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Secretary of the Interior for a Day

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Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:16 pm

You have become the Secretary of the Interior for a day, and you have been given
the authority to make whatever changes you want in the parks of the Sierra
Nevada.
So what changes would you make to better everyone's, or your own, backpacking
or fishing experiences?
Would have Hetch Hetchy drained? Would you close down Yosemite Valley from all
car/bus traffic? Build more high sierra camps in the backcountry? Place bear boxes
into remote locations of the parks?
No matter how outlandish your ideas may be, this would be your only opportunity
so lets hear what you would have done Mr./Ms. Secretary.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:34 pm

I flunked Civics. Does Secretary of Interior have authority over National Forests too?
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby Timberline » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:55 pm

Nope, that's Agriculture. As in Department of :confused:
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:09 pm

The Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment is part of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA).
National Monuments like Devils Tower National Monument, and National Seashores
like Point Reyes, and BLM too, are under the Interior Dept. but for fun let's
include the National Forest's too.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:34 am

Since no one has jumped in yet, I’m game for starting the discussion. Being a benevolent (hopefully) dictator for a day has its fantasy appeal. While I would like to drain Hetch Hetchy and blow up the dam, unfortunately the city of San Francisco has authority over it, not the Federal Government. Also, I’m old enough to know that anything really radical, even if it might be the best thing for the Sierra, would be resisted by powers beyond the Secretary of Interior.

What I would do (without any budgetary limits of course):

1. Have at least 4 backcountry rangers for Yosemite.

2. Add a drive-in campground along Tioga Road between Hodgedon Meadow and Tamarack Flat and between White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows.

3. Keep open campgrounds along Tioga Road from one week after the road opens through Columbus Day weekend.

4. Create day use parking areas outside Yosemite Valley near the Big Oak Flat entrance, El Portal, and Badger Pass/Chinquapin with shuttle buses to take people to and from the Valley and Glacier Point during peak usage periods. Only people with camping, lodging, or backcountry reservations would be able to drive into the Valley or to Glacier Point during peak usage times. Those who intend to get a backcountry walk-up permit would receive a one day car pass and then a parking permit for the length of their trip when they get their backcountry permit.

5. Restrict packers to certain designated trails and prohibit off-trail use by packers.

6. Require packers to pay a trail maintenance fee as part of their license (maybe this is already true in part - I don’t know).

7. Limit overnight backcountry parties to 10 people or less.

8. Expand the summer Wilderness Permit pick-up hours during the summer from 8:00 to 4:30 at all pick-up locations in Yosemite and SEKI.

9. Increase backcountry rangers salaries by 10-20%.

10. Increase the trail maintenance budget by 20%.

11. Make it a rule that park concessionaires must submit any price increases for review and the increases must be limited to no more than 10%.

12. Park concessionaires can no longer require employees be tested for drugs.

13. Park concessionaires can no longer actively participate in the management plan process.

14. Park concessionaires must treat visiting dignitaries by the same set of rules and restrictions as all other visitors - no special favors in terms of booking.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby markskor » Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:44 am

Wow Mav! Some question posed…
Much akin to opening up a Sierra Pandora’s Box...but will play along.

Hypothetical unlimited power you say - over the entire Sierra Wilderness?
On the whole, I feel that today’s evolution of wilderness laws, today’s regulations and procedures… mostly seems fair and works OK.
However (in no particular order – spit-balling here) – As a backpacker -
RE: Yosemite and surrounding 395 areas, I would consider:

