Effort To Reduce Horse Access To Wilderness In Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Turning Into Wedge Issue

Horses are becoming the latest wedge issue in the National Park System, as efforts to reduce their access to wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are being portrayed both as a job killer and a denier of your right to visit the parks.

At least one congressman is blaming the Obama administration for "pushing backcountry horsemen out of business," while a petition drive launched on change.org claims that, "Young people, old people or any person with a disability will lose their right to visit Sequoia National Park with the removal of this option of travel."

Spurring the political vitriol and off-base access claims is an effort by the High Sierra Hikers Association to both get the National Park Service to meet the provisions of The Wilderness Act and to protect the sensitive environmental landscape of wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The association is not trying to ban outright horse trips into the high country of the two parks, but rather seeks what it believes is a more manageable level.

Armed with a ruling that the Park Service violated The Wilderness Act in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks with the way it managed horse pack trips, the hikers association wants U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg to order the agency to rein-in the pack trips.

In a motion (attached below) filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the hikers association asked Judge Seeborg to order the Park Service to reduce by 20 percent from 2007 levels the number of pack trips allowed into the parks' wilderness areas, and prohibit grazing of stock in wilderness meadows above 9,700 feet.

Additionally, the group said the court should order the Park Service to ban the hauling by stock of "unnecessary items" into wilderness areas. Such items, the filing noted, include "tables, chairs, ice chests, and amplified sound players."

Doing so, and ordering the Park Service to rewrite its management plan as it applies to pack trips, is necessary to protect wilderness areas, the association maintained.

Until now, commercial stock have trampled wilderness meadows, leaving their wilderness character impaired. Commercial stock have also been used to carry unnecessary items and luxury goods into the wilderness, turning these national parks into theme parks and frustrating the enjoyment of (Sequoia and Kings Canyons)’s wilderness areas as wilderness. Interim relief will avoid irreparable environmental injury to SEKI’s wilderness areas until NPS considers whether, and to what extent, commercial stock services are necessary.

The case has been making its way through the legal system since 2009. In its initial lawsuit, in September 2009, the hikers association pointed out that when Sequoia officials adopted a master plan for the two parks in 1971, they specifically announced their intent to both phase-out stock use from higher elevation areas of the two parks that are particularly sensitive to impacts and to eliminate grazing in all areas of the parks.

In reaching that decision, park officials at the time cited "the damage resulting from livestock foraging for food and resultant trampling of soils, possible pollution of water, and conflict with foot travelers..." the association's filing noted.

But when the Park Service adopted a General Management Plan for the two parks in 1997, it did not reiterate the desire to phase out stock use, but instead decided to allow stock use "up to current levels."

In his ruling back in January, Judge Seeborg held that Sequoia and Kings Canyon officials failed to conduct the requisite studies into the commercial need for pack trips in the two parks. Specifically, the judge noted, the Park Service must examine how commercial backcountry uses impact the landscape and "balance ... their potential consequences with the effects of preexisting levels of commercial activity."

In seeking injunctive relief at a hearing set for May 23, the hikers association cited past rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the public's best interest is "in maintaining pristine wild areas unimpaired by man for future use and enjoyment." At the same time, the group's motion notes, the approach to managing backcountry horse trips at Sequoia and Kings Canyons is detrimental to those qualities.

"Letters from park visitors also reveal that current levels of commercial stock services frequently prevent visitors from enjoying the primeval character, solitude, and natural conditions associated with wilderness," the association's petition said.

In one letter, visitors said their trip was "ruined by the huge amount of dust created by stock animals”; another wrote that "(T)he character of the wilderness experience that we can usually count on when three or four days from the trailhead is completely destroyed when a large group of people camp in the area with all the comforts of home [which they have carried in using stock]”; and another stated that "instead of enjoying the pure alpine air, which is one of the points of a trip in the first place, hikers are forced to breathe a mixture of dust and powdered manure that creates air quality that would not be tolerated . . . on any freeway in California.”

The petition also pointed that "NPS acknowledged in the GMP that 'backcountry hikers often are disturbed by the impacts of stock use — the presence and smell of urine or feces, the potential introduction of alien weeds, heavily grazed and trampled meadows, dust, erosion, and some widened trails.'"

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, somehow connected the hikers association's efforts with Obama administration. In a column on his blog last week the congressman wrote that:

Rural mountain communities are once again in the cross-hairs of liberal politicians and regulators. Having already devastated California’s mining and timber industries with laws and regulations limiting access to public lands, environmental radicals have moved full speed into a new round of limitations that impact recreational use of our National Parks. They want to eliminate the backcountry horsemen, the only means left by which the vast majority of Americans, including those with disabilities, are able to gain access to the American wilderness.
Furthermore, Rep. Nunes maintained that "... the Obama Administration is pushing backcountry horsemen out of business at the same time it is urging Americans to “get outdoors.”
The White House could demonstrate an interest in protecting these “outdoor” jobs with a simple act – one that it has so far refused to entertain. The Administration simply needs to ask the court for a one year extension of existing permits. A one year extension would allow adequate time for the permitting process to be updated in order to reflect new wilderness requirements and it may spare the small but time honored industry from the chopping block.
Meanwhile, over at change.org, a petition drive aimed at U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, has gathered more than 1,300 signatures in support of horse trips into wilderness areas.
Horses allow access to your Federal lands when you are unable or unwilling to hike to reach the wilderness. Young people, old people or any person with a disability will lose their right to visit Sequoia National Park with the removal of this option of travel.
But the matter at hand would not jeopardize anyone's right to visit Sequoia, nor would it place the park's wilderness, which comprises roughly 90 percent of the park's high country, out of reach. It could make obtaining a slot on a horse trek into the backcountry a bit more difficult, depending upon how Judge Seeborg rules. In that regard, though, some might equate that with the challenge of obtaining a room in the Yosemite Valley or at Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

AttachmentSize
SEKI-High Sierra Hikers Motion.pdf138.37 KB

Comments

I understand, Connected. You may be an outfitter who tries to be responsible, but there are a slug of them out there who are not. And then there are the private parties who have their own horses.

You may be in a good position to try to use your knowledge to influence others who use horses in our parks and forests. Why not use your energy in that direction instead of arguing with people like us who don't exactly agree with you. You might be surprised to learn that you actually have a lot of sympathy from me. But it is the abusers who are causing the greatest problems for you. Wouldn't it be time better spent to go after them?

Dear Connected, you are comparing apples to oranges, avoiding a very simple direct question, and your proposed solution is just plain preposterous. First, the apples-to-oranges: your example of the Grand Canyon does not apply to this discussion about what commercial activity is necessary in wilderness -- the river corridor thru the Grand is not designated wilderness. (That's why motorboats and all kinds of other things not normally permissible in wilderness are allowed there.) Second issue: why are you afraid to answer the simple question: Who needs picnic tables and ice chests to experience wilderness? And third, you propose that when my wilderness experience is destroyed by noisy horse parties, I should simply "deal with it person to person." As if I and my petite girlfriend are going to approach a bunch of howling drunk men and ask them to please quiet down, or please keep their horses from tramping thru our camp all night long. You are not only side-stepping the real issues being discussed here, but your proposed "solution" is completely insensitive and unrealistic. Some (many?) of us do want some reasonable restrictions and rules, and it is callous of you to suggest that we should just "deal with it." If the commercial horse parties left all that unecessary stuff at home, they would learn more respect for the wilderness, have a more true wilderness experience themselves, and not impact the rest of us so much. Everyone would benefit.

Lee, I'll do my part anyway. Just wondering what you'll be doing to help bridge the gap with your friends and make the back country trails and camps awesome for everyone? Hint, don't follow Potus's lead:)!

Been ruminating on Vickie's last thoughts.
I guess there is a hierarchy of obnoxious activities that would be inappropriate in wilderness that a majority of people could agree upon. Very few would be ok with 2 cycle dirt bikes in the wilderness. Though I'm sure someone could come up with a logical reason why under certain circumstances they would be ok.
The more people you have seeking out wilderness the more restrictions your going to have , even when that activity is historical, cultural or whatever. It is inevitable that activities like pack trips will be restricted or eliminated in some wilderness areas. I hope it is done in a way that favours the outfitters that have the knowledge and ethics to conduct their business in the most appropriate way.
I think there are certain connotations of the the word wilderness. Word like ice chest and generators don't come to most folks mind, horses I'm not so sure about.

The word sissification comes to mind. Much of the Canyon is managed as if it will be wilderness someday. We do have one point of agreement (portable generators/amplified music). Above all, in my world in the backcountry it generally does not take long for a friendly encounter to take place with any of the user groups. It's very fun when you make the effort. That's the "true wilderness experience."

Sorry, Con, but it would do no good to try to recount the many, many efforts I've made to bridge gaps. When you try to carry on a sensible discussion with someone who insists on going off in various directions that are not directly related to the topic at hand, or someone who uses nebulous points such as "sissification" or shots at "potus," it's a pretty sure bet that there is little real thought going on over there. It takes some effort to bridge gaps, and that effort must come from both sides.

Lee:
Maybe the answer is not an obvious or direct one as evidenced by your many attempts at bridging the gaps, apparently unsuccessfully. The words I used, I believe, are correct. The pattern of Potus and his aproach to bridging the gaps is directly applicable when you consider all the numerous straw man scenarios he comes up with. Pick some abusive instance of packers with amplified sound and picnic tables, throw in some buz words and a whole industry is on the enemies list. I have wondered why in my time guiding that I have not had one whiner as a rider and have tons of hiker friends, new and old. I guess the Wilderness experience allows me to not react in kind and see the breakthroughs that occur on a daily basis. It's very fun but could be described as nebulous by some:). Hope to run into you in the backcountry at some point. Take care.

I'm not going to shrivel in response to name-calling, or stoop to that level myself, but it's become obvious after numerous queries and attempts to engage in civil discourse here that "Connected" is rambling on tangents and ideological agendas, and s/he is not adding anything of substance to this discussion. I do not have any problem with horses being used by those persons who are unable to hike or carry a backpack. But can anyone else out there think of an honest reason why someone would need picnic tables, camp furniture, or ice chests to enjoy a true wilderness experience? Or any legitimate reason why these things should be allowed in wilderness at all, since they require additional animals to carry them in and out?

Granite Girl asks: "But can anyone else out there think of an honest reason why someone
would need picnic tables, camp furniture, or ice chests to enjoy a true
wilderness experience?"

I can. For people like the ones I met in the Wind Rivers, those things are essential because they were people accustomed to being waited on hand and foot in five star hotels and restaurants. It's the same kind of thing that led one famous actor to go on a rampage in Yosemite long ago when he wasn't allowed to park his limousine in a No Parking - Fire Lane spot. Or the person I stopped for speeding at 65 mph across Firehole Flats who handed me his U.S. House of Representatives identification card instead of his driver's license. (The citation I wrote was later dismissed as a "courtesy" by our magistrate at the time.) There is even a name for this phenomenon. I think it is spelled ENTITLEMENT.

The "need" for ice chests, music amplifiers, tables with linen and silverware in wilderness is just a reflection of that kind of mentality. All they need is a good dose of plain ol' humility.

Ah, well. Human nature. . . . .

Ah, horsey people. You make a deal with the devil and still you are left with the horns. The reality is that the land can produce money for the people and there will always be pressure to do so.
That is of course unless you are a Subaru driving puritan with the idea of "I've got mine, screw the rest of you".

There's no shortage of judgement and assumptions here. What if someone is simply not comfortable sitting on the ground? Any of you have bad knees or a bad back? Or a grandparent who still loves the backcountry? The overwhelming assumption seems to be that everyone is in the same physical shape as Lee and Granite Girl, who obviously are very comfortable without chairs or tables and I say, more power to you both. However, there ARE people who perhaps could hike in previously, were comfortable perched on a rock or sitting on the ground with legs crossed, but age, time, and use have taken a toll on the body and it isn't possible anymore. I'm sorry, but some of you hikers are so damned myopic! "Well, it's comfortable for me so why shouldn't it be comfortable for everyone?" Get outside your own limited point of view PLEASE! and see that the wilderness is enjoyed by all kinds of people, not only the super-fit, flexible youth. YOUR view of how the wilderness should be enjoyed matters only to you. Go forth, travel light, and have a great time. But try a little tolerance too.

Bad knees etc have slowed me down considerably but I don't see that as an excuse to degrade wilderness (remote places) because conditions have changed for me. Knowing it is there and people like Granite Girl are experiencing it in an unintrusive manner is fine by me. Some people can't physically ride horses what about them, should we widen the trial so a Kawasaki Mule can bring them to remote places?

I agree that hikers are short sighted and not very open to outsiders. Their basic structure does not include handicapped or children into the rules they want passed. After my recent visit to Crabtree Falls I saw first hand that the people that were more capable were less tolerant of those who are less capable.
What to me is worse is that the same organization (NPS) that justifies killing off any non native species that can potentially damage "unique flora or fauna" will allow an invasive species (their definition not mine) like horses to trample through the parks.

Good comment, SS. At 71 years, I find it more difficult to get far into the wilderness these days. I know a day will come when I'll have to be content with standing outside and looking in. But knowing that these places will still be there -- in good condition -- for my grandchildren and theirs will be happiness enough.

I'm just passing through this world and I don't feel I'm entitled to damage or destroy any of it.

Vickie:
As always, Vickie, a good post. Much of it alludes to what I see as one of the crowning glories of the backcountry. With so many from varied backgrounds, political persuasions, temperament and physical condition, stepping into a world that truly humbles with the focus on things other than self. Meeting every challenge with anticipation and excitment, leaving stronger with memories that last a lifetime. Not a bad reality, I believe.
I'd like to add a letter, if Kurt would allow, from a single mother of twins who wrote me about her kids and her own experience. I have received permission to post.

