Kennedy Meadows: county advances as potential donee

Kennedy Meadows is inextricably part of my backstory too. The Professor, my friends, and I have spent many hours riding our horses through the beautiful place on our way to the Emigrant Wilderness. We’ve eaten at the restaurant, spent time in the bar, and my favorite – hung out after dark by the corrals just to watch the stock.

When the ground under the resort was to be donated by the utility company to a public or nonprofit entity, I felt that of all things I could do as a county supervisor, preserving the heritage of the resort and its beauty could be my greatest accomplishment. The competition was fierce, but I am proud that I positioned the County with the Stewardship Council to secure that hallowed place in perpetuity – not for the Forest Service or for a nonprofit that would restrict the use of the resort, but for the people of Tuolumne County. I plan visit next month on my rambles with Ruby.

The Pacific Lands Stewardship Council (Stewardship Council) agreed  at their meeting in Modesto this evening to begin negotiating with Tuolumne County for ownership of Kennedy Meadows and with the Mother Lode Land Trust as the easement holder. The Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District (RCD) was recommended as a conservation partner and the county will seek to collaborate with the Stanislaus National Forest, as well.

It’s but the first step of many that must be taken before the Stewardship Council makes a final recommendation to the California Public Utilities Commission, ultimately the decider of the future of the popular Sierra resort and backcountry gateway. Final approval is subject to mutual agreement and acceptance of terms and conditions determined through a thorough due diligence process and legal review by the county, the Stewardship Council, and Mother Lode Land Trust.

The Stewardship Council has received approximately 800 letters regarding the future of Kennedy Meadows and has heard many public comments about keeping ownership and management of Kennedy Meadows locally accountable. Today we moved one step closer to seeing that happen!

Over the last year, the Stewardship Council has worked with a core group of four pre-qualified organizations (the county, the Tuolumne County RCD, the Mother Lode Land Trust, and the Stanislaus National Forest) to determine which is best suited to own and hold a conservation easement on Kennedy Meadows. Last December, the county submitted a joint proposal with the Tuolumne County RCD and the Mother Lode Land Trust. The Stanislaus National Forest prepared a separate proposal for ownership as it is unable to jointly own and manage its properties.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors has approved the negotiation and will consider accepting ownership if a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached. The county will work with PG&E and Stewardship Council staff to determine the terms and conditions of the agreement. After negotiations are completed, the Stewardship Council will review the draft agreement and make a final recommendation to the CPUC. The process is expected to take at least six months to complete and possibly more.

Tonight’s recommendation was endorsed by the county, the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District, Mother Lode Land Trust, Senator Dave Cogdill, Congressman George Radanovich, Matt Bloom (operator of the Kennedy Meadows Resort), and others. All Stewardship Council members ulitimately agreed to the recommendation, although some expressed a desire to proceed cautiously to ensure that any agreement with the county (and Mother Lode Land Trust) is enforceable, collaborative with the RCD and USFS, and in the best interest of all the beneficial public values.

As described on the Stewardship Council’s website, Kennedy Meadows is 244 acres of scenic high sierra meadow, forest, and native cottonwood habitat in Tuolumne County and home to many special status species. For hundreds of years, the Mi-Wuk Tribe traveled, traded, hunted and fished the area. Currently, it’s a popular recreation spot for horseback riding, camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, and backpacking. Since 1917, the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station has provided visitors an opportunity to spend time in the adjacent wilderness.

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