1) Continue the aerial restocking of native fish into our National Parks.
2) Stop netting/destroying self-sustaining trout populations.
3) Find lakes where there are not already trout populations thriving and try to re-introduce the endangered frogs there first – please show me that frogs can grow again somewhere/anywhere Sierra before killing off any more healthy fish.
4) Tighten up the rules for stock – Perhaps a 12 - 15 stock train limit, mandate their staying on-trail, carrying their own weed-proof feed, restrict wilderness overnighting of stock to specific designated areas (verified), and perhaps do something about reducing the multitude of trail biscuits found in my stream crossings. Make all Sierra users play by the same set of rules. If found acceptable, continue letting the drovers write their own wilderness permits (their own quotas, within reason) as is done today. If not, fine them big-time!
5) Increase back-country quotas by as much as 20%, and/or limit the maximum party size allowed. As many of the backcountry permits today are reserved months ahead and never used, make some allowance for this… Find a way to allow more legitimate unused access without putting strain on the environment.
6) Put the entire Sierra on a central computer permit system. How hard would it be to link up the wilderness permit process and keep track of who went where…Might make the perfunctory Ranger speech a little shorter.
7) In Yosemite Valley, there is not a whole lot that can be done as the Valley has long ago gone totally commercial… (Ranger mansions, $12 bags of ice, burger/pizza stands, and condos?). Perhaps, establish (at least try out) a few, lower-cost, “No-Cars-Allowed” type overnight camping sites…long-term…much like camp 4 but nicer, without all the dust/ road noise. Make sure these sites have adequate trash disposal, running water, and flush toilets too. Encourage fewer cars by having flat-bed shuttles available for family gear transport… Have free designated parking areas down-Valley for these type visitors.
Since the Valley has embraced automobile-required commercialism, charge the heck out of any Valley use whenever automobile related. If deemed necessary, raise all the Valley drive-in camping fees especially including increasing parking fees for any larger Winnebago’s too while you’re at it.
8) Take the Half Dome (lollypop – a trail 100 yards wide and 8 miles long) trail out of the Wilderness designation and call it a “Special Wilderness” Trail – whatever. Make “Doing the Dome” a much safer experience but still open to all who desire to do this adventure. Add more toilets below the saddle, maybe re-do the cables and add another column of poles… Both up and down? Charge $10 -$20 a head for the privilege of overnighting/day-hiking HD (now allowed as this will be a “non-wilderness” trail) to cover maintenance/ expenses but still allow all who want to go a fair chance. Do not lower any HD quotas and give free access to do HD for those holding legitimate Wilderness permits (over 3 days?) that happen to pass by HD on route.
9) Allow non-motorized crafts (canoes and kayaks) access to camping/fishing Hetch Hetchy for a launching fee…Maybe a $$ backpacker HH ferry ala Saddlebag? Why should only special people have water access? (BTW, I have mixed feelings about the immediate draining of HH as soon enough, the Damn Dam is coming down on its own accord anyway – thankfully no money was ever spent to keep O'Shaughnessy in good condition…I give it 20 years tops.) Agreed having the dam sucks but HH’s proximity to wild areas has protected a lot of pristine country otherwise lost. When O'Shaughnessy crumbles though, enact a law that says, “Don’t fix it”. Let SF deal with that headache.
10) Make bear cans mandatory for all (thru’s included) in the Sierra, specifically all wilderness areas above 4000 feet elevation. Lose all backcountry wilderness bear boxes except in a few very heavy use areas. Carry food in, protect it, and carry trash out.
11) Somehow increase and collect the fines for those found not respecting our Sierra…Perhaps banning those with unfavorable records. Thus, more experienced Rangers will be needed…more pay too with all experienced “seasonal” Rangers getting full-time Ranger benefits.

Bottom line - Protecting our parks requires a lot more money. The Wilderness though should be free. Charge extra for those needing anything more than a backpack.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby tomba » Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:12 pm

Roughly in priority order:

Allow wilderness permit reservation 2 days in advance (instead of requiring over 2 weeks) by calling in, like Yosemite does. Particularly in SeKi. I like to make reservations knowing roughly what the weather forecast is, and I often firm up my plans only close to the trip time. SeKi also doesn't like people to call them about permits - change this.

Create few more cross-country trailheads with permits (low quota or move some quota fom other trailheads). It is easier to get such permits.

Scrap the rule for getting walk-in permits at 11am the day before - get them all the morning of the trip. Open the wilderness offices earlier, say 7 am or 6:30 am.

Extend Tuolumne Meadows Campground closing date beyond the last week of September, till mid or late October. Perhaps depending on long-range forecasts, keep the last few open weeks tentative.

Extend Tioga Road overnight stay till later in the season, also depending on weather forecast.

Some trails have large steps - bad for knees. Make the steps smaller.

Overnight parking at some trailheads often fills up (mostly East Sierra national forests). Increase overnight parking.

Hetch-Hetchy road closes overnight. Extend the open hours in the evening, especially in fall.

Keep Badger Pass open till later in the season, depending on snow conditions. Add a campground near there, open in winter.

I read here about some overgrown trails near Cartridge Pass and Middle Fork Kings River. Clear them. Bushy portion of lower Goddard Canyon too?

Allow night box permit pick-up (for trips originating in a national forest but going to a national park). Perhaps require a call-in shortly before pick-up for up-to date updates.

Perhaps expand a little bit backpackers' campground at Tuolumne Meadows.

Perhaps expand Pines Campgrounds in Yosemite Valley.

