The Wild Emigrant: Cows, Dams, and Damn Mosquitoes

By René Voss

RenéSo now I know why people came up with the idea of aerial spraying DDT to kill pesky bugs ... like the thousands of mosquitoes that attacked me over the summer solstice in the Emigrant Wilderness.  Relentless beasts!

 

As I was walking out of the Wilderness I struck an interesting conversation with a fellow hiker who was local and had been visiting the Emigrant Wilderness for over 50 years.  He said he had seen many changes since he first started hiking there as a kid.  His name was Larry.  I know this because he was wearing a "Larry" belt buckle ... local for sure.

 

Larry was happy to report that someone caught a golden trout in one of the lakes recently, which surprised me because goldens are only native in the Sequoia National Forest.  So they must be remnants from stocking or someone is still stocking trout there (likely remnant).  He missed the days when you could cast a line in Long Lake and catch 10 trout in an hour at any time of day.  But of course the federal and state authorities have stopped stocking the brooks and rainbows because they have literally wiped out most populations of mountain yellow-legged frogs, which are now listed as endangered with lots of designated critical habitat, including in the Emigrant.  I asked Larry when the Wilderness was created and he said 1971, so I was surprised that I found a hand-writted inscription in concrete in a small dam that was repaired by a trail crew in 1983.  Larry thought that it was a repair and that most of the dams in the Wilderness were built in the '30s, and that now they are just being left to fall apart on their own.  According to a story Larry had heard from a friend, the Stanislaus NF used to have a backcountry ranger whose job was to patrol the Emigrant.  His friend asked the district office whether the Forest Service was now dismantling the old dams.  The Forest Service official said they were not but were just letting them fall apart naturally over the seasons.  So his friend showed the official a video of the backcountry ranger tearing down one of the rock dams by hand.  Apparently the Forest Service did not give him an award for Wilderness stewardship and instead transferred the individual out of the district.
 
Lucky for me I missed the cow season, even though I saw lots of evidence of cattle, even a thousand feet up my ascent of Granite Dome.  There were cow patties in all the meadows, and some of the trails in the meadow were likely from the cows.  According to Larry, the ranchers drive the cattle into the Wilderness after July 1.  Maybe that's what all the mosquitos are waiting for, and they mistook me and my fellow hikers for cows.  Some of the many meadows, all wet, are apparently really good for fattening up cows.  Larry thought the Forest Service regulates the ranchers well and monitors the stubble height of the grass or whatever else the cows eat so it doesn't get below 5 inches.  Most of the grass wasn't even that high yet, and it was June 25.
 
Apparently there used to be many wooden signs in the Wilderness that told hikers how far it was to get to certain lakes, similar to the Yosemite backcountry, but the Forest Service removed those a few years ago because they were "unsightly," according to Larry.  But navigation was not an issue as there was a single sign at each of the trail intersections telling hikers they were on the right path.  There were lots of birds in the high country, and some were very tame and let me approach or even approached me, like the black yellow and grey warbler that seemed to want to check me out.  I even heard a few frogs on my second night, which was encouraging.
 
So, cows, dams, fish stocking, and endangered amphibians are the issues here.  But otherwise, the trees were stunning, the landscape was pristine, and glorious Wilderness survives in the Emigrant.

 

Emigrant Wilderness René Voss

 


René is an attorney who serves as treasurer on Wilderness Watch's board of directors.

 

 

Wilderness Experienced: Cumberland Island
Wolf Sightings, Bear-Baiting, and Landing Strips: ...
 

Comments 36

Guest - Dave Potter on Tuesday, 08 September 2020 11:58

As I briefly mentioned in my first comment, I implore all of us that talk about saving nature and protecting its critters: use the one really powerful action we "little people" have. I can tell you if you check out the environmental record of this administration and the statements of the other candidate you will know whom to support. Every one of us must vote. I speak as a retired, senior natural resources field manager. Inputs from the public carry weight, usually! [But not with this administration.]

As I briefly mentioned in my first comment, I implore all of us that talk about saving nature and protecting its critters: use the one really powerful action we "little people" have. I can tell you if you check out the environmental record of this administration and the statements of the other candidate you will know whom to support. Every one of us must vote. I speak as a retired, senior natural resources field manager. Inputs from the public carry weight, usually! [But not with this administration.]
Guest - James Morrison on Sunday, 06 September 2020 14:51

Glad to see that some parts of the Wilderness is doing well. Just keep man and development out of the Nature Preserves.

Glad to see that some parts of the Wilderness is doing well. Just keep man and development out of the Nature Preserves.
Guest - Dave Potter on Saturday, 05 September 2020 16:53

Cattle in wilderness areas = cow pies in the meadows where you need to pitch your tent. Flies all around and trampled, broken down creek banks = dirty, polluted [manure] water. Yes, get cows out and to do this vote in a new administration.

