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Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby butitsadryheat » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:57 am

good thread, general.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby Bob Burd » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:48 pm

I agree it's a complicated issue. Getting the support of horse folks was critical for the passage of the Wilderness Act back in 1964. And I once met a group of Sierra Clubbers in the Sabrina Basin using a huge pack train. They were all in their 60s and 70s. Most were walking with light daypacks ahead of the train, a few unable to walk the 7-8miles were riding. Best use of mules I've ever seen. HJMC and his "bring the kitchen sink and bar routine" - not so much.

As for maintenance, I don't buy it for a second that horses are critical for trail work. Most of the crews I've seen doing trail work that have heavy gear like picks are doing work to either make it easier for the animals (regrading Kearsarge Pass, for example), or fixing trail damage done by the heavy animals with small foot prints. Mules and horses generate forces that tend to dig up the trail while lighter humans with large foot pads tend to pack it down, particularly when the trail is soft (as in during spring thaw). Clearing downfall is mostly a matter of sawing logs and rolling/dragging them out of the way. You don't use/need horses to do that. What really gets me is the amount of trail work done by volunteers who don't realize the work they are doing is primarily benefiting the packers and their customers. If the packers had to do all the trail work to repair the damage they cause, they'd have to increase rates and many would probably go out of business. So in effect, the volunteer trail crews are subsidizing the business.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby MoapaPk » Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:35 pm

I've discussed this article with a friend who is very much for wilderness in Nevada (he has worked for wilderness support groups for years), and he also supports limited horse access. He gets inflamed about ATVs, though. ;)

In Nevada, where we generally have much lighter use of the "trails" by both people and horses, I see both sides of the issue. In the Spring Mountains, there are very few "tame" horses (lots of feral/wild horses). Horses/mules are used mainly for trail maintenance-- carrying water and heavy tools, like saws, axes, prybars past about 5 miles and 3000' elevation gain. If the workers carry all this stuff, they are exhausted by the times they reach the work sites. Frankly, horses don't do well on the steep sidehills, and friends report seeing accidents when horses plummeted off the sides of the trail. The SLT on Charleston Peak was designed to be horse-compatible, but the lack of horse trailer parking means that it is rarely used for horses.

Near Red Rock Canyon NCA, horses are effectively restricted to Blue Diamond Hill and a few loop trails at the base of the escarpment, and generally horses avoid the hiker-used trails. There are far more feral burro poops than tamed horse poops (and most of my friends avoid the trails anyway). The best graded trails in Blue Diamond were built by the horse packers; they are nice but poopy, and to avoid the poops, one simply takes the trail with very short class 3.

Up in Moriah Wilderness NE of Ely, there are more horses than people. I've met horse trains up there; most stay on the less popular, northern trails.

In central Nevada, horses are used to convey hunters around Arc Dome. Generally these hunters are very considerate sorts.

It's a much different world in some parts of the Sierra. The route to Old Army Pass and Cottonwood Lakes seems execrable when there is a lot of horse traffic.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby peninsula » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:57 pm

My problem with commercial packers is they bring in some of the worst offenders when it comes to trashing the back country. I have no problem with horses and horse people being allowed in SEKI, but they are a different breed than those who hire a packer. I also see no conflict between banning commercial packers and allowing horses for trail maintenance. I am sympathetic to the packers who have for generations been running their park concessions, but this needs to be about benefitting the greatest number of people for the greatest amount of good.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby ScottHanson » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:03 pm

This is a great thread on Summitpost. I like hearing the different opinions. Three points I want to raise:
Bob has a good point that there are cases where trail maintenance likely benefits horses more than humans. The elaborate steps built in rocky areas likely help a horses balance, where a human can more easily step & slide on smaller loose and round rocks.
We talk about erosion caused by humans and horses, but these are minor IMHO compared to mother nature erosion. We have all seen small flash "creek" damage on trails during a thunder-lightning-rain event in the Sierra. When Saint Helens blew its top in 1980 large uprooted trees floated down brown, muddy rivers. This is serious erosion. Fortunately, mother nature is resilient, and heals over time.
Lastly, this thread talks about poop. As humans we encouraged to dispose of it properly underground away from water. Animals (with less education) dispose of it in a random fashion. Folks with some rural background around domestic animals are more desensitized and "OK" to seeing it versus their urban cousins.
Most of us go to the hills to get away from people and our laptops. When you get to many hikers, fishermen, horses, Boy Scout troops, etc. in close proximity issues come up. How do we work through them?
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby MoapaPk » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:12 pm

The article also mentions bans on non-packer commercial outfitters-- like REI, Outward Bound, etc. I can't tell if that wider ban is just in sense of fairness, till this gets resolved by the courts, or is intended to be permanent.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby lcarreau » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:08 pm

ScottHanson wrote:Most of us go to the hills to get away from people and our laptops. When you get to many hikers, fishermen, horses, Boy Scout troops, etc. in close proximity issues come up. How do we work through them?


