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National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby gdurkee » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:35 am

Mike:

Likely you understand this better. I agree that it'll be five more years of status quo. But I wonder how much this changes things. If I read this right (and that's not a safe bet) all it does is tell the Secretary there's a temporary Need for stock in Sequoia Kings. However, it doesn't outline how that need is to be managed. So HSHA's request for remedy (with the exception of a reduction of 20% in stock use) is still to be considered by the court (??).

Here's the text of the House Bill:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c ... 112Z6yWpT::

If anyone hears from HSHA, I'd be really interested in their take. Congressional interference with an active court case seems a bad precedent. I've never heard of such a thing before.

a radical environmental group, the High Sierra Hikers Association, which opposes horse and mule access to the parks.


I really hate stuff like this, whoever it comes from. "Radical environmental" is one of those mindless buzz phrases, like 'tax and spend liberals' the right (mostly, but not exclusively) is fond of firing off. It discourages actual discussion and respectful exchange of ideas.

I guess the Republicans still need to learn how to read.


To the extent that it's Republicans arguing that HSHA opposes horse and mule access to the parks, there's no question that they need to learn to read (and discuss) more carefully. It's also worth pointing out that House Democrats very publicly supported the bill as long as it was a "clean" bill. Nothing in the original HSHA lawsuit makes prohibiting stock a condition of their remedy. Nor did they even imply that permits should be suspended. That doesn't seem to be required by a reading of the decision. All they want is that stock use be more carefully managed and that real environmental concerns be addressed.

This is classic "Big Lie." Repeat something often enough, loud enough and with enough hate-filled speech, and it becomes true. It's darned amazing but it's tragically effective and, as above, wrecks any hope of mutually respectful discussion with a goal of solutions.

George



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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby oldranger » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:03 pm

george

Your link had a time limit!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby kate » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:17 pm

My personal experience is that the HSHA is not interested in a "mutually respectful discussion with a goal of solutions". It is my understanding that High Sierra Packers Association wanted to sit down and meet with HSHA during the case against the Forest Service several years ago, before the case against the NPS even began. They were not interested in talking.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby atreehugger » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:05 pm

The following is an essay from the "radical" High Sierra Hikers Assoc" which was written in 1997. If you take the time to read it, you may notice it is based on facts...names, dates and info that can be verified. It is provided here for your viewing pleasure:

Clearing the Air
In recent years, persons representing the commercial stock-packing industry have been disseminating a plethora of misinformation about the High Sierra Hikers Association and other conservation groups. In letters-to-the-editor and in appearances before local bodies, the packers have made numerous false claims about the actions and intentions of the HSHA and other groups. Following is a brief summary of what has been said, and some replies to set the record straight.

In May of 1996, a group of commercial packers appeared before the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to request that Inyo County intervene on the packers’ behalf in the Forest Service’s ongoing planning process for the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses. Danica Berner, Secretary of the High Sierra Packers Association, alleged that “self-interest groups seek to eliminate livestock” from the High Sierra. Although Ms. Berner did not present any evidence to support her allegations, the supervisors were swayed by her claims and directed county staff to participate in the planning process to ensure that the interests of the commercial packers are protected.

The packers then advanced the same exaggerations before the Mono County Board of Supervisors in February of 1997, where Mary Roeser (owner of the Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit) alleged that ”Many of the environmental groups are committed to removing horses and mules from the wilderness.” Again, none of the packers at this or any other public forum presented any evidence to support such radical claims.

While HSHA’s members hold many diverse views, the plain fact is that no group, including the HSHA, has ever adopted a position favoring the elimination of stock use from the High Sierra. In truth, we have simply proposed that the agencies use the best available scientific information to adopt reasonable limits and controls on all uses in order to protect the fragile high-elevation Sierra wilderness. Such limits and controls should be equitable, and will necessarily preclude certain uses in some areas. Apparently, some commercial outfitters have incorrectly interpreted the widespread public support for reasonable limits and controls as a universal desire among hikers to see all recreational stock use eliminated.

At the Inyo County supervisors’ meeting, packers also accused conservation groups of “bombarding” the Forest Service with lawsuits aimed at eliminating commercial stock use in the wilderness. One speaker (Herb London, owner of Rock Creek Pack Station) pointed the finger specifically at the HSHA, claiming that the HSHA is comprised of “not more than 200 members,” and that “probably half are attorneys.”

