Bakersfield Field Office

Wilderness

Introduction

The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-433) created 69 new BLM wilderness in and near the southern California desert region. Six of these new wilderness are located in southern portion of the Sierra Nevada. The Bakersfield Field Office and the BLM Ridgecrest Resource Area (California Desert District) are working on management plans for all six areas. The Forest Service will be doing their own plan for their portion of the new Kiavah Wilderness due to different planning procedures in the Forest Service. All three offices are coordinating with each other in developing plans for these new wilderness areas. The Bakersfield Field Office completed their management plan (Southern Sierra - West Side) for their new wilderness areas on August 14, 1999

This plan covers the following areas, all of which are located in the South Sierra Management Plan: 

  • Chimney Peak Wilderness
  • Domelands (Additions) Wilderness
  • Kiavah Wilderness (BLM lands - west side)
  • Owens Peak Wilderness (west side
  • Sacatar Trail Wilderness (west side) 

In addition to the California Desert Protection Act Wilderness Areas discussed here, BLM also owns relatively small parcels of land in two additional Wilderness Areas located in the Coast Management Area:

  •  Machesna Mountain Wilderness
  •  Santa Lucia Wilderness

    Wilderness Area Name

    Size in Acres 
    (Federal only)

    Public Law 
    Number

    Designation Date

    Chimney Peak 

    13,105

    103-433

    10/31/1994

    Domeland

    39,273

    103-433

    10/31/1994

    Kiavah

    40,933

    103-433

    10/31/1994

    Machesna Mountain*

         120

      98-425

      9/28/1984

    Owens Peak

    73,573

    103-433

    10/31/1994

    Sacatar Trail

    50,483

    103-433

    10/31/1994

    Santa Lucia**

      1,893

      95-237

      2/24/1978

    *       120 acres BLM lands representing  0.6% of  19,882 total acres
    **  1,893 acres BLM lands representing  9.2% of  20,486 total acres



    Index to this California Desert Protection Act Wilderness Areas page:

 

                                   

Location


The Southern Sierra Wilderness Areas are made up of the designated wildernesses of Bright Star, Chimney Peak, Domeland (Additions), Kiavah, Owens Peak, and Sacatar Trail, totalling 274,350 acres. These areas are generally defined by Kennedy Meadows on the north to beyond the Scodie Mountains on the south and by the Los Angeles Aqueduct near U.S. Highway 395 and State Highway 14 on the east to the Piute Mountains and the previously designated Dome Land Wilderness on the west. Bakersfield is located about 70 miles to the west and Ridgecrest is located about 20 miles to the east. The areas are within Townships 21 South to 28 South, Ranges 34 East to 38 East, Mount Diablo Base Line and Meridian.

The sizes of the California Desert Protection Act wilderness areas are:
 

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail near Fox Mill Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail near Fox Mill  Spring

Area
Acres
Field Office
Bright Star
  9,520
Ridgecrest Resource Area
Chimney Peak
13,700
Bakersfield Field Office
Domeland (Additions)
36,300
Bakersfield Field Office
Kiavah
88,290
Bakersfield Field Office & Sequoia National Forest
Owens Peak
74,640
Bakersfield Field Office & Ridgecrest Resource Area
Sacatar Trail
51,900
Bakersfield Field Office & Ridgecrest Resource Area

Owership

The following acreage falls within the wilderness areas:

AreasBLMFSPrivate
Bright Star    9,520      40
Chimney Peak  13,700      45
Domeland (Additions)  36,680 1,120
Kiavah  40,29048,0001,380
Owens Peak  74,060 1,950
Sacatar Trail  51,900    200
Total226,15048,0004,735

 

 

 
 

Access

Visitors can access the different wilderness areas by the following routes:

Bright Star - Both solitude and primitive, unconfined recreation are impaired somewhat by the vehicle route left open through the center of the wilderness and by private land on the north and east. Recreational opportunities are enhanced, though, in association with the adjacent Forest Service lands on the west.

