First in a series.
During the past three years, when she wasn’t hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada, Deanna Wulff’s days were spent doing research, writing letters, attending meetings, making phone calls and talking to strangers far from home.
After months spent surrounded by nature, she asked herself, “Is this life really all about working and accumulating and then I die? Or will I do something that matters?”
Dissatisfied with her day job in corporate work, Wulff started spending most of her free time with “boots on the ground” in various parts of the West. And always she found herself comparing other places with the Sierra.
The section of public land resting between Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is governed by the United States Forest Service. But the closer she looked, the more concerned she became.
Wulff envisions this land in between as a national monument. She believes the change in status will improve the quality of care and preserve the rich beauty, history and sustainability of the region for future generations.
“Taking care of the Earth has never hurt us,” Wulff said.
Several excellent articles have already been written on the Sierra National Monument and Unite the Parks projects. This two-part series of articles will look at her views and various local sentiments regarding the issue.
“Our national forests are still suffering from the effects clear-cutting, fire suppression, plantation of single tree species and the logging of large, fire resilient trees,” she said. “It’s going to take a hundred years to unwind that damage, but we should start now, preserving what we have left.”
She calls the region a “paradise,” but is concerned it won’t remain as such if mismanagement continues.
The responsibility of governing would transfer from the USFS to the National Park Service. Wulff said she sees better management in our parks, where forests are diverse, resilient and healthier.
She’s looked at current grazing, logging and mining activities and considered the few jobs that would be affected compared to millions of potential visitors, as well as residents of Mariposa and Madera counties who would benefit from increased tourism.
Marc Edmundson grew up in Mariposa. He, too, loves the land and understands the USFS hasn’t managed it well.
He takes horses and mules on hunting trips and packs in for a week.
“When I leave the place it looks as good or better than when I arrived. I wish everyone had the same goal,” he says.
He said he’s afraid that in becoming monument land, more restrictions and regulations will be put in place, eliminating current vocational and recreational opportunities.
“I would like to see everyone enjoy the forest responsibly,” he said. “A national monument or connecting the parks is not the answer. Proper management and common sense is.”
Those not in favor of the monument project don’t want to see roads and camping spots disappear. But Wulff is documenting the area with photos, maps and note-taking, traversing 2,000 miles of dirt roads in the front and back ends of the region, to locate more recreational spots.
Her challenge: How to create a place like a national park, but keeping it rugged and free like a national forest.
“My answer is to explore it intensively, to understand how it’s being used and how it might be better managed. With all those factors in mind, a plan can be implemented.”
She admits to not understanding three years ago why hiking permits are required, but has since changed her mind.
“If thousands of people came to these places anytime they wanted, leaving litter, and using and abusing our natural resources, what would happen to the land and the wildlife? (Both) the people who live here and visit are responsible for caring for the land and maintaining it.”
Another resident (wanting to remain anonymous) mentioned the debate between recreation and conservation. He cites trout being poisoned in Sierra’s high country lakes, which eliminates fishing as sport, but saves native frogs and rebuilds the ecosystem.
One issue Wulff says most people agree on: clean air and water, and open spaces for wildlife.
She says, “It requires working together, sacrifice, regulation (to protect and preserve) and respect.”
To this date more than 100 businesses and six congressional members endorse the monument.
Wulff is doing something with her life she hopes will outlast her – ensuring this beautiful land will remain cherished, protected and accessible. As an introvert, by opening herself up and voicing her concerns, she’s discovered how caring people can be. And it gives her hope.
Visit www.Unitetheparks.org to learn more.
(To be continued next week.)