The truth is that the HSHA has well over 500 members, and only five (less than one percent) are known by us to be attorneys. And we have never filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service. In the seven years since we formed the HSHA, we have filed only one lawsuit. That suit was aimed at the National Park Service, and had nothing at all to do with eliminating—or even reducing—stock use. In fact, it was intended only to prevent a substantial increase in stock use until the NPS could conduct an adequate analysis of the potential environmental damage that might result from the proposed increase. And although the Backcountry Horsemen of America characterized that lawsuit as “frivolous,” the federal courts decided strongly in our favor, overturning the decision by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to increase the allowable size of commercial stock groups in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon backcountry.

After the Inyo County supervisors’ meeting in 1996, a letter-to-the-editor authored by Ms. Berner appeared in the Inyo Register. The letter stated that “Self-interest groups who seek to eliminate livestock and do not want well-maintained trails are succeeding at stopping routine maintenance and reconstruction of historical trails...The anti-stock people don’t want any project that will allow continued stock use.” While Berner didn’t identify the “self-interest groups” or “anti-stock people” by name, the truth of the matter is that the HSHA and all other conservation groups have repeatedly and consistently supported adequate funding for maintenance of trails in the High Sierra—including those most frequently used by stock animals. We all understand that trails routinely used by stock animals need to be constructed and maintained to a higher standard in order to withstand the erosive forces of stock use, and the HSHA is on record as strongly supporting full and proper maintenance of a core network of all-purpose trails.

The real issues regarding trail construction and maintenance are: (1) Many steep, narrow trails in the Sierra have never been properly constructed to withstand stock use. Those trails are generally unsafe for stock travel and/or susceptible to extensive erosion if used by stock, and would not become well-suited for stock use without herculean and extremely expensive new construction efforts; (2) The Forest Service cannot afford the many millions of dollars that would be required to reconstruct and maintain all existing routes to “stock standards”; and (3) Large numbers of wilderness users have expressed a desire to retain at least a few of these trails in a primitive condition. For these reasons, the HSHA has suggested that a small number of trails be designated for “foot travel only.” If this were done, massive expenditures of tax dollars would not be required to maintain all trails to the expensive “stock standards.” Furthermore, the limited funds that are available could then be applied toward intensive maintenance and reconstruction of the main all-purpose routes. And hikers who truly desire an experience free of the dust, manure, urine, and flies often found on the main stock routes would have a few trails on which to enjoy their desired experience. Clearly, anyone who equates such a modest, common-sense proposal with a desire to eliminate all stock use is just plain paranoid. Not just paranoid, but deliberately and blatantly distorting the record of what the HSHA has publicly, repeatedly said on this subject.

It should be noted that not all of the packers have strayed so far from the truth. One pack station owner recently told the Los Angeles Times that if packers imposed a weight limit on the gear they and their customers took into the backcountry, they could use fewer pack animals and reduce impact on the land.

“Most packers are still packing the same way they did 50 years ago,” said Mark Berry, who owned both the Onion Valley and Rainbow pack stations during the 1980s. “There are many things that we could do to change our trips that would reduce the number of pack animals. That would actually cut the packers’ overhead, make them more money, and reduce annual impact. But packers aren’t evolving very fast,” Berry said.

The portrayal of the HSHA and other conservation groups as being completely “anti-stock” has not been the only area where some packers have drifted from the truth. A recent letter to the Inyo Register by Bill Draves (current owner of the Rainbow Pack Station) claims that: “[packers are] the ones who maintain the ‘churned-up’ trails some backpackers whine about.” But the commercial packers don’t maintain the trails. The Forest Service and Park Service do, using our collective tax dollars.

But the most significant and dangerous aspect of Draves’ letter is that, for the first time, the commercial packers are openly invoking hatred. His letter declares that the “season of hate is upon us,” and claims that in order to witness the hatred, “All you have to do is attend a High Sierra Hikers meeting.”

Although Mr. Draves has never attended a meeting of the HSHA, his fabrications and fantasies about what transpires at HSHA meetings are not the major issue. What is truly disturbing is the thought that a commercial operator who makes his living off the public lands would submit unfounded assumptions about a non-profit citizens’ group to a newspaper and represent them as truth and fact.

An even more compelling consideration, however, is that none of this is about ‘hate.’ It is about ordinary people from all walks of life who have joined the HSHA simply because they want to see the wilderness of the High Sierra protected for the enjoyment of present and future generations. And if any interest group embraces or even accepts the language of violence, our deliberations will become less productive and more divisive.