Chimney Peak
- About eight miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCNST) travels through the area and offers the hiker or equestrian an opportunity for solitude among pinyon pines. To restore naturalness, a trailer house was removed from near the center of the wilderness. The old roadway to the site will be allowed to recover naturally.

Domeland - Outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive and unconfined type of recreation are prevalent throughout this area. Rugged challenging topography, perennial streams, variable terrain, and vegetation all contribute to these opportunities. The opportunities are enhanced by the adjoining Dome Land Wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest.

Kiavah - This large area provides wilderness opportunities due to its size and diversity of terrain and vegetation. The PCNST travels through the middle of the Forest Service portion. The old Scodie motorcycle trail has been closed to all but hikers and equestrians. However, a cherry-stem route remains open to vehicles as far as McIvers Spring.

Owens Peak - Large portions of this area contain very few imprints of humans. The high winding canyons, dense forests, and diverse terrain all provide excellent opportunities for solitude. The PCNST, Lamont Peak, Chimney Creek, and Lamont Meadow trails offer primitive recreation opportunities with high mountain peaks providing scenic overlooks.

Sacatar Trail - This wilderness encompasses the rugged pristine face of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with ridgetop elevations reaching 7,800. The Sacatar Trail, an old wagon road and one of the few evidences of humans in the area, provides backcountry access into the wilderness for primitive recreational opportunities.

While other roads and trails may pass near the wilderness boundaries, they either cross private land or are physically impassable limiting their usefulness as access approaches.


Wilderness Boundaries

Official maps will be developed over the next year on 7½' quads to show the wilderness boundaries as interpreted from the official Congressional maps associated with the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Wilderness boundaries will be marked on the ground at access points and other appropriate locations with 3½" wide brown, fiberglass Carsonite® posts. Trailheads and parking areas will be identified on the ground with appropriate site signs used by the BLM and FS.

Wilderness Values

The wilderness areas of the Southern Sierra contain a variety of biological, scenic, geological, and recreational values. Specific descriptions of areas include:

Bright Star - Both solitude and primitive, unconfined recreation are impaired somewhat by the vehicle route left open through the center of the wilderness and by private land on the north and east. Recreational opportunities are enhanced, though, in association with the adjacent Forest Service lands on the west.

Chimney Peak - About eight miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCNST) travels through the area and offers the hiker or equestrian an opportunity for solitude among pinyon pines. To restore naturalness, a trailer house was removed from near the center of the wilderness. The old roadway to the site will be allowed to recover naturally.

Domeland - Outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive and unconfined type of recreation are prevalent throughout this area. Rugged challenging topography, perennial streams, variable terrain, and vegetation all contribute to these opportunities. The opportunities are enhanced by the adjoining Dome Land Wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest.

Kiavah - This large area provides wilderness opportunities due to its size and diversity of terrain and vegetation. The PCNST travels through the middle of the Forest Service portion. The old Scodie motorcycle trail has been closed to all but hikers and equestrians. However, a cherry-stem route remains open to vehicles as far as McIvers Spring.

Owens Peak - Large portions of this area contain very few imprints of humans. The high winding canyons, dense forests, and diverse terrain all provide excellent opportunities for solitude. The PCNST, Lamont Peak, Chimney Creek, and Lamont Meadow trails offer primitive recreation opportunities with high mountain peaks providing scenic overlooks.

Sacatar Trail - This wilderness encompasses the rugged pristine face of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with ridgetop elevations reaching 7,800. The Sacatar Trail, an old wagon road and one of the few evidences of humans in the area, provides backcountry access into the wilderness for primitive recreational opportunities. 


Topography

The Southern Sierra Management Area is made up of a wide range of terrains where valleys, canyons, alluvial fans, and steep hills lead into rugged, granite mountains. The valleys are diversified with some relatively open and flat, while others are surrounded by steep and rolling mountains. The western portion of the region contains the steepest mountains with both narrow and open canyons. The highest point is Owens Peak at 8,453 feet with other major peaks including Chimney Peak (7,994 feet), Bear Peak (8,228), Sawtooth Peak (8,000 feet), Morris Peak (7,215), and Pinyon Peak (6,805 feet). [Elevations are taken from 7½' provisional maps of 1986, 1987, or other current maps.]

