I am writing in response to “Yosemite Audubon Society Supports Sierra National Monument.” This is the area between Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon where there are already many Wilderness Areas along with monuments. A Monument is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Here are some reasons why:
Years of mismanagement have made our forests overgrown, unsustainable and unhealthy. Because of the drought and the bark beetle, our forests have become tinder boxes ready to explode. Research into National Monuments reveals that timber harvest, mechanical and otherwise, will not be allowed. Advocates say that control burns are the only way to manage our forests. Control burns remove understory but not trees.
Scientific studies by Professor Bales Ph.D. and Director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at U.C. Merced states that the reduction of trees will not only create a healthy renewable forest, it will produce more than a million acre feet of water to be stored and used by our farmers to grow our food. Steve Brink, Vice President of Public Resources for Calforests documents that a healthy forest should only have 40-100 trees per acre. We now have 400-600 trees per acre. So Lowell’s statement that protecting the environment will enhance and improve our water supply is a fallacy.
Furthermore, because of the denseness of our forests, control burns not only have the potential to become out of control catastrophic wildfires, they emit tons of particulate matter and carbon into our air which we the taxpayers will ultimately have to pay for. Resurrection of mechanical timber harvest, saw mills, and co-generation plants are one of the last tools in our toolbox to mitigate this huge problem. If something isn’t done very soon our forests will burn, destroying critical habitat for all species, including humans.
He mentions the jobs that will be created through tourism. These jobs are low-paying minimum wage jobs, and they are seasonal, meaning most employees will be collecting unemployment during the off season. There are other ways to create jobs besides tourism.
Forty five years ago the sale of timber provided a steady stream of revenues to the treasury which could be used to further improve, protect and manage the public lands. We also had grazing, mining, and energy development. The elimination of these activities would dry up tax revenue that’s essential for funding schools, firehouses, and community centers. All of these activities are better paying, job creators. Our forest used to be called “The Land of Many Uses;” those signs are gone now.
One of the reasons that the Rough Fire in Sequoia-Kings Canyon was so devastating is because it occurred in a National Park, and a National Monument. The firefighting agencies could not properly fight this fire. Because of restrictions put upon them, they were not able to use the equipment necessary to contain it. 151,623 acres have been incinerated, and it is still not completely contained.
I along with many other concerned citizens do not want this for our National Forests. They have not been forgotten. They have been sorely neglected, and its time to repair the damage that we have done to them in the past. National Monument designation will not allow us to do that. It is a very big step in the wrong direction.
Kevin D. Barry
Sierra Nevada Human Rights Alliance