Effort To Reduce Horse Access To Wilderness In Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Turning Into Wedge Issue

Horses are becoming the latest wedge issue in the National Park System, as efforts to reduce their access to wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are being portrayed both as a job killer and a denier of your right to visit the parks.

At least one congressman is blaming the Obama administration for "pushing backcountry horsemen out of business," while a petition drive launched on change.org claims that, "Young people, old people or any person with a disability will lose their right to visit Sequoia National Park with the removal of this option of travel."

Spurring the political vitriol and off-base access claims is an effort by the High Sierra Hikers Association to both get the National Park Service to meet the provisions of The Wilderness Act and to protect the sensitive environmental landscape of wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. The association is not trying to ban outright horse trips into the high country of the two parks, but rather seeks what it believes is a more manageable level.

Armed with a ruling that the Park Service violated The Wilderness Act in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks with the way it managed horse pack trips, the hikers association wants U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg to order the agency to rein-in the pack trips.

In a motion (attached below) filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the hikers association asked Judge Seeborg to order the Park Service to reduce by 20 percent from 2007 levels the number of pack trips allowed into the parks' wilderness areas, and prohibit grazing of stock in wilderness meadows above 9,700 feet.

Additionally, the group said the court should order the Park Service to ban the hauling by stock of "unnecessary items" into wilderness areas. Such items, the filing noted, include "tables, chairs, ice chests, and amplified sound players."

Doing so, and ordering the Park Service to rewrite its management plan as it applies to pack trips, is necessary to protect wilderness areas, the association maintained.

Until now, commercial stock have trampled wilderness meadows, leaving their wilderness character impaired. Commercial stock have also been used to carry unnecessary items and luxury goods into the wilderness, turning these national parks into theme parks and frustrating the enjoyment of (Sequoia and Kings Canyons)’s wilderness areas as wilderness. Interim relief will avoid irreparable environmental injury to SEKI’s wilderness areas until NPS considers whether, and to what extent, commercial stock services are necessary.

The case has been making its way through the legal system since 2009. In its initial lawsuit, in September 2009, the hikers association pointed out that when Sequoia officials adopted a master plan for the two parks in 1971, they specifically announced their intent to both phase-out stock use from higher elevation areas of the two parks that are particularly sensitive to impacts and to eliminate grazing in all areas of the parks.

In reaching that decision, park officials at the time cited "the damage resulting from livestock foraging for food and resultant trampling of soils, possible pollution of water, and conflict with foot travelers..." the association's filing noted.

But when the Park Service adopted a General Management Plan for the two parks in 1997, it did not reiterate the desire to phase out stock use, but instead decided to allow stock use "up to current levels."

In his ruling back in January, Judge Seeborg held that Sequoia and Kings Canyon officials failed to conduct the requisite studies into the commercial need for pack trips in the two parks. Specifically, the judge noted, the Park Service must examine how commercial backcountry uses impact the landscape and "balance ... their potential consequences with the effects of preexisting levels of commercial activity."

In seeking injunctive relief at a hearing set for May 23, the hikers association cited past rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the public's best interest is "in maintaining pristine wild areas unimpaired by man for future use and enjoyment." At the same time, the group's motion notes, the approach to managing backcountry horse trips at Sequoia and Kings Canyons is detrimental to those qualities.

"Letters from park visitors also reveal that current levels of commercial stock services frequently prevent visitors from enjoying the primeval character, solitude, and natural conditions associated with wilderness," the association's petition said.

In one letter, visitors said their trip was "ruined by the huge amount of dust created by stock animals”; another wrote that "(T)he character of the wilderness experience that we can usually count on when three or four days from the trailhead is completely destroyed when a large group of people camp in the area with all the comforts of home [which they have carried in using stock]”; and another stated that "instead of enjoying the pure alpine air, which is one of the points of a trip in the first place, hikers are forced to breathe a mixture of dust and powdered manure that creates air quality that would not be tolerated . . . on any freeway in California.”

The petition also pointed that "NPS acknowledged in the GMP that 'backcountry hikers often are disturbed by the impacts of stock use — the presence and smell of urine or feces, the potential introduction of alien weeds, heavily grazed and trampled meadows, dust, erosion, and some widened trails.'"

