Representatives from Trout Unlimited and California Trout held an open house at the Markleeville Library last Wednesday.
The discussion centered around a proposal to designate approximately seven miles of the Upper Truckee River and 25 miles of its tributaries, including Meiss, Round, Dardanelles, Showers, Four Lakes, as a Wild River in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
More than a dozen locals showed up to ask questions and voice opinions about the plan.
Currently the area is federally owned. The Forest Service is required to identify, study, and recommend Wild & Scenic Rivers in the land and resource planning process, which occurs every ten years.
The Forest Service recommended Wild & Scenic status for the Upper Truckee in 1998. A coalition of conservation, recreation, and business interests, including Trout Unlimited and California Trout, are spearheading the proposal to Congress for the designation.
Some questions from Alpine County residents were directed at the need for a federal agency that already owns and manages the area to have another level of management super-imposed.
The response was that the wild & scenic designation locks in a level of management of the protected stream. There would never be a road or building or motorized vehicles in the area.
Residents pointed out that the area is already designated as road-less and motorized vehicles are prohibited. The only buildings on the property are the Meiss cabin and barn, built in 1887 and already classified as an historic site.
David Lass of Trout Unlimited said, "We have a world-class fishing area for the Lahontan cut throat trout and we want to preserve it."
Residents agree that we have a world-class fishing area and wonder what more regulations would actually accomplish.
More questions and concerns came from residents who have witnessed federal management of our lands that have not been beneficial to our county. Grazing and timber rights have been withdrawn from the public, many times to the detriment of our forest and many times to the fiscal detriment of our residents. The fish-poisoning and mishaps have been costly errors in judgment.
Lass explained that the California Wild Heritage Trout Challenge uses Alpine County rivers for its contest, bringing business to our area.
One local supervisor reminded Lass that since Lake Tahoe has more amenities, visiting fishermen/women often stay there instead of Markleeville.
Another Alpine resident supports the proposal because the additional regulations would be a barrier to developing public lands: national and state parks being a unique and beneficial aspect of the United States. Perhaps more and more legislation is also a part of that aspect.
Others countered: No; if it is not broken then don't fix it.
The fiscal side of the designation is a concern for some residents. The cost of the legislation may seem an insignificant amount, yet our budget deficit is affected by all spending. Lass added that the designation would allow extra dollars to be spent on the area, which brought mixed reactions: more money coming from the government and the need to protect our resources.
Locals who use the wilderness told stories of packing out bags and bags of garbage from the careless public. The nightmare of finding human waste along the rivers haunts all of us.
On that issue, there is consensus: all individuals need to act respectfully in our National Forest areas.
For more information concerning the potential designation of the Upper Truckee River contact: