Bill to Allow Horsepacking and Other Commerical Activities to Continue In Sierra Wilderness Passes Congress
With bi-partisan support (HR 4849) passed the House and Senate. This will allow horse packing to continue in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks until either wilderness studies are completed (an estimated three years) or (4) four years. This bill passed because of bipartisan support and concerns about the impacts on rural tourism of the Court decision barring issuance of commercial use authorizations (CUA's) over the lack of a "needs assessment" for the Wilderness. The Senate bill expands the time for NPS to complete wilderness studies over the House version. The High Sierra Hikers had sued NPS to shut-down the equine activities because NPS had not completed an assessment of need for commercial activities in the Wilderness. Other commercial activities including guided hiking, were also impacted creating the up swell of bipartisan support for the bill. Members of Congress including Senators Boxer, Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Nunes (R-CA), the original sponsor, heralded the bill's passage.
Facing overwhelming opposition and economic Armageddon for many small business High Sierra Hikers had backtracked some and actually asked the Court to allow some packing to continue. Never mind now, Congress has opened the door to authorize the permits. Outfitters will scrabble to get their applications approved in time for the season to continue. The text of the final bill can be found below.
SEC. 2. COMMERCIAL SERVICES AUTHORIZATIONS IN WILDERNESS WITHIN THE SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS.
(a) Continuation of Authority- Until the date on which the Secretary of the Interior (referred to in this Act as the `Secretary') completes any analysis and determination required under the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), the Secretary shall continue to issue authorizations to provide commercial services for commercial stock operations (including commercial use authorizations and concession contracts) within any area designated as wilderness in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (referred to in this section as the `Parks)' at use levels determined by the Secretary to be appropriate and subject to any terms and conditions that the Secretary determines to be appropriate.
(b) Wilderness Stewardship Plan- Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall complete a wilderness stewardship plan with respect to the Parks.
(c) Termination of Authority- The authority of the Secretary to issue authorizations under subsection (a) shall terminate on the earlier of--
(1) the date on which the Secretary begins to issue authorizations to provide commercial services for commercial stock operations within any areas designated as wilderness in the Parks, as provided in a record of decision issued in accordance with a wilderness stewardship plan completed under subsection (b); or
(2) the date that is 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act.