Media release, December 21, 2005
Contact: Ara Marderosian, Sequoia ForestKeeper, 760.376.4434
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST DECIDES TO FULLY PROTECT NATURAL RESOURCES
Kernville, CA - Conservation groups today applauded the Sequoia National Forest and District Ranger Priscilla Summers for her withdrawal of a decision that would authorize livestock grazing on nearly 37,000 acres within the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Tule River-West grazing decision was appealed in November by Sequoia ForestKeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sequoia Forest Alliance, the Tule River Conservancy, the Kerncrest Audubon Society, the Sequoia Task Force of the Sierra Club, California Trout, RangeWatch, Western Watersheds Project, and Forest Guardians.
"We are grateful that the Forest recognized its responsibility to protect the extraordinary resources named in the Monument's Proclamation and withdrew this project. The reauthorization of livestock grazing in this area would have harmed the giant sequoias, the archeological and cultural sites, and the plants and animals that the special designation is supposed to preserve," said Ara Marderosian, the executive director of Sequoia ForestKeeper.
"We were concerned that the Forest was reissuing grazing permits without considering impacts to rare plants and animals, including the Pacific fisher, which depends on intact forest habitat, and the Springville clarkia, a threatened plant that is only found in the Tule River drainage," said Greta Anderson, botanist and Range Restoration Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity. "The choice to withdraw the decision is significant in that it gives the Forest more time to make better plans."
Area residents were concerned that the protective measures used to protect fragile riparian areas were not sufficient, and that the decision did not do enough to monitor and mitigate livestock impacts. Of particular concern was the ability of alder trees to regenerate in damaged riparian areas, which the Forest's own botanist admitted could be compromised even at low levels of grazing. "I hope the Sequoia National Forest will take stronger actions to restore alders in the riparian areas," said Todd Shuman, a Tehachapi resident and representative of Western Watersheds Project.
Another concern of local people was the failure of the decision to address the increased risks of catastrophic wildfire posed by livestock grazing in the project area. Area resident and representative of RangeWatch Jane Baxter stated "With residents near these grazing allotments very concerned about fire risk to their properties, we were disappointed that the Forest ignored addressing the relationship between grazing and fire cycles. Old thinking that grazing reduces fire risk has been challenged in recent scientific studies looking at 'the big picture.'"
Conservationists are hoping that some of the protective measures included in the now-withdrawn decision will take effect this season, including keeping cattle out of degraded areas and improving monitoring on the allotments. The Forest can implement these measures through annual operating plans, and the natural resources would benefit from early action.
The Giant Sequoia National Monument receives significant recreational use and approximately six million visitors come each year to sight-see, hike, photograph, and study the giant sequoias and the surrounding ecosystem. The conservation of the biological resources of the Monument is therefore also important to regional tourism and local businesses.
Sequoia ForestKeeper is a non-profit conservation corporation whose mission is to protect and restore the ecosystems of the Southern Sierra Nevada. www.sequoiaforestkeeper.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a non-profit conservation advocacy group with more than 15,000 members and a mission to protect endangered species and their habitat. www.biologicaldiversity.org
Sequoia Forest Alliance is an association of citizens dedicated to the protection of the natural resources of our forest. firstname.lastname@example.org
Tule River Conservancy is a local, grassroots conservation organization and a California nonprofit organization. www.sequoianet.org/
Kerncrest Audubon Society has members who hike, fish, hunt, backpack, camp and sight-see on these lands. www.kerncrestaudubon.org
The Sequoia Task Force of the Sierra Club is a national conservation organization whose members include over 750,000 persons nationally. www.sierraclub.org/ca/sequoia/
Western Watersheds Project is a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Hailey, Idaho with over 1,400 members. www.westernwatersheds.org
Forest Guardians is a non-profit corporation with approximately 1,600 members throughout the United States. www.fguardians.org
California Trout is a statewide, non-profit corporation founded in 1971, supported by approximately 5,100 individual members and 50 affiliated angling clubs. www.trout.orgRangeWatch has members and supporters have vital interests in protection of natural resources, wildlife, and imperiled species that occur on the public lands in the Sequoia National Forest and on these allotments in particular. www.rangewatch.org