By Deb Murphy
The public got a sneak peak at six areas in the White and Sierra Nevada mountains that may be recommended as Wilderness areas Tuesday evening at the Inyo National Forest offices in Bishop.
Those six areas include:
- Two additions to the White Mountain Wilderness Area, 7,570 acres in two sections that extend into Inyo County, including the Blanco Mountain roadless area for the western section and the Boundary Peak roadless area for the eastern section;
- Deep Springs South, 11,840 acres, an L-shaped portion of the Soldier Canyon roadless area;
- Deep Springs North, 16,830 acres in the eastern portion of the Birch Creek roadless area;
- South Sierra Wilderness addition, 18,150 acres, bisected by Haiwee Pass with Tunawee Canyon near its southern border and
- Glass Mountains, 17,440 acres, a large portion of the Glass Mountains roadless area.
The event was described as an open house with no official public comment period. However, following Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta’s presentation, the approximately 30 in attendance had a chance to review maps and question Forest Service staff.
“The staff looked objectively at the Forest,” Armenta said, noting that Wilderness designations can be an emotional topic. Armenta outlined what constituted “Wilderness character:” untrammeled, natural, undeveloped ecosystems without evidence of human development, offering solitude and having unique qualities.
The process also included filtering out areas that would present issues if managed as Wilderness. One of those filters was the presence of endangered or threatened species. Armenta explained that sage grouse habitat was not included because of the extensive management efforts within that habitat.
The same applied to wild horse herd areas in the White Mountains. Herd management would require activities banned within Wilderness. “We don’t want to tie our hands,” he said. Other filters included the presence of motorized trails and past activities, like mining, that had degraded Wilderness qualities.
As part of the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule, the office was required to identify areas that would qualify as Wilderness. The next step is the development of a Draft Environmental Impact Study expected to be published this fall. The DEIS will include a 90-day comment period. Details on the proposed acreage are on the Inyo National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/landmanagement/planning/?cid-STELPRD3803608