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, somehow connected the hikers association's efforts with Obama administration. In a column on his blog last week the congressman wrote that:

Rural mountain communities are once again in the cross-hairs of liberal politicians and regulators. Having already devastated California’s mining and timber industries with laws and regulations limiting access to public lands, environmental radicals have moved full speed into a new round of limitations that impact recreational use of our National Parks. They want to eliminate the backcountry horsemen, the only means left by which the vast majority of Americans, including those with disabilities, are able to gain access to the American wilderness.
Furthermore, Rep. Nunes maintained that "... the Obama Administration is pushing backcountry horsemen out of business at the same time it is urging Americans to “get outdoors.”
The White House could demonstrate an interest in protecting these “outdoor” jobs with a simple act – one that it has so far refused to entertain. The Administration simply needs to ask the court for a one year extension of existing permits. A one year extension would allow adequate time for the permitting process to be updated in order to reflect new wilderness requirements and it may spare the small but time honored industry from the chopping block.
Meanwhile, over at change.org, a petition drive aimed at U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, has gathered more than 1,300 signatures in support of horse trips into wilderness areas.
Horses allow access to your Federal lands when you are unable or unwilling to hike to reach the wilderness. Young people, old people or any person with a disability will lose their right to visit Sequoia National Park with the removal of this option of travel.
But the matter at hand would not jeopardize anyone's right to visit Sequoia, nor would it place the park's wilderness, which comprises roughly 90 percent of the park's high country, out of reach. It could make obtaining a slot on a horse trek into the backcountry a bit more difficult, depending upon how Judge Seeborg rules. In that regard, though, some might equate that with the challenge of obtaining a room in the Yosemite Valley or at Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

SEKI-High Sierra Hikers Motion.pdf138.37 KB


The DOI and NPS are systematically
removing us from the lands they manage. Look at a few of the lawsuits and
public issues before DOI and NPS:

· uranium mining in AZ,

· oyster farming in Point Reyes, CA,

· snowmobiles in Yellowstone, MT,

· ORV on Big Cypress, FL,

· oil pipelines in NE,

· the right to gather on the 4th of July at Yorktown Victory Center, VA,

· Padre Island, Texas will now have a reduced speed limit due to the final rule at Cape Hatteras.

· Back country horseback travel in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, CA

Can you now see whats happening in
your home state and all across America?

We are making Audubon, DOW, Southern Environmental Law Center and many other
‘environmental’ Attorneys Happy and Wealthy as they continue to sue us, the
Federal Government, in the name of Conservation.

up America!! Have your Congressman co sponsor Mr. Jones
bill #4094…… Ms. Feinstein (CA), Mr. Harris (MD), Mr. Rigell (VA), Mr. Cantor
(VA) restoring access to Cape

The dots at Cape
Hatteras National
Seashore Recreational Area are now connected:

Eliminate the vehicles and nesting

Eliminate the people and nesting

Eliminate the dogs and nesting

Eliminate the kites and nesting

Walk only in the water and nesting

Kill all the predators (animals and
birds) and nesting increases.

Hey, if the weather helps us out, nesting increases.

Now lets charge a nice permit fee
($120/calendar year- $50/week) and make it inconvenient to obtain (In person
only at 3 locations 50 miles apart) and maybe that will help complicate things

Do it all at the same time and
nobody can say what really caused anything. Not that it matters.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area will become the
boilerplate for NPS and DOI rules.......Those plovers and turtles came in handy, didn't they

Gee, Hatras, most of those things sound pretty reasonable from here.

Hatrasfevr, just for clarification:

* A 10 mph reduction in speed limit at Padre Island, from 25 to 15, should not chase anyone off the beach, and it's only in effect from March 1 to Labor Day, the busy season in the park and when endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles come ashore to nest.

* At Yellowstone, after more than a decade of lawsuits, snowmobiles are still allowed in the park, and I would anticipate the next iteration of the winter use plan will continue to allow them to some degree. At the same time, snowcoaches continue there, as well, so no one is being removed from the park.

* ORVs are not being removed from Big Cypress. Indeed, the Park Service there is fully behind them. There are outside efforts, however, to limit where they can drive.

* At Sequoia, there are not efforts to end backcountry horse travel in the park. There are efforts to reduce commercially outfitted trips by 20 percent from 2007 levels, and to get the Park Service to adhere to The Wilderness Act and its own regulations.