Climate, Air, Water

 

 

Walker Pass Campground/Trailhead in winter

 

Most of the area makes up a transition zone between the Mojave Desert to the east and the Sierra Nevada. Summer daytime temperatures fluctuate around the mid-80's and nights are cool. In the winter, freezing temperatures predominate, and snow blankets most of the area. However, the snowfall is usually short-lived and not nearly as severe as that of the high sierra. Lowlands alternate with mountains to create abrupt changes in climatic conditions over short distances.

Air quality has been deteriorating in the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin and upland South Sierra Airsheds since the 1940s. In addition to pollutants produced in the valley, the region is subject to pollution generated primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area and transported southeast by the prevailing winds. Strong upcanyon winds draw the pollutants into the Sierras.

Water is fairly plentiful for this region of California but drought conditions do sometimes exist and are most common from April to June. Severe droughts have been known to last up to six years. The areas are well watered, though, with numerous springs and streams. Average annual precipitation is about 14 inches, although higher elevations receive more moisture.


Soils

Most of the soils of the South Sierra Foothills are developed from weathered granite rock and range from deep to shallow. They have a thin surface layer and slightly developed subsoil horizons. Textures are generally coarse sandy loam. These soils have low moisture and nutrient holding capacities. The many rock outcroppings reduce the productive base and increase surface runoff potential. While soil productivity is relatively low, erosion potential is relatively high. The soils have the capability to maintain their present productivity over the long-term if the soil surface layer is maintained and there is a continuing supply of forest duff and humus.


Vegetation

Bright Star - The upper slopes of the 5,000 foot Kelso Peak are dotted with pinyon pine and juniper trees; intervening slopes are brushy with large granite rock outcroppings; and the boulder-strewn valley supports dense stands of Joshua trees.

Chimney Peak - This area is covered primarily by pinyon pines in rocky mountainous terrain. Some areas of riparian vegetation and sage brush are also present.

Nolina

Nolina parri

 

Domeland - The wilderness consists of pinyon covered mountains along the eastern side of the South Fork Kern River drainage. Located on the eastern edge of the center of the wilderness is a long, narrow big sage covered valley. Rocky slopes and poor soil development limit vegetative cover in many other portions of the wilderness. Special features for the southern portion of the area include isolated populations of two sensitive plants, Needles buckwheat (Eriogonum breedlovei) and Yosemite bitterroot (Lewisia disepala). Also, the southern portion of the wilderness contains one of the largest concentrations of the yucca-like plant (Nolina parryi) for the southern Sierra Nevada. The nolinas, nearly 15 feet tall when flowering, are located on rocky exposed slopes. Habitat occurs in the pinyon woodland for another sensitive plant, Nine Mile Canyon phacelia (Phacelia novenmillensis). 
  
Black Stain Root Disease, (Ceratocystis wagerni), attacks the roots and root collars of pinyon pine, imparting a dark black stain to the affected xylem. It is spread from tree to tree by root contact. The disease has been specifically observed in the Chimney Peak and Domeland wilderness areas. Treatment has involved cutting standing dead trees and disposing by removal or burning.

Kiavah - A unique mixing of several different species of plants occurs within the transition zone between the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Desert plants such as creosote bush, Joshua tree, burro bush, and shadescale may be found in close association with pinyon pine, juniper, canyon oak, and grey pine.

Owens Peak - The mountainous terrain has deep, winding, open, and expansive canyons, many of which contain springs with extensive riparian vegetation. The area is a transition zone between the Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, and the Sierra Nevada ecoregions. Vegetation varies considerably with a creosote desert scrub community on the bajadas, scattered yuccas, cacti, annuals, cottonwood, and oak trees in the canyons and valleys and juniper-pinyon woodlands with sagebrush and grey pine on the upper elevations. Two sensitive plants, Nine Mile Canyon phacelia (Phacelia novenmillensis), occurs in the pinyon woodlands and monkey flower (Mimulas shevocki) grows at lower elevations ranging from 3,500 - 4,000 feet immediately west of Walker Pass.


