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#22407 - 03/29/12 09:06 AM HSHA Lawsuit
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
The High Sierra Hikers Association is at it again. The HSHA seems to have a real problem with mules and horses in the backcountry. Here is the link to their current lawsuit:

http://www.highsierrahikers.org/resources_index.html

This morning's Inyo Register has a long article about this latest effort to ban our four-legged creatures from the mountains, and I will post the complete article as soon as it appears on the newspaper's website.

The HSHA wants the courts to further curtail permits (this was done a couple of years ago) for commercial stock operators in Sequoia-Kings National Park, alleging that the General Master Plan for Sequoia Kings Canyon violated the National Environmental Act by "not conducting the proper environmental assessment of the impact of stock use." The HSHA wants the courts to "throw out the illegal Master Plan and require the Park Service to consider a broader range of reasonable alternatives..."

The great irony in all this is that it is through the use of pack animals that the Sierra Nevada trail system is maintained, as it has been since the first trails were built by commercial pack operators.

Since the restrictions on commercial trips began a few years ago the pack station operators have adjusted their business operations to include so-called "spot trips," during which heavy packs and other camping equipment is carried into the mountains for those who do not wish to, or are unable to, hump heavy packs. Customers of this kind of service includes families with small children, the elderly...and (believe it or not) the Sierra Club, Yellow-Legged frog research groups, and various non-profit organizations (including the Pack Service and the Forest Service). The Sierra Club itself still offers wilderness trips using pack stock.

Craig London, the operator of the Rock Creek and Mt. Whitney Pack Trains is quoted in the Inyo Register as saying, "The Wilderness was established to allow people to go into the wilderness, to maintain the sense of wildness before civilization came West. These groups are trying to change the intent of the Wilderness Act. The people who realized the need to protect the wilderness got to that wilderness on pack trips."

I'v never understand the rational of people who hate to see pack stock in the mountains. Is it the smell of horse poop on the trails? The dust from a passing pack outfit? The supposed heavy environmental impact of pack animals? What about the impact of backpackers who drop their own human waste in otherwise nice campsites, leave broken glass, food wrappers and other artifacts of their visit on the ground, (messes which pack operators often clean up and carry out on their own)? Of course, I'm sure that members of the HSHA never dispoil the wilderness...

Come on HSHA's, tell us what exactly is it you want. Do you want the wilderness reserved for only a select few...like yourselves? Will your organization do all the trail work? Do you want the existing trail system to go back to nature? Speak up.

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#22426 - 03/29/12 04:02 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Bob West]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I think most if not all of the people that want to remove stock from the trails have never done trail work. Let them haul a Pionjar 30 miles into the backcountry to use and see what they think then.
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#22429 - 03/29/12 05:14 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Bob West]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Quote:
The Wilderness was established to allow people to go into the wilderness, to maintain the sense of wildness before civilization came West. These groups are trying to change the intent of the Wilderness Act. The people who realized the need to protect the wilderness got to that wilderness on pack trips.


Bob: You've missed a lot of the discussion elsewhere on this topic. But it's hugely important to realize that HSHA is NOT (NOT, NOT, NOT) asking or implying that stock should be banned or eliminated. They did not argue that in any of their Complaints and none of the court decisions imply that has the potential of happening.

I hesitate to disagree with the esteemed Craig London, but he missed an important transition there as far as the Wilderness Act goes. The Act cover people going into wilderness. Stock are only allowed to the extent they support and are necessary to people visiting wilderness. The stock themselves have no intrinsic right to use wilderness.

There's a tendency to gloss over the environmental damage caused by stock. It's absolutely not just poop on the trail. It's removing tons of grasses each season; it's the pathogens, nitrates and nitrites in the manure and urine that wash into streams; it's the well documented changes in species composition as a result of grazing; it's the potential damage to riparian, small mammal and bird habitat as a result of loose grazing; and it's the well documented short and long term damage to meadows and stream banks from roll pits and erosion when horses go to drink.

While not perfect, carrying capacities for people are based on environmental and social criteria. As a result, only so many people per day are allowed to leave a given trailhead. Limits for stock are not based on environmental criteria but on how many horses are needed to carry people's gear. Again, HSHA and others are just saying that the environmental impacts of stock and the need for using them should be considered when determining how many should be allowed in wilderness. Also, the decisions have no effect on private use or Administrative use, so stock-supported trail maintenance will continue.

As part of the court record (both USFS and NPS) there were decades of HSHA trying to get the policy changed through negotiation, using evidence of the damage. They were blown off. The courts were a last resort and they've won in four separate federal court decisions.

