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new burden with Eastern Sierra wilderness permits

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Postby hikerduane » Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:59 am

A couple things I forgot to mention yesterday, when asked if I had a bear canister when I picked up my permit at Mammoth, I said yes, they didn't even ask what kind or model. The wilderness ranger doing trail work with interns around Purple Lake didn't think I was in compliance with my green Ursack TKO w/upgrade. She thought it should be hung. I told her no. She wanted my email addy so she could let me know what she found out. No word yet and I have been back home now for almost 3 weeks. Of course all of this only involves the Forest Service not the Park Service.
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Postby markskor » Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:44 am

Dave,
You make some good points in your summary, however your "in depth" attempt to place the entire burden of educating all members on FS policy - (having each member contacted individually to prove that they understand all the tenets of backcountry etiquette) appears flawed. This places a heavy burden - both in money and time - on the Park Service...forms...numerous calls...listing all names...etc. Why not place this necessary education prerequisite on the leader instead? Just make it mandatory that this "burden" of education of all members in the party falls squarely on the leader (permit signer) and also hold him or her accountable for all members in the party. Then when a backcountry violation is spotted and cited, both the leader and the actual violating member both get a ticket.

This would force us as leaders to actually take the time to set up some sort of a class at home (or at the campsite) to thoroughly educate our party on our own terms. This takes care of not letting many of those who do not care to listen to the ranger speech not get away with not listening to a stranger in the permit office. We know our party...who is or is not educated...better than those at the crowded FS permit office. We know what needs to be said after countless times hearing the same speech anyway.

Thus, this makes it is our job - as leaders - to educate our party, not the Rangers. We sign for the permit. Let us gladly take this responsibility on ourselves and not place any un-necessary hardships on those in the permit office. It seems better to accept that maybe we are somewhat liable for teaching manners to our followers...if not; we should accept the ticket too. That is what real leaders do.
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:20 pm

Mark I wish your idea would work as it would sure make things easier. Thanks for taking time to toss out some ideas. Essentially it is already the system in place, though without any heavy emphasis from park/forest service policy on holding leaders responsible. A system which is effective among many groups and people but apparently is not reaching or having an effect on those that are causing problems that are now resulting in this face to face chat situation burdening us. However as one that often obtains permits, on my own group trips, I expect that anyone caught breaking rules where I've obtained the permit, may result in my personally being held accountable too. Thus if a backcountry ranger came to one of my camps where one of the group had decided to camp beside the water, I've always expected some responsibility would fall on me while an excuse of "Well I told Waldo he ought not camp there but he still did?" won't fly with rangers. To get around that in groups where several unfamiliar people are meeting for a trip I'm planning, I tend to prefer individuals to get their own permits and simply tag along with a group. That way they have a lot of independent options if they wish to diverge elsewhere or leave early. But with always smooth talking slippery lawyers and courts I have some doubts about whether those in a situation facing a citation and fine get the same stiff treatment.

If the park and forest service think they can more effectively coerce leaders to communicate policy, then great, it will make things simple with costs low. However history of backcountry users and human nature is working against it. Without someone with a hammer banging on the head of some personalities, I just don't see much change. Those rednecks only interested in reaching some lake to plunk in their PowerBait, tossing in beer cans like they do down in our low elevation public reservoirs, will continue to do so. Rebellious young persons leading groups will ignore directions to say anything to their like friends who usually don't like anyone telling them what to do. The unassertive leader that is too mild mannered will likely continue to say little to other adults as that is their quiet non-confrontational nature. So ignorant in such groups will continue to remain so not following recognized LNT practices. Even with a process in place like I outlined, some of those people will choose to ignore correct policy. But making even the rebellious or redneck person read policy and take a simple test about such will tend to confront them with some societal guilt that over time may have a considerable influence on changing their otherwise offensive ways. I could go on with more examples.

What I am basically saying is, given backcountry history of what I've seen over the years and human nature, I just don't have much confidence in any system that doesn't shake up the current system because the bottom dwellers are beyond much influence of merely applying more pressure to those picking up permits. At least given the situation that there will not be some miraculous increase in the numbers of enforcement backcountry rangers all over the wilderness areas. With few rangers out there to make them think twice, they will continue to do whatever they want and those ignorant will continue habits of morons. ...David
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Postby dave54 » Thu Aug 24, 2006 1:15 pm

SSSdave wrote:...Someone without the technical background might think my idea a big expensive process to implement. But that is not at all the case as there are thousands of IT software people out there today that do just these kinds of things for businesses ...David


The golearn.gov website run by the the Feds (OPM) already uses the same technology. Web based courses for current federal employees. It would be relatively simple to transfer the same concept to public use, especially since the instruction and orientation would not be hours in length like the golearn site, and the feds already have a license to use the software.

