Home page Questions or Comments? Home page

Background of Documents and Draft GMP Statements
that Affect Mineral King's Preservation

The April 2004 draft of the General Management plan often neglects the intent of national preservation laws including several of their important provisions:

1) The Organic Act of 1916 which created the National Park Service: “…to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations. "

2) The 1935 Historic Sites Act mandates duties to be performed by the National Park Service: collection of data, surveys, etc. that illustrate US history; carry out investigations and research; conduct educational programs; provide for funds; make cooperative agreements with other organizations and political bodies to restore, reconstruct, rehabilitate, preserve and maintain historic or prehistoric sites, buildings, and objects.

3) The National Historic Preservation Act of 1960: “Federal agencies are required by law to locate, inventory and nominate to the National Register historic properties in Federal ownership or control [and] also are responsible for preserving historic properties under their ownership or control and for assuring that any property that might qualify for inclusion in the National Register is not inadvertently transferred, sold, demolished, substantially altered or allowed to deteriorate significantly.”

4) The National Historic Preservation Act, 1966 as Amended through 1992: “The historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people; foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony ; administer federally owned, administered, or controlled prehistoric and historic resources in a spirit of stewardship; contribute to the preservation of nonfederally owned prehistoric and historic resources and give maximum encouragement to organizations and individuals undertaking preservation by private means."

5) Executive Order 11593, Protection and Enhancement of Cultural Environment, May 6. 1971: “Assure that any federally owned property that might qualify for nomination is not inadvertently transferred, sold, demolished or substantially altered; initiate measures and procedures to provide for the maintenance, through preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration, of federally owned and registered sites at professional standards; cooperate with purchasers and transferees of property listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the development of viable plans to use such property in a manner compatible with preservation objectives and which does not result in an unreasonable economic burden to public or private interests."

The preferred alternatives in the draft GMP reflect National Park Service policy statements that speak of cultural preservation:

1) National Park Service Strategic Plan of 1997: “The Mission of the NPS: The NPS preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation…Natural and cultural resources and associated sites are protected, restored and maintained in good condition and managed within their broader ecosystem and cultural context.

2) The current draft GMP reflects the same statements of park significance and park purpose as the 1997 plan:

a) Park Significance includes: “A wide spectrum of prehistoric and historic sites documenting human adaptations in their historic setting throughout the Sierran environments."

b) Mission Goals state: “Natural and cultural resources and associated values are protected, restored, and maintained in good condition and managed within their broader ecosystem and cultural context.”

c) Cultural management policies determine: “The qualities of historic structures and cultural landscapes that contribute to their actual listing [on the National Register of Historic Places] are protected in accordance with the ‘Secretary’s Standard’ unless it is determined through a formal process that disturbance or natural deterioration is unavoidable.”

d) Visitor Management Requirements: “New and remodeled buildings, outdoor developed areas and features are accessible to all visitors including those with disabilities, in compliance with federal standards…However, it may not be possible to make all sites or historic buildings accessible because the required changes would affect the integrity of the feature or historic structure. In these cases interpretive brochures or programs could help convey an experience to visitors.”

e) Commercial Services: “…are used to provide goods and services to visitors…and must be economically feasible, provide high quality visitor experiences while protecting natural, cultural and scenic resources.” Commercial services include leases, cooperative agreements and special use permits."

However, the draft GMP extracts management positions from portions of laws that omit cultural preservation guidelines or that enhance existing park policies:

1) The 1926 Act that enlarged Sequoia National Park: instructed the Secretary of Interior to establish regulations aimed at “…the freest use of the park for recreational purposes by the public …and preservation of said park in a state of nature.”

2) The 1935 Historic Sites Act: “It is a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States.”

3) Public Law 95-625 that brought the Mineral King Valley into the Park, Nov. 10, 1978: ignores the cultural resources of Mineral King, and directs the park only to “assure the outstanding natural and scenic features of the area.” It decrees the historic cabins be removed on the death of the permittee of record.