George



Edited by George (03/29/12 05:19 PM)
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#22430 - 03/29/12 05:34 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: George]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2249
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Perhaps it's time for the clever people at JPL and other places to design some kind of electric horse. They've designed successful rovers for the Moon & Mars. And we have had horseless carriages for as long as I can remember. Lots of markedly better battery and motor technology has popped up in the last few years, too.

After all, the requirement is only to reliably carry a few hundred pounds a few dozen miles.

Then there is the Llama - which is far better adapted to altitude and easier on the environment.

Why is the horse the only solution?
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#22432 - 03/29/12 05:51 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: wagga]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: wagga
Perhaps it's time for the clever people at JPL and other places to design some kind of electric horse. They've designed successful rovers for the Moon & Mars. And we have had horseless carriages for as long as I can remember. Lots of markedly better battery and motor technology has popped up in the last few years, too.

After all, the requirement is only to reliably carry a few hundred pounds a few dozen miles.

Then there is the Llama - which is far better adapted to altitude and easier on the environment.

Why is the horse the only solution?


The horse is not the only solution, as you mention with the llama, and there are those who use goats, as well.

However, the horse is indiginous to the region, and the others are not. Occasionally, a horse gets loose in the backcountry, and they sometimes take a month to get back, and survive ok. I don't think a llama or goat will fare so well. Neither do dogs, by the way.

BUT, the idea that you mention, was first actualized in 1958!

THE TOTE GOTE!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tote_Gote

The use of this was described in depth in Chuck Yeager's book "Press On", where he used them in the Whitney region backcountry!

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#22433 - 03/29/12 06:03 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Ken]
MooseTracks Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
George Durkee 2012!! laugh

I'm only half kidding: George is so often the voice of reason!

I am trying to gather information and perspectives from both sides of the issue. I work with a nurse, who, with her husband, own the Rainbow Pack Station out of South Fork Bishop Creek. She really is the brains behind the business side of their outfit, and she's under a much different opinion than the one outlined by George above. Now, are the hoops through which she must jump now due to a lackadaisical effort on the part of the FS to "simplify" matters before? (which could conceivably come back and bite them now?)

I just want to make sure that mooses are still allowed in the backcountry... frown

-L
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#22436 - 03/29/12 06:38 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: MooseTracks]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2249
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Moose, (being both singular and plural) are allowed in the back-country.
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Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#22437 - 03/29/12 06:42 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Bob West]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I think a robot horse would violate the wilderness act.

Scary thought like this robot dog is:

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#22439 - 03/29/12 07:09 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Ken]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2249
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
The fossil-fueled internal combustion engine has, for the last century or so, been unbeatable in terms of convenience/energy density.

In time, just as the Sierra Club outing evolved from hundreds of participants on pack-supported trips carrying large stoves to a dozen or less leave no trace hikers, our expectation will be for silent, emissions free wilderness support vehicles.

So the "Pack Station" of the future might use a solar-charged electric vehicle specifically adapted for trail usage, without the noise/pollution of the internal combustion vehicle nor the environmental issues of the non-indigenous pack animal. Which includes horses.
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#22440 - 03/29/12 07:20 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: RoguePhotonic]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2249
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Big Dog, interesting though it is, is for military usage of the trackless wilderness. The discussion here is how to provide the functionality of pack animals on existing trails without all the negative environmental effects.
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#22441 - 03/29/12 07:46 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: wagga]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
I like the idea of an electric horse. We'd call it Laocoon (for all you Odyssey fans out there). And I've got no problem with a pack moose! Darned good idea, really. As long as they don't roll around in meadows but only randomly charge hikers, they could be pretty fun.

One of the Bishop stores used to have a t-shirt with a big moose on it and "Bishop, California" across it. A little out of range, but probably sold well.

g.
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None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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#22443 - 03/29/12 07:55 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: George]
MooseTracks Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
George, if you need anything in at Charlotte this summer, you know where to find me! grin

I need to track down one of those tee-shirts! laugh
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#22444 - 03/29/12 07:57 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: wagga]
MooseTracks Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
Originally Posted By: wagga
Moose, (being both singular and plural) are allowed in the back-country.


