Thursday, April 26, 2012

Judge suspends horse packing in wilderness

Horse packing in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks is on hold because a San Francisco judge says the parks are violating the federal Wilderness Act. The issue percolated for years before exploding last month, leaving packers one chance in May to forestall a ban that many say will cripple their industry. Wednesday, Rep. Devin Nunes stoked the fire by blaming the Obama administration for caving to environmentalists and not pushing for a compromise. Sequoia & Kings Canyon Superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich wrote in a March 12 letter to 16 pack stations that no permits would be issued until the matter is resolved in federal court. More than two dozen other businesses that operate within the park are also affected. These include back-country trips booked through REI, Outward Bound or any other commercial guide services. The park's action came as a shock to pack station owners just as their phones are starting to ring from customers interested in booking summer trips. "It's pretty distressing," said Woodlake-based Horse Corral Pack Station owner Charley Mills, who estimated wilderness trips comprised 90% of his business."We're on pins and needles about this summer." Whether horse packers will be allowed to continue services into the parks' wilderness areas will be determined in a federal courtroom. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg, presiding over a 3-year-old lawsuit between the High Sierra Hikers Association and the National Park Service, has set a May 23 hearing to determine the next step. On Jan. 24, Seeborg ruled the National Park Service violated the Wilderness Act because its 2007 general management plan for Sequoia & Kings Canyon does not specifically determine to what extent commercial stock are necessary in wilderness areas. More than 97% of Sequoia & Kings Canyon's jointly managed 865,964 acres are designated wilderness and thus protected from development and overuse by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Last spring, the parks began preparing a Wilderness Stewardship Plan that will establish the extent that commercial services such as pack stock belong in wilderness. That plan probably won't be set until 2015. Pack station owners are hoping for quick resolution at the May 23 hearing, but it's unclear whether the judge will require further deliberations...more

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess it is O.K. for the backpackers to be there. People who are the same as cattle in that they poop where they sleep.