Hi Jeff,

I've been thinking a lot about our experience with the canyon. I know
it was incredible for both my kids, but perhaps especially for Noah.
Last year this time, Noah was experiencing severe anxiety, was pulled
out of school, and had become nearly suicidal. I know that sounds
unbelievable for a then 11 year-old, but it was very intense and very
scary. We got help for him (medical and otherwise), and he is making
progress by leaps and bounds. I tell you this to let you know how
huge it was for Noah to be able to do this. He was awake at 4 a.m.
that morning of the mule ride, sure that he, or one of us, was fated
to die that day on those mules. He was sobbing nearly hysterically
and I began to doubt whether this was going to be possible and if I
was doing the right thing. I helped him get back to sleep and by
later that morning, the worst of it was gone, but by no means
completely disappeared. I can't thank you enough for helping him (and
me!) through that. It was a real breakthrough for him, one we'll
never forget and one that has and will continue to make a lasting
difference in his life. How incredible to get these things at the age
of 12! Thank you again.

I've been reflecting on my own experience with the canyon too. What
an amazing 30 hours, from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon. The
canyon itself has become a powerful metaphor for me. Something
happened to me over that day and a half. Something like a crevice
opened up for me, and I was somehow inside of it and yet an observer
of it, all at the same time. Like what I saw looking out over the
canyon, the space I saw and felt within myself was deep, vast, and
huge. At the bottom was the groundedness of the river - solid and
strong, and at the top was the etherealness of the sky - weightless
and fleeting. That heightened sense of awareness that the canyon
blessed me with, combined with many of the things you said and did,
and just your presence itself - gave me a perspective I hadn't had
before. (You probably weren't aware you were having such an effect on
me). In any case, the result of all this was that I saw things
differently - things about my childhood, my marriage, and myself.
Somehow, the canyon and you achieved, seemingly without effort, what
many hours of psychotherapy, books and occasionally medication, could
not. Some of what I saw was painful, some of it was bittersweet, but
it came with such an exhilarating and almost intoxicating sense of
clarity. And I've decided I'll take clarity, even if it's painful,
over ambiguity any day. It was that kind of clarity that seems to set
the truth right smack in front of you, gives you wings and says "go
now, you're free". I have you, and the canyon, to thank for that.
Words really are inadequate to express my gratitude - but you and the
canyon have been on my mind and I appreciate this opportunity to
express some of it to you with this letter. It comes from my heart.
I have no doubt that, while you love your work and feel blessed to be
there, you are also providing something for people that is truly
breathtaking and spectacular (and I don't just mean the views of the
canyon). You are part of something that can make a valuable
difference for peope. I hope you never lose sight of that. Well,
I've probably rambled on longer than I should. Wish we were there.
Thanks for listening, Jill

I've been thinking a lot about our experience with the canyon. I know

The reason given above for why some people desire camp furniture is simply "comfort." But there is nothing in the Wilderness Act that says people are supposed to be "comfortable" in wilderness, or that commercial services are necessary to pamper their clients with comforts. The only specific example provided is that some people may desire a chair because they may be uncomfortable sitting on the ground. If that's so, a member of the group could simply roll a rock or log into position for them to sit upon. (That's what wilderness visitors have done for ages.) And if that's not sufficient, the "uncomfortable" person probably can't sit on a horse all day, either. So it's a red herring.

The bottom line here is that nobody "needs" picnic tables, camp furniture, music players, or ice chests to have the wilderness experience that all of us here seek to enjoy and provide.

Let's be honest: Limits on unnecessary comforts and luxuries will not exclude anyone. And let's be clear: Nobody is challenging non-commercial wilderness visitors' ability to haul such items into wilderness, if they want to. The court decision we're discussing is about commercial services, and the law says that commercial services must be limited to the "extent necessary." So all of the unnecessary luxuries, comforts, and modern contrivances provided by some commercial packers should be curtailed - to comply with the law. This would provide a true wilderness experience for their clients, and for others around them. And it would minimize the number of animals, which are known to have a variety of negative impacts on the land.

What to me is worse is that the same organization (NPS) that justifies killing off any non native species that can potentially damage "unique flora or fauna" will allow an invasive species (their definition not mine) like horses to trample through the parks.
I wonder if "invasive" species weren't outcompeting "native" species or disrupting a native ecosystem, their management wouldn't be as important an issue. That said, isn't the whole point here that pack horses are to some extent damaging the local ecology and therefore need to be managed (perhaps unlike wild horses on NPS lands)?

