National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

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Cross Country
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by Cross Country » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:27 am

I really enjoyed almost everyones point of view and the following arguments of them, except for one. I didn't really get a positive take on the "Seems to me" argument. Like Wandering Daisey and oldranger said "be careful what you wish for". I realize that WD didn't literally say that. Courts really can take things too far. Lets be careful and not let non wilderness people (like court judges or lawmakers) take from us, something they just don't have the experience to appreciate.








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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:19 am

LMBSGV- I am not sure that it is realistic to expect a commercial packer (who really is in the hospitility business) to turn in their clients, after that client pays $1000 for a trip! This sort of reminds me of having teachers turn in kids of illegal workers. The packer has to manage his clients. The regulator knows where the packer has taken people. The regulator then has to deal with the packer, not the individual client. If a client is irresponsible enough to endanger a packer's livlihood, then that packer will simply not accept that client in the future. In the mean time, if it is a first time client, the packer will simply pick up after the slob and try to educate them and then decide if the slob is worth the risk in the future.

Mokulmnekid- sorry if I offended you, that certainly was not my intent. I started climbing in a group that was basically anti-horse. Then I was introduced to responsible horse packers. At first horse droppings and the flies got to my sensibilities. Now I just walk by them. Definitely, the degree to which the trail is impacted makes a difference! Howerver I do not think it is reasonable to run after a horse with a pooper-scooper. It actually may come to a system that separates horse users from backpackers, similar to the mountain bike trails vs hiker trails.

Anyway, I am a great believer in solutions to problems without resorting to sueing. It is sad that it has come to that. It is much better to get someone to buy into a solution than forcing it on them. The group that sued seemed to at least make a good effort before sueing. But I do worry about backlash and overzelous enforcement in the other direction.

One thing that has not been said, is that the trail is vital to a packers business, as is a clean and pleasant camp area. Packers who "foul their nests" are not likely to stay in business very long. And the packers themselves, know who are the bad apples in the bunch.

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by balzaccom » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:54 am

Good conversation here, and lots of good points.

One concern I raise again is that packers DO have a bigger impact on the wilderness, and what they are willing to deem acceptable (completely flattened vegetation, massive visible campsites) are not acceptable by most of the rest of us. So yes, packers need to be held accountable for the behavior of their clients ( this is true of hiking and climbing guides as well).

Almost all parks and national forests will close areas that get a lot of use to allow the vegetation to recover. But my experience is that the areas used by packers are often exempted from this practice. And if that's what the suit is about, then it's absolutely something that should be addressed.

Packers do tend to use the same sites over and over again, and often those sites get "built up." They are not alone in this, certainly, and I would love to see better enforcement to reduce this issue everywhere.

And yeah, I'd be willing to pay more to get that enforcement.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:23 am

You bring up a good point on campsites. I think that if a site is excessively used, it may be better to simply make it an established campsite. The question, particularly along the JMT is if it is better to have one very used site vs several slightly, yet obviously used, sites? Dispersed camping is good to a point, but sometimes results in more impact than one heavily used area. A lot of the Canadian wilderness areas only allow camping at established sites. I guess this is the contained impact vs disperse impact theories.

When considering diverse stakeholders, it is amazing what each thinks as "damage", "ugly", "wonderful", or not. Although not my style, most packers and many backpackers choose campsites (and prefer them) that are well used. They look like front-country campgrounds and that offers them some familiarity and comfort. I am not sure we need to impose our viewpoint on them regarding this. I do not have a problem with a packers somewhat established campsite as long as it is clean and no stuff is left. I would almost rather see one horse camp vs many in an area. The people who use a campsite where someone built a fire ring and a bench are still visitors to the wilderness- not permanant residents. I think there is a middle ground between total "leave no trace" and "permanent structures". Is a cairn a permanant structure? If yes, then kick it down. Is a trail sign a structure- then remove ALL of them. If no, then accept it for what it is- a useful trail marker. Is a trail a permanant structure? If yes, then eliminate them, if not then accept it as a means of allowing use of the wilderness. I do not see a minimally established campsite as any different. Leave no trace came after the Wilderness Act. It is a recommendation, not a law.

Balzaccom- you use Emigrant Wilderness a lot and this IS one wilderness that is more used by horses than most. It actually is the only place I have hiked in the Sierra where horse use has been very noticable. The east end of Huckleberry Lake certainly is one location that needs some regulation /enforcement!

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by oldranger » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:52 am

WD brings up some great points concerning the ambiguity of what is permitted in Wilderness depending how one defines certain types of development and what is necessary to protect wilderness values and for public safety. When Roaring River ranger I "developed" or allowed a few established campsites to remain where I could control or limit impacts of stock use. My premise was to separate stock parties as much as possible from backpackers and to have such camps where stock could not do much damage. This worked really well 99% of the time but occasionally backpackers would choose to use these camps (their absolute right, but just goes to show all backpackers do not want relatively pristine sites all the time) and they would not be available to stock parties. This technique was not officially appoved by the NPS but my supervisor for my first 5 years supported this. When my supervisors changed I did not get that support and I lasted only 2 more years.

