“I believe we have a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”
– Howard Zahniser, principal author of the Wilderness Act.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 took eight years to create, enduring 18 Congressional hearings and 66–yes, 66–drafts. There lies a precious piece of land that was set aside to be protected from man’s self-interests. A land of quiet and beauty, unspoiled and sacred. A land rare in 1964 and far rarer today. A land that is our obligation to protect, for persons and wildlife of a future with far fewer choices. A natural resource lodged in the Public Trust.
The Granite Chief Wilderness was established 1984 by Congress and the State of California (read the California Wilderness Act of 1984 here). The boundary for the Granite Chief Wilderness Area was hardly a mistake. The “eastern boundary line” extended into the Southern Pacific lands to include the ‘Great Wall,’ the vertical granite wall that acts as a natural buffer for the Five Lakes. The public agencies tried to acquire that land to fulfill the wish of Congress to achieve permanent protection of the land, but agency offers were rebuffed.
Five Lakes receives a reported 30,000 visitors a year now, and is the 2nd most popular trail in Northern California. The Five Lakes Trail is permanently protected by a federal easement that was in place decades before the current landowner bought the property from Southern Pacific. The heavy use of Five Lakes is only limited by the 2.5 mile hike in, over steep sections of trail and a little more effort required than (typically) expected.
A gondola would be contrary to the intent of the Wilderness laws. Visual impacts, industrial noise, greatly increased human access and permanent scarring of the landscape would diminish a great Public Trust Asset, the Granite Chief Wilderness Area. Wilderness Areas by definition are to be visited but not disturbed or degraded by man’s activities.