The big questions are: Why do some commercial packers in the Sierra view progressive change based on scientific state-of-the-art knowledge as a threat to their interests? And why do some packers find it necessary to lie about the intentions of concerned citizens’ groups that simply want to see stock use regulated and managed in a way that protects the High Sierra wilderness?

The HSHA stands ready to explore the answers to these questions in an honest and civil way. Our position is based on scientific reality, and on various social realities and unforgiving facts that should not be ignored by anyone. These are:

(1) The number of people wishing to enjoy a wilderness experience in the Sierra constantly increases, and will continue to increase as our national population and wealth continue to grow. (2) There is an environmental consciousness in our society that scarcely existed as recently as thirty years ago, and that continues to evolve in the direction of increased environmental protection as one of our society’s foremost considerations. (3) Some commercial interests constantly talk as if they have an inherent right to exploit the Sierra—our public land—for their own private gain. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this selfish idea. All those who enter the Sierra must, out of a democratic necessity, do so on an equal basis. There can be no special privileges, no ‘grandfather rights’ granted to any individual, group, or category of people to conduct activities that are detrimental to the public good.

Reprinted from HSHA’s summer 1997 newsletter
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby kate » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:21 pm

First, I want to make clear that I agree that respectful discussion and decisions based on scientific evidence is preferable to name calling and hate speech. I don’t personally know the packers named in the essay presented, and I cannot comment on their reasons for thinking what they think. I would also point out that since the writing of the essay, HSHA has indeed brought a suit against the Forest Service.

The essay asks two “big questions”: “Why do some commercial packers in the Sierra view progressive change based on scientific state-of-the-art knowledge as a threat to their interests? And why do some packers find it necessary to lie about the intentions of concerned citizens’ groups that simply want to see stock use regulated and managed in a way that protects the High Sierra wilderness?” I might point out that these seem to use the inflammatory language that the essay is concerned about, but...

I would like to know what the evidence is that commercial packers oppose “change based on scientific state-of-the-art knowledge”? What scientific evidence has been gathered concerning the actual impacts of commercial stock in the Sierra Nevada?

In response to the second question, I would just note that, from looking at the High Sierra Hikers Association website, coming to the conclusion that they are anti stock doesn’t seem completely unfounded. The HSHA website states “ the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada continues to suffer at the hands of these commercial interests and under the hooves of horses, mules, cattle, and sheep. Commercial mule packers, livestock grazers, and mining companies are well organized, have high-priced legal help, and essentially have had things their own way for decades...the HSHA has successfully appealed wilderness management plans and federal grazing plans for the High Sierra. The result is fewer cattle, sheep, and horses grazing and trampling sensitive wilderness areas of the High Sierra.” To interpret this as anti-stock does not seem much of a stretch. Moreover, the way it portrays commercial packers is unflattering, and in, my experience inaccurate. No one is in the packing business for the money. Most that I know have second jobs during the winter season so that they can support themselves and their businesses. They pack because they love the wilderness and the animals, and because they want to share this experience with the public. Many have also given rides to or carried packs for injured hikers, hauled gear for trail crews (for both the NPS and USFS), and done trail maintenance themselves. Also, the only lawyer representing “stock interests” I know to be involved in the present case is also volunteering his time.

Finally, I have a question of my own. HSHA describes itself as a nonprofit volunteer organization. When I go to the website, I am primarily asked to donate money. Volunteers are wanted only for legal services and tax accounting... What does the HSHA do besides put pressure on the NPS and USFS? What other issues of concern to the High Sierra do they address? I really mean these as genuine questions.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby rlown » Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:56 pm

kate,

Welcome to the HST!

It'd be nice to know where you fit into this discussion. Maybe what you do and for whom, relative to the discussion? Most first-time posters don't usually jump into conversation w/o background in the topic.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby gdurkee » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:42 am

Kate:

Hi and welcome also. I'd never seen that observation by Mark Berry, but it doesn't surprise me. I do know him. He and his wife and brother are terrific packers and ran Rainbow for a number of years (shameless promotion for Mark: www.blinddogcoffee.com/). He's spot on with his "packer's aren't evolving very fast" line. Most all packers are great people, like taking visitors into the backcountry and are good at it. But they're stuck in the wahoo! wild west. When your base line for grazing is a pasture or BLM lands, where grazing is the primary allowed use, it's just impossible to convince many of them that a wilderness alpine meadow is entirely different and deserving of an entirely different -- and stricter -- set of management standards.