Organize a contest with a big prize for creating a better (lighter) way of securing food from bears.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby dave54 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:10 pm

maverick wrote:... for fun let's
include the National Forest's too.


Lets really do things right. :D

To get a start on making the Sierran NF healthy again I would immediately double the harvest levels on NF lands. Harvest levels need to be much higher than that. I'll just start by doubling.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby Timberline » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:10 pm

:-k Hi, dave! I imagine that's a pretty bold idea for some of us here, but I don't necessarily disagree. I do, however, suggest for the National Forests some environmental designator, such as an altitude limit, to mark a separation of "merchantable" timber areas from those that, if harvested, would really harm the local ecosystem. Outside wilderness areas, altitude in the Sierra perhaps could serve as one criterion, because of the way it correlates at least generally to timber types, i.e., life zones. Years ago as a summer temp techie, when I surveyed the Sierra and Sequoia NF's for allowable cut data, most of what I measured in the field was not of commercial quality, especially in higher altitude locations, Indeed, some localities were lands that ended up in wilderness (Kaiser, for example) because that was their best designation. But even outside current wilderness boundaries, I suggest some areas at higher altitudes should be left alone. While "harvest" was not their intention, imagine what Disney would have done to Mineral King had they had their way with their vision of development. That said, I agree there sure is a load of fuel out there that could be reduced, and with economic benefits. Current technology ought to offer cost-effective alternatives to traditional clear cut methods, which I still argue aren't suited to Sierra timberlands. Generally, my thinking on this rests on what we all know in some manner - - that the Sierra is vast enough to include a wide variety of environments, each with their own "best use." Wonder what others think?
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby dave54 » Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:59 am

[quote="Timberline]... I do, however, suggest for the National Forests some environmental designator, such as an altitude limit, to mark a separation of "merchantable" timber areas from those that, if harvested, would really harm the local ecosystem. ... Current technology ought to offer cost-effective alternatives to traditional clear cut methods, which I still argue aren't suited to Sierra timberlands. Generally, my thinking on this rests on what we all know in some manner - - that the Sierra is vast enough to include a wide variety of environments, ...[/quote]

Pretty much already the practice. The FS no longer cuts timber just to cut timber. Almost all the contracts now have an underlying ecological reason -- insect/disease control, watershed, fire risk, wildlife habitat, etc. It is also in violation of several laws to design timber sale contracts expressly to maximize revenue or volume (difficult to follow the law when for decades the national priority, supported by the media, the public, and congress, was to maximize the cut). Every project is reviewed by various specialists -- wildlife, hydrology, fire, recreation, soils, engineering, etc and then is signed off by a district ranger responsible for balancing all the competing demands.

There cannot be an arbitrary elevation limit. Too many variables to make that a sound scientific policy. Site quality, soils, engineering, established management goals for that area, etc. As mentioned above, potential resource impacts are already factored into the project design. It often comes down relative subjective values -- a project to enhance endangered species habitat may have unavoidable negative watershed impacts. So as a line officer which decision do you make -- have no watershed impact and forgo wildlife, or benefit wildlife at the expense of water quality? That is the gut check type of decision line officers get paid to make.

I disagree clear cutting is not appropriate for west side mixed conifer. But let me expand on 'clearcutting'. Several different methods of harvesting are all lumped together in the public mind with an epithet of 'clearcutting', when to a forester clearcutting is one specific harvesting method. Seed tree, shelterwood, group selection, et al are all different methods and not clearcutting. Even the real clearcutting has its place in the mixed conifer forest type. Many forest ecologists call for its increased use, as much of the poor forest health in the Sierra is blamed on overuse of individual tree selection. I do not see how we can restore Sierra mixed conifer forest to the historic range of structure and composition without some form of even aged management, as historically the west side mixed conifer forest was a patchwork of even aged stands with many large openings. The mixed species uneven age stand was a rarity prior to the 20th century. On a landscape scale the forest had all age classes and species. Individual stands were primarily even aged, and often single species.
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby Timberline » Sun Apr 01, 2012 12:09 pm

Good lecture, dave54 - - & I mean that postively: concise, clear and currrent. Thanks for the insight! :nod:
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Re: Secretary of the Interior for a Day

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:19 pm

I'd have to think allot about everything to come up with ideas but some talk here about fishing for the first time sparked the idea in my head of why fishing is legal at all in areas that hunting is not. And considering the idea of these protected areas being meant to preserve the natural scene I would ban all fishing in areas with native populations. I would cancel any restocking of non native areas and allow unlimited fishing there to wipe out the population.
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