The meeting room was filed to overflowing last night, more chairs set up and another section opened up as over 200 people poured into the Senior Center for the Forest Service meeting discussing the future of access around Lake Isabella and the surrounding mountains.
Forest Supervisor Tina Terrel opened the meeting and asked if the public had any questions. It was soon apparent the public could spend the two and a half hours the Sequoia Forest had allotted for the meeting just with questions and comments.
The audience were polite, but insistent the Sequoia Forest Service stop limiting public access.
Sequoia Forest ID Team Leader Chris Sanders made a powerpoint presentation during which many in the audience called out stop closing our public lands.
Supervisor Terrel stated this is just the “starting point” for their plan, but in reality this is the last opportunity the public will have to make a comment and from those comments the Forest Service will finalize their plan in just two months.
The public comment deadline is 3/31/09 leaving the public seven days to read the 600 page DIES plan, unless the Forest Service extends the deadline.
Hands flew up when the floor was again opened for questions
Many asked why are you closing our public lands? Another stated, you have never done anything to improve
the Lake Area but you want to close it? Fish & Game Habitat Club pointed out if access is reduced how will they be able to continue the fish habitat improvement programs their volunteers have been performing for 23 years?
The Sequoia staff responded by asking the public to tell them where they want continued access and this was quickly greeting with a resounding EVERYWHERE.
The Forest Service showed maps and aerial views around from around the Lake showing the routes and areas the public currently use all around the Lake. Forest Staff cautioned, some of these areas and routes are not included in the current plan. Sequoia staff asked people to tell them specific locations and routes they use so the Forest Service can possibly add them to the plan. One attendee noted, it was clear the Sequoia Forest Service already knows the public enjoys all the areas around the lake as it can be seen from space, so why does the public need to tell them?
When asked to go to the maps and put circles around the areas the public uses many people called out put a circle around the whole lake, triggering huge applause.
In an effort to help the Sequoia Forest Service be transparent in showing the public want they propose to close, Chris Horgan Executive Director of Stewards of the Sequoia showed Inventory maps made by the Sequoia Forest Service for each of the four areas Lake Isabella, Greenhorn, Breckenridge and Piutes included in the Sequoia Forest plan. These particular maps showed all the trails including hundreds of miles of trails proposed for closure marked in red. Over 300 miles of roads proposed for closure around the Lake were shown in red. These maps can be seen at
A sea of hands answered Mr. Horgan when he asked if the audience wanted the Sequoia Forest Service to keep all the trails shown on the Forest Inventory maps open.
He then held up the Sequoia Forest No Action Alternative maps which are supposed to show all the existing trails and asked if the audience saw any difference compared to the Inventory maps still being held up. The audience shouted most of the trails are missing.
Supervisor Terrel noted several times she would only take two more questions, but the questions kept coming and to her credit she kept taking them.
Ron Benoit of Isabella Bodfish Homeowners group asked Supervisor Terrel if it was true this new plan would trigger a new regulation allowing dispersed camping only one car length from the few roads the Forest Service now proposes to keep open. The Supervisor said this was true. Mr. Benoit pointed out the water level around the Lake changes, and the few roads would not necessarily be at the water side and this would mean an end to lakeside camping.
Members of the audience pointed out this plan would eliminate the lakeside access many people live here to enjoy while fishing, camping, boating or windsurfing and it would destroy what is left of our economy.
The Forest Plan only goes down to the high water mark, yet the water may not be at high level for at least ten years because of the Corp of Engineers Dam Project, which means the public might have no Lake Access for ten years.
Others pointed out they are willing to pay the new fees if they can enjoy all access, but not if the Forest Service eliminates any access.
Local resident and retired school teacher Nate Sciacqua pointed out the trails in the Mountains and around the lake were made by the public as they access important places over the decades. If the public had waited for the Forest Service to build each road or trail they would have been denied access to the places the public wants to enjoy on their public lands. Each trail has a purpose, these are not unauthorized trails as the Forest Service calls them. They are trails the Forest Service just has not yet designated.
Besides the current Forest Service Plan there are new fees, a ban on trout stocking even though the species it is supposed to protect is not endangered, as well as a proposal to add Lake Isabella/Kern River to the list on Impaired Water bodies due to ash from the fires. It is clear any one of these will be extremely harmful to the local economy and way of life. Together they spell total disaster for the community of Lake Isabella.
The public has been asked to submit comments to the Forest Service on the Route Designation Plan and they should.
An easy way to submit comments has been made available by Save The Trails at
Letters submitted using the above link will also be delivered to legislators
While it seems likely legislators agree with the need to keep all existing access please call them so they will know how the public feels about the proposed closures, restrictions and how they will effect the community.
Please call an ask them to help stop the closure of the trails in the Mountains and around the Lake:
Congressman McCarthy’s office (661) 327-3611
Senator Roy Ashburn (661) 323-0443
Assemblymember Fuller (661) 395-2995
Kern County Board of Supervisors (661) 868-3650
Stewards of the Sequoia
Division of CTUC 501c3