3,347 Acre Donation to Tahoe National Forest Added to Granite Chief Wilderness

Steven Agar |
granite chief wilderness, tahoe, california, arc, donation
Area acquired by ARC, and area subsequently donated to Tahoe National Forest. Credit: tahoeweekly

Within the last month the American River Conservancy (ARC) have donated 3,347 acres of land to the Tahoe National Forest, who made it part of the Granite Chief Wilderness, located west of Lake Tahoe.

granite chief wilderness, tahoe, california, arc, donation
Granite Chief Wilderness. Credit: ramblinghemlock

Designated as a wilderness area in 1984 to protect its natural beauty, the Granite Chief Wilderness encompasses glacier carved valleys, red fir forests, granite formations, and pristine mountain meadows. The area is served by a substantial trail system used by both hikers and horse riders.

granite chief wilderness, tahoe, california, arc, donation
Old logging roads will be indistinguishable from the surrounding forest within 8 years. Credit: tahoeweekly

Two years ago ‘The Wilderness Campaign’ raised $10m in order to acquire the 10,115 acres of land, and another $800k to decommission old logging roads and restore native trout streams. Just last summer, 26 miles of old logging roads were destroyed, as well as 57 culverts and 2 bridges, in order to restore mountain meadows and native trout streams. The ‘footprint of man’ was removed from the entire 3,347 acres. Eight months later the slopes of all logging roads had been restored to natural gradients, small conifer seedlings had sprouted, and ARC expects these areas will be indistinguishable from adjoining forest within 7-8 years.

granite chief wilderness, tahoe, california, arc, donation
Granite Chief Wilderness. Credit: wikipedia

This restoration work allowed the Tahoe National Forest to declare this landscape wilderness-eligible, accept title and append these 3,347 acres to the Granite Chief Wilderness, all within two years of ARC’s acquisition.

Much of the land within the Tahoe National Forest is privately owned. As an incentive to build the railroad, Central Pacific Railroad received every other section of land on either side of the railroad. This resulted in an unusual ownership pattern, looking much like a checkerboard. Over the years, in an effort to consolidate National Forest as well as to acquire land rich in wildlife, recreation, and watershed values, the Forest Service has had an active land exchange/acquisition program.

ARC still retains the other 6,800 acres of forested land, and embarked on a three-year restoration project to gently thin the rest of this forest from below. They removed small trees and other ladder fuels to increase fire resiliency, aid the retention of old growth trees, and protect native trout streams, mountain meadows and wildlife species diversity. Miraculously, these 6,800 acres of forest were left unscathed by the major fires of the previous few years.

granite chief wilderness, tahoe, california, arc, donation, meadow
7-acre meadow following 2016 restoration. Credit: tahoeweekly

Already, this project has preserved an iconic part of the Sierra Nevada which is prime habitat for black bear, American marten, goshawk, song birds, native trout and spectacular mountain meadows filled with sierra lily, columbine, giant mountain larkspur and legions of butterflies.

Since 1989, the ARC have been preserving rivers and land for life. As a non-profit community organization in the central Sierra Nevada foothills, they work to preserve natural areas and cultural resources and build an enduring ethic of care, building a sustainable future for humans in harmony with nature.

Related Articles

Got an opinion? Let us know...