Reading through the forums here, on High Sierra Topix, and the JMT hiker forum (sorry, don't have the name at hand), a distinct pattern emerges. Contributers who have identified themselves as having made their living in the backcountry and have spent seasons in the wilderness tend to have the more moderate and tolerant view of things, and recognize that things have to change but compromises can be made. Then there are the strident, "my way or the highway" posts that seem to come from contributers who identify themselves as hikers, environmentalists or otherwise champions of the wilderness as they see it. Their posts are usually filled with inflammatory descriptions of what they don't like and have a lot of value attached. Kind of like the high sierra hikers association's website. I'm guessing - and I could be wrong - that most of those contributers are more of a visitor to the backcountry - they take a trip or two (or five) a year into the wilderness and when they go in, they want little to no sign of enterprise. For them, it is an escape. For the people who work in the wilderness, it is not an escape, it is a way of life. Which point of view is more important? Or can they co-exist? Does one have to beat the other to death?
There's real value in discourse and truly listening to someone else's point of view, experience, and whatever else he or she is bringing to the discussion. One liners, zingers, derogatory remarks, and a holier than thou attitude brings nothing but animosity. Contributes nothing to working out a solution.
No matter what your personal comfort level is in the backcountry it is not something you can apply to everyone in some sort of blanket fashion and just because you don't need it doesn't mean someone else doesn't. I meet PCT hikers all the time who travel without a stove or tent. I've not heard one of them say to another backpacker that stoves and tents should be banned and / or aren't necessary. Need is relative and subjective and highly personal.
Again, if it gets down to what is needed and necessary in the wilderness, none of us may be there eventually - we will talk our little human selves right out of it. And I'm sure there are people on this forum who would be very happy with that, but I think not the majority. When you start pointing fingers at what someone else considers essential to have a comfortable backcountry experience you are essentially telling that person that you know what is best and I'm wondering, how did you come to have this authority?

I aplogize for posting again, but I wanted to explain myself a little better. I think we are getting into pretty dicey ground when we start going to court and trying to prove need. There's no need on the part of the wilderness to have us there. In fact, there's probably more a need to have us NOT there. So once we get into a courtroom and start debating need - where does it end?
I believe that mitigation for the impacts of stock use is an issue that has to be addressed and packers should fully embrace that concept and come up with workable solutions. Note: packers should come up with workable solutions. Just like ranchers have come up with workable solutions for the impacts of cattle grazing.
And to all of the contributers that just see the solution as kicking stock out of the backcountry - that's just not going to happen so pull up a chair (or rock or log) and start a dialogue that truly means something.

There's real value in discourse and truly listening to someone else's point of view, experience, and whatever else he or she is bringing to the discussion. One liners, zingers, derogatory remarks, and a holier than thou
attitude brings nothing but animosity. Contributes nothing to working out a solution.

Agreed. Which means this guy (Rep. Nunes) should listen to you!:

Rural mountain communities are once again in the cross-hairs of liberal politicians and regulators. Having already devastated California’s mining and timber industries with laws and regulations limiting access to public lands, environmental radicals have moved full speed into a new round of limitations that impact recreational use of our National Parks. They want to eliminate the backcountry horsemen, the only means left by which the vast majority of Americans, including those with disabilities, are able to gain access to the American wilderness.

Vickie
We are heading in a good direction here I believe, for everyone, but then the attorney's must find a way to win. A few have complained how far afield things go in this discussion but there is a common theme that is evident in all of todays issues, some people are just endowed with greater knowledge and authority over everyone else, lol! It's just that crazy out there. What is the most grounded of of all arguments is the absence of all the intellectual BS and that we all are just one step from compost material. Enjoy!

Vickie asks: "So once we get into a courtroom and start debating need - where does it end?" The answer is that it ends with commercial services. The law of the land allows commercial services in wilderness only to the extent that such services are truly necessary. So we're not talking here about non-commercial (i.e., private) visitors, and we're not talking here about administrative uses (such as rangers, trail crews, search-and-rescue, etc.). We are talking here about (and the court is considering) ONLY what commercial services are truly necessary to provide for wilderness recreation. And I have not heard a single valid argument why picnic tables, camp furniture, music players, or ice chests are necessary for anyone to experience the wilderness. I'm not trying to impose my own ways on others (that is irrelevant, and I won't even get into what those might be). But since furniture, amplified sound, and ice chests are not truly necessary for anyone to have a wilderness experience, the law demands that they not be provided to recreationists by commercial packers - especially since such luxuries require more animals, which is known to have many harmful effects on the land.

And I have not heard a single valid argument why picnic tables, camp furniture, music players, or ice chests are necessary for anyone to experience the wilderness. I'm not trying to impose my own ways on others (that is irrelevant, and I won't even get into what those might
Isn't the issue, to what extent these things are necessary without impairing the wilderness experience of others? If someone at their backcountry campsite has a folding chair or an ice chest, I'm not sure it would compromise my experience of the wilderness, just as my reading light and books aren't necessary for a wilderness experience, but I doubt would compromise anyone else's. Since the number of pack animals needs to be reduced because they're exceeding the capacity of the backcountry (destroying meadows, eroding and widening trails, waste produced, etc.), then is it less likely that much of that stuff can be hauled into the backcountry anyway?

Why don't we ask John Muir and those men and women of the culture that started it all?
Headed for the picnic tables, beds and other comforts that seem to be objectionable to modern eleetists. Having an idea what the sensibilities were at the time (before the 60's) I don't think they would be pleased.
http://archive.library.nau.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cpa&CISOPTR=14878&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

More fallout from the Judge's action:
http://www.visitsequoia.com/bearpaw-closure-faq.aspx

I might have missed it, Lee but has Mr. Mackie weighed in on this particular judge shutting down support options for Sequoia-Kings including Bear Paw? I'd be interested to hear.

