Monday, June 30, 2014

Quota season

“All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” 
-Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

Friday we started our trail quota season which runs until September 15th. All overnight Wilderness visitors need a permit to spend the night/s in our Wilderness year-round, but in quota season we have limits on how many total people go in for overnight trips (day hikers don't need permits here) at certain trailheads each day because it's the busy season and there's a lot of impact. The permits help us keep track of what areas are getting what amount of use so we can hopefully hone in and focus on those spots. Being able to prove how much users we have could also give us good arguments for hopefully acquiring more budget and justifying jobs like mine. It would also give us a plan of action if your mom calls us to say you never came home…we could use the locations on the permit to lay out a search and rescue. I always try to ask people I see on the trail where they are headed so I can also have this information in case I end up being the last person someone on the trail sees before getting lost. 

During the busy summer months, most Sierra Nevada Wilderness areas have trailhead quotas. Many places with quotas have a certain amount of permits you can reserve ahead of time (we start taking permit reservations on March 1st but every district and Forest is different just like every areas quota season varies a little) and then half we hold (this varies from Forest to Forest, some places have 70% reservable and 30% walk-in) for first come first serve visitors the day of (the overnight quota numbers vary from about 8-100 people on our trailheads). So if you call us and all the permits are reserved, you can still show up and probably get one of the first come first serve/walk-in permits. We and many other ranger stations in the Sierras have a line at the door in the summer mornings of people trying to get one of those walk-in permits so come early!  These quotas help us minimize impact as laid out by law in the Wilderness Act so that our Wilderness is "protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable" as well as provide "outstanding opportunities for solitude."

Interestingly, not ALL Wilderness areas require permit for overnight travel....Marble Mountains does not. Also, not ALL Wilderness areas have a quota season....Emigrant Wilderness does not. Sometimes you get a last minute few spare days off and want to do a trip so it's always nice to make yourself aware of places you can go that don't require permits or have quotas. Conversely, there are some places like Desolation Wilderness (it is the most heavily used Wilderness Area per acre in the country) and parts of Inyo National Forest sectioned off as the "Mt Whiney zone" that require permits even for day use! A lot of places in Oregon have self-issued permits at the trailhead where you write it out yourself instead of going into a ranger station or getting it through