Also, Hatrasfevr, the fireworks at Yorktown and celebrations are back on. The Superintendent changed his mind after they changed a few things that would protect the historic buildings and people watching them.

It's not just commercial packstrings that bring "unnecessary items" such as "tables, chairs, ice chests, and amplified sound players" in National Parks. A former long-time Trail Foreman at Olympic organized repeated mule-supported backcountry junkets for NPS managers who would otherwise have been incapable of 'ranging' out of sight of the pavement. These junkets would also include large amounts of alcohol, even though he had been previously run out of Grand Canyon when caught flying an entire helicopter slingload of beer into the backcountry. This is just one small example of the waste, sense of entitlement, and lack of consequences for offenders that permeates NPS management.

It is clear from your quotes that what is driving the High Sierra Hikers is that they are annoyed by horses- the smell, the dust, stepping in their crap, etc. So, to get rid of the horses, the hikers seek to misportray equestrians as lazy alcholic partiers who are too lazy to hike, like them. Classic strategy. Come on- resorting to examples like bringing in coolers full of alcohol, chairs and music? Those are red herring arguments. If that's happening and you truly want to stop just that, here's how- issue a rule banning coolers full of alcohol, chairs and music. Real simple. But if they did that, they wouldn't be able to sensationalize their arguments and play into people's (and judges) prejudices.
The bottom line is this- this is a user conflict problem. Hikers against horsemen. However, the hikers fail to note that horsement CUT those very same trails that the hikers have now found and come to use. Plus, horse use is BELOW what it was in the past. If horse activity was truly creating the amount of harm that is being portrayed, these places would never have been designated wilderness to begin with.
It's a shame that you are playing along with this spin- but then again it's clear you are a hiker, not a horsemen. You're going to alienate a lot of true conservationists and wilderness lovers who happen to like to ride horses by characterizing them as drunken partiers who go off into the wilderness for a big party.

Anonymous -- you're about to convince me to prohibit anonymous posts, but that's an aside -- don't blame the messenger for the message.

I've ridden horses into wilderness areas in the past, and in the national forests, and if my father-in-law -- a Wyoming rancher who knows a few things about horses and has owned more than you or I ever likely will -- thought I was against horses he'd probably drag me behind a couple of his through the sagebrush....

Note: There are quite a few people posting on here using my name, Kurt:). Believe for the most part the site benefits more than it hurts (using my name). You have a very significant site here and applaud you for having it.

The assumptions made here by "Anonymous" about the intentions of High Sierra Hikers are incorrect. The HSHA has numerous concerns about excessive and inappropriate commercial uses of the Sequoia-Kings Wilderness. Just a few examples: Fragile alpine wetlands & lakeshores are being routinely and repeatedly trampled into mud; almost all the meadows along the trail corridors are affected by grazing, and the NPS refuses to consider requiring stock users to pack feed for nights spent in sensitive high-elevation areas (as is required at many other national parks). There are no limits on the number of pack outfits, and no annual limits on the number of pack trips, number of clients, or total number of stock that graze in these parks. (At the same time, wilderness permits for non-commercial visitors are strictly limited and tightly controlled.) An outfitter simply pays the $200 annual fee and can run as many trips as they want. The HSHA is asking only for reasonable limits and controls to protect the high places. The lawsuit does not affect private stock users in any way. If the commercial outfits or NPS had been pro-active, they would adopt modern practices, minimize the number of animals by leaving unnecessary stuff at home, and there would be no problem. But as long as the commercial packers and agencies remian mired in the past, resist any change or upper limits on commercial uses, there will be continued conflict and unpredictability.

I second walkin' Jim. Hikers enthusiastically embraced minimum impact decades ago and significantly reduced their footprint (so to speak) on the land. On the whole, stock users have never done so. Significantly, there's a few exceptions who show that it can be done and done well.

It would be great (as I mentioned elsewhere) if all of this this badly misplaced alarum and fright would instead generate a critical look by people who travel with stock on how they can go about reducing their impact when in wilderness areas. That not a single stock user who's posted here has done so is significant and, really, the reason the court had to step in.

Watching hikers going after equestrians is pretty fun, being a cyclist and all. :)

You know, there is no "right to visit" a national park. Read the Organic Act of 1916, the parks are "preserved unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Not you! The NPS wouldn't say that out loud, wouldn't be PC, but it's true. The NPS is tasked iwth managing these places as a trust for people who aren't even born yet, and must default to whatever policy or practice does the best job of keeping them unimpaired.
It's not about YOU. Get over it.

