Claire Freeman: Reflecting on the Sierra Nevada
As we reflect on Earth Day, it would be worthwhile to stop and appreciate the Sierra Nevada.
It is the enormous towering snow-capped mountain range down the eastern flank of California, visible from space. Just look over your shoulder while driving on Highway 99, Interstate 5 or Highway 395 on the Nevada side. We regularly fly over it, barely taking note out the cabin windows. Many of us have visited parts to hike, alpine ski, float on a lake, climb a peak or cast a fly rod on a river’s riffle. Its snowpack is the birthplace of California’s magnificent rivers and vast aquifers that give life to our state. The Sierra Nevada is truly the wellspring of our agriculture and community water supply, as well as a spectacular place for outdoor recreation.
Broad public access was assured to the central Sierra when the John Muir Trail was cut through its highest crest, connecting an expansive network of ancient indigenous trails and trading routes, summer paths for sheep grazing, stock routes for miners and the U.S. Cavalry, and routes plotted by Sierra Club explorers. Today, the recreational access has broken on the Sierra Nevada’s slopes like a rising tsunami.
Let’s all acknowledge the uniqueness of this region, part of one of the globe’s 30 “biodiversity hotspots” where animals and plants of tremendous variety thrive. We all need to acknowledge its inherent value as wilderness, its deep historical connection to indigenous peoples, and its central role in our national conservation movement.
Help us care for and restore these complex and sensitive ecosystems throughout the Sierra Nevada. Return your campsites to their natural states. Pack out any trash, even if it’s not yours. Never camp on or trample our lush green meadows and vibrant riverbanks. Be especially respectful of all water sources; they should be left unsullied, absolutely pure, and clean. Leave no trace of your presence, so that the wilderness, wildlife and waters will be there for people to enjoy in the centuries to come.
If we all do our part, we can make a big difference.
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