As a follow up to Bob Tanner’s concerns last week regarding the Devils Postpile General Management Plan and the effects of its wilderness designations on commercial use at the Postpile, The Sheet spoke with Postpile Superintendent Deanna Dulen.
According to Dulen, there aren’t any newly proposed wilderness designations in the GMP. The issue lies in the fact that this is the first time a General Management Plan has ever been done for the Postpile in its 100 years of existence.
“Many issues have never been addressed,” Dulen explained.
The issue concerning wilderness stems from the Wilderness Act, which states that commercial services in wilderness areas are only allowed to the “extent necessary” to have a wilderness experience.
Devils Postpile sits on the very edge of the wilderness boundary, so the park is required by law to review what the “extent necessary” means for this area. Determining the “extent necessary” is tough, as it doesn’t have a clear definition and is open to interpretation.
So the Parks Service is throwing out ideas to see which one sticks. For example, Boundary Creek near Rainbow Falls is the boundary to the wilderness, so one alternative might be that visitors enjoying a horseback ride would need to tie their horses at the boundary, and then walk the two-tenths of a mile to the overlook for the falls. Another option is to build a stock-only trail to decrease the congestion between hikers and stock.
Dulen pointed out that any commercial trips that simply pass through the park would be unaffected, as would private stock use.
“We have a range of options analyzing what ‘extent necessary’ means for us,” Dulen explained. “The National Park Service is not advocating any of the options, we are just going through the process required by law.”
Part of the analysis is the public scoping process, currently in progress.
“We want public feedback to know its opinion of the ‘extent necessary’ as well,” Dulen said. If the final determination of the ‘extent necessary’ is ever challenged in court, this public input is important to have on record.
In an effort to allow the public to weigh in as much as possible, the Postpile added an extra step in the GMP process. Currently, the preliminary alternatives on the table can be mixed and matched.
“We are not asking the public to say which of the preliminary alternatives it wants right now,” Dulen said. “We want them to provide input on what aspects they like in each alternative and then we will create a hybrid.” That hybrid should be available for review next summer.
The comment period on the preliminary alternatives is open through Sept. 30. Dulen said that approximately 20 people showed up at last week’s open house in Mammoth, and about a dozen comments have been received so far. You can provide comments at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/depo.
I spoke with Bob Tanner of Red’s Meadow Pack Station this week about his concerns over the Devils Postpile General Management Plan.
Alternatives B-D (Alternative A is the No Action alternative) in the literature for the General Management Plan indicate new wilderness restrictions at and around the monument.
“We don’t need wilderness at the monument,” Tanner explained. “It’s only one mile long and one-half mile wide, and it’s surrounded by wilderness. We need to use it for what it is, an attraction.”
The wilderness restrictions would limit fishing and horseback riding, which according to Tanner, who operates Reds Meadow Pack Station, doesn’t make sense.
“They are attempting to limit things, but the number of visitors is not going down,” Tanner said. “Forty percent of campers fish, and horseback riding is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act so that people can get around.”
Tanner felt that there are more alternatives possible than are being proposed, but that this was a typical case of government not thinking beyond its boundaries.
“This is a huge recreation area so we should be focused on making it a better recreation area,” he said. “We shouldn’t adversely affect the tourists. You can’t wear out the falls [Rainbow] and the Postpile by looking at them, and you’re not going to wear out the dirt.”
“I’m glad you called,” Tanner concluded, “because people need to know there is more to this proposal than meets the eye.”
An open house was held on Thursday, Sept. 15 to receive input on the alternatives, which are described as preliminary. The comment period for these alternatives runs through Sept. 30. To learn more about the GMP, read through the alternatives, and comment, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=296&projectID=26581&documentID=42099 and download the PDF titled “Newsletter 3 Preliminary Alternatives.”