Grammar patrol... mad

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#22448 - 03/29/12 08:53 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: George]
lucky Offline


Registered: 03/29/12
Posts: 5
Loc: CA, USA
Here is my two cents on this issue. Whether you like it or not horses are our heritage. All trails where started by livestock, horses and mules. For example highway 15 in Cajon Pass was only a horse trail at first. The same goes for all our trails in the Sierras. It is significant that John Muir the granddaddy of all protectors of wild lands rode to the mountains on horseback. The horse helped scout, open, build and maintain trails from the beginning and it would be a sad day when horses are banned from using the trails. It is already happening on the Mt Whitney trail. It is impossible to do trail work in the back country without horse and mule packing support. The anti-horse lobby is hurting all users with their stand. I would like to be more forceful but it is not appropriate for this forum. I hope the young generation will understand what it takes to keep the trails open. Trails do not grow open for the city folks to use. It has and does take a lot of work from a lot of people to keep them open. At present this back country volunteer effort is led by equestrians. It is an insidious start to ban horses. Because ultimately people will be banned by luck of access on neglected and disappearing trails. This neglect and closure is already happening. The individual forests publish maps every 10 years. If you look at the successive maps you will notice how old trails are omitted from the newer maps. On the ground time, weather and neglect have done their work and the trail is effectively closed. Example Cold Creek trail near Jordan Hot Springs. And the best example of this insidious process it the fabulous California Riding and Hiking Trail. It is possible that it has to get a lot worse before it gets better. Is it possible that some of the "excluding" groups have a hidden agenda of closing the back country to all users. Scary! My hope is that the noisy extremists will be marginalized by the common sense younger generation. How to educate users on these issues? The Wilderness Act is short please read it. It is a wonderful idea. Preserving "traditional/historic access" to wild lands is a uniquely American idea to which we all owe. That traditional includes horses. Please do not pick on the USFS. They do the best they can with what they have and it is not much. Some of the south land USFS districts used to have pack strings to support all summer long trail crews and now have only one employee dedicated to hundreds of miles of trails. Groups dedicated to excluding horses and mules from public lands are short sighted, divisive and misguided. I suggest that users synergize efforts to benefit user access at a time of limited public funding for our trails


Edited by lucky (03/29/12 08:58 PM)

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#22454 - 03/29/12 10:31 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Bob West]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
Here is the manifesto of the HSHA:

http://www.highsierrahikers.org/about.html

It looks like they are opposed to quite a lot of things.

A brief quote from them: "Are you fed up with wading through manure on churned-up trails? Disgusted by the trampled meadows and trashed campsites in the High Sierra? Sickened by the knowledge that livestock defecate and urinate in the streams and lakes from which we drink?"

I've been backpacking and day hiking the Sierra since 1971 and don't believe I've ever had to "wade through manure" on any trail; maybe side step a little. But I guess city folks do experience a shock at seeing a road apple for the first time. Oh, phew, how stinky!!!

All, all the trashed campsites I've seen had been occupied by backpackers.

Yep, the horses and mule don't seem to be house-broken, nor are the deer and coyotes. At least they don't leave used toilet paper on the ground... Not to mention domestic dogs doing their thing right in the middle of trails, as their owners stand blithly by.

Human hikers don't always have the best of toilet manners in the backcountry, such as the young lady I observed given herself a little crouch-wash in the middle of the creek at Sam Mack Meadow. We didn't drink any more water out of that creek for a couple of days.

They also object to the military overflights from NAS Lemoore and China Lake. I didn't know the jets flew that low over the mountains - I'll be sure to duck the next time I see one! Commercial jets also fly over the high-country every few minutes; want to stop them too?


Edited by Bob West (03/29/12 10:51 PM)

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#22462 - 03/30/12 09:42 AM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Bob West]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
It's not the lack of pack animals responsible for some trails being abandoned, it's lack of trail crew people. That's caused by budget cuts. I don't know of a single trail that's been abandoned as a result of a lack of stock support. Once again: these rulings apply only to commercial outfitters, not administrative or private. No effect on trails. None.

And, sure, HSHA lists poop as a concern but their primary concern are the environmental impacts of stock and the fact that there's little or no regulation of those impacts. Let's move on from horse manure and how it's a manly part of the west. Camping next to a sewage treatment plant or a corral is not high on my list of backcountry experiences. Nor is seeing a meadow eaten down to a putting green.

Craig London, quoted in the original article, is one of the best low-impact outfitters around. But even a packer doing everything in as environmentally sensitive way as possible can still bring 20 1,200 pound animals into the wilderness. On, say, a 5 day trip, those animals will produce 3,500 lbs of manure and 240 gallons of urine. Much of the phosphates and nitrates from that waste will go into streams and lakes where they will provide nutrients for algae. In addition, one study in Yosemite found that 3 - 6% of the stock in the study carried giardia and cryptosporidium. So there's the potential of tens of thousands of cysts being washed into rivers and streams.

After a day's ride, the horses are released to graze and they often roll in the meadow to get the sweat off. Those "roll pits" can persist for years. In alpine meadows (above, say, 9,500 feet or so in the Sierra) I've seen pits take 30+ years to recover. And those animals will consume over 2,000 lbs of meadow grasses during that trip.

