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SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby gdurkee » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:10 pm

The idea of this stage is to define the alternatives. I think they're poorly written and create an unnecessarily provocative tone with the headers: "decrease visitor access and increase restrictions...". Absent actual statistics and projections, I'm not convinced those would be the actual effects of 3, 4 & 5.

If a Plan and alternatives are followed honestly, it gives a range of choices that truly represent real alternatives. Unfortunately, it does happen that totally unsupportable alternatives are offered to make the favored one more attractive. Not clear that's happening here. What worries me is that the draft alternatives do no truly represent or define the actual problems of wilderness use at Sequoia Kings. The problems/impacts are less with people and party size than with stock and grazing impacts on meadows. There's a huge gulf between how the two are managed and the solutions are not represented in this draft alternative plan.

But it's truly important to get your feedback in on the direction of the alternatives. I have sent my comments to several people with expertise and knowledge of Sequoia Kings and the assessment plan being followed. I'm encouraged to find we're all in fair agreement on the problems with this plan, which I've written about above.

g.



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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby oldranger » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:18 pm

George,

I'm not sure I agree with your evaluation of the significance in the quota reduction proposed for alternatives 4,5,6. The descriptions below, not the heading, seem to indicate pretty substantial reduction in quotas, especially 5 and 6. Six so much so that other restrictions such as carrying out poop (yup) would not be required. I'm not sure that they are even reasonable as it doesn't seem to me that "harm" has been established resulting from current backpacker quotas.

The implementation of an alternative that requires carrying out poop would make it impossible to hike for more than a week at a time as our packs might even get heavier rather than lighter as we travel. Now I can see some utility for such a requirement on highway routes such as to Mist Falls or within 5 miles of a trailhead. But suspect that such a reg is more likely to result in more criminalized backpackers, than a reduction in poop.

I agree with your concern that not enough meadows are off limits to stock but we probably differ as to the extent and how such limits should be applied. I still think that grazing by NPS stock that are not even being used is a greater concern than most of the private and commercial stock use.

Thanks for your summary!

Mike
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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby gdurkee » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:06 am

yeh, it's unclear on the quota restrictions. Data would be nice... . The thing is, the current quotas don't fill up all that often anymore. Big weekends, yes, and a few trailheads take the brunt. But if they don't fill up, then lowering them (plus whatever weird voodoo they try to make them zone specific) just doesn't seem that great a change to actual use. #6, maybe, but I still am not convinced.

I just read the comments from another retired NPS person (WT). His were pretty close to what I posted: zones unworkable, make a distinction between stock use and grazing (not the same).

You're spot on with administrative stock. That's half the use nights and a major, major impact that affects commercial users.

But I just don't understand how grazing of meadows by stock is accepted as part of the natural state of wilderness. It's not just you, it's everyone in NPS now. The whole management program is directed towards tweaking grazing nights, which is great. But what about people (and the meadow's ecology) who want and deserve a totally grazing, stock-free meadow? It's outrageous NPS doesn't provide that.

I've used this quote many times, but Randy had it absolutely right:

All the meadows in Evolution Valley were grazed this summer, and they all looked it. Yet Franklin Meadow apparently was not, and in October it was a place of knee high grasses, ripe and open panicles drifting on the moving air, luminous-bronze in the backlight. It was a very different place and a very different emotional experience of a mountain meadow, and entirely consistent with what one might rightly expect of a national park backcountry. It was a garden. I sometimes wonder whether range management concepts are any more applicable to our business than timber management concepts. The difference between a grazed meadow and a logged forest may only be one of scale.
--Randy Morgenson


g.
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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby oldranger » Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:50 am

George

The unintended consequence of lowering quotas of all TH is that the diversion from the popular ones to TH that currently do not have quota issues (but would also have lower quotas) would be to increase the frequency of THs with quotas met and the likelyhood that people will be turned away.

The big problem with all aspects of the proposed preliminary alternatives is that they are not issue driven. The only issues that the "Supplemental Info" identifies are global issue that are beyond the parks ability to address in a significant way. The rest of the info identifies programs and responsibilities but not problems or issues that need to be addressed.

So I would expect that good preliminary alternatives should be addressing identified problems. So to hit your pet peeve. An issue would be "is current management of stock use in the wilderness changing the viability of meadows?" A separate issue would be "is current management of stock use affecting the visual quality of visitors experience?" As I read the alternatives there was simply a shotgun approach to create different management practices based on an unidentified range of management philosophies. The NPS needs to clearly identify "issues" before the reasonableness of alternatives can be addressed.

