It's time for Wilderness quotas

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chumley
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It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by chumley » Jan 19 2017 12:01 pm

1. This is my opinion and mine alone. I am unaware of any rumblings to actually implement this.
2. I'm a big boy. Feel free to vehemently disagree with me. Personal insults are fine. I can handle them. :sweat:
3. Not everybody likes the forum. I'd love to discuss this in person too. Send me a PM. We can chat about it during a hike sometime too.

Proposal
Implement a permit system with quotas for the most popular wilderness areas in Arizona (managed by the USFS). I propose these to include the following wildernesses:
• Superstition Wilderness
• Pusch Ridge Wilderness
• Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness
• Kachina Peaks Wilderness

Background
It's the LAW!

The Wilderness Act of 1964 set out to protect and preserve federal lands in a way that no other environmental law had done before. It passed through congress with overwhelming bipartisan approval (374-1 in the House and 73-12 in the Senate). *Emphasis in the quotes below is mine.
In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas ... a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as "wilderness areas" ... shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character... [§2.(a)]
A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain ... retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation... [§2.(c)]
Precedent
While no Wilderness areas managed by the US Forest Service in Arizona have done so, popular Wilderness areas in other states have established permit systems and/or quotas including (CA) Ansel Adams Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, Hoover Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, South Sierra Wilderness, San Gorgonio Wilderness, (CO) Indian Peak Wilderness, (ID) Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness, (MN) Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (maybe others too ... this is tough to search).

Wilderness Areas that are managed by National Parks are regularly under permit and quota systems due to popularity, including in Arizona, with Grand Canyon being the most obvious example. National Park Wildernesses that had not previously been under permit and/or quota systems are reacting to changing user patterns and implementing new policies (including Mt. Rainier and Olympia NPs). Other land management agencies such as the BLM also have permit and quota systems in place such as the Aravaipa Wilderness.

The Other Side of the Argument
The purposes of this Act are hereby declared to be within and supplemental to the purposes for which national forests ... are established and administered and --
Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to be in interference with the purpose for which national forests are established...[§4.(a)(1)]
Except as otherwise provided in this Act, wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.[§4.(b)]
National Forests were created as the "land of many uses" -- which include grazing, timber, mining, and recreation, among others. While the Wilderness Act prohibits some of these uses, I think there is certainly needs to be a balance with regards to recreation.

My Opinion
I don't think that it is consistent with the Wilderness Act of 1964 for there to exist the number of people regularly present from the trailhead to the top of Humphreys, Flatiron, Fremont Saddle, West Fork of Oak Creek, etc. I don't believe those who wrote the act nor those who voted for it could have ever envisioned the current levels of use being experienced! This kind of use is fine on Camelback, South Mountain, the McDowells, and Picketpost. Those are not federally protected for the specific purpose of maintaining wilderness character. I believe it is important to recognize the difference in land use designation.

I hate permits. I don't like restrictions on public access or use. At all. But I believe sometimes reasonable restrictions are necessary to protect resources from being "loved to death". One benefit of a permit system is education. Even a free permit with no quota requires individuals to learn about the land, why it is a designated wilderness, and what the definition and purpose of wilderness designation is.

This is an issue that will only get worse over time. If we wait too long to act, parts of the wilderness that the law set forth to protect will no longer exist.

Unfortunately, I don't expect to see it happen. Implementation and management is too costly. The San Juan National Forest in Colorado had a plan to implement a permit and quota system for a popular portion of the Weminuche Wilderness two years ago and it had to abandon the plan because the funds were not available to properly manage it. The same is likely true elsewhere.

The result, sadly, will be the loss of wilderness that was once wild.

Sources of information:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilderness_Act
http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/WhatIsWilderness

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flagscott
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by flagscott » Jan 19 2017 12:48 pm

I wholeheartedly agree, and have been thinking the same for a long time. US population has nearly doubled since the Wilderness Act passed, and there are far more hikers now than there were 50 years ago. Plus loads more people living near (like within a half day's drive) of most wilderness areas. Humphreys gets several hundred hikers per day on busy weekends. And I'd bet that West Fork of Oak Creek gets more. Those might be wilderness areas on a map, but that's not wilderness.

I'm not as pessimistic as @chumley about making a permit system work. It's worked for parking at Fossil Creek (though I think that the number of permits needs to be decreased by about 90% or so--it's a Wild and Scenic River, not a waterpark). On busy weekends, Coconino NF already restricts parking at Inner Basin, and at Humphreys, they set up information booths at the trailhead. It would be easy for them to check permits. There is some financial cost involved in setting up these systems, but they can work.

