Sequoia-Kings Canyon (SEKI) to limit commercial permits this season
Businesses that make their living in the backcountry are having that livelihood cut or eliminated with a stroke of a pen. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI) is implementing its new Wilderness Stewardship Plan this year, and that plan features massive cuts to “user days,” which will reduce the number of clients that guides and packers can bring into the park. SEKI has not offered a rationale behind the new permitting allocations.
Commercial businesses such as climbing guide services and pack outfits need a permit from the national park or forest they will be operating in to serve clients there legally. Permits or commercial use authorizations (CUA) for SEKI are required for commercial recreation activities in the popular Mount Whitney Zone. Much of the east side of Mt. Whitney, including the trail from Lone Pine, is in the Inyo National Forest, but the peak’s summit is in SEKI.
Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, Public Information Officer for SEKI, said it is still not known how the Inyo National Forest will enforce SEKI’s rules.
There will be 10 permitted guide CUAs splitting 975 user days for the Whitney Zone in 2018-2019, according to the CUA 2018-19 application form. Each CUA will receive 68 user days, leaving a pool of 295 leftover days. SP Parker, owner of Sierra Mountain Center, explained that in order to get those extra days, the CUA must prove it has reservations for a trip. However, clients aren’t going to plan a trip if there’s no guarantee there will be days available.
Prior to the new plan, there were no quotas, says Parker.
Kawasaki-Yee said there were 30 CUAs available for the upcoming season, and there were 41 applicants. The 11 applicants not awarded a CUA were either non-profits (who aren’t required to have one), or were rejected, Kawasaki-Yee said.
Mimi Vedasz, owner of Alpine Skills International of Truckee and a permit holder for 38 years, was not awarded a permit. Her business will be devastated, she said.
In 2012, the environmental group High Sierra Hikers Association (HSHA) sued the park for failing to conduct environmental studies on the impact of stock on sensitive high-elevation meadows before it decided to increase the allowable number of stock for individual pack outfits from 20 to 25 head.