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LETTER TO U.S. SENATOR MARK UDALL OF
Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on national parks Back to Home page Back to References and Resources
BILL JONES—lead member
Honorable Mark Udall
U. S. Senator from Colorado
United States Senate
Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Udall:
RE: Proposal to formally name Sharsmith Peak in the Sierra Nevada of California by an Act of Congress.
You may also hear of this proposal from your colleague, Andy Kerr, of the Colorado State Senate, who has supported this naming since he was a member of the Colorado State House of Representatives.
Background of proposal: role of namesake Dr. Sharsmith, peak location, history of naming, reasons for
Being aware of your interest in and support of matters of the environment and outdoor recreation, and of your position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, may I bring your attention to an opportunity to further enhance environmental awareness and understanding by and for the American people? The opportunity available is to formally name a peak in the Sierra Nevada now informally known as Sharsmith Peak, for the late Dr. Carl W. Sharsmith (1903-1994), long-time ranger-naturalist of the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park and Professor of Botany at San Jose State University where he established the Carl W. Sharsmith Herbarium. (The Sharsmith Peak name is already in use in a hiking guide and in literature, as shown in a search on it via Google. Sharsmith Peak is on the eastern border of Yosemite National Park and the Yosemite Wilderness a few miles north of Tioga Pass at the crest of the Sierra Nevada. East of the peak is the Harvey Monroe Natural Area of Inyo National Forest, not in legislated wilderness.)
The same naming opportunity was proposed to the Board on Geographic Names of the U.S. Geological Survey by the Name4Carl Committee--now the SharsmithPeak/Name4Carl Committee (both of which I have been chairman)--but was declined, as discussed later in this letter. Our committee’s belief in the importance of establishing this name compels us to now seek legislative establishment of the Sharsmith Peak name. We are thus bringing this matter to your attention and hoping for your guidance in our effort as well as your support.
Benefits of formally establishing the Sharsmith Peak name include ensuring lasting recognition of the work and philosophies of Dr. Sharsmith in science, outdoor nature appreciation and understanding, and of his inspiring and dedicated service to the people—during a career of 64 summers under the broad-brimmed ranger hat. (The importance of Dr. Sharsmith’s contributions are agreed to by all.) But the benefits of formally naming the peak go far beyond recognizing and memorializing Dr. Sharsmith. There is a benefit in making the peak’s name appear on federal maps to more readily identify it as a particular spot; lack of such clarity resulted in confusion during a rescue operation when a plane crashed into the snow on the peak on a winter day and left 10-year old Donnie Priest alone for 5 days with his dead parents, the lad fortunately finally being rescued but with frozen legs that required amputation. Our committee has received many statements of support for this naming from persons who were touched by Dr. Sharsmith’s life and work, but perhaps the value of naming the peak has been best expressed by one citizen who wrote only from her understanding of this man’s work rather than having ever been in direct contact with him. This came from Debra Plant, then assistant to the city manager of Rocklin, California:
"...how [will] the world [be made a better place by labeling the peak 'Sharsmith']? When my children and grandchildren travel to [the area], I can point out the peak and tell the tale of Dr. Sharsmith...who, for years, gave himself to [the area] to make others love it and care for it as it should be. In my town, when the school kids come for a tour of a City facility named after one of the 'old-timers', they hear of the good deeds and the integrity of that individual...I hope that the voices raised in [Dr. Sharsmith's] memory...bring about the naming of Sharsmith Peak...so the tales can be told, and children can lift up their eyes to ideals greater than they have not yet even imagined."
Individuals and organizations supporting this naming; national significance
As the Name4Carl Committee began to consider the feasibility and desirability of establishing the Sharsmith Peak name, we sought input from persons with responsibilities, interests, and influence in wild land management, nature, and science—both through direct management of natural areas and through writing, photography, painting, and publishing, as well as from interested citizens. A list of those who have sent in supporting statements, with summaries of their statements, is attached (their full statements are on the website www.name4carl.org). Included are 3 former national park directors (Hartzog, Kennedy, Ridenour), 2 former national park regional directors (Harry, Barbee), 6 former superintendents of Yosemite National Park (Arnberger, Binnewies, Mihalic, Griffin, Morehead, Uberuaga (acting) , 4 former chief park naturalists of Yosemite National Park (Hubbard, Harry, Jones, McKenzie), 2 chief naturalists of the National Park Service (Hubbard, Dunmire), 1 chief ranger of the National Park Service (Wendt), the famed mountain climber and chief ranger of Olympic and Denali National Parks (Wayne Merry), former Director of the U.S. Geological Survey Peck (in which agency the federal naming board resides), a former National Park Service member of said naming board (Rettie), and U.S. Geological Survey geologist who completed the mapping of Yosemite National Park (Huber). Also recording support are the county commissioners of Mono and Mariposa Counties of California in the region of the peak, the 10,000-plus members of the Yosemite Association, (now folded into the Yosemite Conservancy), Upper Merced River Watershed Council, California Native Plant Society—Bristlecone Chapter, Mono Lake Committee, Sierra Nature Notes, Yosemite Historical Society as well as authors, scientists, mountaineers, artists, medical professionals, park and forest rangers, and citizens. Also included are the outdoor writer and conservationist Dr. Michael Frome (more later) and the son of Ansel Adams speaking for his late parents, as well as the Dr. Julia and Ralph Parker American Indian family.