To: Anonymous (not verified) on April 9, 2012 - 7:59pm.

That is an absolutely excellent comment. I had never thought of it that way, but it's absolutely correct. Or at least it should be.

Yes, "It's not about you" is the perfect line for all in this conversation to take to heart and not just directed to the other side of the divide. Always interesting the attitudes of some of those raised in concrete jungles toward those living connected so closely to livestock and the outdoors without understanding it. Goes both ways, I know, lol. What I'm trying to get at is there shouldn't be a divide in a right world. Nature ruined the Donner Party's "adventure into the wilderness" so dust on the trail ruining one commenters experience seems a bit...well, a part of the growth wilderness learning curve. Get over it and enjoy the environs everyone.

The Jones's bill is an insane piece of legislation that is pandering to a small but vocal group of special interest users. CHNS is in congressman Jones's home district.The bill proposes that the old interim plan be used until a new new plan can be formed by the Park. The old interim plan, besides not sufficiently protecting resources basically designates the entire Seashore Beach as an ORV route.There would be few to no vehicle free areas for visitors to enjoy. This bill would be a dangerous precedent for all National Parks.
The NPCA will fight this bill hard.

So how do all those heavy backpacks and comforts get to all the High Sierra Camps (Mules)? Just don't let anyone (Handicapped) pay a fee and ride in ? Will the eleetist HSHA go after these camps next furthering what they've started?

Isn't it funny to watch the equestrians, always ready to argue against access to cyclists, now complaining about being kicked out? It's too much fun to witness.
At least, it's great to see that a judge agrees that horses, in great numbers, tend to destroy the trails that we all want to be on.

A week into this there are over 3000 people that have signed the petition supporting the commercial packers and guides that provide a very significant and meaningful service assisting many seeking the healthy aspects of being a part of the High Sierras and other great places.

In the end why cannot we use the same policy that the NPS uses in Cape Hatteras... Shoot, trap, and relocate the invasive species (In this case Horses)... If the law of the land states doing so to protect birds from raccoons why does this not happen to protect the wilderness from and invasive species like Horses...
Game over
I really wish we could unleash the ADA lawyers on the Enviro Lawyers and they can cancel each other out.

The primary reason so many people have signed that on-line petition is
MISINFORMATION. They were falsely led to believe that the hikers' lawsuit aimed
to ban all stock use. It's just not true. First of all, the court's ruling does not affect private stock users at all. The issue here is UNLIMITED commercial packstock use. If you read the paperwork, it's clear that the hikers have said all along that they do not seek to eliminate commercial packstock at Sequoia-Kings Canyon NPs -- they have asked for a 20% reduction in commercial animal numbers until the Park Service completes a new wilderness plan and establishes some limits on commercial uses, as required by law. And, by the way, a 20% reduction is exactly what another judge ordered in 2002 for US Forest Service lands surrounding Sequoia-Kings NPs, until the USFS set its own limits, and nobody went out of business then. In short, the commercial stock packers and their uninformed "supporters" are simply over-reacting. The odds are that the judge will allow commercial packing to continue with modest limits and controls to protect the Sequoia-Kings high country until the Park Service sets limits of its own.

"Healthy"? My observation has been that folks who go on commercial pack trips (myself included) sit on a horse most of the day, then sit around camp at night eating steaks & potatoes and drinking alcoholic beverages packed in by the animals. We take the trips because we like to be with friends while enjoying the luxury of fresh food & drinks, and the other comforts the packtrains provide in a beautiful setting. I'm not passing judgment here and certainly not saying it's wrong, but I wouldn't call it "healthy." I probably eat healthier and get more exercise when I'm at home.