4) Public Law 99-338 along with Special Permit PWFA-SEKI-6000-095 which stipulates the four historic dams above Mineral King must be removed by the year 2006.

Proposed GMP management policies outside the Mineral King Historic District will also affect the valley:

1) 15,600 acres of the Mineral King area have been found “suitable for wilderness (except for the road corridor and present development).” Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River studies by the parks could lead to wilderness recommendations that will affect the lakes and trails out of Mineral King. (The park currently manages the area above 8,000 ft. as wilderness).

2) Removal of the four dams above the valley would affect historic resources, recreational opportunities and water flow into the valley.

a) A determination of eligibility submitted by Southern Consolidated Edison has determined the four dams above Mineral King are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic places. (Determination by the California State Historic Preservation Officer.)

b) A 1984 report on the impacts of hydroelectric facilities on park resources did not find their impacts to be significant. None-the-less, in 1986, Congress passed a law limiting the area’s hydroelectric leases to ten years. On or before the expiration of the current permit on October 8, 2006, Southern California Edison must cease operation of their Kaweah facilities and restore the affected areas to a “natural” state. This means tearing down the dams and hauling out the material which would turn the recreational lakes into ponds, thus eliminating major recreational sites and destroying significant historic cultural resources. “…the loss of public recreational uses such as camping near the Mineral King dams and fishing in the lakes…would result in moderate to major adverse long-term impacts on public use and enjoyment.” (Draft GMP Vol. II, p. 302).

c) The draft GMP environmental impact statement lists the dams as a hazard citing a failure of the dams could result in one cabin and the Cold Springs Campground being flooded.

3) Opportunities for stock use.

a) “Under the preferred alternative horses and other stock use would continue, with reasonable regulations and enhanced monitoring."

b) “Concession stables/corrals providing day and overnight trips would continue at Cedar Grove and Mineral King.”

c) “A ‘Preliminary Draft Franchise Fee/Feasibility Analysis of Current Saddle Horse Ride and Pack Stations’ (NPS 2004) indicates new or existing commercial pack station/stock ride operations might become increasingly infeasible without government-provided infrastructure, such as roads, utilities, and buildings. This is primarily due to rising insurance costs and projected costs for additional resource protection requirements, such as weed-free feed, waste removal, and equipment costs for waste removal.”

Several erroneous statements in the GMP need to be corrected:

Volume I:

1) Mineral King Special Use Permits (p. 25): “Recreation cabin use began under a now- discontinued Forest Service Program” should be changed to “Recreational cabin use began in the 1880s and was accelerated in the 1920’s –1950s under a now-discontinued Forest Service program.”

2) Management Alternatives, Visions: Mineral King (p. 68):Amend first sentence to read, “The Mineral King Valley represents an extraordinary and spectacular experience in the Sierra Nevada because of its unusual metamorphic geology and appearance and its unique historic cultural resources.”

3) Cultural Resources, Preferred Alternative (p. 194): Strike “(Hydroelectric facilities are a special permitted use that is not related to parks’ purpose and significance.)” All historic structures are related to park’s purpose and significance.

4) Under “Silver City and Kaweah Hahn” (p.38 ): The Mineral King road was not built in the 1930s as stated. It has essentially the same configuration it had when it was built in 1879, especially within park boundaries.

Volume II:

5) Mineral King Private Properties (p. 69): “Trailhead parking is located on one tract, as well as two cabins with 99-year leases” is incorrect. Change wording to: “Trailhead parking is located on one tract as well as one private cabin maintained by a non-profit organization and a second cabin holding a 99-year lease.”

6) Opportunities for Traditional Recreational Experience (p. 272) Fishing: “The National Park Service would continue to restore native populations and eliminate nonnative species.” The program in Mineral King is not defined.

7) Transportation: Traffic Estimates on the Mineral King Road (p. 241): The Mineral King Road estimates need to be checked due to inaccuracy of counts in recent years.

More Opinion and Commentary