Yeah ... I believe in free choice, but not going overboard. Guess I fall somewhere in the MIDDLE of the political spectrum.

How you CHOOSE to progress and WORK through problems is: ... you gotta develop a certain degree of RESPECT and quit playin' the Blame Game ..

You also gotta be nimble on your feet to avoid becoming "caught up" in the Hoopla ... or "Poop-la ? ?" ...... :?:

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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby ScottHanson » Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:36 pm

Since this thread is about animal issues in the National Parks, I had a follow-up question for you all:
Do you think giardia is a drinking water problem in the back country?
If you believe giardia is a concern, do you think domestic or wild animals present the greatest threat?
When I first went backpacking in the Sierra I religiously boiled water, but I tired of this procedure eventually. It took time, the "pure" water was too hot drink initially, and I used precious fuel. I now tend to get "extra" water at the base of a snow field or have convinced myself that a fast moving creek is preferred to a stagnant pond of water. I have met many hikers/climbers who drink creek water indiscriminately: I haven't quite got to that step yet.

Finally, I will share one animal-water problem on my first backpack trip to the Sierra in 1984. I was walking in lovely Leconte Canyon on the JMT; a medium sized creek crosses the trail ahead; I glance down at the creek and see a fawn (young deer) dead and submerged in the creek. Yikes! The deer must have either been injured or very sick when it approached the creek. I think of that fawn sometimes when I desire water from a pristine creek.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby peninsula » Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:20 pm

I drink from Sierra lakes over 10,500 to 11,000 feet, allowing the surface water to fill a submerged water bottle. High altitude lakes get a good dose of UV radiation effectively rendering it sterile, not unlike the effect of using a steripen. Creek and river water does not lend this benefit. I see all kinds of floaters in high altitude streams. I know people who drink stream water and have no problems, but I'm going to pull out the steripen for the streams.

Giardia is indigenous to the Sierra. Individual susceptibility varies widely. Symptom development is also a product of dose consumed. I don't have any reason to believe pack animals make the problem any more severe.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby Gafoto » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:12 pm

I know a lot of the Inyo National Forest folks drink water from the lakes completely untreated, even lakes in the Bishop Pass area. I still don't feel confident of unfiltered water unless I see it coming straight out of a snowfield. I figure that's mostly good and anyway, a little Marmot poop does the body good.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby Noondueler » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:21 pm

lcarreau wrote:
MoapaPk wrote: What will be next?


EASY ... the next ban will be bears won't be able to CHILL OUT on picnic tables ..

Image
You will be reported to the elves if you post the mannerly black bear one more time! Put it in photoshop and put a beer between his paws and a steaming salmon on the table.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby Enkidu » Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:33 pm

ScottHanson wrote:Do you think giardia is a drinking water problem in the back country?


Virtually all mammals carry giardia. It makes little difference whether they are domestic or wild. This is why the illness caused by giardia is also commonly called "beaver fever." Beaver ponds are often relatively stagnant with high levels of dissolved organics that tint the water and prevent any natural UV disinfection by sunlight. As a result they are often heavily contaminated with giardia - typically all from wild animals. So the short answer is, horses likely have a negligible impact on giardia levels in the backcountry.
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby lcarreau » Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:27 am

whitetail wrote:
ScottHanson wrote:Do you think giardia is a drinking water problem in the back country?


Virtually all mammals carry giardia. It makes little difference whether they are domestic or wild. This is why the illness caused by giardia is also commonly called "beaver fever." Beaver ponds are often relatively stagnant with high levels of dissolved organics that tint the water and prevent any natural UV disinfection by sunlight. As a result they are often heavily contaminated with giardia - typically all from wild animals. So the short answer is, horses likely have a negligible impact on giardia levels in the backcountry.


Hey man, I catch your drift. You (really) seem to have a vast knowledge of beavers. Right on ...

When I want to prevent any natural UV disinfection from reaching my face, THIS is what I wear ... for crying out loud ....

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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby peninsula » Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:03 am

lcarreau wrote:
Hey man, I catch your drift. You (really) seem to have a vast knowledge of beavers. Right on ...

When I want to prevent any natural UV disinfection from reaching my face, THIS is what I wear ... for crying out loud ....


That is some serious facial hair! You are a funny guy...
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Re: Horse Packers Banned in SEKI

Postby Enkidu » Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:27 am

lcarreau wrote:
You (really) seem to have a vast knowledge of beavers.


It's because I'm Canadian EH! And anyways, most guys should know as much about beavers as possible.
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