Having accidentally strayed on a horse trail at Gettysburg I can understand why hikers would want trails where horses were not allowed. Hopefully some trails can be maintained as horse tails. Some trails should be (I'm guessing there are) designated for walking only.If horses are creating resource problems it needs to be corrected.I have experienced first hand "misinformation" problems myself.SS1

[= 14px; line-height: 18px]"Healthy"? My observation has been that folks who go on commercial pack trips (myself included) sit on a horse most of the day, then sit around camp at night eating steaks & potatoes and drinking alcoholic beverages packed in by the animals. We take the trips because we like to be with friends while enjoying the luxury of fresh food & drinks, and the other comforts the packtrains provide in a beautiful setting. I'm not passing judgment here and certainly not saying it's wrong, but I wouldn't call it "healthy." I probably eat healthier and get more exercise when I'm at home."[/]
[= 14px; line-height: 18px]Sounds like an argument that could be coming straight out of Obamacare once the Director (Sebelius) is giving supreme decision authority on what is healthy and what isn't. Other than that your argument demonstrates a marked "misunderstanding" as to why many have such a deep connection to their stock and the wild places they frequent. Sorry your experience hasn't brought you this understanding and have chosen to judge and disparage. There are more steps ahead in your journey (hopefully), grasshopper:).[/]
[= 14px; line-height: 18px]

Connected, are you cut-and-pasting your comment in? That's likely why the coding is showing up....

Realizing that the regulation in question is about limiting the number of pack trips (which sounds reasonable), allow me to offer a general observation.
Hikers don't like horses because they poop. Riders don't like hikers because they walk slower than a horse and can get pretty snippy about stepping aside. And none of us like bikers!
I was riding on a multi-use trail, my husband (non-rider) hiking behind me. Horse has been exposed to bikes, and to people carrying tall backpacks so he doesn't see either as a "booger."
We're on a heavily wooded part of the trail, wide enough for two to walk abreast, when my horse's head and ears go up, nostrils flare and he's on high alert. If it were bear country....
Suddenly around the curve come three cyclists going like bats out of the hot spot. My horse jumps about three feet sideways, two of the bikers get through successfully, the third skids in the mud and takes out my husband. Other than scratches and bruises, no one was injured but a nice day was messed up!
Solution? Designate some trails for hikers, some for horses, some for bikes, some multi-use put up with it. This might not be practical in smaller parks but in bigger ones it could be done. Enlist the help of cycling, hiking and trail riding groups in keeping these trails maintained.
I and many of my friends "of a certain age" can no longer do the long hikes that take us far from the pavement, but we still can enjoy riding our horses.

Yes, Kurt, I did cut and paste. Seems like I've done that before with no problem. I pasted in Ss1's post as a reference then my own. Will try and do better next time.

I'd like to post an image out of the past that shows a fellow that, at age 71, is probably adventuring for the last time to the Inner Grand Canyon. He past away a short time later after championing the great places that we honor here on Kurt's site. This fellow, Mather and Albright would not have been successful had they not been able to show the decision makers of the day the importance and transformational opportunities by getting them into the back country in most cases, by mules and horses. Today, as much as some refuse to even discuss the loss of this opportunity to the aged, the handicapped and others so they can further the extreme view of preservation, the reality is that we ALL lose in a very personal way that many can't understand until it's gone. Would these same people deny John Muir his last trip?


A discussion starts about horse use in the wild and it leaps to a patronizing ["Ah, grasshoppah?"] pat on the head, paranoid about national healthcare legislation.

Rick B:
In the macro world of thought and how a movement trickles down in broadly reaching ways what Ss1 brought up about hiking is more healthy than riding (in a micro physiological way it might be which leads me to tell everyone to get rid of your cars and walk)), this is exactly an example of the power that the legislation can be directed in unseen ways. Some bureocrat that thinks the way Ss1 thinks can direct laws to eliminate "unhealthy lifestyles." Of course it seems absurd but that's what, in effect, it leads to. There is a reason why we are where we are. Some want it to double down to preserve their lucrative turf and phylosophy. For any individual that wants to experience the Parks and what they can impart it is a gradual loss that is directed at the heart of us all. I am getting expansive here but it is directed at the head of the snake. It's because I care for what I've seen experienced by so many and how it all fills me up that I even bother.

No worries Connected...though it'll save me the time of cleaning up the comments, which, as you might have noticed, I've stopped doing;-)

Not sure why the coding follows when you cut and paste, but it is what it is.

Dear Connected, with all due respect to your opinions, I went back and read the posts, and nobody talked about (or even suggested) the regulation or elimination of unhealthy lifestyles, other than you. All I did was question the idea by "Anonymous" that going on commercial packtrips is a "healthy" activity. I specificially stated that I wasn't passing judgment and don't think it's wrong. (I enjoy the trips myself, but observed simply that I tend to be less active and more indulgent when I'm on these trips than when I'm at home.) It's certainly your right to soap box about health care and Big Brother conspricacy theories, if you want, but you leapt there entirely on your own. There is no judgment or launch-pad to those topics in my post, not even between the lines. The arguments for allowing packtrains to continue will ring more true if we are honest (i.e., the trips allow some people to see the remote parts of our parks who otherwise would not go there), and those arguments may fall flat if we exaggerate by touting the trips as "healthy." (Check out the menu. Yum!!)

