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Pro and Con on Use of High Sierra Land

March 20, 1988

In your story "Linking of Ski Area Has Highest Priority" (Feb. 21), Pam Murphy is quoted as saying, "the ridge (San Joaquin Ridge) is currently high-use timber management land."

Ms. Murphy seems to be implying that ski development and the San Joaquin Ridge, based on "current" management, will have little visual or biological effect (as compared with the destructiveness of high-level timber management).

Ms. Murphy is correct in her implication: Road building, "clear-cutting" forests and the associated visual and biological disturbances are common to both high-level timber management and ski area development. However, Ms. Murphy is mistaken. Current Forest Service management does not allow timber harvest in the San Joaquin Ridge area.

The entire forest on San Joaquin Ridge has never had the silence of its pristine depths shattered by a commercial ax or chain saw. This area, targeted by ski developers, is one of the last uncut, dark and majestic red fir forests in the Sierra Nevada outside the protection of a national park. In fact, at its inception in 1890, Yosemite National Park's boundary included the entire San Joaquin Ridge!

It is a fact of life that the town of Mammoth Lakes draws a large percentage of its dollars from the pockets of skiers. It is also a fact that our summer economy and the majority of tourism is based on dispersed recreation--on visitors who seek natural, undeveloped vistas and a healthy environment in which to recreate.

As a compromise, future ski expansion should be allowed to develop, as use demands, within the existing Mammoth and June Lake ski areas. Even this development will result in damage to valuable wildlife habitat, views, watershed, soils and old-growth timber. However, a compromise of this sort must be made to afford maximum protection of the irreplaceable and the maximum development of the developable.

LARRY FREILICH

Bishop, Calif.

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