While supporting the principle of allowing stock use I feel strongly that it should be carefully controlled.The discussion here seems to focus on private and comercial stock use but in Yosemite and SEKI a large proportion of stock use is by the NPS and that needs to be scrutinized just as carefully as other uses.

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by atreehugger » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:55 pm

...the agency’s primary responsibility is to protect the wilderness, not cede to commercial needs.
This is an excerpt from page 9 of the Courts Decision of HSHA v. US Dept of Int. dated 1/24/12

These are important words to be considered and contemplated. The NPS has the responsibility to protect Wilderness areas in its jurisdiction. It is not in the best interest of "protecting Wilderness" to yield to the needs of a business for profit (commercial) opportunity for anyone.

I personally have nothing against packers or stock animals. I board a horse at my home, and love him as though my own pet. This is about the Wilderness Act...the law. The NPS must obey the law , as much as you must obey the rules and regulations imposed by them. :-({|=

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:25 pm

It is not that black and white. "protect the wilderness" is a typically broad legal term. I am not aware of any comprehensive laundry list of specific practices that either "protect the wilderness" or do not. Laws are usually written with some wiggle room. It is called compromise. That is the way laws get written because there are many sides of any issue. I think we can agree on intent in "protect the wilderness" but there are a diverse set of views of exactly what that constitutes. Everyone wants to "protect the wilderness". We just cannot agree on what that means. I doubt the packers feel they are NOT protecting the wilderness. I doubt the NP managers felt that they were not "protecting the wilderness". They are there, day in and day out, trying their best to balance "use" and "protection" and with a lot of pressure from ALL sides.

What I meant by allowing a packer to make a living is to write the regulations so that the technicalities are not arbitrary stumbling blocks, for example, if you were to set aside all permits in September for backpackers only (the packers prime season for hunting parties). If you reduce use, then do it so as not to spread use so thin that any one packer cannot make it, but rather, limit the number of licences. Politically, you DO have to take locals being able to make a living into consideration, because if you do not, there WILL be political reprocusions and backlash, which will destroy a lot of progress already made. The talk of "privitization" is already rearing its ugly head. Do not fan the flames! The Wilderness Act can be undone with enough opposition. We want to win converts, not alienate people.

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by dave54 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:45 pm

National Park Service Organic Act:
…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations… (italics mine). Ordering the NPS to protect wilderness by restricting access could be argued as cherry picking which laws to obey and which to ignore – something courts have done repeatedly.

Already well discussed in other threads, both the FS and the NPS, and to a lesser degree BLM, have mutually exclusive and contradictory mandates. Well meaning but ill-conceived environmental laws, court rulings, and ever-changing political whims from Washington have left the agencies in a no-win situation.

I am reminded of an open letter written 20(?) years ago by the newly retired Timber Management Director of Forest Service Region 5, (which is basically California). This letter, which was also published in the San Francisco Chronicle in the Op-Ed pages, started out boldly “Over the past 8 years I went to work every day wondering which federal law I was going to break” and went on to give examples of management decisions where every possible option violated one or more laws. Even deferring a decision, seeking more analysis or guidance from courts or Washington, was in many cases a violation of law as there are often legal time frames.

I have no envy for line officers in the land agencies. As one now retired Forest Supervisor once quipped " I knew I made a good decision when all sides were equally mad at me." As time goes by I am increasingly convinced my early retirement from the FS was a good decision. Life is too short for the stress and headaches.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by atreehugger » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:37 pm

I now realize this is a controversial issue, with a varying range of viewpoints. I never thought it would be on this forum....I was wrong. I apoligize if I have ruffled any feathers...it was not my wish. My desire was to inform and educate. Perhaps it can better be explained through a format more suitable for some on this forum. Please check out the following link for perhaps a clearer understanding of the issue:

http://www.highsierrahikers.org/wandw_quota.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Post by oldranger » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:17 pm

atreehugger

I too have issues with number of stock allowed in one party. However the number 49 is a gross exageration in SEKI unless things have changed significantly recently. And think about the consequences of commercial packstations being included in the quota--even fewer permits available for backpackers. At any rate the front page cartoon you sent us to certainly does nothing to add to a rational discussion of what is not a simple issue.

Also this is exactly the place for you to bring forward your thoughts. Just because some of us do not see eye to eye with you does not mean you shouldn't bring up such topics. If you expect HST is a place where people should all think the same then I think one of us has the wrong idea of what HST is about.

The key element to me is that we all enjoy the Sierra and we hope that it will be available to enjoy for many generations to come. But we do not have identical vision of what the Sierra is or what we do there. I love that about HST.

Cheers

Mike
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