Monday, February 28, 2005

Damage to Big Granite Trail: update

Last fall word came in from Tom Martin of Alta that the historic Big Granite Trail (BGT) had suffered new and additional damage from logging operations.

The BGT originally connected Cisco on the north to the North Fork American River on the south, and beyond to the La Trinidad Mine in Sailor Canyon. See the Cisco Grove and Duncan Peak USGS 7.5-minute map quadrangles.

The more northern parts of the BGT became roads long ago, for instance "The Grade" is what a local's local calls the road from Cisco Grove up to Huysink Lake. This road shows on a map from 1902. Currently one accesses the BGT by driving past Huysink towards Pelham Flat. An unmarked road left leads to the trail. Descending, one enters Four Horse Flat, where the original line of the BGT was destroyed by logging, some ten or fifteen years ago.

It is in this same area where new damage occurred last fall. The snow fell before I had a chance to get in there. Two lumber companies own land there, intermeshed with Tahoe National Forest (TNF) lands: Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI; famous for clearcuts) and another outfit called CHY. It turns out both have timber harvest plans, either approved (SPI) or pending approval (CHY) in the area. I was unable to determine "who done it."

I obtained the CHY and SPI harvest plans from the CA Department of Forestry (CDF), and wrote a letter to Deputy Chief Bill Schultz, complaining of the damage to a truly great and wondrous historic trail. This trail makes, I'd say, the very most scenic entrance into the North Fork canyon of all the old trails.

Now, it is remarkable and horrible that, in a frenzy of timber harvests in the 1960s, very many of our historic trails were ruined, utterly obliterated. What I find strange is that the process continues to this very day.

I copied my CDF letter to Governor Schwarzenegger, for I have a feeling, an odd feeling, that almost nobody in our State or our County governments has the slightest inkling that these historic public trails are being ripped up by bulldozers.

Today I received a letter from Dale Geldert, Director of CDF, in which he writes "Governor Schwarzenegger has asked us to respond to your letter regarding harvesting practices and protection of historic trails in the North Fork of the American River." Geldert goes on to remark that the CHY harvest plan is still under review and that no decision will be made until the snow melts and on-the-ground inspections can be made by CDF personnel.

I also learn, from John Betts, an archeologist who has worked hard to preserve and document petroglyphs in the Sierra, and who once worked for CDF, that CDF almost never hears from people who care about historic trails. It is so far off CDF radar that one might lose hope; but John says what is really needed is people like us making comments on timber harvest plans, and demanding the old trails be protected. John says CDF almost never hears about these trails, and often does not know they exist.

We wrote letters to CDF about such a trail at Lost Camp (south of Blue Canyon) not too long ago. The historic China Trail was actually marked as a skid trail, in the Siller Bros. Lumber Company harvest plan, that is, bulldozers were *supposed* to use the old trail to drag logs up to a landing. But our letters forced a small change, protecting the China Trail.

We couldn't stop the timber harvest at Lost Camp, but we did change the plan and protect the China Trail from what might have been very significant damage.

Such is some news about the recent damage to the Big Granite Trail. The public comment period will, it seems, remain open on the CHY harvest plan, at least until next June, when the snow will be gone, and the on-the-ground inspections can go forward.

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