The Bureau of Land Management honors The Wilderness Land Trust

The Bureau of Land Management honors The Wilderness Land Trust

Jan. 07, 2012

The Wilderness Land Trust announces that it has successfully donated to the Bureau of Land Management a 2,430-acre ranch west of Ridgecrest, California, expanding the Sacatar Trail Wilderness and connecting it to the Domeland Wilderness, near Kennedy Meadows.


The US Bureau of Land Management honored The Wilderness Land Trust's nearly decade long effort to preserve the 2,430 acre ranch by recently presenting an award of special recognition for the Trust’s donation, including an additional 40 parcel it donated that expanded the Kiavah Wilderness and a property it sold to the BLM within the Domeland Wilderness, in the view shed of the Pacific Crest Trail.  “The BLM continues to appreciate the vision and support provided by The Wilderness Land Trust to protect these important lands.  It is the power of partnerships that allow such tremendous service and protection of lands for the public,” said Tim Smith, BLM Bakersfield Field Manager.


“I commend the Wilderness Land Trust for its effort to protect these important lands and to preserve them in their natural state,” said Senator Barbara Boxer.   The Sacatar Trail and Kiavah Wildernesses were protected by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in the California Desert Protection Act of 1994.  The Domeland Wilderness was designated in 1964 and expanded in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act.


“Near the entrance to the ranch in the Sacatar Trails Wilderness was a home.  It was in rough shape, but in the living room was a copy of the plan to develop the ranch as a private retreat,” recalled Reid Haughey, President of The Wilderness Land Trust.  “Further up the long wet meadow that is the heart of the ranch was an outcropping covered with lithic artifacts; obsidian that had been traded for from as far away as Mexico and pictographs and petroglyphs deep inside cracks in the rock outcropping.  We knew we had to complete this deal; add it to the surrounding wilderness and make sure these treasures were preserved and not plowed under as part of the plan we saw in the house below.”  


The Trust was able to expand these wildernesses through the Section Six process of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which allows the Secretary of the Interior to accept donated land adjacent to designated wilderness and add the land to the already designated wilderness without further legislation


Part of the newly protected land now adds expansive and rare wet meadows to the Sacatar Trails Wilderness, straddled by Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands and an isolated and unique stand of Joshua Trees that occur at an elevation just over 7,000 feet.  The properties also support rich archeological resources, numerous springs and opportunities for hiking into the rugged backcountry.  In this otherwise dry landscape, the wetlands create streamside and meadow vegetation, providing important corridors and refuge for wildlife.


Golden eagles and prairie falcons soar over the wilderness from the California desert to high in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Located between Bakersfield and Ridgecrest, these three wilderness areas comprise almost 300,000 acres of transition land between the desert and the Sierras and contain the Wild and Scenic South Fork of the Kern River.  Quail, deer, trout and rare and endemic native plants, including the Walker Pass milkvetch, all thrive here.


Sacatar Trail Wilderness

The Sacatar Trail Wilderness was created in 1994 with the California Desert Protection Act and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  It is named after the Sacatar Trail, which was the only route into the Owens Valley from the West before the road over Walker Pass was built.  Cattle, soldiers, and commercial traffic used this trail.  Elevations in the wilderness are from 3,541 feet to 8,800 feet.  The wilderness contains an "ecotone" formed by the convergence of desert and Sierran vegetative communities and encompasses a narrow band along the southern Sierra crest between Nine Mile Canyon in the south and Sequoia National Forest to the north.  The boundary includes the desert-like eastern face of the Sierra Nevada Range where broad alluvial fans or bahadas collect from Rose Valley.  Perennial springs support riparian growth of Fremont cottonwood trees, willows and grasses.  Within the area is one known population of Phacelia novermillensis, also known as Nine Mile Canyon phacelia, and is an annual plant native to California.


Domeland Wilderness

Designated as wilderness under the original 1964 Wilderness Act, the Domeland Wilderness, managed by both the Bureau of Land Management and the Sequoia National Forest, is one of California’s most rugged wilderness areas, connecting distinctive granite dome-shaped rock formations, mixed conifers and wet meadows on its northwest side with pinon-covered terrain interspersed with intermittent streams heading for the desert on its southeast side. The wilderness is located in Tulare County, near the Inyo County border. Containing 133,810 acres, it supports the watershed of the Wild and Scenic South Fork of the Kern River, which feeds Lake Isabella, just east of Bakersfield and is a popular kayaking and whitewater destination.


Kiavah Wilderness

The Kiavah Wilderness contains 88,290 acres and was created in 1994 with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act.  A unique mixing of several different species of plants and animals occurs within the transition zone between the Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The Kiavah Wilderness is one of only two protected areas that support a significant woodland of pinyon-juniper in California. Other plant life include Mormon tea, sagebrush, creosote, burrobush and shadscale, pinyon pine, juniper, canyon oak, grey pine and Joshua trees. Spring wildflower displays are from April to June.  A rare and endemic wildflower, the Walker Pass milkvetch (Astragalus ertterae) of the pea family, grows within the Pinyon-Juniper woodland.

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Map of the Wilderness Land Trust additions to the Sacatar Trails, Domeland and Kiavah Wilderness Areas, showing the location of the properties labeled as “Proposed” in this map, and illustrating the connection of the Domeland and Sacatar Trails Wilderness