The Univ of Montana already offers an on-line degree program in wilderness management. Contract with them.
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Postby SSSdave » Sat Aug 26, 2006 1:00 pm

A low percentage of backpackers on this small board responded which makes me wonder if many of you care about this burdensome policy situation. No use for me trying to change it if the community is apathetic and instead will deal with whatever the park and forest service demands on us.. The park service will otherwise just give me lip service and simply ignore my inputs, thinking we will get used to not having night box pickups over time. That would be just fine with them as it requires nothing more to do on their part beyond what they already do. And SEKI has been doing that to those getting permits from them directlyon the west slopes anyway with the perception all is fine with the status quo. Personally I greatly dislike the lack of night box pickups in the national parks and the result has been I backpack there much less than national forest service wilderness areas. Same thing with some of the bear policies that prevent me from taking 9-day trips where I can't reach more remote locations at least 3 days from trailheads like I used to because I can't fit more than 5 or 6 days worth of food into cannisters though might with two Ursacks. I wish more of us would get together and as a coherant community of enthusiasts complain. I'm personally willing to waste some effort and time to make change.

I've created a more detailed process the forest service might easily implement that minimizes their involvement and overhead that doesn't include any serious IT software expense or hi tech approach. One can disregard what I suggested earlier as a process. It involves users emailing in ordinary computer printer sheets with an image of their drivers licence, keeping a simple paper database file of such, and maintaining some simple web pages containing policy tests that users would email back to a specific email address at the reservation office. Prevents cheating and could be maintained in simple ways without complication. The result would be better for the forest and park service in terms of having backcountry users know their policies better as well as allow us to pursue our activities without being burdened with this permit system as is the situation now. If some here would like me to post that process and review and modify it, I am willing to do so. ...David
Last edited by SSSdave on Tue Aug 29, 2006 10:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby markskor » Sat Aug 26, 2006 4:51 pm

Dave,
Please continue to post away my friend. Good or bad, I want all the details.

Some of us are very much behind you and all your efforts to keep our backcountry freedoms alive and readily accessible.
I too strongly believe in being pro-active on any future and relevant rule changes...as the song says _
"You don't know what you got till it's gone."

Maybe it is a reflection on today's couch-potato society mentality...less and less venture out today into the wilds...more and more seem just do not give a rat's ass until they wake up, and sorrowfully find that what they remember as great about their childhood mountain experiences from years past has been covertly taken away by some bureaucrat sitting in a plush office...clueless. The Sierra still belongs to us.

Maybe all those who really care are out rambling in the mountains...nothing like summer in the Sierra; nevertheless...all will eventually and eagerly react after it is too late to make a difference.
So all my friends...speak up now...or lose what you have later.
I still like the idea of putting a heavy fine on the leader/permit signer...taking much of the responsibility on ourselves...if allowed. Having those in the office do anything extra seems a waste of time...I know they wasted a lot of mine in the past already.
Keep up the good fight!
Mark
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Postby hikerduane » Sat Aug 26, 2006 8:30 pm

It finally came thru today, that you already have to get a permit in person in some Parks like Yosemite. Lassen Volcanic National Park you can get a permit ahead of time which makes it nice. I have finally started visiting Yosemite after realizing there aren't the hoards of people there on the east side at least and Pooch is no longer around. If you make reservations for a back country overnight trip you have to pick up the permit the day before. If picking up a permit the day you start, you have to wait until 8:00 AM to get it. This is from my few short years hitting the parks since I never went bping where dogs were not allowed until Pooch passed on. We can always avoid the areas where it is inconvenient like Dave said I believe but the permit process can get more restrictive to the point where we have no new place to go or variety of places to visit.
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Postby SSSdave » Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:26 pm

Per my above posts in this thread, I've considered the last few days what we backpackers might do to convince SEKI to modify or change the face to face chat policy so at least we more frequent enthusiasts can once again use the night box pickups for reasons both I and others have commented about. Accordingly I've brainstormed some form of testing or internet web site request and testing system. All those ideas would require a little or a lot of upfront work and costs as well as overhead on their daily workloads. The less we can burden their current system the more likely they will be agreeable to any change.