Steve Kander:
We are talking about California and specifically the Bay Area where the leaps taken by politicos and judges (9th Circuit) are beyond anything I could imagine. Having been involved in at least one such effort very similar to the one being discussed here, I have witnessed similar arguments (healthier more pristine). It's to bad that the pack trip you chose and apparently enjoyed appealed to your more catered sensibilities. The guests I've taken into the wild have quite a bit of personal equity in the adventure and many are transformed and in tears when the trip is reaching it's end. Sad that you haven't experienced what I've seen on a daily bases. Complaining about ice chests and picnic tables could only come from folks in Berkeley, it's environs or the same gene pool.

Kurt, thank you for this informative post on Traveler. Your posts are always worth reading as is the range of opinions presented by your readers. I have always been a fan of a well led string of mules on our wilderness trails. That said, and understanding this issue is over commercial stock use, not private, I do think its extremely important to help these old time pack stations stay in business. As Ranger George Durkey points out, some concessions may have to made, but I am sure most of the packers will comply. I stopped riding horses at age 50, not because I did not enjoy it, but I thought backpacking would be good for me. Now 22 years later, I am still hiking, but must admit the pack is getting heavier and, on occasion, get a packer to haul my pack on the first day. My experience with these professionals has always been very satisfactory, they are a part of a long standing and historical use of our public lands. I would much rather see a packer supplying work efforts in our wilderness areas than a high tech helicopter. Its a tough issue, but your even handed reporting on the court case is much appreciated.

Sorry, "Connected," if I'm missing your point, but who needs ice chests and picnic tables to experience the wilderness? Doesn't it require more animals (which tear up the trails and graze the meadows) to bring in those unnecessary luxuries? I don't get it; you apparently provide some kind of transformative wilderness adventures (that's great! really great!) but at the same time you attack folks who find unnecessary luxury catering and extravagance to be inappropriate in a wilderness setting? FYI, I'm a rural girl, born and raised (not from Berkeley, honest), and I've too often had my wilderness experience shattered by loud horse parties with everything but the kitchen sink. Wilderness should be about allowing freedom & recreation while causing the minimum harm (i.e., fewest number of pack horses necessary). You seem to disagree with the last part, and support an "anything goes" approach. I just can't buy into your be-littling folks like me for questioning why the unnecessary extras shouldn't be left at the trailhead (or at home) to minimize the number of horses to what's really necessary. The lighter the footprint of each group, the more groups can have the transformative experience you describe. I just can't imagine very many people who truly "need" an ice chest or picnic table to experience the wilderness, or the extra animals needed to haul such things in and out.

Excellent comments, GraniteGirl, and spot on. (Without any insults, too.)

And Ron Mackie, it's great to see that you're still out there hiking and backpacking. For the rest of Traveler's readers, if this is the same Ron Mackie with whom I worked many years ago in Yosemite, you all need to sit up and take notice of his wisdom. He often didn't have a lot to say in those days, but when he did, it was worth listening. I doubt that he's changed much in those extra years. Keep smiling and hiking, Ron!

Lee Dalton: No need to circle the wagons. I have a problem with rudeness no matter how people get into the back country. Backpacking is also second nature to me along with guiding people on stock. I just don't see the need to even have the conversation we're having in my world. It's the odd day in the backcountry that I don't give assistance in some way including very serious lifesaving aid on several occasions. Legislating respectful behavior just doesn't seem to be the best way. Ice chests and picnic tables? How about outlawing hiking poles (I use them) as they poke holes in the trails and encourage erosion. Trail and camp courtesy seems like a better solution.

Connected, I think camp courtesy and good sense are what we are all after. But I have also witnessed some of what concerns some people here when we see HUGE "wilderness" camps with big, big tents, and a table layout that looks as if it belongs in some five star hotel. I once backpacked into the Wind River Wilderness and two days out spent much of the night listening to very loud amplified music echoing back and forth from cliff to cliff. It was coming from one of those pack trips for the very, very wealthy. They had even hauled in an electric generator. That was back about 1990 or so. There were at least twenty head of stock grazing near the river.