Cattle in wilderness areas = cow pies in the meadows where you need to pitch your tent. Flies all around and trampled, broken down creek banks = dirty, polluted [manure] water. Yes, get cows out and to do this vote in a new administration.
Guest - Erma Lewis on Friday, 04 September 2020 13:17

We must standup and protect all living creatures, as well as, the planet we live on.

We must standup and protect all living creatures, as well as, the planet we live on.
Guest - Van Clothier on Friday, 04 September 2020 12:20

Get cattle off public lands already!

Get cattle off public lands already!
Guest - david a knightly on Friday, 04 September 2020 11:20

We are all mandated to save not destroy the Earth & the inhabitants the Earth hosts. We need to promote these innocent lives by keeping our wild areas as wild as possible & by keeping OUT aggressive humans whose intent is to destroy all with their greed. Keep vigilant. Keep saving our animal species.

We are all mandated to save not destroy the Earth & the inhabitants the Earth hosts. We need to promote these innocent lives by keeping our wild areas as wild as possible & by keeping OUT aggressive humans whose intent is to destroy all with their greed. Keep vigilant. Keep saving our animal species.
Guest - Nancy Thompson on Friday, 04 September 2020 10:27

I am a Western Upstate New York native originally and still am in my heart, but moved to Central Florida about 14 years ago, in part for the wildlife here. The first thing I did was buy a Florida Audubon book because I wanted to understand the environment here and the wildlife. The biggest thing that struck me like a Mac truck after moving here was the blatant ignorance of Florida's environment by just about every person here, native or not. They literally don't know anything about where they live, or vacation and seem dumbstruck and at times annoyed by learning something new. It's not like it was many years ago when we had to depend on limited availability of information. We have the internet and education at our fingertips these days, yet most people seem to walk around with blinders on and are content in ignorance and apathy. I'm afraid I don't understand that. The politics here are horrendous and in my county they seem hellbent on wiping out everything as fast as they can. I refer to them as Nature Nazis. i have seen a huge decline in wildlife populations in just a few short years. We had builders here that murdered 11 River Otters and our county and state government did nothing. The connection to the story here is that "Larry" strikes me as being like much of the public in general, "Well it's like this and they do that and there isn't anything we can do about it and I don't know anything about it and I don't want to know anything about it because if I do, then I might have to do something about it. Ignorance is bliss and besides, there are plenty of tree huggers out there that will take care of it for us, so we don't have to do anything." Yes, Larry seemed to be stating facts, but they are facts that are accepted as the norm, instead of being appalling. He is representing a majority of the population. Wilderness is wilderness and cow pies, chomped down grass, introduced species (a huge problem in Florida), etc. are not part of that! I am with the rest of you on this. We understand this is major issue. I guess the question is, "How do you get the rest of the people, the Larrys and general population to give a damn about any of this enough to change the behavior? Many corporations wouldn't be able to do this without our consumerism. Many people don't understand, perhaps by choice, the connections between what they are doing and what is happening to our planet. How do we change that attitude of indifference, apathy and ignorance by choice?

I am a Western Upstate New York native originally and still am in my heart, but moved to Central Florida about 14 years ago, in part for the wildlife here. The first thing I did was buy a Florida Audubon book because I wanted to understand the environment here and the wildlife. The biggest thing that struck me like a Mac truck after moving here was the blatant ignorance of Florida's environment by just about every person here, native or not. They literally don't know anything about where they live, or vacation and seem dumbstruck and at times annoyed by learning something new. It's not like it was many years ago when we had to depend on limited availability of information. We have the internet and education at our fingertips these days, yet most people seem to walk around with blinders on and are content in ignorance and apathy. I'm afraid I don't understand that. The politics here are horrendous and in my county they seem hellbent on wiping out everything as fast as they can. I refer to them as Nature Nazis. i have seen a huge decline in wildlife populations in just a few short years. We had builders here that murdered 11 River Otters and our county and state government did nothing. The connection to the story here is that "Larry" strikes me as being like much of the public in general, "Well it's like this and they do that and there isn't anything we can do about it and I don't know anything about it and I don't want to know anything about it because if I do, then I might have to do something about it. Ignorance is bliss and besides, there are plenty of tree huggers out there that will take care of it for us, so we don't have to do anything." Yes, Larry seemed to be stating facts, but they are facts that are accepted as the norm, instead of being appalling. He is representing a majority of the population. Wilderness is wilderness and cow pies, chomped down grass, introduced species (a huge problem in Florida), etc. are not part of that! I am with the rest of you on this. We understand this is major issue. I guess the question is, "How do you get the rest of the people, the Larrys and general population to give a damn about any of this enough to change the behavior? Many corporations wouldn't be able to do this without our consumerism. Many people don't understand, perhaps by choice, the connections between what they are doing and what is happening to our planet. How do we change that attitude of indifference, apathy and ignorance by choice?
Guest - Christopher Tumolo on Friday, 04 September 2020 05:26

Thank you for keeping us up to date. We need far more protections for wildlife!