I do have one very simply idea that would work that someone probably has already mentioned to them but for whatever reason was not considered workable. Currently anyone with a reservation that wants a night box pickup needs to phone the ranger station where they wish to pick up their permit within a day of their trip starting date. I make that call during the work day we will be driving up, giving the forest service person my name and reservation number. After the call they then crank the permit out of their computers, add the information packet, and at some point place all those next day permits in their night boxes before the end of the work day. Usually I ask them at that time if there are any special new warnings in the area we will be visiting like forest fires etc.

Now why not simply have the forest service give the speech over the phone at that time? They have all the information that needs to be communicated right at their disposal and usually have been repeating such regularly during the day to others. Whether the person talks to them face to face or over the phone ought not make any difference to experienced users given the simple information being conveyed. Information that most of we wilderness veterans have heard many times. They ought not have any doubts about who they are talking to since only the trip leader will have the permit reservation number. Now the forest service could require the person phoning in to have the mailed policy sheet right there along with a topographic map while talking to them in case they wanted to emphasize something like no camping or fire restrictions in some areas with a map. So really there is nothing more that needs to be communicated, nor a reason why simply making that communication over the phone ought not work well in at least communicating policy to the leader. If they wish to improve communication to the rest of the group, they can either emphasize the need for leaders to do so lest they be also subject for fines if other members in their group break rules.

This morning I phoned up SEKI and spoke with the wilderness coordinator who pleasantly took the time to listen to my above ideas and relate their reasons for the current policy. He said there are reasons why a face to face talk will be more effective than one over the phone and I agreed that would tend to be the case especially with less experienced users and novices while experienced backcountry users can probably listen to policy information over the phone and absorb that information effectively because it is simple information they are already familiar with. He said the current policy would continue through the rest of the season but that they will consider and explore ways to implement the policy with less inconvenience to users next year. Thus we can at least hope for a change by next summer. As I have his email address, I will be summarizing the above and emailing him in the near future on what we discussed. ...David
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Postby hikerduane » Tue Aug 29, 2006 5:08 pm

Thank you for the leg work Dave. You are right, they could quickly go over any regs one would need to know over the phone and inform the leader that they are responsible for any infractions by their group.
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SEKI Wilderness Permits

Postby gdurkee » Mon Oct 09, 2006 1:45 pm

Dave:

Good work on all of that. I agree there ought to be some sort of exception based on either experience or maybe on online Q&A test with each permit. It's not necessary that each member of the party take it, only the person getting the permit since that's the person who's responsible for the whole group (that's who gets the ticket for any violations...). I'll add that to my season end report -- I forgot to do it last year when I had a number of complaints about this issue.

As noted, I'm sympathetic, but I'll also add that when I run into people who are running amok, 80% of them come in from the Inyo. The NPS permit issuers do a great job and it's rare that people who are talked to directly do something wrong. That's why the policy was changed. We see the same thing with PCT hikers in the early season. They are responsible for a disproportionate share of violations, probably because they just get their through-hiking permit and not regulations specific to Sequoia Kings (or Yosemite). Plus, I hesitate to mention it, a certain arrogance along the lines of "I'm hiking the PCT and get to do whatever I want..."

Anyway, keep us updated on this. If I can help, I will.

George
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Postby tory8411 » Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:08 pm

Dave,
Thanks for all of the work. I had another idea. It might require a little more manhours for the park service, but maybe not. Here it goes:
Along the same lines as an 'online' course for compliance, every hunter in the state has to go through a hunter safety course. Few hours, brief test and then annually registers and pays for a permit to hunt that year. Why not have a backpackers permit? Take a course from a local sporting goods store, nps station, ranger station or like venue and receive a certification. It wouldn't be a long class. Every year you get another license (permit), at that time you have to show proof of completion of the course via old license or course certificate and when paying for new permit receive updated regs. Slightly more of an honor system, but as you've all mentioned, there will always be those that screw it up for the rest of us. Now, before a trip, you call in your itenerary, give your license (permit) number and pick up your permit whenever you wish. There are I don't know how many more hunters in this state than backpackers, that system should work without much undue cost or burden. Your thoughts...
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Postby Randonnee » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:03 pm

Interesting idea, but licensing backpackers, that would create a whole new set of problems. Think of the poaching problem in hunting. It is also another set of paperwork to be tracked and costly to maintain. There has been a big discussion on user fees within the past year and a license fee would be seen as a backdoor of bringing in that fee.

Going with the idea of a training course just add a number to the training certificate. If you have a cert and number you can pick up the WP via a night box or mail. If you don't have the cert you go in person and listen to the rules.
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