(Anti-government types should skip this next paragraph because your heads might explode) If money is an issue, why not charge a nominal fee for a permit? Contrary to the beliefs of some in Arizona, there's nothing in the constitution stating that all public lands have to be free to access. Prices could be set low, to cover costs, with any excess going to trail maintenance or, better yet, cleaning up all the crap, literal and figurative, that slob "hikers" leave behind on these busy trails.

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chumley
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by chumley » Jan 19 2017 1:16 pm

flagscott wrote:I wholeheartedly agree
I'm reconsidering my big boy statement about being able to handle insults. I'm not prepared to agree with you on anything! ;)

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flagscott
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by flagscott » Jan 19 2017 1:27 pm

chumley wrote:I'm reconsidering my big boy statement about being able to handle insults. I'm not prepared to agree with you on anything! ;)
That's what my wife says, too. :o

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JasonCleghorn
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by JasonCleghorn » Jan 19 2017 1:30 pm

I am fine with permits, I'm even fine with fees (considering they are reasonable and the monies are used appropriately) but I am not fine with lotteries and I think it is the stupidest thing that I've ever heard of.

I shouldn't have to win a lottery to hike a trail on public lands.

To be honest, the last two times I went to the Superstitions, there were so many people there, that to be honest, given the limits of my vehicle, I'm probably done with the Supes unless its an overnight backpack to get to the Eastern Supes, etc. If I can only go to Peralta, or the State Park, or First Water, etc. I'm not going to be interested in going out there anymore.

The last time I was at Peralta TH, there was a tour bus parked there. Seriously. Filled with foreign tourists and not one of them had a water bottle. The poor Ranger had a look on his face of OMFG what have we done?

This sounds selfish AF, but I'd rather see lands closed than have to win a lottery to hike them.

Having said all this, I think that interpretations of what are declared Wildernesses in the future need to be looked at. To be honest, as you said in your My Opinion section, while some of the Superstition Wilderness (and other wildernesses wildernii(?), SHOULD be considered Wilderness, some of it at this point in the game shouldn't be.
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SpiderLegs
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by SpiderLegs » Jan 19 2017 4:46 pm

I'm pretty much with Jason on this. Unless it's mid-week I'm not hitting the Superstitions again. Siphon Draw and Flatiron can barely be considered wilderness anymore. Don't know what the answer is, but there needs to be a solution to the hordes of large groups that converge in some of the wilderness areas.
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joebartels
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by joebartels » Jan 19 2017 5:31 pm

In the past four weeks, Christmas weekend, New Years weekend and Martin Luther King weekend have all been rainy weekends. The 1 Saturday that was sunny I did a loop in the Superstition Wilderness https://hikearizona.com/map.php?GPS=34909
I encountered less than a dozen people. Requiring a permit for the 85% of the Wilderness rarely used would either discourage me from going or encourage me to break the law.
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friendofThundergod
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by friendofThundergod » Jan 19 2017 5:52 pm

@SpiderLegs
I'm pretty much with Jason on this. Unless it's mid-week I'm not hitting the Superstitions again....but there needs to be a solution to the hordes of large groups that converge in some of the wilderness areas
We are amicable and chat regularly, so this is not a troll. But come on man, if you consider Flat Iron, Siphon Draw, Jacob's cross cut, the Treasure Loop, LD state park, or Peralta to the saddle a part of the Superstition Wilderness than you are in the same class as the tourists who frequent those places. According to the Carlson book 90 percent of Supes foot traffic goes through First Water TH and Peralta. However, all of that traffic and those people can easily be bypassed, or mitigated by doing something as simple as turning right on to Bluff Springs, starting at six am, or getting about 2-3 miles in. Let me guess, the wave cave too crowded for you too? :lol:

If you are starting a hike at the same time a tour bus is arriving than that makes you a tourist! I can say with 100 percent honesty that I have started at least three dozen hikes and backpacks from Peralta TH to completely empty parking lots. This whole argument that the Supes suck and I will never go back because there are too many people at the Peralta and First Water THs is so comical to me! Go somewhere else in the 150,000 acre wilderness area, access popular spots from different trailheads, start early, go off trail, hike further in, etc. And you have an Xterra, so no excuses about TH accessibility :)

However, let me help you guys out:
Canyon Lake TH 2wd
Lower Pine Creek TH-2wd
Tortilla TH-2wd
Reavis Ranch north-2wd
Tule TH-2wd
Campaign TH-at least high clearance
Rogers Trough-4wd
Woodbury-high clearance
Miles TH-have seen cars there, prob want high clearance though
Haunted Canyon TH-2wd
Cuff Button TH- HIgh clearance, maybe 4wd
Two Bar Ridge TH-High clearance, 4wd

That being said, not against permit systems generally, but I could never imagine myself getting a permit to go backpacking in the eastern Supes, nor could I every imagine myself taking five minutes to apply for a permit to go day hiking from Peralta TH... just not happening lol

