness south from Yosemite to Kings Canyon National Park. The 35-mile distance between the parks includes breathtaking scenery and many 13,000 to nearly 14,000’ mountain peaks. About 90% of the new national park could be created from existing John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Dinky Wildernesses Areas between or adjacent to the existing National Parks. The Muir wilderness itself is nearly 600,000 acres, and combining the other wilderness areas and adjacent land would create a national park of nearly 1,200,000 acres. Additional land could be acquired from non-wilderness State and Federal lands.
Golden Trout National Park. Includes the current Golden Trout Wilderness and Giant Sequoia National Monument. At the southern end of the Sierra, inclusion of these lands would complete the line of protection over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Golden Trout Wilderness is over 300,000 acres, and the Giant Sequoia NM 355,000, thus combining these areas creates a park almost as large as Yosemite.
Trans-Sierra Highways 4, 49, 50, 80, 88, and 108 would be maintained under the proposal, similar to other major highways that cross other national parks, such as Highway 101 and Redwoods National Park.
This proposal for additional national parks in the Sierra Nevada will benefit the people of California with a clean water supply for centuries to come, as well as preserve unique, national treasures for the people of the entire country. We urge all groups to unite, and work toward a goal that will benefit our children, great grandchildren, and the entire country. In this endeavor, we seek the support of our California State Legislature, and the U.S. Congress.
For Further Reading
The Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee (GYCC) was formed to allow representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pursue opportunities of mutual cooperation and coordination in the management of core federal lands in the Greater Yellowstone area. Go to the official GYCC website for information about the committee, their accomplishments, maps, and related resources.Greater Yellowstone Coalition
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