New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

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marti124
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by marti124 » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:19 pm

What I just emailed Yosemite National Park:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, Jan 11, 2015 at 7:47 PM
Subject: 92% of nearly 300 surveyed JMT hikers request a public comment period from Yosemite prior to any rule changes

1/11/2015 7:41 PM

Ed Dunlavey
Wilderness Manager
Yosemite National Park

Donald Neubacher
Office of the Superintendent
Yosemite National Park

Dear Mr. Dunlavey and Mr. Neubacher,

A group of the Facebook JMT members communicated after the personal feedback they directly got from you two last week and the concern was that an intermediate solution is going to be proposed to the Superintendent on 1/11/2015 or thereabouts. Another member at the Facebook JMT group suggested that JMT hikers recommend to Yosemite National Park, first, a public comment period. He mentioned that he had “seen this done at other national parks for issues of much less consequence. Shenandoah National Park just ended a long comment period regarding a proposed entrance fee increase. I would think that something as important as a major change in wilderness use should justify a similar comment period.”

Thus, a survey was conducted via social media over the weekend to find out how JMT hikers felt about a public comment period preceding a significant change in the Yosemite permits used by JMT hikers. Please note, a consensus on an outcome was not sought, rather just one on the process for Yosemite changing the rules that will affect JMT thru-hikers. As of writing this email, nearly 300 members of the hiking community have responded, with around 92 percent supporting the opportunity to publicly comment on any changes before they go into effect.

If you want to see the results of the poll (a Survey Monkey poll), this link will lead you to them. This page has continuously updated votes.

http://bit.ly/JMTCmtPeriodResults

The survey is still open to be taken and is available here:

http://bit.ly/JMTCmtPeriod

The first link above will probably include a few votes that come in late Sunday or early Monday. Every effort was made to make sure there were no double votes and that the poll encouraged those who were opposed to a comment period would vote. The main protection against double voting was that the survey was set to accept only one vote per IP address (essentially, one vote per computer). While it is possible that one person could go to different computers and vote several times, it is unlikely that any person could significantly altered the responses by doing so.

Invitations to take the survey were made by John Ladd, Roleigh Martin and Peter Hirst on six social forum JMT groups. The survey answers indicate which groups are involved and below are links to the threads where the invitations were announced. Registration might be required to access some of these links. They are provided in case you desire all relevant information about this questionnaire.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2240988 ... 739968981/

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/joh ... pics/48315

http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... acc#UNREAD

http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/forum ... #Post99106

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=12174#sthash.3l5PxRi7.dpbs

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,78265

In hindsight, I wish I had removed the wording (I accept the blame for it) about whether or not the group should take a position or not about the public comment period. I wish I had limited it just how that one respondent individually feels. Criticism was made, which I 100% agree with, that these JMT social groups should avoid forming consensus positions. The groups are for individuals who know or want to know more about the JMT, not to agree politically about things. (By visiting the links above, you can see how many felt.) The JMT community though is regularly surveyed for their individual opinion and experiences. John Ladd leads that effort although I have done a few myself. One other hindsight reservation: an earlier draft of the question was about any proposed changes to the rules affecting JMT Hikers. The Survey Monkey question, strictly worded and read, leads one to think the group only cares about any proposed quotas being put on those JMT Hikers who thru-hike south of Yosemite. I can assure you the bulk of those surveyed, if not all of them, feel equally the same for any proposed rule changes that affect JMT hikers. (I was absent most of Saturday leading a Sierra Club snowshoe hike and missed this wording change.)

Last, a couple of the JMT Social Groups listed in the directory I provided recently, I did not have time to reach out to them with the survey invite. However, I am sure we reached out to substantially over 95% of those online concerned about the JMT in our invitations who are members of the groups documented in that earlier directory I sent you this last week.

Respectfully,

Roleigh Martin
Lead Moderator, John Muir Trail Yahoo Group
Reno NV 89523








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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 11, 2015 9:45 pm

Steve C- the issue is how many backpackers on a trail are too many. It is not an issue of "solitude or nobody else" in order to experience wilderness. Wilderness does not demand solitude, but is running into 50 people in one day too much? or 100? or 200? where do you draw the line? The administrators of the land have the duty to protect the resource. And I also agree that unless data proves that JMT hikers ARE the problem, they should not take the brunt of the fault. And yes, I avoid the JMT like the plague. I think anyone who has hiked on the JMT in the last few years KNOWs that something is amiss Popular or not, it IS a part of the Wilderness system.

Just a thought -- When north-bound thru-hike permits are hard to get in the Whitney zone, this may force over-use of the south-bound trailheads. If the ability to get north and south permits were more similar, the pressure on the trail would be more balanced. I would say that the Whitney zone regulations are a part of the problem too. A lot of guessing here since nobody seems to have real data.

And YES! Lets have a public comment period.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by Steve_C » Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:30 am

I sent Yosemite an email with my opinion. I doubt it will have any effect, though.

W.Daisy: I don't know how many is too many. I've sure been able to find completely deserted trails and even more solitary off-trail routes. I love them, and generally avoid the heavily used places, too.