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JasonCleghorn
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by JasonCleghorn » Jan 19 2017 6:25 pm

friendofThundergod wrote:@SpiderLegs
I'm pretty much with Jason on this. Unless it's mid-week I'm not hitting the Superstitions again....but there needs to be a solution to the hordes of large groups that converge in some of the wilderness areas
We are amicable and chat regularly, so this is not a troll. But come on man, if you consider Flat Iron, Siphon Draw, Jacob's cross cut, the Treasure Loop, LD state park, or Peralta to the saddle a part of the Superstition Wilderness than you are in the same class as the tourists who frequent those places. According to the Carlson book 90 percent of Supes foot traffic goes through First Water TH and Peralta. However, all of that traffic and those people can easily be bypassed, or mitigated by doing something as simple as turning right on to Bluff Springs, starting at six am, or getting about 2-3 miles in. Let me guess, the wave cave too crowded for you too? :lol:

If you are starting a hike at the same time a tour bus is arriving than that makes you a tourist! I can say with 100 percent honesty that I have started at least three dozen hikes and backpacks from Peralta TH to completely empty parking lots. This whole argument that the Supes suck and I will never go back because there are too many people at the Peralta and First Water THs is so comical to me! Go somewhere else in the 150,000 acre wilderness area, access popular spots from different trailheads, start early, go off trail, hike further in, etc. And you have an Xterra, so no excuses about TH accessibility :)

However, let me help you guys out:
Canyon Lake TH 2wd
Lower Pine Creek TH-2wd
Tortilla TH-2wd
Reavis Ranch north-2wd
Tule TH-2wd
Campaign TH-at least high clearance
Rogers Trough-4wd
Woodbury-high clearance
Miles TH-have seen cars there, prob want high clearance though
Haunted Canyon TH-2wd
Cuff Button TH- HIgh clearance, maybe 4wd
Two Bar Ridge TH-High clearance, 4wd

That being said, not against permit systems generally, but I could never imagine myself getting a permit to go backpacking in the eastern Supes, nor could I every imagine myself taking five minutes to apply for a permit to go day hiking from Peralta TH... just not happening lol
The tour bus was arriving when I was leaving. Like you, I am a very early in the AM kinda guy as well.
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chumley
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by chumley » Jan 19 2017 7:33 pm

joebartels wrote:I encountered less than a dozen people. Requiring a permit for the 85% of the Wilderness rarely used would either discourage me from going or encourage me to break the law.
This is certainly one of the issues with instituting a permit system. But other forests have done so successfully. The Inyo NF manages several wildernesses in the Sierra. Once people become accustomed to a new system, I think it works fairly well at achieving the objectives.

I know that some have opined that some places should be "sacrificial lambs" in order to protect others. In some cases I agree. (Peppersauce cave is a good example). Not so in this case, and the reason behind my thinking is addressed in reply to FOTG:
friendofThundergod wrote:if you consider Flat Iron, Siphon Draw... to be a part of the Superstition Wilderness...
Not only do I consider them to be part of the Superstition Wilderness, they ARE part of the Superstition Wilderness—as determined by federal law. The boundaries were drawn by the US Forest Service and formalized by an act of Congress. It's not negotiable. An imaginary "real" wilderness boundary does not start east of the Dutchman Trail!

To use Joe's example, just because 85% of the wilderness is rarely used, does not mean that the other 15% isn't protected by the Wilderness Act.

Many on this site, myself included, know how to avoid crowds of people even in popular places. Because something generally doesn't affect us, does not mean it isn't a problem. If not addressed, at some point, even in the pre-dawn hours of a rainy day we will find what was once a pristine area to have been scarred beyond recognition. And that's what the Wilderness Act was intended to prevent.

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cactuscat
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by cactuscat » Jan 19 2017 7:43 pm

@chumley
Well said! Thank you.
Where is the "dislike" button?

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oldmanonthetrail
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by oldmanonthetrail » Jan 19 2017 7:59 pm

From a tourist perspective I could see paying a one time yearly fee to hike all trails except of course the big 3
Having everyone pay once a year does seem to work well for other permit issues. .

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flagscott
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by flagscott » Jan 19 2017 8:12 pm

joebartels wrote:Requiring a permit for the 85% of the Wilderness rarely used would either discourage me from going or encourage me to break the law.
I can't imagine that the more remote parts of the Supes or, say, the Weatherford Trail in the Peaks would require a permit. And if they did require a permit, the numbers available would be greater than the demand. In the Sierra Nevada, I believe that the permits are based on entries per trailhead per day, and some trailheads are much more popular than others. If you go in via a remote trailhead, you're unlikely to be denied a permit. So, for a hypothetical system in Arizona, even if permits get maxed out at the busy trailheads, the vast majority of hikers are not going to do the extra driving miles to access a remote trailhead or the extra hiking miles to take a secondary trail to a popular spot. That means that serious hikers, like a lot of us here, will not be inconvenienced significantly.