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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:53 am

Oh my! Now rangers get to be "poo police"! Are we going to use DNA as evidence?
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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby oldranger » Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:08 pm

WD

Actually I visualized TH monitors to check that you have an appropriate amount when exiting. :(

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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:25 pm

Definitely staying away from freeze dried meals! Constipation might affect my quota.

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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby oldranger » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:33 pm

My comment to SEKI:


As a former SEKI Backcountry ranger I am dismayed at the quality of the proposed preliminary Alternatives. As you should know Alternatives are supposed to be issue driven. The only issues clearly stated in the supplementary information are those global issues that are beyond the scope of of a park’s management responsibilities and a brief mention of the use of electronic devices. The purpose and need properly cite the relevant congressional legislation. However the problems (issues) that need to be addressed are not. While the alternatives address controlling use numbers of backpackers, stock, and stock users there is no clear statement of problems associated with current management practices—unless there is a problem or perceived problem there is no need for changes in management. Please state the issues clearly and then develop alternatives to resolve them. From my experience much of Alternative 4-6 imply problems that, except in extremely limited areas, do not exist and consequently with out documentation of problems seem to create an unreasonable range in the alternatives.

A couple (but not necessarily all) questions that should be asked are:

Are current regulations resulting in degrading habitat within wilderness areas within the park? If so what is being degraded, where is such degradation occurring, and which regulations are resulting in such degradation?

Are current regulations resulting in degrading the wilderness experience of visitors? If so how, where, when, and again which regulations are contributing to degrading the wilderness experience of visitors?

Alternatives should be developed only after asking and answering these and other relevant questions.

Remember all conceivable issues and alternatives need not be considered in detail. Just because Joe Blow says something is a problem for him does not mean you have to consider it in detail. You can consider it and decide it is not an issue (with a proper rationalization.) You may also consider and eliminate an alternative from detailed consideration. I would say that would be the proper way to deal with much of Alternative 6 that would reduce quotas so much that use levels would drop to a level that no further regulation was needed. It seems that both the Wilderness Act and the Organic Act would rule out such a regulation because too few people could experience the Wilderness.

Finally good regulations are easy to follow! Alternatives should, in the end, be simple, easy to follow, and reasonable. Regulations resulting in nearly 100% compliance are much better than complex regulations that result in increased management surveillance, 50% compliance, and 50% of the users becoming criminals.

Finally (really this time) I know one specific issue, that actually would have to be included in the two issues I stated above, us the impacts of stock ues on the natural resources and on the visitors’ wilderness experience. Whatever alternatives develop concerning stock use and the impacts of stock use by both private and commercial users must also include full disclosure of NPS stock use and consider alternives for NPS use of stock in SEKI.

Note to HST folks: at this stage of the game it is not helpful to say " blah blah is the outcome I want" it is much more important to help them to frame the issues (especially since they did not do so) Arguing about alternatives is silly unless you can agree on the problems that must be addressed by the alternatives. For example George and I agree that there is a problem associated with stock feeding on meadows. And there are enough people that thinks so that the NPS cannot ignore the issue without, in the end, going to court. I just want to make sure they agree that it is an issue. Now a range of alternatives could range from continue existing management (required no action alternative) to (whoops) even more use (hopefully not) to exclusion of stock (riding and pack animals) from the park. There could be lots of variation, e.g. same numbers but certain meadow closed permanently to grazing, rotation of meadows open/closed to grazing, control of or reduction of animal nights allowed per meadow, reduction in number of stock allowed on overnight trips, etc. Whatever the Alternative it has to be judged in terms of how it resolves the issue not simply on some broad philosophical basis or specific "I want x because I don't like y."

Oh yeah after my days as a backcountry ranger I became what is sometimes derisively referred to as a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) nurd. So my practical experience in the backcountry is matched to an understanding of Federal Planning Process.

Remember if you don't participate in the process no whining about the outcome!

Mike
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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby gdurkee » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:40 pm

Good comments overall. I have to wonder why the alternatives are not issue driven. It's being written primarily by Denver, though with park people weighing in. Denver should know better, that's what they do... .

And, of course, right on with
Remember if you don't participate in the process no whining about the outcome!


As mentioned, it's a mess of a document. What Mike, myself and others have posted here will help, I hope. Also check out the High Sierra HIkers web site. They just sent out a flyer with their recommendations for comments.

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Re: SEKI - Comment Period - Wilderness Stewardship Plan -

Postby RooPhillip » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:04 am

gdurkee wrote:Also check out the High Sierra HIkers web site. They just sent out a flyer with their recommendations for comments.

George, can you post a link? I've checked their site and don't see anything recent. Thanks!
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