Photo of the High Sierra

Hiker Alert

Cattle Grazing Threatens Sequoia National Park

Please write by November 30, 1999. Note: this is an informal deadline; letters after 11/30 will still help.

In recent years, cows from U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands have repeatedly trespassed into Sequoia National Park, causing grazing and trampling damage in the Siberian Outpost area, which has been off-limits to livestock grazing since the early 1900s. The Anheuser-Busch Company (maker of Budweiser, other beverages, and Eagle brand snacks) holds permits to two USFS grazing allotments along the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park. The permits allow A-B to graze as many as 900 cow-calf pairs each summer in the Golden Trout Wilderness adjacent to Sequoia National Park. The permits for these allotments are about to expire, and the USFS is now accepting comments on how these areas should be managed.

The Inyo National Forest is proposing to continue grazing on both allotments (Templeton allotment, Whitney allotment). The agency’s current proposal would keep the status quo, neither reducing nor increasing the number of livestock currently allowed to graze there. This is being proposed despite the fact that the USFS’s own data show that the area is seriously degraded from past and present livestock grazing activities. Problems such as eroded streambanks, loss of riparian vegetation, changes to stream depth and width, rising stream temperatures and more, threaten the survival of the California state fish: the Golden Trout. The fixes proposed by the USFS, such as additional fencing and “brush piling” (to keep cows out of sensitive areas), are temporary at best and offer no real long-term protection to the trout. In addition, these developments would adversely affect the visual quality and wilderness character in an area that is enjoyed by numerous hikers each year. The proposed fences, “brush piles,” and other developments would also be very expensive, and the cost would be borne by U.S. taxpayers so that A-B could continue to graze its cattle in a public wilderness area.

The HSHA advocates that the USFS permanently retire these two grazing allotments, because it is impractical for the agency to adequately administer and monitor grazing in this remote area, and because the fences and other developments needed to keep cows out of sensitive alpine areas would seriously degrade the scenic and recreation values of the area. At a minimum, grazing should be banned until the area’s streams and meadows heal from damage caused by past ranching activities.

What You Can Do

Send a letter (preferably by November 30, but letters after that date will still help) to the supervisor of the Inyo National Forest, saying that you are commenting on the “Templeton and Whitney grazing allotments.” Ask that both allotments be permanently retired in order to protect the threatened California state fish (Golden Trout), as well as the area’s scenery and recreation values. Oppose any new fence construction, and insist that (at a minimum) all grazing be discontinued until the area heals from past damage (at least 10 years). Please keep in mind that the U.S. Forest Service often gives little weight to letters that appear to be “form letters.” It is therefore crucial that you compose an original letter in your own words, describing how livestock grazing, fences, and other ranching developments affect your hiking experience. It is also important to remember that the Wilderness Act of 1964 specifically allows for cattle grazing to continue in designated wilderness areas where it does not harm natural resources or adversely affect recreation values. So if you oppose grazing in wilderness per se, the agency will ignore your comments. Therefore, be sure to explain the specific reasons why cattle should be removed from this area (e.g., damage to fisheries habitat, conflicts with recreation, trespass into Sequoia National Park).

Write to:

Jeff Bailey, Forest Supervisor
Inyo National Forest
873 N. Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514

For more information on this issue, see the website of CalTrout.