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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 atreehugger » Thu May 03, 2012 12:05 pm

And now, back to the story....the following is a press release by the HSHA:

***For Immediate Release*** For more information, contact:
April 27, 2012 <president@highsierrahikers.org>
or (510) 764-1413

Hikers’ Group Urges Compromise on Packer Permits at Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks

Berkeley, CA — The High Sierra Hikers Association recently filed court papers detailing a
compromise that would allow permits to be issued to commercial outfits that provide pack and
saddle stock services in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI).
The National Park Service has for decades issued permits to numerous commercial enterprises,
known as “packers,” who provide saddle horses, pack mules, guides, chefs, and camping gear to
clients who take wilderness trips in SEKI. The Park Service suspended all such permits in
March, after a federal court ruled that the permits were unlawfully issued. Until the Park Service
lifts the suspension, the packers and their clients face uncertainty about the approaching summer
season. The hikers’ group had asked the court to allow commercial packing to continue.
The High Sierra Hikers Association filed a lawsuit in 2009 alleging that the Park Service has
violated the Wilderness Act of 1964 by allowing excessive and harmful levels of commercial
activity in the parks. The hikers’ group does not oppose horse use, and has never aimed to
eliminate commercial packing, as some have falsely claimed.
“The lawsuit we filed in 2009 makes crystal clear that we seek only reasonable limits and
controls to protect these magnificent national parks from harm,” said Peter Browning, president
of the hikers’ group. “And we repeatedly have told both the Park Service and the court that we
don’t want the packers to be shut down.”
In court papers filed on April 5, the hikers’ group asked the judge to allow the packers to
continue doing business at SEKI, along with a few modest limits and protections in place until
the Park Service complies with the Wilderness Act. For example, the hikers’ group requests that
commercial packstock not be allowed to graze in the parks’ most fragile high-elevation
meadows. Such rules are already in place at other national parks. But instead of accepting this
reasonable compromise, the Park Service filed a court brief on April 24 rejecting the hikers’
proposal. Meantime, the permits remain suspended, causing gridlock and uncertainty.

The U.S. House of Representatives reportedly passed a bill today that would overrule the Park
Service’s decision to suspend the permits, and require the Park Service to issue permits for the
coming summer season at levels that occurred in 2011. The hikers’ group has not yet seen the
final language of the House-passed bill, but Browning said: “We support what we understand to
be the main thrust of the bill—that until the court case is resolved, commercial stock use should
be allowed to resume at levels not to exceed those of last year.”
While Congress considers the issue, and the Park Service resists the hikers’ proposal, the court
has scheduled a hearing for May 23. But Browning hopes the issue can be settled sooner. “The
proposal we filed with the court on April 5 is a reasonable compromise. If the Park Service
would accept those few temporary limits, everyone could move forward.”
Browning points out that the Park Service has for many years known about the legal violations
and the damage caused by unlimited stock use, but has failed to take action. “The Park Service
has knowingly violated the law for years. It even admitted to the court that it has violated the
Wilderness Act. And now it’s the packers and their clients who suffer.”
The hikers’ group tried for decades to get the Park Service to obey laws related to commercial
packstock at SEKI. It sued in 2009 as a last resort, after the Park Service broke numerous
promises to address the issues.
“The Park Service’s own rangers and scientists have for decades documented the extensive harm
to these parks’ meadows, trails, wildlife, and scenery caused by stock use,” said Browning.
“Park meadows have been overgrazed, eroded, and invaded by non-native weeds because of
excessive and inappropriate stock use. And university researchers have documented pollution of
once-pristine mountain streams caused by pack animals.”
The Park Service has admitted in court filings that it has never limited commercial packstock
services as required by the Wilderness Act. Prior to the current suspension, packers operating in
SEKI simply needed to obtain a permit, and they could run as many trips as they wanted.
“It’s regrettable that the Park Service’s defiance of the law is now adversely affecting the
packers and their clients,” said Browning. “Our group has made every effort to resolve these
issues in a timely manner so that commercial packers could continue their operations without
interruption, and we hope that the permit suspension is lifted soon.”

The High Sierra Hikers Association is a registered nonprofit public benefit organization that represents
thousands of citizens from 28 states. The HSHA seeks to educate its members, public officials, and the
public-at-large about issues affecting hikers and the High Sierra, and seeks to improve management
practices on federal lands in the Sierra Nevada for the public benefit.
***end***



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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby atreehugger » Thu May 03, 2012 12:35 pm

And the following is a press release from SEKI:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release
For Immediate Release: May 2, 2012
Contact: Dana M. Dierkes
Phone Number: (559) 679-2866 (cell)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Requests Court to Allow Commercial Pack Stock Use in Wilderness Immediately

The National Park Service (NPS) has requested permission from the U.S. District Court to allow Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (Parks) to issue commercial use authorizations for pack stock operations in the Parks’ wilderness immediately. This is part of ongoing actions by the NPS to resolve litigation over commercial pack stock use in the Parks, while minimizing potential impacts to the Parks’ visitors, pack stock outfitters, and local communities.

