Mariposa Life

Preserving the Sierra’s rich resources, beauty and history

Last in a series

As Deanna Wulff canvassed in the communities between Yosemite National Park and Kings/Sequoia National Parks, she met with mixed responses. She only wanted signatures for her proposal to create the Sierra National Monument.

Yet in the impromptu meetings and awkward conversations, she found herself making friends.

One new friend is Lowell Young from Mariposa. He advised her to start as a nonprofit and form an advisory board.

Young initiated the Mariposa Economic Development Corporation and is president of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society. He’s also involved with other community service organizations.

He states multiple reasons why he supports the monument project:

We need to protect our water sources. We need places of solitude where all that’s heard are the sounds of nature. Our forests don’t need to be destroyed in order to construct strong lumber. We could use more trails accessible for wheel chairs. Tourism in surrounding communities would be boosted, as residents near Yellowstone are learning.

“The Sierra National Monument is a hidden opportunity with phenomenal potential – pure and simple,” he says. “By connecting our two closest national parks, it will develop a vibrant economy all our citizens will benefit from.”

Young points out, in welcoming visitors to the Sierra and providing for their needs while they go exploring, this will help provide a living for local business owners and residents.

Not everyone Wulff meets is as supportive. But she’s encouraged by increasing numbers of those who do support the project.

Rita McMurdy, a National Park Service employee, doesn’t favor big government, but she understands the need for government “of the people.” And she sees the value of creating a monument out of land that could deteriorate over time.

“There are many reasons for public land, but I think conservation and preservation are the most important. The average person who buys land needs it to perform a task, build a home, grow food, etc. The average American doesn’t have the personal freedom, the time or wealth to engage in preserving or conserving a resource, even if they believe in it. And the people who have the resources (can’t be told) how to preserve it. Public land allows us to set aside important resources that need protecting, whether because of beauty, or history, to secure the future.”

McMurdy believes one of our most valuable resources in need of protection is nature’s wetlands.

According to Wetlands International, since 1900 over half the world’s wetlands have either been lost or degraded, through drainage or conversion for development. But healthy wetlands are foundational for a healthy ecosystem – and for the well-being of mankind. In many ways they are the veins and arteries of the global landscape.

One of Wulff’s concerns centers on the Sierra wetlands and three major watersheds: the San Joaquin River, the Kings River and the South Fork of the Merced River. The Sierra is also home to hundreds of lakes.

“Archeological history is another well-documented account of how public lands helped preserve the past,” McMurdy says. “Between the individuals wishing to profit from history and those wishing to profit in spite of history, evidence of native culture and past American history would soon be nonexistent. Not only have we managed to save some of this history, but we can preserve some for future study when new and less invasive methods are developed.”

The purpose of different land agencies is to oversee government control for the good of the nation.

McMurdy continues, “The National Park Service exists to preserve irreplaceable resources. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management exist to oversee the use of national resources.”

If approved, Wulff’s project would turn property managed by the U.S. Forest Service over to the NPS, with the hopes that this land in between the parks will be restored and treasured to the same extent as our national parks.

During the past three years, Wulff has spent much time on the road from early morning till late at night, in an old truck (that’s literally falling apart) without heat in the winter or air-conditioning in summer, looking for support. She didn’t expect to find new friends.

At her blog she writes, “If anything, political rhetoric can interfere with real conversation between real people working to do the right thing.”

With a shrinking bank account and personal sacrifices during the prime of her life, she’s pursuing an ideal she believes in. And is gaining more than she imagined.

“It’s as if I came out of the woods to discover another kind of beauty, the best part of humanity. When people are kind for no reason, it’s a source of wonderment and joy.”

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. Follow her on Twitter @ghostowngal or email her at