Wildlife

The wilderness areas provide good habitat diversity for a variety of species typical of Southern California. Threatened or endangered species are not known to occur in any of the areas. Some of the more important information is identified for each area.

Bright Star - The varied habitats of the Mojave Desert and the southern Sierra Nevada ecoregions allow for a wide diversity of wildlife. The entire wilderness is included within the BLM Jawbone-Butterbredt ACEC, partly because of the wildlife values. There are no wildlife developments in this area.

Chimney Peak - This wilderness contains a wide variety of bird life along with small and large animals. Black bears have been

Deer release after attaching radio collar

 

 

 

 

 

Deer release after attaching radio collar

observed in the area as well as mule deer, bobcats, and mountain lions. Two spring developments are located on the periphery of the wilderness at Fox Mill along the PCNST on the north and Big Foot Spring along the Long Valley Loop Road on the south. A guzzler (water capture device for wildlife) and an area of crushed brush is located in the northeast corner of the wilderness area.

Domeland - The wilderness is completely within the Monache deer herd's spring and summer ranges and the portion near Long Valley is historically a critical wintering area for the deer herd. Water is adequate for wildlife with several perennial and intermittent streams and springs. These waters are supplemented by two stock watering troughs and three guzzlers located in the area. There are three vegetative study enclosures located on the periphery of the area to monitor habitat trends and successional changes. A deer herd management plan has been completed and approved for the Monache herd. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) maintains one guzzler in Upper Long Valley (inaccessible by vehicle) and one guzzler along Canebrake Road near Hwy 178. CDFG has conducted several deer captures for radio collar monitoring in the Long Valley area.The CDFG will continue to use a helicopter once per year in the Long Valley area of Domeland Wilderness for the purpose of netting deer to attach radio collars.

This operation has taken place for the past several years and is needed to track movements of the Monache deer herd. Such monitoring can determine disease and predator impacts to the herd as well as the effects of human actions. Therefore, monitoring is important to maintenance of a healthy herd which, in turn, promotes the wilderness value of a vigorous native wildlife.

Kiavah - Varied vegetation provides habitat for a great diversity of wildlife over a small geographic area. Species of note include raptors, the yellow-eared pocket mouse, a variety of lizards, and a number of migrant and resident bird species. This wilderness is part of a National Cooperative Land and Wildlife Management Area and the BLM Jawbone-Butterbredt ACEC, which was designated, in part, to protect wildlife values. There are twelve guzzlers in the lower canyons and several springs, all maintained by the FS. There are four guzzlers in the western portion of the wilderness which are maintained by the CDFG.

Owens Peak - Wildlife of note in this area includes mule deer, black bear, mountain lion, golden eagle, and prairie falcon. There is one cattle exclosure at the Powers Well in the eastern portion of the wilderness. There are four spring developments and one guzzler located in the western portion of the wilderness maintained by BLM and CDFG.

Sacatar Trail - Several of the canyons in the wilderness are complemented by springs with their riparian habitats of cottonwoods, willows, and grasses. Wildlife includes mule deer, golden eagle, prairie falcon, quail, dove, a wide variety of reptiles, and small mammals. The area is an important portion of the Monache-Walker Pass deer herd winter range. Deer use the area as winter and spring range and move to the higher elevations during the summer. There have been some sightings of mountain lion and black bear on the eastern edge of the area.


Recreation

There are three developed campgrounds located on the edges of Kiavah (Walker Pass), Owens Peak (Chimney Creek), and Domeland (Long Valley). These sites offer tables, toilets,  and starting points for hikers and equestrians using the PCNST, Chimney Creek Trail, and Long Valley Trail. They also provide camping/stopping points for hunters or motorists sightseeing in the area. All three campgrounds are maintained by BLM. During 1994, there were 340 campers who used Long Valley, 486 in Chimney Creek, and 1,140 at Walker Pass.

