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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

New wilderness area to get trash cleanup

This abandoned lapidary shop will be dismantled and hauled out.The Ventana Wilderness Alliance (VWA) will remove approximately 6,000 pounds of litter, discarded machinery, and household appliances from the newly-designated Willow Creek addition to the Silver Peak Wilderness in southern Monterey County. The trash and machinery were left by operators of several illegal mining claims when they were evicted by the Forest Service from their stream-side cabins in the 1970s. The Forest Service burned the illegal cabins but did not remove the debris.

The junk was rediscovered by VWA members when they surveyed the area in 1999 for possible inclusion in a proposed wilderness bill. That bill, The Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act, became law in 2002 and designated over 55,000 acres of new wilderness, including 8,820 acres of the Willow Creek drainage.

Approximately 6,000 pounds of litter await removal by volunteers from the newly-designated Willow Creek addition to the Silver Peak Wilderness.The VWA is now ready to start the cleanup following a two-year process to secure approval from the Forest Service in conformance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This NEPA approval process, funded by a generous grant from the Employees Conservation Action Fund of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, consisted of archeological, biological, and hazardous material studies of the area. No impediments to the cleanup project were identified.

Volunteers needed

Volunteer backpackers are needed to clean up this mess. The cleanup project will remove an illegal structure, suspension bridge, lapidary machinery, car batteries, motors, fuel drums, household appliances, and more. All of the material will be brought out of the wilderness by volunteers on an estimated 183 backpack loads. A gondola car on a Tyrolean traverse will be used to transport the material across Willow Creek to minimize stream bank disturbances. A volunteer certified welder is needed to reduce machinery and appliances to backpack size. Volunteer trash packers are also needed. The backpack out to the trailhead is less than a mile.

The field work will begin in April and continue throughout the summer. Contact the VWA through their website to volunteer, or contact Tom Hopkins at

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