I responded to Sheriff Mims’ and KMJ’s Ray Appleton’s notifications of the Town Hall Meeting concerning the plans for removing public access to the lands designated within the nine national parks due to two endangered species — the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog and the Yosemite Toad.
The Auberry Tea Party and Defend Rural America organized the meeting.
More than 500 people attended inside the auditorium and more waited outside to prove their concern on this issue. Speakers were Mims; Kirk MacKenzie, Defend Rural America; Steve Brink, forest consultant; and Appleton.
Many people had questions for Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson and the speakers. I helped at the information booth and my husband helped clean up; we could see the presenters needed some help because donations were coming in to help pay for the program and to fund a future fight for Fresno’s response.
The issue was that the Federal Register had posted a proposal to shut down two million acres of national forest lands; this would affect 14 counties [including parts of Madera County] and nine national parks. All public access above 4,500 feet elevation would be closed in order to save the Yellow Legged Frog and our very own Yosemite Toad.
Apparently, they are being affected by a fungus that is being carried upstream by another frog, the Pacific Chorus. So in order to save these frogs and toads, all that was basically proposed was to close access to all public.
June 24 was the deadline set to respond on the proposal to Jan Knight of the Fish and Wildlife Service Office in Sacramento.
Apparently, this plan slipped under the radar for our community, our local businesses, and our public officials. I am sounding this alarm as a Paulette Revere, but this plan would be devastating to our community. We rely so much on tourism as a sales tax base, our local jobs that provide services, and of course our lifestyle of visiting the mountain roads or trails on foot or horseback through our forests. There will be no more above-ground water development and improvements, and of course it would affect our electrical supply.
The loss of grazing rights for our cattlemen and cattlewomen, loss of mining rights, and loss of lumber industry would hit our economic base again. The spotted owl closed North Fork. This will devastate the community of Oakhurst and the economy of our county.
We have had, as of June 21, notifications that six congressman jumped on board to petition for a longer comment period of an additional 90 days. [Congressman Tom] McClintock and [Rep. Devin] Nunes were on that list. Our Congressman, Jim Costa, did not petition. I assume he and his staff is apparently unaware (although I knew about it) or he is choosing to wait again before he helps the different counties’ economic base that he represents.
It is important to respond correctly. On June 20, I notified local chambers and Bobby Kahn of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, of the map and the proper letter headings to respond to this threat to many of our communities’ livelihoods. I encourage people to join in and respond to my effort. If one letter comes from the Board of Supervisors, that is considered 1 voice. If 1,000 voices from the community is heard, that is 1,000 voices.
We need to fund a community response, too. Why? Because there are 598 other species that also will be proposed. If we do not prepare, we will not have a tax base to support us, and we will be saying hello to our community food banks handing out canned carrots from China in order to support our hungry community members.
This happened to Firebaugh in 2010, it could happen now to the rest of our county.