Background:
 The High Sierra Hikers Association (HSHA) filed a lawsuit against the NPS in September 2009 alleging that the Parks 2007 General Management Plan violated the NPS Organic Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Wilderness Act regarding continued to commercial pack stock use in the Parks.
 On January 24, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that the NPS violated a procedure in the Wilderness Act, but did not violate the NPS Organic Act or NEPA.
 Judge Seeborg‘s ruling directed that the NPS does not have the authority to issue commercial use authorizations (permits) for pack stock operations in the Parks’ wilderness, pending completion of a separate ruling on remedy for the violation. As a result, the NPS is obligated to respect the court’s January 24, 2012, ruling. Therefore, the NPS has not issued permits for pack stock operations in the Parks’ wilderness this year and cannot do so until further determination by the court.
 The NPS has followed the judicial process and schedule as required by the court in resolving this matter and did not refuse to take, or otherwise delay, any action towards asking the court for immediate relief to issue permits to commercial pack stock operators as soon as possible.

 The court’s ruling is specific to commercial pack stock and does not involve administrative or private pack stock operations in the Parks.
 A court hearing to determine remedy for the violation, including consideration of the NPS’ request to issue commercial pack stock operator permits immediately, is scheduled for May 23, 2012.
 While there is no guarantee that the court will allow continued commercial pack stock use in the Parks, the NPS has notified commercial pack stock outfitters that applications for the annual permits for 2012 are being accepted in advance of the court’s ruling. This will help expedite issuance of the permits, if allowed, pending the court’s upcoming determination.
-NPS-
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby Rosabella » Fri May 04, 2012 10:48 am

...totally off-topic here, but.... hey George, I heard a rumor that you may be stationed at LeConte Canyon this summer instead of Charlotte Lake. Is there any truth to that? (you know how rumors are ) I was just curious where I should be looking for my favorite Ranger :)
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby oldranger » Fri May 04, 2012 4:46 pm

George

Does page know about the other woman? :D

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 Rosabella » Fri May 04, 2012 6:15 pm

LOL!! ... see what I mean about RUMORS?! :lol:
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby rlown » Fri May 04, 2012 6:41 pm

back on topic.. will packers pack or not this season?
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby Rosabella » Fri May 04, 2012 7:36 pm

Well, it looks like it... I've contacted Dee from Pine Creek Pack Station out of Bishop and have made arangements for a resupply to be brought in to Charlotte Lake. I didn't get the impression that it was contingent on anything changing in the near future. I hope not anyway... I've already paid! Seriously, I do feel really comfortable using them as re-suppliers, I've used them a couple times before, and they've been great to work with.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby atreehugger » Tue May 22, 2012 1:12 pm

Saddle 'em up:

Packers granted access to backcountry
May 21, 2012
By
Deb Murphy/Sports Editor
dmurphy@inyoregister.com

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks can now issue permits to commercial stock packers and guides thanks to the quick passage of legislation through the U.S. House and Senate. Photo courtesy National Park Service
Packers have reason to celebrate this Mule Days.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Backcountry Access Act Thursday afternoon.
Yesterday morning the House of Representatives approved the changes made by the Senate to its original H.R. 4849.
The bill requires the National Park Service to issue permits to commercial pack stock operations.
“We are very pleased that Rep. Devin Nunes, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were able to facilitate this legislation as rapidly as possible,” said Alan Hill of the Backcountry Horseman of America, one of the organizations that pushed hard for the bill.
Hill’s group worked with the Wilderness Society and the American Horse Council to move the legislation through the system.
The bill sped through the process in response to a court order to curtail commercial permits in the Park.
The order came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the High Sierra Hikers Association against the National Park Service. The U.S. District Court judge found that the NPS failed to define “the extent necessary” for commercial operations in the Park.
Arguments will be heard May 23. With the pack season just weeks away and no guarantee that a decision would be handed down on commercial permits, the legislative avenue was the best chance commercial operators had to gain access.
The changes to the bill all seem to be to the packers’ advantage. The Senate extended the provision’s sunset from two to four years and required that the NPS complete the Wilderness Stewardship Plan within three years. These changes guarantee that long-term solutions be arrived at while still allowing commercial operations in the Park.
The original House bill set limits for packer operations at 2011 levels, a shortened season due to heavy snowfall. This oversight was fixed in the Senate bill by eliminating the language, according to Sen. Boxer staffer Zachary Coile.
Other changes gave the NPS the discretion to manage stock use at levels deemed appropriate based on conditions in the Park, a compromise worked out with the Senate Energy an Natural Resource Committee
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby adam921 » Tue May 22, 2012 11:58 pm

A unanimous decision? Now THAT is suspicious.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby atreehugger » Fri May 25, 2012 6:42 pm

Judge OKs pack animals in Sierra

The Fresno Bee
Thursday, May. 24, 2012

A federal judge approved Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks' request to let them continue to issue permits for commercial use of pack stock in the parks, the National Park Service said.
The oral authorization from U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg on Tuesday reversed a ruling in January stating that the National Park Service did not have the authority to issue permits for pack stock in the wilderness, park service spokeswoman Dana Dierkes said. The Seeborg ruling took effect immediately, she said.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby dave54 » Mon May 28, 2012 8:48 pm

adam921 wrote:A unanimous decision? Now THAT is suspicious.