The Chimney Creek Campground has a well with potable water which should be running from April through September.  Potable water is no longer available at the Walker Pass Campground or the Walker Pass Trailhead, although an alternate water wource is from a nearby spring development located 1/10 mile west on Highway 178 in the bottom of the drainage by the 30 mph sign.  Look for the square cement structure.

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail travels through Kiavah, Owens Peak, Chimney Peak, and Domeland wildernesses. It is maintained by BLM and FS with assistance from volunteer groups and individuals. Maintenance of the trail, and all other trails within the wilderness areas, will be by hand tools only. Limited use of power equipment will be considered in very rare cases on the PCNST. An environmental review will be conducted for each case requiring such use. Other existing trails include, Lamont Peak, Chimney Creek, Long Valley and numerous trails into Owens Peak and Sacatar Trail from the east side. Old vehicle routes and motorcycle trails, which are closed to vehicles, continue to serve as hiking/equestrian trails. These include Cow Canyon, Scodie, Lamont Meadow, and Rockhouse trails. A developed trailhead is planned for Rockhouse Basin and parking areas will be designated for Lamont Peak, Lamont Meadow, and Scodie trails.

The 38½ mile Chimney Peak Back Country Byway consists of Canebrake Road and the Long Valley Loop Road. This byway provides motorists with excellent views of Owens Peak, Chimney Peak, Domeland, and Sacatar Trail wilderness areas. This byway was dedicated on June 8, 1996.

All of the areas are open to hunting. Fishing opportunities are not abundant and generally limited to hikers who walk the three miles from Long Valley Campground to the South Fork Kern River or the 4½ miles from the Long Valley Loop Road to Rockhouse Basin. Rockhounding and pinyon nut gathering occur in some areas. The use of metal detectors is allowed.

There are currently no outfitters operating in the area. Permits for non-commercial visitor use are not required, but trail registers will be located at various points outside the wilderness areas to track visitor activity. Group size is limited to 15 and no more than 25 head of stock (including pack and riding). Camping is allowed for no more than 14 days at one site and the camp site must be located at least 100 feet from a water source. There are no restrictions on firearms or pets. Visitors requesting information on wilderness areas may be provided with handouts relating to wilderness ethics and etiquette, camping hints, stock use, area maps, or other appropriate information.

Wild lands offer the freedom to test skills and abilities, or to push the envelope of personal accomplishment. Part of the BLM and FS job is to keep wild lands wild and enhance recreation experiences through a minimum of regulation and law enforcement. Going into the backcountry involves inherent risks, but risks can be minimized when individuals take responsibility to educate, prepare, and equip themselves to deal effectively with backcountry conditions.


Livestock Grazing Cattle in Cane Canyon

Grazing in much of these areas is limited because pinyon pine ecosystems generally provide poor forage for cattle. However, almost all the lands in the region are under grazing allotments. Most of the cattle production is restricted to perennial and intermittent streamside riparian zones where grasses and other palatable vegetation can be obtained. Understory vegetation within pinyon woodland is sparse and most browse comes from various shrubs. In some locations, though, grazing operators successfully manage use of the land. All allotment plans will be revised to reflect wilderness management.

Cultural Resources

This planning region was ethnographically considered to be the territory of the Tubatulabal and Kawaiisu tribes. However, the area is believed to have been shared to some degree with their tribal neighbors to the northeast and east, specifically the Owens Valley Paiute, Panamint Shoshone, and possibly the Chemehuevi.

Historic resources typically include mining sites, cemeteries, and remains associated with ranching and livestock operations. Numerous abandoned mining sites are located throughout the area but are generally less than fifty years old. One mining site, Humbug, is located in the Domeland Wilderness and contains two buildings which date back to the 1930s. Walker Pass National Historic Landmark is the only listed National Register property in the planning area.

There are cultural and traditional lifeway use areas in the planning area that are of particular importance to the Native Americans. Known areas of importance include the traditional pinyon nut harvesting areas, burial sites, and ceremonial/religious use sites. Regional Native Americans have continued the seasonal traditional practice of gathering pinyon nuts and annual ceremonial activities.

All cultural and historic resources on public lands are fully protected by law. Enjoy viewing these pieces of our cultural heritage but leave everything in place for others to enjoy and for research studies.