Walkin' Jim:
I think not about the overreacting charge you level here. Like the sizeable number of cases around the country of incremental loss to stock use initiated by buerocrats, environental groups and Liberal judges is a war by the few against the many from what I've seen. If the group would like a 20 % reduction it would be ecstatic if it could get 100%. Has the marks of environmental extremist activism written all over it as unpopular as it is accross the country. Tax payer funded scam.

Yes, extreme environmenalists are THE problem. If they care as much as they say they do they'd just ban themselves from the Wilderness.
So if you are a Wilderness Avocate why not do the responsible thing and stay out of the Wilderness since you are so GREAT at wanting to ban everyone else that's human powered why not do the right thing and get out of the Wilderness yourselves. For the children and the animals (that should make you feel good, right -do the right thing for a change)

Why don't we ask John Muir and those men and women of the culture that started it all?
"No man is truly free who has care of more than his own two feet."
--John Muir (after dragging a recalcitrant mule, Brownie, from Yosemite to Kings Canyon).

gdurkee: I like your post and will elaborate later but here's another about the "Unbroken Colt" on the first Palm Sunday.

Jesus Christ was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing full well that this trip would end in his sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. He sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage, about a mile away from the city at the foot of the Mount of Olives. He told them to look for a donkey tied by a house, with its unbroken colt next to it. Jesus instructed the disciples to tell the owners of the animal that "The Lord has need of it." (Luke 19:31, ESV)

The men found the donkey, brought it and its colt to Jesus, and placed their cloaks on the colt. Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In his path, people threw their cloaks on the ground and put palm branches on the road before him. Others waved palm branches in the air.

John Muir used but at the same time despised horses:

"Yosemite was all one glorious flower garden before plows and scythes and trampling, biting horses came to make its wide open spaces look like farmers' pature fields."

Muir viewed stock for what they are, no more, no less: Necessary for some to visit wilderness, but harmful to both the land and to the experience of unencumbered travel. And there is no evidence that Muir hauled unnecessary luxuries or comforts such as being discussed here (camp furniture, etc.).

The law seems simple enough: Commercial services may not be provided in wilderness unless they are truly necessary. If it isn't necessary, commercial outfits should leave it at the trailhead. As was already said above, the extra animals needed to carry the unnecessary stuff harms the land, and the night-time parties facilitated by all that unnecessary stuff harms the experience of other wilderness visitors. What's wrong with just following the law?

"Commercial services may not be provided in Wilderness unless they are truly necessary."

The continued derogatory attitude toward "Commercial" interests while these providers give opportunity to the least and most infirm of people in all categories is unfortunate. In one case while gutting public (including the handicapped) opportunity for the Iconic Grand Canyon Mule Rides the mules are still carrying an estimated 7000 hiker duffells in support of hiker adventures in "managed as Wilderness" areas in the Canyon. The "truly necessary" argument is subjective in it's application.

"What's wrong with following the law?"

The law now days seems to be more subjective and changing than ever before with resulting loss to the public. To the point where leaders pick and choose which ones to enforce by an ever increasing extremist element. Abuses of the EI process by arrogant, crony leaders threatening career employees while currying retirement jobs (advising about suits/strategy against the agency) with extreme environmental groups. Activism in and out of the Park system, abuse of EI procedures, crony leadership insuring lucrative career paths with lack of oversite for poor or illegal decisions made in official capacities. Just following the Law if it were universal would indeed be an improvement if it were not for those that circumvent it and simply use it when it suits their interests.

"Rant" bemoans what s/he perceives to be a "deragatory attitude toward commercial interests" and complains that "the law now days [sic] seems to be more subjective and changing than ever before."

Let's review the facts... The Wilderness Act of 1964, a truly bi-partisan law, passed the House of Representatives FIFTY YEARS AGO (not "now days") on a vote of 373-1. It passed the Senate by 73-12. It has not "changed" (i.e., been significantly amended) since it was signed into law nearly 50 years ago.

Congress enacted the Wilderness Act "to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition."

The Act generally prohibits commercial enterprise in wilderness areas, but provides a very narrow exception for the authorization of commercial services to the "extent necessary" for activities which are proper for realizing the recreational or other wilderness purposes of the areas.

Congress understood when it adopted the Wilderness Act that it could not meet the over-arching preservation goals of the Act if business and profits were supreme. Our elected representatives made a conscious decision that profits would be subordinate to preservation on the very small percentage of our public lands that we call "wilderness."

The Act is clear that commercial services in wilderness are to be limited to those that are truly necessary. Some commenters above apparently disagree with this requirement. But that doesn't mean they are right; it means that they disagree with the law -- a visionary, bi-partisan law that was passed generations ago.