There are also hybrid systems possible: you could make permits not required for starts before 6 am, on weekdays, or for Flagstaff residents on Humphreys (my personal suggestion). The system does not need to be absolute to reduce usage to a reasonable number.

And if permits discourage use, great! I'm one of the people who doesn't mind having to get a permit to access public lands, so I will happily take advantage of the extra permits made available if people like Joe stop going to the Supes. Reducing use is the point anyhow.

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SpiderLegs
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by SpiderLegs » Jan 19 2017 8:41 pm

@friendofThundergod - Well I guess I agree with you as well. I'll have to look up those trails and give them a whirl.
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by friendofThundergod » Jan 19 2017 8:49 pm

@chumley Yes I realize those areas are just within the boundary. The point is one should not allow two busy trailheads at two of the most popular areas in a wilderness area to ruin their inpression of a 150,000 acre wilderness area, nor should the gov. make some knee jerk reaction to implement premits across an entire wilderness area based on a couple of busy spots that don't fit some bored guy at works to the letter interpretation of a 50 plus year old act...

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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by friendofThundergod » Jan 19 2017 9:35 pm

@SpiderLegs
Look I get annoyed by people and crowds prob as much as anyone, but if I can find away to knock out a great hike from Peralta TH you can too trust me, oh and I don't want to be filling out some online permit to take an impromptu hike in the Supes one day!

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rcorfman
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by rcorfman » Jan 19 2017 10:03 pm

Since you mentioned that Mt. Rainier NP is implementing new policies, I'll comment about that. Last summer I hiked the Wonderland Trail (93 miles circumnavigating Mt. Rainier). There, one has to have a permit to camp at a designated campground for each night of the hike. So scheduling the whole trip is dependent on what sites are available. My permit was for five nights. The permit was free. In Grand Canyon, a permit for 5 nights would have cost me $50. Normally one applies for the permit in March. Last year the reservation system didn't happen because of a big snafu, but the last few years permits have been hard to come by. They sell out. It seems if anybody can apply for a permit at no cost, then everybody applies. Adding some cost, I'm sure would alleviate the situation tremendously as only people serious about a hike would apply. This same situation is occurring on the JMT though with multiple agencies issuing permits, I don't think that situation is as simple.
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rcorfman
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by rcorfman » Jan 19 2017 10:15 pm

So last summer, I also hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail. The west side of the trail goes through Desolation Wilderness. Desolation Wilderness has a permit/quota scheme set up. Quotas are only for those spending the night and are set by trail used to enter the wilderness. Day users need a permit too, but those are no cost and self issued at trailheads. I know getting an overnight permit can be difficult at times and people need to apply for them months ahead. I'm not familiar with that. a PCT Long Distance Hiker Permit and a TRT Through Hiker Permit are exempt from the quotas. I had the latter and spent a night at Dick's Lake.

There were a lot of people camping in Desolation Wilderness. It's very popular, probably much more so than the popular areas of the Superstition Wilderness. I passed probably well over a hundred hikers entering the wilderness as I left the wilderness and headed towards the Echo Lake marina.

I think setting up a permit system, even a no cost self issue system, such as used in Desolation Wilderness, can be a good thing. It will give the forest system a better idea of how many users are actually using the trails. That in turn can be used for better funding, etc.
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SuperstitionGuy
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by SuperstitionGuy » Jan 20 2017 2:02 am

The answer is simple. Pay to park at the busiest trail heads. Maybe then we just might see someone in a USFS Uniform doing some work on the trails as well. After all you cannot expect AZLumberjack to do all the volunteer work can we?
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Re: It's time for Wilderness quotas

Post by AZLumberjack » Jan 20 2017 7:26 am

SuperstitionGuy wrote:After all you cannot expect AZLumberjack to do all the volunteer work can we?
:D Thanks for the pat-on-the-back Sups Guy, but I haven't been a volunteer with the USFS for a couple of years now. There was low level talks, at that time, about a permit system to control the crowds at the two main TH's, but I don't know if it went anywhere. These days, they have encouraged hiking groups to "Adopt-a-trail" throughout the most popular hiking areas where these groups trim brush, remove boulders from the trail and clean up the debris left behind by the non-hiking elements.

A voluntary pay system had been in place several years ago at First Water and Peralta but that didn't work because the pay boxes became a target for some creeps to break into and steal the payments, so it was disbanded. I could envision a "Quota" system on the trails that get the most use/abuse including Garden Valley, Peralta to Fremont, Siphon Draw, Heiroglyphic Canyon and somehow, Wave Cave. I don't know how this could be enforced but it could encourage hikers to find other trails of interest.
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