Public Will Get Opportunity in October To Comment On Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Plan

How best to manage wilderness areas in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks will be the topic for public conversation come October, when the parks seek input on preliminary draft alternatives for their Wilderness Stewardship Plan.

At a series of public meetings, the National Park Service will be seeking ideas and feedback about alternatives to address future wilderness management at the two parks.

Topics that may be addressed in the plan include: day and overnight use; permitting and quotas; party sizes; campfires; food storage; camping and campsites; human waste management; pack stock and grazing management; scientific research; natural and cultural resource management; maintenance of signs, trails, bridges, and other recreational infrastructure; administrative infrastructure; education and outreach; the extent to which commercial services are necessary to fulfill the recreational and other purposes of wilderness areas; and front-country support facilities.

Many of these topics were brought forward during the public scoping phase of the planning process that took place from April 11 to August 31 last year. The issue raised its head earlier this year when the lack of a wilderness management plan temporarily derailed the parks' ability to issue permits for pack trips this summer.

The problem was temporarily resolved when Congress intervened and sent legislation to President Obama that would allow the parks to issue permits for this summer's season.

To learn more about the process and how to comment on what the new plan should include, visit the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website and/or consider attending an upcoming workshop during the last two weeks of October to listen to a presentation by the National Park Service and meet with staff to discuss your ideas about alternatives or submit your comments.

The schedule for the meetings is:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

7 p.m.- 9 p.m.

Eastern Sierra Tri-county Fairgrounds

Patio Building

Sierra Street and Fair Street

Bishop, CA 93514

Friday, October 26, 2012

7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Los Angeles River Center

California Building Atrium

570 West Avenue 26

Los Angeles, CA 90065

Monday, October 29, 2012

7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

East Bay Regional Parks

Redwood Regional Park

Richard C. Trudeau Training Center

Main Conference Room

11500 Skyline Blvd

Oakland, CA 94619

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

6 p.m. -- 8 p.m.

Visalia Marriott Hotel

Main Ballroom

300 South Court Street

Visalia, CA 93291

Comments

I've noticed that NPT has for all intents and purposes taken a strong position in favor of closing down the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm in Point Reyes NS because it is in a potential wilderness area and because it's a "commercial enterprise" in such an area. At the same time, there have been several articles encouraging people to visit the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite as well as Bearpaw HSC in SEKI, which are in potential wilderness and are clearly money making operations for Delaware North - serviced by helicopters, using commercial cooking facilities, and with many permanent buildings.

Several of the comments in the scoping process are suggestions that the Bearpaw HSC in SEKI be removed and "returned to its natural state".

The Drakes Bay Oyster Farm situation is a great illustration of how our Manichean (i.e., black-and-white, zero-sum) approach to Wilderness produces bizarre and undesirable results. With luck, the oyster farm will remain, given that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) seems to be backing its continued existence.

What is the purpose of scenery if only a very few can see it. Closing Bear Paw meadows would close off backcountry hiking to the middle to older demographic that pay the bulk of the taxes that support the parks. The backcountry would only be available to the twenty something's that make up the largest group of backpackers. If the presence of permanent structures bothers them, then they should also call for the removal of the backcountry ranger stations.

Anonymous:
What is the purpose of scenery if only a very few can see it. Closing Bear Paw meadows would close off backcountry hiking to the middle to older demographic that pay the bulk of the taxes that support the parks. The backcountry would only be available to the twenty something's that make up the largest group of backpackers. If the presence of permanent structures bothers them, then they should also call for the removal of the backcountry ranger stations.
It's incredibly easy for some to paint others as "elitists". I've seen people complaining that the users of such backcountry facilities were "elitists" because of the costs of using such concessions. Of course there is the opposite, where people are described as "elitist" in only supporting use by the most physically fit (i.e. must haul in your own stuff without the use of horses or stock) and bringing in expensive high tech gear such as titanium stoves, expensive water filters, $300 backpacks, etc.

It's easy to hurl insults and describe people as the "other" who is out of touch with the majority.