As a starting point, it would be welcome if two things could happen:
1) Packers just drop the Big Lie that HSHA or anyone are trying to prohibit stock from wilderness.

2) That they accept the fact that stock have significant environmental impacts that are, yes, scientifically established (the HSHA site I think has an excellent bibliography of papers on stock impacts). Then come up with ways to reduce those impacts and make minimum impact a standard throughout their profession. Backpackers did, there's a few packers who are great at it, so it's definitely possible and with minimal disruption to how they do things. The goal is for all of us to reduce our impact so people can continue to enjoy these places.


Here's the main thing from my personal standpoint as a long-time backcountry hiker: I think alpine meadows are incredible places. I love nothing better than sitting at the edge of one and watching the grasses wave in the breeze or wildlife doing their thing. I've watched belding ground squirrels reach up to pull down grasses to eat the seeds. Darned cute. I've found ducks nesting along rivers or in small meadow ponds and watched their young get bigger over the summer and leave when they start flying. This is what's special about National Parks and wilderness, to preserve those meadows and all of the plants and critters to just keep doing what they've been doing for, literally, thousands of years.

What totally destroys both that experience and has major impacts on the meadows and streams are 20 head of horses out there eating the grasses, rolling in the meadow and creating dust pits, leaving the smell of manure and urine, and mucking up the fragile wet places as they wander around.

If you travel along the John Muir Trail from Paiute Creek entrance in Sequoia Kings, there is not a single meadow where you can have the experience of a pristine meadow without the potential of stock grazing there until you get to Vidette Meadow, about 60 miles south. And that's it. Not a single meadow along a major trail is closed to grazing so that people can enjoy the sight and feel of an ungrazed alpine Sierra meadow and where the meadow ecology is free of the impacts of horses and mules.

All HSHA is asking is that some of the more fragile alpine areas (> 9,700 feet) be protected from stock grazing. Significantly, they're not closing these areas to camping for stock parties but just saying the stock can't graze there (they can carry feed).

Now, maybe HSHA is asking too much or some things can't be easily done. Fine. It's up to stock users to make a counter offer where the premise is not "we don't have any impacts and we're not going to change how we do things." So far, that seems to be their response. That's the philosophical equivalent of HSHA asking that ALL stock be prohibited from wilderness areas. They're not. They're offering something that can be worked with. Time for stock folks to join the conversation.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby kate » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:16 pm

Hi. My family has been packing in the Sierras since the 1930’s, though we do not do much packing anymore. I’m not really a horse person myself; I do much more backpacking. But I love being in the mountains. I suppose my background makes me biased towards “stock interests”, but I think I more interested in preserving access for a diversity of users. I studied environmental science, and I believe in impact assessment and regulation. But I also believe wilderness exists for the people to use. I care about conserving wilderness areas because I have spent time in them. From what I have read here, I imagine the situation is the same for many other people on this forum. Yet our policies, in the name of preserving the environment, are increasingly designed to keep people out. This worries me. I don’t know if that exactly answers your question...
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby atreehugger » Mon Apr 30, 2012 12:56 pm

As we now wait to see how this will play out...a brief intermission which I believe all will enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9tgmln3WLI
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby adam921 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:28 pm

19 year old backpacker (since 2004) here.

atreehugger's video I think points out something very different but interesting here. I'm not at all a fan of horses in the Wilderness; their droppings in the trail are an annoyance, I've read from multiple sources that their impact (from weight and sharp hooves) can be up to 25 that of a backpacker, and multiple studies done in the Sierras have consistently found that coliform bacteria in high Sierra water is correlated very strongly with where the packers go.
Despite all that, that video is somewhere where I think the balance needed is clear. The solution can't be just to get rid of ALL the packers; I'd prefer there not to be any but that's just an unreasonable request. The video is a prime example of the good horses/mules can do for us hikers. How long would it take to haul in restoration resources etc. without the mules? It seems like the solution is just to carefully monitor what we're doing permit-wise.

Adam
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:53 pm

Well heck….apparently we are still bantering this around. Unfortunately, I feel I have to “slightly” defend myself after being called out on a few of my comments.

In response to Bad Man's repeated attacks on attorneys, I just want everyone to know that High Sierra Hikers' lawyers are all volunteers, working pro bono ("for the public good"). They work hundreds of hours, often for nothing, nights and weekends, just like our all-volunteer members, to bring our case forward. Bad Man keeps implying that our lawyers are somehow getting rich off of Wilderness Act cases. It's not true.