Many of those in support of this formal naming have been familiar with federal naming policies of the Board on Geographic Names of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey as well as the naming policies of the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, and in fact had been responsible for applying those policies during their careers. For instance, the diversity of wildland and park management experience of supporters is shown by noting that supporters include not only park superintendents represented from Yosemite National park but also persons who had been park superintendents at Hawaii Volcanoes (HI), Cape Hatteras (NC), Cape Lookout (NC), Yellowstone (MT/WY/ID), Redwoods (CA), Mount Rainier (WA), Coulee Dam (WA), Carlsbad Caverns (NM), Grand Canyon (AZ), Everglades (FL), Dry Tortugas (FL), Ebey’s Landing (WA) as well as superintendent of Oregon National Historic Trail, a deputy superintendent at Golden Gate (CA) and regional directors for Alaska and group director for Hawaii parks.
Beyond those with direct management authority of wildlands and parks, supporters include persons who have been or are still park rangers, park naturalists, park planners, and regional and Washington Office staff members and even include a former national park member of the Board on Geographic Names. These individuals bring experience from assignments in many areas, including Grand Teton (WY), Lehman Caves (NV), Big Bend (TX), Point Reyes (CA), Canyon de Chelly (AZ), Death Valley (CA), Rocky Mountain (CO), Zion (UT), Chaco Canyon (NM), Salinas (NM), Amistad (TX), Virgin Islands (VI), Chamizal (TX), Chickasaw (OK), Buffalo River (AR), Guadalupe Mountains (TX), Great Smoky Mountains (NC/TN), Jean Lafitte (LA), Chalmette (LA), Fort Smith (AR), Cape Canaveral (FL), Denali (AK), Crater Lake (OR), Guadalupe Mountains (TX), Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (MO), Mount Rushmore (SD), LBJ (TX), War in the Pacific (Guam), Blue Ridge (VA, NC), Canyonlands (UT), Olympic (WA), Devils Postpile (CA), Inyo National Forest (CA), and probably many more.
Quite a number of these persons served in the Department of the Interior when your uncle Stuart Udall was Secretary.
Additionally, supporters include persons who have been Directors of Texas State Parks (Dabney), of Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Ridenour), Interagency Fire Center (Erskine), of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (Binnewies), of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California (Griffin), Chair of the Sierra Club National Parks Committee and Adjunct Professor George Mason University (Byrne). There is a Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences of the University of New England (Lemons), the former general manager of the Presidio of San Francisco (Griffin), a former President of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (McKenzie), former Director of the Yosemite Natural History Association (Jones), past president Yosemite Park & Curry Co. (Hardy), President of Geographic Expeditions (Sano), Director of Crater Lake Institute (Mastrogiuseppe) and a Pullitzer prize-winning author (Maharidge), a Professor of Biology at California State University—Bakersfield (Moe). There is Dr. Michael Frome, who has been visiting Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont in 1978; author in residence at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies, Milford, Pennsylvania in 1981; visiting professor in the College of Forestry at the University of Idaho (which honored him by establishing the Michael Frome Scholarship for Excellence in Conservation Writing), 1982-1986; Environmental Scholar in Residence at Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin, 1986-1987; and visiting professor at Huxley College of Environmental Studies, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington.
From the above lists of places in many states where supporters of the Sharsmith Peak naming proposal have had responsibilities, it is seen that Dr. Sharsmith’s significance spreads far beyond the locale of his lifework, and is truly national. Additionally, there are today scientists in the fields of botany and environmental science that point to his influence in inspiring and guiding them in their careers .
The federal naming process: Board on Geographic Names
Because of this support the Name4Carl Committee sought formal establishment of the Sharsmith Peak name by the Board on Geographic Names of the U.S. Geological Survey. We submitted a proposal to do so and our member appeared at a board meeting to explain and support it. The Board solicited comment from agencies and citizens. One citizen opposed the naming. The California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names opposed the naming on the grounds that naming the peak would violate the general policy of not adding new names in wilderness areas and felt that the justifications within allowable exceptions to adding names within wilderness areas (to enhance educational and administrative purposes) were not adequate. The National Park Service agreed on the important role of Dr. Sharsmith, but, to our knowledge, simply opposed the naming without stating a reason and suggested an overlook be named for Dr. Sharsmith instead. The U.S. Forest Service had awaited the National Park Service’s statement and then opposed the naming for the same reason. The Board found in favor of these objections and in the belief that the proposal did not warrant exception to the Board’s Wilderness Policy. It is interesting to note that the Forest Service in testimony representing the Department of Agriculture regarding another more recent naming proposal for Mount Andrea Lawrence (which lies entirely within legislated wilderness) raised no objection to that naming; their testimony "notes that [the naming] would have no adverse impact on the management of the Inyo National Forest, or the Ansel Adams Wilderness" and that they had consulted with the National Park Service in the preparation of this statement." There is thus a discrepancy between how the two agencies responded to these two rather similar naming proposals.
