Truckee & North Lake Tahoe's Independent Newspaper | Tahoe News | Tahoe Music | Tahoe Events

Granite Chief Wilderness: Let’s Be Responsible

Reads 2319 Comments 0 Printer-friendly versionprint Send by emailemail


(Editors Note: Lauren Heagerty is the daughter of Daniel Heagerty, who is the director of the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League.)

My grandfather built our family cabin in Bear Creek, Alpine Meadows, in 1963. My great-grandfather rebuilt the Squaw Valley Lodge for Mr. Paulson in time for the 1960 Olympics. I was carried up to Five Lakes and Granite Chief Wilderness by my dad before I was old enough to hike on my own.

I have been hiking the Five Lakes and Granite Chief Wilderness for almost 30 years. Every year I return to these areas and feel a sense of peace there. John Muir’s words about the High Sierra capture it wholly: “In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world — the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.”

The Five Lakes were originally protected in the early 1960s by Huey Johnson of the Nature Conservancy. Huey bought the land from a private party and then handed it to the Forest Service, so it could be permanently protected for the public. In the 1980s, these lakes and the larger Granite Chief land were designated as wilderness, securing even broader protection from human development.

We thought these lands were saved. Protected in perpetuity. But they are once again threatened by private interests, vulnerable to profit-driven development.

The proposed Squaw-to-Alpine gondola would outright endanger the protection of the Granite Chief Wilderness and the delicate Five Lakes ecosystem. The proposed gondola cuts through a wilderness boundary that was designated by Congress. It would permanently deface and diminish the long-cherished extraordinary value of the area.  

A particularly egregious and harmful aspect of the gondola idea is a large concrete and steel load/unload mid-way station, which would be built where an endangered frog species currently lives. This station would destroy existing frogs and permanently ruin a habitat determined (by law) to be “critical for the species survival.”

The idea that these wilderness areas may not be fully protected is heartbreaking. I see this gondola proposal as stealing the sanctity of the Granite Chief area. How could the legal acts and noble proclamations of past generations end up as broken promises? How could we knowingly discard a wilderness to accommodate private profit?

Stunning and pristine areas such as these are what the Sierra is all about, inspiring and energizing generations of hikers. We must stand and fight for our sacred places, as John Muir did, as my family does, as my children will. These lands hold for us a gateway to a greater understanding of life and ourselves in the world. These special areas will be the great gifts we give our future generations. We must recognize that there are precious few landscapes left for the benefit of the future. Let’s hold on to this one.

~ Lauren Heagerty works for Nike and has hiked the Five Lakes and Granite Chief trails since she was 5. Find her “on the granite” on any given summer day.

By creating and using an account on Moonshine Ink, you are agreeing to our user terms and submissions policy. Read the complete terms and policy.

Don't Miss the Next Edition

Edition First-Round Deadline Drop-Dead Deadline
June 14 to July 11 May 25 June 1
July 12 to Aug. 8 June 22 June 29

About Opinion

The Opinion Page is your place to spout off. This section contains letters to the editor and longer My Shot pieces. Also, the Spout features two bimonthly perspectives — In the Past, delving into Tahoe Truckee history, and In the Moment, an artistic musing of a moment today.

Subscribe to the feed

Latest Tweets @moonshineink

  • The Grocery Outlet development in Truckee awaits approval tonight, as the planning commission votes on whether or n… 2 months 4 weeks ago
  • Concerned about growth in Truckee? Tune in to discussion on the Town's updates to its 2040 General Plan at 6 p.m. h… 3 months 6 days ago
  • Local developer overlooked twice on the Kings Beach Center development claims lack of county transparency. Placer… 3 months 1 week ago

Look for the latest Moonshine Ink issue on newsstands now.

Look for the latest issue in newsstands now.

Or subscribe and enjoy it hot off the press in your mailbox.

May 10, 2018