As much as experienced hikers cringe at the crowds, please understand that there are more and more people in the world (which is a shame), so I think wilderness managers should try to find more ways to accommodate more hikers, rather than use ever-tighter limits.

As for northbound JMT hikers: Many more could start from Mt Whitney, but it is sure a lot harder, since hikers need to either haul their full pack over the 13.5k Trail Crest, or hike about two days in from Horseshoe Meadows to start. The Whitney Permit system allows 60 overnighters a day to start up the Main Trail. The Cottonwood Pass trail allows about the same number. But the fact is that, due to the increased difficulty of starting from there, people choose not to. And of course the other big reason is that most Whitney hikers are once-and-done Whitney peak baggers.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by marti124 » Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:58 am

I think if John Muir was alive today, he'd be laughing and crying about there only being one long trail in the Sierra named after him as if he only favored one long trail to hike in the high sierra. There should be multiple 210+ mile long trails in the High Sierra to hike, on established trails. The National Parks and National Forests should be leading the way in suggesting hikers to try out a variety of long distance Sierra trails.

The best documented 200+ mile alternate Sierra trail is the Theodore Solomons Trail but it is not documented on any Tom Harrison, nor any other map. You have to obtain an out of print book since 1992. See http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Theodore-So ... 934136343/

But there should be numerous more. And they are there to be documented. One can start trails in Yosemite and leave the park at it's southern borders headed to Clover Meadow and go over 1, 2 or 3 passes during that time, then head ENE over to Devil's Postpile. Three to four different uses of existing trails to do that trek. The passes available (depending on which of the routes that you choose, using existing trails) include Merced, Fernandez, Red Peak, Isberg, and Post Peak. It's too clumsy to think of doing all 5 in an alternate JMT hike.

One can enter the JMT at Rush Creek going over anywhere from 1-to-4 passes, starting at 4 different starting points (Mono Pass, Walker Lake, Parker Lake Road, Silver Lake). These last 2 options have you only go over Agnew Pass if you backtrack 7/10ths of a mile after doing Agnew Pass. The first two options have you go over Mono, Parker, Koip and Gem passes.

Farther south, there are other options, like continuing South at Middle Fork Junction to Bubbs Creek instead of going due East to Mather Pass, or going over Goodale Pass versus Silver Pass farther North.

In Colorado, there are three long distance trails, each sharing parts of trails used by the others. There is the CT (Colorado Trail) West Spur Trail, CT East Spur, and the Colorado section of the Continental Divide Trail.

After all, it's not like the JMT is fixed forever to be one trail. The JMT took a different route at various points of its development. I wish I could get my hands on historical JMT routes during the trail's historical development.

I have shown on a JPG how the Theodore Solomons Trail looks at the following link but I realize a big problem with the TST is it has too much Middle Sierra and not enough High Sierra in it.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7L_Tr ... sp=sharing

There is also the Big SEKI Loop (only 154 miles) but it could easily be appended to to make 210 miles. See BSL http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin ... d_id=73686

Once these trails are mapped, cool names should be given to them. Having the park or forest service do such is the best idea. I like the name "Stephen Mather" for one of the newer documented long trails.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by Hobbes » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:12 am

marti124 wrote:There should be multiple 210+ mile long trails in the High Sierra to hike, on established trails. The National Parks and National Forests should be leading the way in suggesting hikers to try out a variety of long distance Sierra trails.
Or just direct them to HST. :)

Seriously, the part of this forum that provides the most value to me - and I'm guessing many others - is the wide range of experience from hikers who provide route advice & suggestions for all manner of trips. As you mention, there are multiple ways of stitching together long(er) trips linking different trailheads and routes, many/most promising to deliver more than enough solitude.

Steve C took an interesting x-c approach to Whitney last year. I've done Whitney coming from Langley and through Miter. If you wanted to keep going, you could exit via the mountaineer route, head back over Russell-Carillon, walk down Wallace, up WLB, over Rockwell, down Shepherd and back up Junction to Center basin.

There is practically no limit to the number of routes, trips and variations for getting around the Sierra if one is so inclined. That's why I sort of side with Steve in suggesting that rather than restrict access in an attempt to preserve the JMT, recognize that the JMT (and Yosemite in general) is gone as a source of true solitude and move on.

[I say this as someone who remembers the Valley as a kid from the early 70s. I haven't been back in 10 years, and even that trip was like a crowded weekend @ Pier 39. It is what it is - the past is gone, hoss. These days, we still travel to the park almost every year, but lurk around TM and various nooks & crannies on the NF border.]

If people continue to backpack, they will eventually find themselves here. If they start experimenting and trying out new areas, that's where the real fun begins to start.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by HikeSierraNevada » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:45 am

The issue is not just about the proposed changes, which have never been published, but the manner in which the public is engaged or not. Wilderness managers need to present what they perceive to be problems based on evidence, and propose solutions that the public can debate and comment on. There are many unintended consequences to these "solutions" and the outcomes are uncertain. Unfortunately, once new regulations are set in place, we're stuck with them whether they are effective or not.