When I complained at the USFS ranger station in Pinedale a few days later, the person I talked to rolled his eyes and said he completely understood. But, he said, certain people are able to obtain special privilges because they are well connected in high places. He apologized and asked that I keep our conversation off the record. The poor guy was as frustrated as I was. Maybe even more so because he was caught in the middle.

If you provide good pack trips for paying guests, that's okay by me. But if it resembles Hannibal's march across the Alps, then I do think that's just plain excessive.

I am a long-time horse person and an ecologist and I know for a fact that the impacts of horses on the backcountry of SEKI are ecologically unacceptable. If the NPS is to protect that land unimpaired in perpetuity, the horse use has to stop.

I've been reading and following along now for weeks (this forum and the High Sierra Topix forum) and I think that although much less "glamorous" or dramatic - the HSHA and other groups interested in reducing human impact in the wilderness would be more effective and their efforts less contentious if they turned their resources to educating the end users - us - the people. Ultimately we are the ones responsible for whatever damage has been done in the backcountry - the commercial pack outfitters are serving us. They aren't the villains, we are.
A mule can easily carry 150 lbs. As a former backcountry cook and packer, I cannot tell you how many times we arrived at the loading dock to find enormous piles of camping gear, coolers, float tubes, and other goodies. Why is there so much stuff? Because they don't know any better. And there's no one telling them not to bring so much stuff. Less stuff equals fewer mules in the backcountry.
I know, some of you are going to say that it is the packer's responsibility to educate the consumer. But I will tell you that no packer is getting rich on pack trips and a livelihood as a permitee, and pack stations are loathe to turn away a potential customer. And while I agree that education is key and coming from the pack stations should be a part of it - why not divert some of those enormous resources used up in court to permanently changing the mindset of those heading out into the backcountry?
I also take issue with the image of unpaid attorneys and staff toiling away in some office for the good of us all - attorneys like to fight, they like to win, and they aren't in the game for altruism and good vs evil. The law firm that represented HSHA stands to take home hundreds of thousands of dollars from the win in court - so I don't think anyone is going hungry for the cause.
These forums have been a great place for discussing not only the lawsuits but the bigger picture of human use in the wilderness - and if we can't quit squabbling I don't think it will be all that long before there's no permitted human use in the wilderness. Instead, we can simply appreciate that it is there, undisturbed and wild.

I have to smile. If you think a horse can bring a lot of recreational stuff you should see what gets hauled onto ORV accessible beaches.
My 2 cents is there should be designated horse trails with a limit of x number of horses per visitor, ( I don't have any idea what,that number should be).

A reverent genuflect in the direction of the legendary Ron Mackie, who had the brilliant inspiration to hire me for the backcountry over 40 years ago. He was head of Yosemite Valley Horse Patrol then and even made an effort to teach me to ride. Like putting a cat on a leash, but a noble effort. And, of course, I second his "attaboy" to Kurt for hosting and writing on this fine site. To more signal and less noise.. .

I also take issue with the image of unpaid attorneys and staff toiling
away in some office for the good of us all - attorneys like to fight,
they like to win, and they aren't in the game for altruism and good vs
evil. The law firm that represented HSHA stands to take home hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the win in court - so I don't think anyone is
going hungry for the cause.
A short note on pro bono representation. The law firm in this case is Morrison and Foerster. I had occasion to work very briefly with some of their attorneys many years ago on the Mono Lake case -- another one they took on pro bono. My impression was that they were, in fact, incredibly dedicated and idealistic: using the law to defend environmental principles they belived in and holding government agencies accountable to those laws.

I understood they liked working for Mofo (as it's known) because they knew they'd have the opportunity to occasionally work on cases that they felt good about. True, if they win, they're paid court costs, but it's a gamble and I doubt that much of an incentive for taking a case. After all, if they use that same time to represent a regular corporate client, they're assured of being paid. Why risk a possible loss if not for idealism? Also, the Mono Lake case went on for about 10 years, I think, and against the City of LA. It's hard to imagine a more formidible opponent nor a smaller return on such a long-term gamble.