Y_P_W: Always enjoy your common sense posts avoiding the self centered pitfalls that seem to drive the conversations. There is a conflict free zone surrounding all my trips into the backcountry. Interesting how things work out for everyone when the effort is made. Great times of breakthroughs and shared experiences! A major benefit that carries on in day to day stuff.

But neither of you disagreed with my statement of which groups would be kept out of the backcountry if Bearpaw Meadow were closed. Excluding people who previously enjoyed the experience is not good policy.

Anonymous, why not? Cyclists were kicked out of wilderness in 1986 eventhough we were previously allowed to enjoy it.

Keeper mentions his/her perception that "self-centered pitfalls . . . seem to drive the conversations" on NPT. It wouldn't surprise me if he/she includes we critical mountain bikers, because we are certainly regular complainers.

This is, however, the inevitable result of federal land policy that divides people not necessarily by their impact on the land or on other visitors, but, artifically, on whether their means of conveyance was in use in 1870 or not.

The Harvard Environmental Law Review had an article, "The Problem With Wilderness," that talks about this problem: rigid categorical exclusions inevitably cause the out-groups to raise a furore:

http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/elr/vol32_2/Laitos%20Final%20Final.pdf

It's worth reading.

Good policy would assess environmental and social impacts (i.e., costs) of uses, weigh those costs against the social benefits of those uses, and manage land accordingly. Saying so is not self-centered in my opinion.


Closing Bear Paw meadows would close off backcountry hiking to the middle to older demographic that pay the bulk of the taxes that support the parks.


So, access should be based on who pays the most?

In previous articles, concerns were raised that Hispanics and young people did not visit the parks. The NPS was attempting through various programs to change that. The NPS is concerned if those demographics never visited a park, they wouldn't support funding the parks. So if the NPS is concerned with not peeving off those who are their bread and butter it would seem that closing access to wilderness to those in the prime earning and taxpaying years would be counterproductive.

The Wilderness Act does contain an exemption for commericial activities which are related to the recreational purposes of wilderness.

Section 4.(d)(7) "Commercial services may be performed within wilderness areas designated by this Act to the extent necessary for activities which are proper for realizing the recreational or other purposes of the Areas."

This provision is the basis for approval of outfitter and guide services within wilderness areas.


So if the NPS is concerned with not peeving off those who are their bread and butter it would seem that closing access to wilderness to those in the prime earning and taxpaying years would be counterproductive.


1) Wilderness isn't being closed to anyone. (One could equally argue that access is equally limited to those who can't afford the concessionaire's service.) 2) They're not going to stop paying taxes because of modifications to commercial use.

Being 76 yeas old I can only hike about 20 miles a day and a 30 mile overnight backpack is tiring. I can sympathize with those my age and older who can't do that any more but they had the chance while they were younger. Why deny younger generations the pleasures of the solitude on wilderness trails by adding mountain bikes. It wasn't that many years ago when we were saying parks were being loved to death. No one has the nerve to say that anymore for fear commercial interests including park concessioners will come down on their necks.

Roger, you are fortunate to be hiking at 76. Some of us didn't have the chance to backpack when we were younger. When you're starting out in your career there is little vacation time. When your children are young, hiking vacations are impossible. So facilities like Bear Paw Meadows serve a valuable niche. They aid in allowing those who appreciate wilderness to enjoy it. I don't see the backcountry camps like the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite or Bear Paw as being out of step with the purpose of the National Park System. There are things that are completely at odds with the purpose of the national parks which could be eliminated to ease congestion and return the parks to a mission of preserving and appreciating nature: (there are lots of them in Yosemite such as gift shops, bicycle rentals, rafting, the ski area, art galleries, and special events that have little to do with the park itself.)

I would make note of a few things relating to the section of the Wilderness Act regarding commercial activities relating to "recreational purposes". That section is supposed to mean such things as commercial guiding and educational activities. This means things such as guided hikes, rock climbing lessons, horse trips, mule packing, hunting or fishing guides, etc that have no permanent affect on the "wilderness characteristics" of the area. It can't possibly mean permanent commercial structures such as kitchens and employee housing. If it did, then commercial guides could apply to set up restocking or food preparation stations in the middle of wilderness areas.

