A UC Davis emergency room doctor and the director of the UC Davis Tahoe Research Center have launched a publicity campaign calling for cattle grazing to be suspended in the high Sierra, according to a story in Sunday's Sacramento Bee.
The article, billed as a "Bee exclusive" and written by Tom Knudson, said the doctor, an avid backpacker, took hundreds of water samples from pristine streams and lakes in the Sierras. He found that high-elevation water bodies on land managed by the Forest Service had bacterial contamination high enough to sicken hikers with Giardia, E. coli and other diseases. However, at high elevations in Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, where cattle do not graze, the lakes and streams were pollution-free.
Doctor Robert Derlet and Tahoe Research Center director Charles Goldman believe cattle should be moved to lower elevations and that high Sierra areas now managed by the Forest Service should be converted into national parks.
"At one time, cattle were important for developing civilization here," Derlet was quoted in the story. "But now, with 40 million people in California, the Sierra is not for cattle. It's for water. We need water more than Big Macs."
The story also quoted Anne Yose, the regional rangeland program manager for the Forest Service. She said Forest Service studies show that "we can still successfully manage livestock and maintain water quality."
However, she also acknowledged in the story that it is "logistically really, really difficult" for the Forest Service to sample backcountry water.
The article said Derlet devised an insulating nylon kit and procedure for keeping water samples fresh, which includes rushing back to his car, icing the samples in a cooler and driving directly to a UC Davis lab.