Congress meant when it overwhelmingly passed the Wilderness Act that commercial services would be limited to those that are truly necessary. The reason this issue has now ended up in court is that the commercial packers and public agencies have refused to follow the law. Our third branch of government (the judiciary) exists to ensure that our executive and legislative branches follow the law. It's the American way.

One final fact: the plaintiffs in this case have never asked to ban commercial services, only that they be limited to the extent necessary as required by law.

"Yes, extreme environmenalists are THE problem. If they care as much as they say they do they'd just ban themselves from the Wilderness.
So if you are a Wilderness Avocate why not do the responsible thing and stay out of the Wilderness since you are so GREAT at wanting to ban everyone else that's human powered why not do the right thing and get out of the Wilderness yourselves. For the children and the animals (that should make you feel good, right -do the right thing for a change)"

I can not agree more. Just lock out all people. We are the problem! leave the Wilderness for the animals. We don't belong there.
Would make all the Closed Minded Envriomental Groups happy.

Biker, Mr. Mike, Not Necessary, Rant, and others: If you disagree with the law, why don't you come out and say that you disagree with the law? Your generic whining about "extreme" environmentalists and "liberal" judges falls flat, especially when your only proposed solutions are far more extreme (i.e., suggesting that everyone stay out of wilderness). Why are you calling people extreme or liberal simply for exercising their right to uphold the law of the land? Can't we attack the issues and not the persons?

Calling people names such as "extreme," "closed-minded," and "liberal" is unproductive and it precludes civil discourse about the issues at hand. And such accusations are not (in this case at least) even supported by the facts. The truth here is that the High Sierra Hikers Assoc (the plaintiff in this case) represents thousands of hikers from all walks of life, many of whom are themselves stock users, and the HSHA is seeking here only reasonable limits on commercial services as required by law. And a panel of judges, including both liberal and conservative justices, has ruled unanimously that the Wilderness Act means what it says: commercial services must be limited to the extent necessary. See: http://www.highsierrahikers.org/MuirAdams9th.pdf

Rather than name calling, why don't folks at least read the Wilderness Act and the HSHA's request to the court, and then if you disagree, articulate where and why.

Don't forget "elitist" as one of the negative code words one group routinely uses for people of differing viewpoint. Im not going to call anyone elitist or anything else as I agree with walkin ' Jim about having civil discourse to discuss issues. Should we consider management of national lands as nothing more than a type of national zoning? The word "wilderness" must have specific meaning and management. To be honest I'm fine with some wilderness land be held to an even higher standard, maybe something like a limited quota with a licences guide. It is more important for me to know that there some areas are as wild as we can maintain them than allowing unrestricted access. I'd want a diverse group of people with varying interests to make those judgements. You should always be able to learn something from someone with a different viewpoint.

Mt. Sister:
"Muir viewed stock for what they are, no more, no less: Necessary for some to visit wilderness, but harmful to both the land and to the experience of unencumbered travel. And there is no evidence that Muir hauled unnecessary luxuries or comforts such as being discussed here (camp furniture, etc.)."
I am pretty familiar with your impressions on stock and your slant on other issues as well. I certainly don't disparage you personally knowing my own personal growth but those impressions you hold are at the core of so much of the acrimony today. Finding haven in an increasing legalistic elements of society which does not add to real happiness for anyone other than some sort of warm fuzzy (lawyering victory) by getting your way. For your own benefit and for the rest of us I will pray for breakthroughs. Respectfully
"Horses aren’t lazy and they’re not greedy and they’re not jealous and they’re not spiteful, they’re not hateful. They’re not that way. But the human can sometimes only describe a horse in the way that they view other human beings."
- Buck Brannaman

I want to respond to a point made by walkin' Jim: "...some people may desire a chair because they may be uncomfortable sitting on the ground. If that's so, a member of the group could simply roll a rock or log into position for them to sit upon. (That's what wilderness visitors have done for ages.)"

Plants and soil invertebrates probably need that rock or log left in place to survive, so such behavior is really not very low-impact camping in the long run, whether using stock or not. Repeated trips to nearby unmoved rock and log 'furniture' is also a large factor in expanding bare ground to many thousands of square feet at popular campsites. At Seven Lakes Basin and other revegetated backcountry sites in Olympic, large flat blocks of rock were helicoptered to campsites to try and prevent this expansion of bare ground.

I don't know about tables and ice chests, but a few folding chairs in a top-load is probably not going to increase the number of stock required on any given pack trip. I do know that when Olympic was drafting stock use rules, it was suggested that perhaps one valley on both the east and west sides remain closed to stock to act as baselines to gauge impacts. The idea died when every backcountry stock campsite in the park was found to have exotic weeds already long-established.