Well…pardon my expressions but most people find it a bit entertaining to poke fun at lawyers “attorneys” considering they are at the end of A Lot of jokes. So, Im not the only one in the land to give lawyers a hard time! I cant say Im pleased to know that HSHA council are all volunteers working for the good of the public. That leads me to the assumption they are all independently wealthy and no longer have to work to make a living. They made money somewhere or somehow, maybe not off the Wilderness Act cases, but Im assuming cases similar, otherwise they wouldn’t be so savvy in environmental law.

I have to say, I find the attacks on the rule of law, and the role of lawyers and the courts to be rather dismaying. As Sarah pointed out, the lawsuits obviously have not been frivolous, as the plaintiff has prevailed. That's the positive role of lawsuits and the courts -- to make sure that the law of the land is being followed. Why is that so troubling to some of us? As for the lawyers, the only environmental lawyers who get rich are the ones defending large corporations, or bringing class action suits for money damages. None of that is involved here”

Well quentinc, its ok for you to have your opinion, it’s a free country and we have the First Amendment. I for one, believe in the Constitution of the United States of America which gives me an inherent right to question the rule of law and government. Maybe I need a refresher in civics, but I was under the impression that the founding fathers were really into questioning lawyers and the courts during the time period of the Revolution. Im not so sure Im out of line questioning that the law of the land is being followed. Who’s land and who’s laws?

I cant fully say I disagree with George. We may have a different approach or philosophy but that’s all tit for tat. The fundamentals are all there. We just have to agree to disagree. So no arrows to sling at gdurkee. Also, I want to be clear, I respect his opinions and participation on HST. I just have to wonder if someone is trying to sell me out…the tradition is that Big Brother doesn’t like the guy questioning the decisions of the courts of government. George, we may disagree, but I have your back on that one….

Also, just to be completely clear. I do not believe the HSHA is in anyway asking the pack outfitters to completely shut down. I have never even eluded to this. I have never called them environmental radicals, although I do believe there are radical people in every group. I do believe in general, there is a nationwide grassroots movement toward eliminating open range grazing, use of stock, logging, off road vehicle use, mining, and a few other uses of public lands.

I don’t believe there is mutual respect across user groups. I wish there was, but it often shows its face even on HST. I have always been an advocate toward respectful discussion. I may push some buttons (I thought lawyers were fair game), but I try to be respectful of other people’s opinions. I don’t feel others extend the same courtesy toward my opinions. I wish people would focus on scientific evidence and not manage resources based on emotion.

As far as the packers are concerned, I think the propaganda begins around the camp fire as discussion. Probably gets blown out of proportion (consider the company). In defense of the packers…its hard not to think someone is out to get you when your industry is consistently bombarded by lawsuits, change in regulations, change in faces and opinions within the regulatory agencies, and overall ill public opinion (which is unfounded based on the ignorance of the general public). Very few folks that visit the “wilderness” know anything about live stock or the role they play. They are more concerned that the horse poo on the trail smells bad or the streams are filled with bacteria making it unfit for human consumption. I hate it when someone uses that as a reason against livestock. Don’t you know they call it beaver fever for a reason? That said…..I know firsthand there is room for a lot of improvement amongst the pack outfits, and maybe even a piece of humble pie may be in order for some of these outfitting groups. A prime example of a good pack outfitter is the Leavitt Meadows Packer Station. I know for a fact that Craig hauls in his own feed, especially if you’re taking stock into the alpine ecosystems. There isn’t enough AUMs in those places for a horse to get an appetizer. Its more expensive that way…but if you have the money to ride in style, you have the money to get an extra mule or two to haul weed free pellets. Its soo much better that way. I think most people would rather enjoy fishing or recreating rather than chasing stock around trying to find where they escaped to “greener pastures”.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby gdurkee » Wed May 02, 2012 9:52 pm

Ha! Great film. Here my man Russ and I agree. Craig is a truly fine packer (though, like Old Man Willow, he hates anything that goes on two feet) as is Lee Roeser. If we had more like them, I suspect we'd have far fewer problems. Not to say that 20 1,200 lb critters doesn't cause some level of serious impact in sub-alpine and alpine wilderness, but the problems are not insurmountable, especially if those guys were to be involved in the solutions.

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