Thank you for keeping us up to date. We need far more protections for wildlife!
Guest - Christopher F. on Friday, 04 September 2020 05:21

So when Joni Ernst praises Trump for deregulating farmers who pollute our waterways, this place is now threatened, correct?

So when Joni Ernst praises Trump for deregulating farmers who pollute our waterways, this place is now threatened, correct?
Guest - Philip Ratcliff (website) on Thursday, 03 September 2020 22:17

I remember the cattle I encountered while hiking to Scout Carson Lake, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The herd muddied the streams, and left manure in the open spaces. The cows tramped the streamside bushes. Most worrisome, the herd included a big bull. The cattle were not far from the trail on one hike, and the bull was standing at the edge of the herd. He was staring at me as I walked by, in the open. There was nowhere to take cover, if that thing had charged.

I remember the cattle I encountered while hiking to Scout Carson Lake, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The herd muddied the streams, and left manure in the open spaces. The cows tramped the streamside bushes. Most worrisome, the herd included a big bull. The cattle were not far from the trail on one hike, and the bull was standing at the edge of the herd. He was staring at me as I walked by, in the open. There was nowhere to take cover, if that thing had charged.
Guest - Lucy Flanagan on Thursday, 03 September 2020 21:24

Loved this story -“primary research”!

Loved this story -“primary research”!
Guest - James Salkas on Thursday, 03 September 2020 20:22

Now says, no good deed goes unpunished.

Now says, no good deed goes unpunished.
Guest - Jean Tabin on Thursday, 03 September 2020 20:01

Thanks for the story and for all that you do.

Thanks for the story and for all that you do.
Guest - Marian on Thursday, 03 September 2020 18:16

I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for this and please
continue these kinds of information stories.

I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for this and please continue these kinds of information stories.
Guest - Marietta Scaltrito on Thursday, 03 September 2020 17:41

We are supposed to be Caretakers of our natural resources, including our precious wildlife. Yet those in power continue to exploit both for man's unending greed and indifference. Man alone is responsible for the destruction of air, water, land and wildlife - Rich and powerful companies continue to destroy our lands, wildlife and ultimately us. Soon there will be nothing to save - our gifts gone!!

We are supposed to be Caretakers of our natural resources, including our precious wildlife. Yet those in power continue to exploit both for man's unending greed and indifference. Man alone is responsible for the destruction of air, water, land and wildlife - Rich and powerful companies continue to destroy our lands, wildlife and ultimately us. Soon there will be nothing to save - our gifts gone!!
Guest - Thomas Filip on Thursday, 03 September 2020 17:26

great stuff, Rene-makes me wish I was there as well. keep it coming!

great stuff, Rene-makes me wish I was there as well. keep it coming!
Guest - Maggie Frazier on Thursday, 03 September 2020 16:48

Good article - both sad & uplifting. And I feel the same about livestock in our Wilderness Areas and in our National Forests. Killing off native animals - then pasturing domestic livestock in places they have no right to be. Yes, these wonderful places need to be protected and the wildlife that lives there.

Good article - both sad & uplifting. And I feel the same about livestock in our Wilderness Areas and in our National Forests. Killing off native animals - then pasturing domestic livestock in places they have no right to be. Yes, these wonderful places need to be protected and the wildlife that lives there.
Guest - Tracey Bonner on Thursday, 03 September 2020 16:28

American Citizens deserve better and OUR voices need to be heard above the destructive nature of Greedy Corporations and rampant Ignorance. Keep the cows OUT of the Wilderness!

We ALL need to protect these extraordinary places and ALL WILDLIFE who inhabit these places, in order to remain connected to this earth, it is not only about the salvation of the planet, but it is also about the salvation of ourselves.

Save the Endangered Species Act!!!

American Citizens deserve better and OUR voices need to be heard above the destructive nature of Greedy Corporations and rampant Ignorance. Keep the cows OUT of the Wilderness! We ALL need to protect these extraordinary places and ALL WILDLIFE who inhabit these places, in order to remain connected to this earth, it is not only about the salvation of the planet, but it is also about the salvation of ourselves. Save the Endangered Species Act!!!
Guest - Ellie McGuire on Thursday, 03 September 2020 15:51

Let's keep our natural spaces natural and wild!!! No grazing in the wilderness!

Let's keep our natural spaces natural and wild!!! No grazing in the wilderness!
Guest - Charles Clusen on Thursday, 03 September 2020 15:37

I hiked in Labor Day weekend 1971 before Congressional action on the Designation bill to see the old mining claims up against the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. They drove an old bulldozer back and forth blew up a few sticks of dynamite to do required assessment work for the mining claims. Then they partied. What a bad joke of a system.

I hiked in Labor Day weekend 1971 before Congressional action on the Designation bill to see the old mining claims up against the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park. They drove an old bulldozer back and forth blew up a few sticks of dynamite to do required assessment work for the mining claims. Then they partied. What a bad joke of a system.
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