Not really. It was presented as a private bill. When both senators support a bill affecting only their state it normally passes quickly without controversy.
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Re: National Park Service in Violation of Wilderness Act

Postby markskor » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:29 pm

Court sides with packers

By editor
Created 06/04/2012 - 5:29pm
By Deb Murphy/Sports Editor

Sierra commercial guides and packers, like this Rock Creek Pack Station group shown winding its way up a steep grade, received a favorable court decision this week, allowing high-meadow grazing and commercial permits in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Photo courtesy Rock Creek Pack Station
With commercial permits almost assured by legislation, the final chapter on the High Sierra Hikers Association’s lawsuit against the National Park Service that threatened to shut down stock packers in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks may have been written.
Tuesday, just six days after the May 23 hearing in the United States District Court, Judge Richard Seeborg handed down a decision that leans heavily in favor of the NPS and stock packers, coming out for a less restrictive definition of appropriate activity in designated Wilderness and allowing grazing in high-elevation meadows. The only glitch is a 20 percent reduction in Stock Use Nights from 2007 levels, from a base of 3,200 to 2,650.
The Sequoia Access Act, H.R. 4849, passed by the House in mid-May, had set use limits at 2011 levels, a short season for packers and guides due to heavy winter snowfall. Any language regarding use parameters was eliminated in the version passed by the Senate, and approved by the House May 18. As of May 31, the bill was waiting for President Obama’s signature. In his decision, Seeborg asked that briefs be filed within 20 days of the statute’s enactment “directed to the effect, if any, of such law on the terms and conditions set forth in this order.”
Damon Nelson, Rep. Devon Nunes’ (R. Calif.) legislative aide, described the court ruling as “a knee-jerk reaction by the court” to the pending bill, co-sponsored by Nunes.
Craig London, owner of Rock Creek Pack Station and Mt. Whitney Pack Trains, wasn’t surprised by the decision. “I have faith in the federal judiciary,” he said. “I was never worried what the court would do. Judges rule on the evidence they see and the Park Service has done a great job at managing Sequoia.”
Apparently, the NPS attorneys also did a great job. In his Remedy Order, Seeborg stated that HSHA failed to provide evidence to support their claims and in some instances, failed to address pertinent issues of the case.
Robert Parker of Sierra Mountain Center, a hiking guide who often uses stock packers for spot trips or dunnage, attended the May 23 hearing in San Francisco and came away the picture of cautious optimism. According to Parker, Seeborg’s response to the HSHA’s demand for pristine wilderness was to interpret the definition as restrictive to any human presence in the backcountry. In regards to HSHA’s request that unnecessary items, like ice chests and chairs, not be allowed in designated Wilderness Areas, Parker, paraphrasing Seeborg, said, “from 17 floors above San Francisco, I shouldn’t tell anyone what they should do in the wilderness.”
In regards to “unnecessary items,” Parker said economics and current stock restrictions are already a limiting factor in what is brought into the wilderness.
In what had to be music to the packers’ ears, Seeborg wrote, “It is not appropriate for one group of park users to impose its vision of wilderness etiquette over others. While plaintiff is correct that the Wilderness Act’s purpose is to maintain the primitive nature of park areas, the Ninth Circuit has repeatedly explained that in complying with the Act, agencies must engage in a ‘delicate balancing’ because Congress ‘did not mandate that the Service preserve the wilderness in a museum diorama … Instead, Congress stated that the wilderness was to be preserved as wilderness and made accessible to people devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation and historical uses.’”
HSHA’s request for injunctive relief asked that commercial grazing be banned in mountain meadows above 9,700 feet and in Evolution Valley. Seeborg’s decision had already laid the framework of “unintended ecological consequences” in denying a request to entirely set aside the NPS’s General Master Plan and applied the same concept to high-elevation grazing. In this case, the unintended consequence would be overuse of lower meadows on the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails. NPS also made the case that 16 additional pack stock would be required to carry the 2,400 pounds of food for an eight-day trip involving 12 animals, not to mention the numbers required to carry food for those 16. “This would ‘logarithmically increase the number of pack mules on the trail,’” London’s written testimony was quoted.
Seeborg found that NPS already had protection for sensitive meadows and rest-rotation remedies in place.
Seeborg also denied HSHA’s request that day use of stock be limited and that a punitive system of compliance monitoring be put in place to track commercial stock activity. The judge requested that NPS take into consideration limiting day use and to continue to develop stock day monitoring programs in its Wilderness Stewardship Plan, the detailed plan for managing Sequoia Kings Plan, setting a deadline of Jan. 31, 2015 for that plan.

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