What cracks me up is people quote Muir and the Wilderness Act to prove a point. Yet so much in the world has changed since Muir walked through any of these areas. Do you think Muir's view of the future included Trams and parking lots? Even the Wilderness act originally stated "No Permanent Roads" Yet here we are today. Man has not only paved roads through wilderness areas, but he has worn trails from hiking, as well as horses!
If you are going to use these examples to prove a point please note that both the original document and Muir would not even recognize these areas today. Every piece of pavement you drove on and every worn trail you hiked are there for the convenance of you, just as the horses are.

In response to the "seed" issue and the spread of weeds by stock, that particular issue has been to a great degree (documented), been solved by the requirement of weed free feed being used in most areas of Federal Land.
This is not the case in the human caused dispersal of White Nose Syndrome, an extremely fatal affliction that has the potential for ravaging the nation's bat populations that have very dire repercussions.
Whatever the conflicts that some have (Stock Issue) whether they are substantive or just personal preferences asserted in creative ways I'd like resolutions that reflect respect for individuals in their effort to gain more connectedness to the wilds (and themselves).

To "tahoma" & "anony," All of your points are very well taken (and I agree). But since we've been talking about Sequoia & Kings Canyon NPs (SEKI) here, there are some additional relevant facts to consider. First "anony" re: weed-free feed: The NPS at SEKI does not require the use of weed-free feed. Ecologists and conservationists have for years asked SEKI to adopt such a rule, but it won't. In fact, SEKI just spent 10 years writing a new General Management Plan, and all it says about weeds is that: (1) NPS "encourages" (but does not require) the use of weed-free feed; and (2) SEKI will "monitor" weed poplulations and remove them once they become established (a reactionary instead of preventive approach, using whatever means, including chemical herbicides, helicopters, etc.). In sum, SEKI remains firmly mired in the past on this issue (and so many others), far behind what other places are doing.

In re: "tahoma," an important point to consider is that the vast majority (nearly all) of stock camps used by commercial outfitters at SEKI have large barren campsite cores with rocks and/or logs already in camp for sitting. Folks wouldn't need to pull new rocks/logs from the landscape to facilitate sitting in most places. This could be addressed further by requiring commercial stock parties to use established and/or designated campsites, as is done in other areas to control impacts.

Is it just me or has this article spurred more discussion than just about any other? The topic must have deeper threads than are obvious.

Nope, it's just you Connie. Lots of other topics around here also get dog-chewwed to death and back, usually by True Believers versus Like Wow Duders and a nice mix of Old Farts for seasoning. But you'll always find what you find here so go for it.

gdurkee:

I don't know how you missed it, but for the last 30 years or so the Back Country Horsemen of America have been been teaching "Leave No Trace" practices in the backcountry at no cost to equestrians, hikers, bikers, and anyone who wants to use the back country. There are members of my own unit, High Sierra, who have lived and worked here for 70 years. Their families go back to the 1800's. Do you seriously think we somehow have decided that it's a good idea to go and destroy it now? I can't remember a trip I have ever taken in which I dragged out more trash than we brought in, and I'm talking two trash bags/horse. And it's all hiker trash, believe me. I know it's a real thrill for your infant to get to see the wilderness before she can talk, but it's not such a thrill for me to haul out her diapers.

Maybe you ought to check us out. You could get surprised. You could learn something about the land you're walking through. You could learn something about how to take care of it. And maybe you could could teach us a bit about why there is so much vitriol.

Chief:

Hi. I certainly have no vitriol. I'm also very familiar with the Backcountry Horseman minimum impact program. Many of you guys make a great effort and that effort is appreciated. Alas, I've seen little sign that it's been effective in the areas I've been in. I see very few private packers and the ones I have seen haven't been through the minimum impact program. Private packers, though, cause very little impact even though the ones I run into never seem to get the information (or aren't interested in getting the information) on where to graze; how to tie their animals; how to rake out their manure etc.). But they're out enjoying their National Park and wilderness and that's great. I really have no problem with private parties. There's few of them and their overall impact is low. The current HSHA lawsuit and subseqent ruling doesn't affect them at all. It's directed at commercial packers only.

Still, however "minimum" you make the impact of a horse or mule, it's still going to be 10 times or more that of a human on foot. There's nothing you can do about that. That's not vitriol, that's just basic facts.

You know how much a horse weighs; you know how much grass they eat; how much manure they leave; how much dust they churn up (erosion). There's no way around it. Once again, the idea is for all of us to reduce our impact. You guys do a terrific job, but there's only so far you can take it. The suit argues, correctly I believe, that the impacts can be major and that there ought to be places where visitors can see and experience meadows free of stock use. That's not the same as prohibiting stock -- just looking for a compromise.

Again, it's not zero sum. Because hikers leave diapers does not somehow mean stock users can churn up meadows, which is implied by your argument.

But, anyway, glad you're hauling it out!