Another day of sitting through a meeting with the stock packers and the Sierra National Forest at their headquarters. We listened as a Forest Service representative listed all the issues covered at the last court session regarding the use of horses and mules by commercial pack stations serving the wilderness areas of the forest. A ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal is coming in a couple of weeks, but that won’t be the end of it. There are so many minuscule details that have to be ironed out to make sense of this whole mess that it may never be totally resolved. What we’re awaiting is a ruling that will set the agenda for the upcoming operating season.
Stock has to be excluded from Yosemite toad habitat, which was described as almost anything from flowing water, still ponds, wet meadow areas, damp spots on the ground, and I finally asked if that included the fresh wet spot just made by a horse. Laughs. Much study has to be done, and in the meantime, it is simpler to exclude horses from just about anywhere the toad was ever spotted. I guess a toad was never harmed by a hiker’s boot.
After a couple of hours of reviewing what could happen, the discussion was opened to various other issues of running the wilderness, such as trail maintenance. I asked the group of Forest people if the bridge over Boulder Creek was ever going to be replaced. It was torn out years ago because it was collapsing. There was no budget for that; other bridges were to be replaced first. The last time I saw figures on their budget, 40 to 50 percent was spent on lawyers. As an aside, the Forest Supervisor, who was sitting next to me, leaned over and in a low voice said, “If we weren’t paying millions for lawsuits, you could have that bridge right now.” He’s in a very tough position, having to manage the demands of all the users of the forest and balance that with the demands from Congress and courts. And he seems to be in competition with the adjoining Inyo National Forest for funds to carry out the demands of the Regional Forester in San Francisco. The Sierra National Forest is immense. Until a couple of decades ago, it was the only forest in the United States that actually turned a profit, from its timber sales. Now it is overgrown and has become a huge torch ready to be lit by any careless camper or lightning strike, the result is destruction brought on by lawsuits by environmentalists who are trying to “save” the forest from man’s depredation. Too bad they don’t know that thinning a forest does save it.
When the forest finally goes up in smoke, the dimbulbs in Berkeley (High Sierra Hikers Association headquarters) will sue the Forest Service for that, too.