Take nothing but pictures and good memories.


Minerals

Under the California Desert Protection Act of 1994, all lands within these wilderness areas are withdrawn, subject to valid existing rights, from location, entry, and patent under the United States mining laws. Within the next few years, the remaining existing claims will be reviewed under a validity exam to determine if mining operations for those areas will be allowed. The minerals examination and subsequent minerals report must confirm that, as of midnight December 31, 1983, minerals had been found and the evidence is of such a character that a person of ordinary prudence would be justified in the further expenditure of his labor and means, with a reasonable prospect of success in developing a valuable mine [BLM Manual 8560, .38 1.e.(2)(b)].


Law Enforcement and Emergency Services

Vehicular routes into wilderness areas are closed to travel. Some violations are occurring, but generally the public is becoming more aware of the boundary locations.

Emergency services have usually been required outside the wilderness boundaries on the main roadways or campgrounds. No records of incidents requiring the use of emergency services have been made since wilderness designation.

By BLM policy, vehicular access for rangers and other law enforcement is allowed only for pursuit or life-threatening situations. Other emergency equipment and vehicles are used in life-threatening situations as determined by emergency personnel in the field. Convenience is not a justification for use of a motorized vehicle or mechanized transport of any kind.


Management Goals

Four standard management goals have been established by BLM Manual 8561 for BLM designated wilderness areas. The goals are as follows:

  1. To provide for the long-term protection and preservation of the area's wilderness character under a principle of non-degradation. The area's natural condition, opportunities for solitude, opportunities for primitive and unconfined types of recreation, and any ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value present will be managed so that they will remain unimpaired.
  2. To manage the wilderness area for the use and enjoyment of visitors in a manner that will leave the area unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness. The wilderness resource will be dominant in all management decisions where a choice must be made between preservation of wilderness and visitor use.
  3. To manage the area using the minimum tool, equipment, or structure necessary to successfully, safely, and economically accomplish the objective, the chosen tool, equipment, or structure should be the one that least degrades wilderness values temporarily or permanently. Management will seek to preserve spontaneity of use and as much freedom from regulation as possible.
  4. To manage nonconforming but accepted uses permitted by the Wilderness Act and subsequent laws in a manner that will prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the area's wilderness character.  Nonconforming uses are the exception rather that the rule; therefore, emphasis is placed on maintaining wilderness character.

In 1992, the Forest Service and Wilderness Society published the following principles in Keeping it Wild: A Citizen's Guide to Wilderness Management. The principles are drawn from the Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation, and Forest Service's wilderness management experience. 

  1. Attain the highest level of purity in wilderness character within legal constraints.
  2. Manage wilderness as a distinct resource with inseparable parts.
  3. Allow natural processes to operate freely within wilderness.
  4. Preserve wilderness air and water quality.
  5. Provide for human use while preserving the wilderness character, provide outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined recreation experience in each wilderness, and control and reduce the adverse impacts of human use in wilderness through education or minimum regulation.
  6. Favor wilderness dependent activities when managing wilderness use.
  7. Accomplish necessary wilderness management work with the "minimum tool".
  8. Establish specific management objectives developed in concert with the public, in a management plan for each wilderness.
  9. Harmonize wilderness and adjacent land management activities.
  10. Manage wilderness with interdisciplinary scientific skills.
  11. Manage special exceptions provided for by wilderness legislation to ensure a minimum impact on the wilderness resource.

 

Both agencies have as a shared goal the desire to manage the wilderness as one ecosystem, with no significant differences occurring adjacent to and surrounding administrative boundaries, unless absolutely necessary because of differences in laws, policies, or regulations. Recommendations for federally managed resources and land uses adjacent to or surrounding BLM and FS administrative boundaries will be developed in a collaborative manner to eliminate the possibility of different approaches and confusing direction. With the consideration of the nearly identical FS principles and BLM goals, both agencies believe the management plan will be suitable for the needs of the public and the agencies.

Sites:

Chimney Peak Byway; Tulare and Kern County