Now, all those impact are the result of supporting, say, 5 people on a wilderness trip. Can that be justified? If a scout group of 15 camped in a meadow, cut down swaths of grass and dug pits, they'd be given a citation -- certainly a Darned Serious Talk. But ALL of the impacts listed above are allowed and accepted when stock does it. Two different sets of rules guide the allowable impacts of people with stock and people on trips without stock.

Your examples on people leaving trash, washing in streams etc. are good, but you miss the point that those are illegal. It is perfectly legal for stock to create all of those same impacts. Rhapsodic peans to the glory of the noble critter do not address the damage they do to fragile alpine terrain.

I don't understand why you're upset with the people-caused impacts and not those of stock? I'm upset by both and think there's a lot that can be done to mitigate the latter.

And what all this really comes down to is is to what extent visitors -- whether on stock or foot only -- have a right to expect seeing an absolutely pristine meadow when they're traveling in Wilderness? The unfortunate reality is that there are few meadows along the length of the John Muir Trail that a user can camp at and see a meadow where grazing is not allowed and where the grasses and beldings and ducks etc. are allowed to go through their life cycle without the possible impacts of horses eating their habitat. As Randy Morgenson once put it:

Quote:
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, 1989 McClure Meadow end of season report


I think we all have a right to see such pristine meadows. That's the whole idea.




Edited by George (03/30/12 09:47 AM)
_________________________
None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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#22468 - 03/30/12 10:46 AM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: George]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
George, you've certainly captured the purpose of wilderness protection in my book. You are a mighty advocate....and you should be! It is good to see someone who embodies the best of understanding, who also can add in the practical side of things...and that they work for the gov't, tasked with the actual job of protection.jj

I take slight issue with one thing you mentioned, and it probably is a FS/PS difference that is embodied:

Quote:
It's not the lack of pack animals responsible for some trails being abandoned, it's lack of trail crew people. That's caused by budget cuts. I don't know of a single trail that's been abandoned as a result of a lack of stock support. Once again: these rulings apply only to commercial outfitters, not administrative or private. No effect on trails. None.


The packers on the forest DO some significant work on the trails, particularly in early season, particularly with trees and debris. They often are the first people through for the year, and they may be the only ones working on that trail.

Last year on the Golden Trout Wilderness, we went in on a project that had not had a crew in 15 years. The trail, which is a main feeder into Sequoia from the South, has only been kept open by the packer, as have a number of trails in the area. Of course, he does that so that he can use the trails, but nonetheless.......

.....but no treadwork, though.

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#22470 - 03/30/12 11:37 AM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: MooseTracks]
Mike Condron Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 215
Loc: Now Manteca, CA
Originally Posted By: MooseTracks
Originally Posted By: wagga
Moose, (being both singular and plural) are allowed in the back-country.


Grammar patrol... mad

wink

Meese,
The real plural of moose. Many people, including the dictionary and English teachers, will attempt to tell you that "meese" is not correct. However, please consider the following:
One goose = goose
One moose = moose
Two+ goose = geese
Two+ moose = meese?
Yes, meese is grammatically correct. Don't let them fool you.
Look at that wild flock of meese!
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#22483 - 03/30/12 01:25 PM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: Mike Condron]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
FYI:

According to the Court Order, the NPS published a Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS for a stock-related Wilderness Stewardship Plan (WSP) on April 26, 2011, characterizing the goal as "an implementation level plan, [that] will provide guidance on a variety of issues including ... stock use." 76 Fed. Reg. 23335.

In fairness to HSHA, I don't see them calling for a ban on all livestock in the wilderness. Everyone should recognize the need for limits on the amount of livestock and for best management practices to minimize impacts. It's just a matter of arriving at a reasonable compromise, and hopefully the EIS process will lead to a that.

Public input to the EIS for this Wilderness Stewardship Plan is the place to direct energy on this topic, whatever your feelings about it. If someone sees a call for comments on the EIS, please post it.

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#22494 - 03/31/12 08:43 AM Re: HSHA Lawsuit [Re: George]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
How were the statistics on manure tonnage, etc., arrived at? Did N.P. rangers actually do a scientific study, or are those stats approximations based on guess work? I cannot imagine any ranger willing to carry scales around the mountains to measure poop! Unless the measurements were made closer to the pack stations, where the animals are more likely to take a dump in an uphill section of a trail.

Are there any statistics on the environmental impact of two-legged traffic in the backcountry? Tonnage of trash, human waste, trampled meadows, trail erosion, domestic dog messes, etc.? How about a fair comparison?

I agree that any kind of disfiguring of the wilderness by humans or animals can leave a less-than-delightful visual experience. But you seem to be more concerned, in your comments, with the impact of pack animals, rather than hiker impact.

Perhaps the ultimate solution would be to ban all access to the backcountry, by anyone, including researchers and rangers, and let the wilderness recover for a few decades.

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