So now their trying to get rid of ice chests and picnick tables? I like Vickie's idea better and deal with a problem person to person. Imagine that. I'm being facetious not disrespectful. Bay Area legal offices (there are tons of them) are not where the heart of this issue is. It's people being respectful in the back country. You can't legislate that. Not as lucrative or as rewarding as kicking someone else off the trail to secure themselves as the greatest sissified individuals on the planet. Not even going to say respectfully this time. A humbling is in order to get "connected!"

Dear Connected, With all respect for your opinions, you still have not explained why anyone needs picnic tables or ice chests to enjoy a wilderness experience, and/or why such luxury stuff should be allowed at all, given that they clearly would require extra horses to carry them in and out. Is it simply a libertarian "anything goes" agenda, or is there truly some reason I'm not aware of why people need such things to experience the wilderness?

Granite Girl:
Basically, I don't accept your premise. not agenda based like all the most vocal and rhetoric that finds haven in the court room. Much of it can't exist in the real world of what people are dealing with. The country is tragically and not arguably in decline with many with a sense that they are pillars of holiness avoiding the reality focusing on picnic tables and ice chests.
I can imagine there is a huge demographic of people in all user groups that don't want this this suit to go away. In the suits broad applications for wilderness activities I can see where the 20,000 plus people every year in just the Grand Canyon National Park alone, that experience the Colorado River by raft on 3 to 21 day adventures, would be a bit miffed if you take their ice chests, tables, tents away.
If truth be told I believe the motivations by the HSHA and others aren't nearly as admirable as what they present. If it isn't all about attorneys winning in court maybe they'd entertain Vickie's suggestion and deal with it person to person. But then that would be very considerate of the attorneys.

Isn't there a difference between rafts and horses?

Last time I checked, rafts didn't leave piles of manure behind or trample fragile meadows while eating the grass therein. The issue in this article is horses.

It would probably be more productive to stick to the subject.

George, Lee, our trails cross again here on the Traveler. Thank you for the kind words, I did have the pleasure of working with you both, and know the interest and contributions you have made to public lands management. Having had the good fortune to both work and now visit these parks, forests, wildlife areas, well the whole range of our natural, scenic, and historic places, it has given me a lifetime of pleasure. Thanks also to Kurt for the "Traveler" and all the others who contribute to these discussions, our public lands are worthy of our efforts.

Sorry Lee, I just don't fall for the fragile meadow lingo while the actions by the judge don't consider a whit about many of those packers and citizens that are shut down without a livelihood for at least two years. The neo-environmnetal community has lost me because of their stridency while I and my family have had a long history of connection to National Parks. The buz words don't give rise in me to condemn but to find solutions in personal ways. I've seen personally how arrogance and one's perceived superiority of thought and judgement ran roughshod over our treasures. Most of the Packers and guides I've known are some of the most connected to their environment, their stock and get pleasure from witnessing the growing appreciation in their guests. Worst case scenarios presented don't carry much weight with me either when the remedy's are simple and can be dealt with.
Oh Lee, I believe every living thing "poops" in the woods. Many have accepted that reality and moved on to more joyous endevours (unless one just has to have something to complain about).

Another issue that is left out of horse related issues...
Every horse grazes with food from outside sources. As anyone who has been around horses enough you will realize that they cannot process seeds well so that pile they leave behind carries all sorts of non native plant life to areas of the parks.
Lee Dalton I tried to use the same arguement on the fact that man and horses leave more behind than Rafts in the water and ORV's on the sand, but these items do not appeal to the higher ups that make the rules so they dont count.

The seed issue, I believe, has been put to rest earlier. Certified weed free hay, including cubed alfalfa and grain is the feed of choice and required today.

Just another thought I've had when reading through the High Sierra Hiker's lawsuit is the concept of "need" when applied to the wilderness. It seems to me that some hikers don't see a "need" for pack stock in the wilderness but yet they see no irony in claiming a "need" for hikers to be there. I see the public value of the work pack stock performs in the backcountry - hauling in supplies for firefighters, hauling in equipment for trail maintenance, restoration projects, and fish habitat projects; introducing a greater number of people to the joys of the backcountry therefore creating a stronger connection between the people and the mountains; clearing trails in the early summer of downed trees and other debris - and I could go on and on. What sort of public value does the lone hiker offer? Why is there a need for hikers to be in the wilderness? The perverse part of me says maybe I should sue to have hikers banned - and allow pack stock in to do work.