The Name4Carl Committee and those who support the naming proposal had considered the policies of the Board on Geographic Names as reflected in a discussion of same on the committee’s website www.name4carl.org and disagree with the conclusion of the Board. The wilderness naming policy of the Board specifically applies to names proposed for features within wilderness areas. Sharsmith Peak, however, lies at the eastern edge of the Yosemite wilderness on the border of Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest. In the forest immediately east of Sharsmith Peak is the Harvey Monroe Natural Area, not a wilderness area. This geographic setting of the peak—at the edge of wilderness which occurs only on the peak’s western side—precludes the application of wilderness naming policy to this naming. To restate for clarity and emphasis, Sharsmith Peak is not within wilderness but at the wilderness edge. In any case the acceptable exceptions to the policy of limiting naming in wilderness areas can be applied to name the peak for its administrative and educational values. Too, our Sharsmith Peak/Name4Carl committee does not find that naming an overlook or a roadside vista point would be a desirable or acceptable outcome instead of formally naming Sharsmith Peak. Dr. Sharsmith, ahead of his time perhaps, stood for appreciating the values of wilderness by engaging it, not by stepping from a car on an improved highway to "experience" it. Finally, there are overriding values to this naming that justify an exception to naming policy even if Sharsmith Peak is considered to be within wilderness, just as has been done recently by the 112th Congress by means of S. 925, the Mount Andrea Lawrence Designation Act: that peak is completely within legislated wilderness areas (Yosemite Wilderness on its west and Ansel Adams Wilderness on its east).
We of the committee have been informed that the Board on Geographic Names does not reconsider its decisions unless significant new information arises, such as a change in the recommendation of the park and forest services. While we would welcome such a change, and will inform Yosemite National Park of our continuing wish to formally establish the Sharsmith Peak name, we nevertheless will now pursue a legislative process.
Continuing effort to informally and formally establish the Sharsmith Peak name
And so, despite not receiving administrative approval of the Sharsmith Peak naming proposal from the Board on Geographic Names, we of the Sharsmith Peak/Name4Carl Committee believe that, as citizen initiative is an important element of our democracy, we are compelled to continue our quest to further establish the use of the name Sharsmith Peak—both informally and formally. As mentioned earlier, one avenue for this is the website www.name4carl.org, which gives background information on the history of this naming proposal (traced at least from 1976), aspects of federal naming policy, and the contributions and meanings of Dr. Sharsmith himself, as well as detailed supporting statements referenced above and summarized in an attachment hereto. We invite you and your staff to explore this public website as well as our current website www.sharsmithpeak.org which is carrying our effort to establish the name legislatively.
If we did not proceed with our efforts, we would be abrogating our responsibility (partly personal and partly from our roles from being professionally involved in careers of wildland and park matters), not only to Dr. Sharsmith but especially to the meaning of his lifework and its value to the understanding and appreciation of nature and also to those who have supported this naming and entrusted us to accomplish it. And not to mention succeeding generations who would otherwise not have this enhanced opportunity to learn of this aspect of their American heritage.
In summary, the purpose of this letter is to bring this formal naming opportunity to the attention of you and your subcommittee with the goal of seeking your guidance on how to best implement formally naming Sharsmith Peak to achieve the benefits to the American people of doing so. And of course we would welcome your support and/or initiative. Sharsmith Peak/Name4Carl Committee members may also be contacting you and your committee members directly as well as the corresponding House of Representatives Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation of the Natural Resources Committee, and will also be contacting legislators in their home states to offer the opportunity to sponsor legislation to formally establish the Sharsmith Peak name.
Thank you for your attention,
Bill Jones (CO), lead member, Sharsmith Peak/Name4Carl
Members: Bob Barbee (MT), Bryan Harry (HI), Len McKenzie (CA), Wayne Merry (BC), Jack Morehead (CA), Dr. Owen Hoffman (TN), Allen Berrey (CA), Jim Sano (CA), Dr. John Lemons (AK), and Bill Wendt (CA).
Enclosure: Summary of Statements Supporting Formally
Naming Sharsmith Peak
(Summary is also available at www.name4carl.org .n4csupp.htm.)
Send emails to Sharsmith Peak Committtee.
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