Project Description

JMT WILDERNESS RESTORATION

OBJECTIVE: The Foundation would like to repair the environmental impacts at the most heavily-used campsites along the JMT Backcountry, to rehabilitate the surrounding wilderness, and then to develop and fund the necessary long-term maintenance and management strategies.

JMT WILDERNESS RESTORATION

OBJECTIVE: The Foundation would like to repair the environmental impacts at the most heavily-used campsites along the JMT Backcountry, to rehabilitate the surrounding wilderness, and then to develop and fund the necessary long-term maintenance and management strategies.

Protecting [ ] wilderness, its natural processes, and the renewable source of clean water for millions of downstream users, is inextricably linked to the management and rehabilitation of highly-used wilderness destinations.” (Yosemite National Park, 2018 Accomplishments, published on-line May 2019.) The John Muir Trail and its interconnecting trail network is the heart of that “highly-used wilderness” in California. With federal funds and resources inconsistent and dwindling, there has never been a region-wide plan for its management or rehabilitation.

A region approximately 220 miles long and 20 miles wide, the JMT backcountry is traversed by nearly 650 miles of trails across five federal land management units. It encompasses the backbone of the Sierra Nevada snowpack that serves 25 million people in their communities and businesses, and the agriculture, dairy and stock of the Central Valley. The comprehensive restoration and management of the JMT wilderness ecosystem is essential to the well-being of so much. It is long overdue.

The Foundation would like to repair and restore the adverse environmental changes at the high-use locations along the full length of the John Muir Trail network, including the main access trails and those leading to the re-supply sites. For decades, people have noticed illegal campsites and fire pits, rutted and branching trails, tracked meadows, poorly buried waste, and accumulating debris in an expanding human footprint. Non-native plants are appearing in meadows and forests. Water quality at the highest-level lakes is being effected. The data is daunting.

Yosemite National Park (only one of the five federal land management units along the JMT) reports that more than 50% of all campsites in its wilderness were illegal (too close to water or trails) with all the correlated damage. It has taken their constant annual efforts to find and repair these campsites, restore the surrounding wilderness and, through those efforts, to drive illegal campsite percentages down. Despite this effort in Yosemite, 35% of campsites continue to be illegal there. There is no measure of illegal campsites in the JMT wilderness except what is obvious to the eye in many places. Repair work is needed now, along with a long-term strategy. Only with constant labor and vigilance can the JMT wilderness be restored and protected from the escalating visitor traffic.

The Foundation’s board members John Dittli, Elizabeth Wenk and Cris Chater (“Strider”) have identified and mapped the most heavily-used campsites along the JMT Backcountry where visitors meet, pitch tents and spend time. Working with the federal land managers for cross-regional efficiencies and consistencies, the JMTF would like to fund immediate repairs and restoration work, focusing on the most urgent needs first. We can then go on to address long-term rehabilitation and conservancy strategies.

This effort must start incrementally and tactically, but is ultimately long-term, complicated and costly. We have suggested a pilot program to get repairs done at campsites along Blayney Hot Springs, the Piute Bridge intersection and at Wanda Lake just north of Muir Pass. These areas are in Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Park and are subject to particularly high-traffic and dense camping. They are urgent and provide a good start. We will keep you posted on our progress in organizing this effort.

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Protecting [ ] wilderness, its natural processes, and the renewable source of clean water for millions of downstream users, is inextricably linked to the management and rehabilitation of highly-used wilderness destinations.” (Yosemite National Park, 2018 Accomplishments, published on-line May 2019.) The John Muir Trail and its interconnecting trail network is the heart of that “highly-used wilderness” in California. With federal funds and resources inconsistent and dwindling, there has never been a region-wide plan for its management or rehabilitation.

A region approximately 220 miles long and 20 miles wide, the JMT backcountry is traversed by nearly 650 miles of trails across five federal land management units. It encompasses the backbone of the Sierra Nevada snowpack that serves 25 million people in their communities and businesses, and the agriculture, dairy and stock of the Central Valley. The comprehensive restoration and management of the JMT wilderness ecosystem is essential to the well-being of so much. It is long overdue.

The Foundation would like to repair and restore the adverse environmental changes at the high-use locations along the full length of the John Muir Trail network, including the main access trails and those leading to the re-supply sites. For decades, people have noticed illegal campsites and fire pits, rutted and branching trails, tracked meadows, poorly buried waste, and accumulating debris in an expanding human footprint. Non-native plants are appearing in meadows and forests. Water quality at the highest-level lakes is being effected. The data is daunting.

Yosemite National Park (only one of the five federal land management units along the JMT) reports that more than 50% of all campsites in its wilderness were illegal (too close to water or trails) with all the correlated damage. It has taken their constant annual efforts to find and repair these campsites, restore the surrounding wilderness and, through those efforts, to drive illegal campsite percentages down. Despite this effort in Yosemite, 35% of campsites continue to be illegal there. There is no measure of illegal campsites in the JMT wilderness except what is obvious to the eye in many places. Repair work is needed now, along with a long-term strategy. Only with constant labor and vigilance can the JMT wilderness be restored and protected from the escalating visitor traffic.

The Foundation’s board members John Dittli, Elizabeth Wenk and Cris Chater (“Strider”) have identified and mapped the most heavily-used campsites along the JMT Backcountry where visitors meet, pitch tents and spend time. Working with the federal land managers for cross-regional efficiencies and consistencies, the JMTF would like to fund immediate repairs and restoration work, focusing on the most urgent needs first. We can then go on to address long-term rehabilitation and conservancy strategies.

This effort must start incrementally and tactically, but is ultimately long-term, complicated and costly. We have suggested a pilot program to get repairs done at campsites along Blayney Hot Springs, the Piute Bridge intersection and at Wanda Lake just north of Muir Pass. These areas are in Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Park and are subject to particularly high-traffic and dense camping. They are urgent and provide a good start. We will keep you posted on our progress in organizing this effort.

VIEW ALL PROJECTS