I would also note that the definition of "potential wilderness addition" was never in the original 1964 Wilderness Act. The term 'potential wilderness" was attached to future legislation when NPS wilderness areas were defined.

The High Sierra Camps are very much "potential wilderness additions". The part of the original wilderness Act that talks about commercial activities relating to recreation doesn't mean that buildings can exist in fully designated wilderness areas. If a standard is that the wilderness designation means that potential wilderness must be converted to full wilderness at the first available opportunity (the NPS argument regarding DBOC at Point Reyes) then that would equally mean that the HSCs must be removed when the contract runs out or if the maintenance backlog requires excessive construction.

I think it's OK to complain about all that stuff in Yosemite Valley. However, I think it also needs to be understood that Yosemite Valley is not in a designated or potential wilderness area, and for practical reasons never will be.

The real question is about what is allowed in designated wilderness - especially commercial horse/mule guiding as well as other commercial activities. In addition to that, there are a few preexisting permanent commercial enterprises in potential wilderness areas, and the possible renewal of contracts is an important issue.

As these things are decided in SEKI, I think they will be precedents for how wilderness plans are decided in the future in other NPS areas. Something in my guts tells me that the Forest Service and BLM are going to choose their own path when it comes to wilderness plans.

Yes, I understand all that. My point was that taking the park overall, these backcountry camps are far less intrusive on the national parks experience than the overbuilt Yosemite valley 'services' that I listed. IMHO, only those services essential for visitors should be permitted. Food, lodging, some gas. Education not recreation.

If 'wilderness' is to be truly wilderness, then maintained trails should be eliminated also. Follow the deer paths.

I find it amusing that so many are so prompt to use wilderness character to justify banning bicycles, but now complain when it's their turn to see their favorite recreational structure/activity banned because of that very wilderness character. I have to admit that I enjoy the irony quite a bit.

I'm not getting the feeling that they're "less instrusive". Their waste disposal is serviced by helicopters and their kitchen facilities are bigger than some snack bars in Yosemite Valley.

Anon @ 6:05,

You're blurring things. You can't compare the frontcountry services at Yosemite to the backcountry camps that are in designated wilderness at SEKI. Different criteria apply.

Roger, if I may quote you, you said (see several posts above this one): "I can . . . hike about 20 miles a day and a 30 mile overnight backpack . . . . Why deny younger generations the pleasures of the solitude on wilderness trails by adding mountain bikes?"

Now, I mean no offense, but what do you think you're doing when you're hiking 20 or 30 miles? Posing a risk of violating other people's solitude! With all respect, what makes you think they want to see you but not see someone on a bicycle?

An unkind person would ask you to stop hiking forthwith so that you don't run the risk of ruining others' solitude.

I won't go that far, but would politely suggest that if you reassess and modify your comment you'll be able to shield yourself from accusations of applying a double standard that favors you.

Now, about those younger generations . . . . I'm afraid that you have an overoptimistic view about their love for wilderness solitude. The OECD issued a report saying that 75% of Americans are going to be either overweight or obese by 2020. That will include, unfortunately, many younger people. By discouraging bicycling on trails, you're not doing anything to help get younger people fit instead of fat.

As an anonymous poster described on these pages recently, the kids he works with can't stand hiking: the slow pace, the insects, the boredom, etc. That, I fear, is the reality. You don't have to worry about kids worrying about loss of solitude in the middle of the High Uintas. They're not there in the first place—not except for an infinitesimal handful.

As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in a New York Times column this week, only a "tiny minority" of Americans is interested in rugged hiking. "[T]he number of backcountry campers in our national parks has fallen by nearly 30 percent since 1979." He wrote in a companion blog: "I find the declining use of back-country areas of national parks utterly depressing."

