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President Sent Legislation To Allow Commercial Horse Packing In Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Park


Legislation that clears the way for the National Park Service to resume issuing permits for commercial horse pack trips in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks headed Friday to President Obama for his signature.

A group of California lawmakers made that announcement after the House approved a bill that includes changes by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both California Democrats, that were approved by the Senate on Thursday.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. George Miller, were instrumental in advocating for legislation to resolve the issue after a court order prevented the Park Service from issuing the 2012 permits.

The current ban on commercial pack trips was spurred by the High Sierra Hikers Association, which filed a lawsuit 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 has not been trying to ban outright horse trips into the high country of the two parks, but rather has been seeking 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 has asked a federal judge to order the agency to rein-in the pack trips. The association was scheduled to ask the judge during a hearing next Wednesday 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.

Uncertainty over the matter has led Sequoia officials to temporarily ban the issuance of permits to commercial horse packers.

That move prompted the California lawmakers, not willing to await the outcome of the upcoming hearing, to legislate a solution. The bill passed by Congress directs the Park Service to issue permits for commercial stock operations in the wilderness areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks. These permits are to be issued to local outfitters, packers, and guides whose businesses have been impacted by court-ordered ban.

Under the Senate’s revised legislation, the permits are to be issued at use levels that the Park Service determines are appropriate, a more permissive standard – meaning more permits could be issued – than the initial House-passed legislation, according to congressional aides.

The quick-moving victory was lauded by lawmakers.

“Summer visits are important to families, visitors, and small businesses in the area and from across California,” Rep. Miller said after the bill passed the House on Friday. “We owe a sincere thank-you to Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein for championing this issue, making needed improvements to the House-passed bill, and quickly acting to help Californians.”

The House gave the bill final approval under a unanimous consent agreement Friday afternoon.


I'm amazed at the productive problem solving achieved here, simply amazing! Thanks to everyone that helpped make it happen. Kudos!

So the concessionairres win yet again in this heavily lobbied National Park Service. With this kind of corporate influence in the NPS one could argue our parks are already privatized.


You think these very small concessions have any exceptional influence over NPS? We're not talking about some sports team owner or Coca Cola. Unnoticed by your comment is that the Public led the charge here. Not special interests like the well connected Berkeley/MOFO and their conflicted Judge.

I could not be more greatful to the many people who worked so tirelessly on this issue. What they have done is not only protect our rights and freedoms for the years to come, but have also helped many families including my own be able to continue traditions of packing in the back country. The comment above was correct about this issue/problem being led by the public. All anyone had to do was pick up their local paper in the central valley of California and read the letters to the editor and or the comments section of any articles relating to this issue and you would see how outraged the public was over the possible ban on packers. What I find not only amazing but scary as well is that after some research myself I learned that this "hiker's group" was comprised of about 500 members. This group has been very quick to respond in this whole mess that they created by trying to tell the public that it was not nor has it ever been their intention to have commercial packers banned from the wilderness, all they wanted was to lessen their useage. Well that statement is in the beginning but if you continue reading on down you would see how carefully words are chosen and that yes they do feel commercial packers and horses themselves are a major problem to the wilderness as they see it. When I said that this is scary about this group comprising of only around 500 people it is because a lot of problems were caused and unnecessary resources had to be used to defend ourselves and our rights and freedoms from a very small group of people that the majority of Amercians including our politicians did not agree with.

Again my sincere appreciation to the many who fought over the past few months for us all. It is dedicated indivduals such as yourselves that give me inspiration and renewed belief in our Country. Thank you

What an incredible double standard. Mountain bikers can't get justice from Congress for 20 years for access to national parks and federal Wilderness for environmentally benign, minimal-impact quiet recreation, but the commercial luxury outfitters get a bill through in 3 months to continue trampling and degrading high-altitude national park meadows with their fly-attracting, dust-generating, manure-generating horses and packstock. That is disgusting. It's also a gross interference by Congress with the NPS's management discretion. I almost wondered if the NPT article was a spoof, it's so appalling. Plainly the difference is money and personal experience. The ancient fossils in Congress like horses and mules because their rich friends ride them, and their rich friends have the money and access to speak to them about their concerns. Mountain bikers are too young and have too little money, and therefore too little influence, to be heard. It's gross.

Both mountain bikes and horses are very destructive to any trail system--and I would also add so are too many hikers. Let's leave this to the NPS for a few years and keep tabs on the degradation issues and then revisit this. I worked as a backcountry ranger for 7 years in alpine areas and after just a couple years, recommended to the NPS that horses and fires be banned in certain areas--and they were. These alpine areas have recovered substantially and the horses still have access to some trail systems. With more people visiting our parks and less money designated to run them, more regulation will be needed.

Doug, I respect your experience as a backcountry ranger, but where did you see, in your years of work, that mountain bikes caused any more trail degredation than hikers cause? I've ridden my mountain bikes literally tens of thousands of miles and rarely have I seen any difference between the two groups' impacts. Where I have (very, very rarely) seen it, it's been either temporary and trivial (some ruts on a wet trail) or caused by poor trail design.

It's true that mountain bikers sometimes skid, which hikers can't do. But hikers cut switchbacks and walk and up and down hillsides, a far more common phenomenon. Backpackers trample vegetation for campsites. Walkers generally litter more than mountain bikers.

More to the point, both hikers and mountain bikers have a trivial impact compared to horses and packstock. Any number of peer-reviewed (as opposed to PEER-reviewed!) scientific studies, all widely available online, show this.

All so much me me me in the discussion. Need an attitude change but that's the present culture and political divisive tactics. Get along and appreciate someone else's deal. On the pack stock? They pay their way and then some not only in support of trails and hikers but a lot that hikers can't normally understand thus suggest stepping out of yourself or stay out in the backcountry to really appreciate what's out there instead of your own achievement (humbling).

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