Effective wilderness management requires good cooperation from the governed. Heavy-handed, and sometimes manipulative methods, undermine that relationship and are detrimental in the long run. Its not about pleasing everyone, its about getting a more balanced perspective for decision making, and fostering good public relations that encourage responsible behavior when nobody is looking.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by AlmostThere » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:02 pm

The other problem with the Theodore Solomons trail is the portions of it that have gone unmaintained for so long that they are dangerous to many of the kinds of people who hike the JMT. The traffic actually helps keep the JMT well worn - to the point that you would have to be really dense or extremely inattentive to confuse it with any of the zillion use trails. The experienced folks on the JMT "save" people. I've redirected people who don't bother with maps plenty of times on plenty of trails, including the JMT.

I almost see the "freeways" in Yosemite as a necessary evil - full of tourists and first time hikers who wouldn't know what to do when confronted with a trail that peters out to nothing or becomes a maze of use trails. Or, flip the coin, and such trails are enabling people to gain confidence and try other trails in less traveled areas without enough research, only to become frustrated - or worse, lost.

As someone who frequently takes newbies, I often take advantage of those national park trail highways and try to explain the learning curve that should be embarked upon if they intend to continue to explore farther out and farther in.

As for the regulation change - they definitely should allow public review. There should be a balance between public use and protection and we have a right to be included in the conversation. Not sure where I fall in the debate yet but it's not fair not to give me a chance - would have been nice to know they were thinking about this one.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by KathyW » Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:08 pm

The JMT is a scenic hike, but the trail is an overly engineered monster that has been built to handle high traffic. Yes, it is sort of like a necessary evil. I'd like to see the traffic stay on the JMT and out of other areas in the Sierra.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by SSSdave » Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:00 pm

As for JMT permitting processes none of these JMT issues have direct interest to this person as long as thru hikers don't impact quotas at trailheads we other backpackers use.

Ed Dunlavey >>> "...Last summer, for example, there were 31 reported bear incidents in the Yosemite Wilderness; 30 of which occurred along the JMT..."

That won't surprise experienced backpackers.

The most important visitor use issue in our wilderness areas is lack of backcountry enforcement for policies already in place. There are ever increasingly numbers of visitors that do whatever they want because outside of a few heavily used trails mainly near trailheads and heavy use destinations, they have little enforcement to worry about. The solution in both the national parks and national forest wilderness areas would be to significantly increase numbers of backcountry rangers. That would also have an immediate impact on these JMT issues and compliance.

Ever since Reagan's administration gutted those positions decades ago, the park and forest services have had to cope with their responsibilities with woefully inadequate skeleton financial resource. That the result has not been much worse is only a reflection that the majority of users, both backpackers and day hikers tend to be considerate users. However in this era where lying, cheating, scamming, and ignoring public policies are increasingly the status quo norm throughout our society, one ought expect without more enforcing feet on our trails that there will be increasing negative impacts occurring in these special natural places.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Post by Saltydog » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:25 am

An update from the Yosemite Wilderness Office. I had another very constructive conversation with Ed Dunlavey, Wilderness Manager, yesterday. Learned the following. They are continuing to look at ways to accomplish the dual goals that were reflected in the reported proposed rule changes: balance traffic flows within the Park so as to protect rescources along the JMT and balance access to the wilderness between hikers staying primarily in Yosemite and long distance and through-hikers leaving Yos. As I understand Ed's assurances, they are decidedly NOT contemplating simply removing or shutting down JMT access from any trailhead, including Glacier Point. That would abdicate what Ed confirmed is an imprtant principle of the trailhead permit system: they do not tell people where they can and can't hike, beyond the trailhead and first night requirements. T he specific example Ed cited was the Glacier Point/ Illilouette permit. A hiker with that permit must spend the first night in the Illilouette drainage, but then may go down to the JMT at LYV and continue up the Sunrise drainage to Tuolumne. That will not change. The mechanism they are looking at now is to simply reallocate the total GP quota to more Illilouette permits and fewer LYV permits. He did emphasize that the Sunrise Creek drainage (LYV to Cathedral Pass) is the area of primary concern. It had reached its visitor capacity almost 5 years ago when the last calculation was made. Next in importance is Lyell Canyon, which was nearing capacity in the last study and is believed to be at or over capacity now. For the second rule, designed to balance intra-Park trips with JMT distance and through-hikes, they are still looking at an exit TH quota. They have found, however, that establishing Red's as the cutoff point for the quota is not going to work, and the quota is likely to apply to any trip south of a point much nearer Yos. In my written comment that I sent this morning, I raised the question of whether the principle of not establishing quotas based on exit TH - the policy clearly stated in YO Wilderness permit materials - was not just as important as not restricting travel routes beyond the entry trailhead. I restated that issue to Ed today, but still have not received an clear answer,On the question of public comment, no change. The adjustments they have in mind do not amount to Federal Register rulemaking, and are within discretionary authority already provided by law and rule. If we can keep these lines of communication open and constructive, however, I have every reason to believe that our voices will be heard and surprises will be minimal. That's news from Lake Helengawn, where all the women are acclimated, all the men are resupplied, and all the hikes are above 9,000 feet, on average.

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