Please bear in mind that we're not paying taxes for those public lands simply for your private enjoyment of them. They're for the use of everyone willing to use them in a quiet and undamaging manner.

To imtnbke, I will be mountain biking and hiking in the Mammoth Mountain area in California, and in the Breckenridge Colorado area the next two weeks. I hope I don't offend anyone else on the trails. I will post some comments after I get home. Part of the problem for mountain bikers is they are their own worst enemy. Just look at the impressions they leave with many of their videos.

Roger, I hope you have pleasant experiences during your trip.

Roger: surely you're not complaining about how, at age 76, you can hike ONLY 20 miles a day?!?! Jeez.(or, maybe, why?!). I'm happy covering 3 (though with many stops by streams and meadows and an occasional snooze...).


I'm afraid that you have an overoptimistic view about their love for wilderness solitude. The OECD issued a report saying that 75% of Americans are going to be either overweight
or obese by 2020. That will include, unfortunately, many younger
people. By discouraging bicycling on trails, you're not doing anything
to help get younger people fit instead of fat.


Well, perhaps, but that still leaves a LOT of young hikers out there. I would estimate that John Muir Trail use has increased about 20% in the last 5 years -- most of that increase is from people in their late teens to late 20s. A lot more families with kids doing the trail and shorter trips. So while those sorts of stats are more than a bit depressing for the country as a whole, trail use in Yosemite and Sequoia Kings is at daily saturation in many places (that is, the number of people starting a hiker are close to or at the quota for a given trailhead).

For most of the 90s and early 2000s, I was concerned it was just a bunch of fellow-aging baby boomers out there. But it's not. A new cohort is taking up overnight backpacking and visiting National Park frontcountry areas. A great thing!

George

Greetings:

A reminder to folks that comments on the Sequoia Kings NP Wilderness Stewardship Plan draft alternatives need to be in by Monday, November 19th. Note that the documents released are only to comment on whether these Alternatives are the ones that should be adopted. The next phase is to write the Alternatives in final form, then release those for comment.

Alas, the Draft is kind of a mess. I had trouble understanding the tables as presented, though think I got the general idea. I also think the plan Alternatives are driven by an assumption of overuse, which is not in any way supported by current statistics or future projections. As written, the alternatives imply increasingly draconian restrictions in use which may not even be necessary given current and future use levels.

It's important, though, for wilderness users to read and comment on this. The last plan was written in 1986 (!!!) and not revised until now. So, it's quite likely that this Plan will be the guiding document for the next 30 years. It will affect how you can visit the backcountry for all of that time. It's a pain, but please read it and comment on what you think is important. Comments have to be in by November 19th, so take a little time to read it and send in your thoughts.

I'm bothered by three things:

1) The zone system proposed is unworkable, both philosophically and practically.

2) No specific protection plan for iconic Sierran meadows (e.g. McClure, Colby, Grouse, Upper Basin, Castle Dome etc). The alternatives suggest a yet to be determined elevational limit to grazing though this does not protect meadows below whatever elevation is chosen. Nor are grazing impacts necessarily related to the elevation of the meadow being grazed.

The essential question when stock is regulated – whether for grazing or party size – is: Is the ecological, aesthetic and social impact of stock justified by the number of people they support on any given trip? This core question has never been addressed and the draft alternatives do not appear to do so.

3)Although the USE of stock is, unquestionably, allowed to further wilderness enjoyment by people, the stock supporting the people has absolutely no intrinsic right to graze Sierra meadows. That issue is a totally separate one and must be based on different criteria which the alterantives must clearly define. The alternatives propose regulating grazing and stock use primarily by zones rather than the ecological and aesthetic limits and needs of canyon ecosystems and specific meadows.

So, something fun to do over the weekend!

George

This is a bit off topic . . .

I just tried faxing SEKI my application for a backcountry permit from 12 am - 12:45 am PST and received a busy signal the entire time. (Had to give up since it's 3:45 here in CT.) I'm trying to get a permit for the Circle of Solitude, but if looks like I might be out of luck. Does anyone know the odds on snagging one first-come, first-served?