Permit systems - good or bad?

Laura

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Moderator note: this discussion split off from ashergrey's excellent Coyote Gulch trip report.

It is pretty astonishing how consistent reports of terrible behavior are in Coyote Gulch. Some people might hate me for saying this, but I look forward to the day when a real permit system is in place there. The thought of people flooding into the adjacent canyons is a bit terrifying, but I think people are obsessed enough with Coyote that most just wouldn't go if they don't get a permit. And personally, I'd rather struggle a bit to score a permit but know that I can still have a bit of a wilderness experience. I've loved being able to hike certain places in Zion, Canyonlands, etc. on busy weekends and know that I won't see many other people, even if it cost me some planning ahead of time. But of course, campfires and dogs aren't allowed there but that doesn't seem to stop anyone... </rant>

I gotta second Nick on the permit idea, just like the Wave. When you make people work hard to get something, they tend to be more careful with it. If people chose to go somewhere else, good, that means less people in the areas that need protecting.
 

Dave

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Hey, we don't get that radio show up here. Is a replay available online?
You can stream or podcast KSL Outdoors at KSL.com. It runs 6a-8a on Saturday mornings.

The thought of people flooding into the adjacent canyons is a bit terrifying, but I think people are obsessed enough with Coyote that most just wouldn't go if they don't get a permit. And personally, I'd rather struggle a bit to score a permit but know that I can still have a bit of a wilderness experience.

I go back and forth on this. Permits stink, especially for people without the schedule flexibility to plan ahead. By brother is a pilot and he never knows three months out when he'll be flying. Permits are worthless for him.

That said, crowds are a bigger problem in confined spaces like narrow canyons or around high-interest areas like The Wave. Small groups of backpackers (say two to five) don't really bother me. Large groups 15+ really do, especially when I'm solo.

Most national monuments are administered by the National Park Service. Glen Canyon NRA is run by the park service. But the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is run by the Bureau of Land Management. Coyote Gulch crosses the boundary. It would be permit hell to secure two separate permits, or to only have part of the canyon covered by a permit system. Add to that the problem that neither agency is appropriately funded to actively police the area and I think what you'd find is rampant abuse. Kane and Garfield County locals already hate the monument just for existing. Further restrictions from the feds would probably put them into open revolt.
 

Laura

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Coyote Buttes North and South, including the Wave permits, are run by the BLM as well. If Coyote Gulch became permitted they would probably just redraw the boundaries so one agency would cover it, which is what I believe happened with Coyote Buttes North and South. It's not an ideal solution, but permits are the best way to restrict the impact of gazillions of people all accessing one area.

On a separate note, and speaking of the BLM, here's what I found one day:

https://www.facebook.com/BLMNational/posts/338470182924245

Yeah, that's my photo of The Wave the BLM has all over their Facebook pages, including Washington D.C. No, I didn't give them permission to use it, nor did they ask. How did they get it? I entered the image in a photo contest for The Nature Conservancy, who gave it an honorable mention and posted it to their Facebook page, whereupon it got shared all over the place (kinda like an STD). I've found that photo in all kinds of strange places on Facebook. I don't make a living off my photos so it's not that big a deal, but for those of you who do my warning is to be careful when you enter images in contests. I gave The Nature Conservancy permission to use the photo but retain all legal rights, but when Facebook gets hold of it it's pretty much impossible to keep any control (I feel like the Health Dept trying to control an STD outbreak......).
 

Duke

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On a separate note, and speaking of the BLM, here's what I found one day:

http://www.facebook.com/BLMNational/posts/338470182924245

Yeah, that's my photo of The Wave the BLM has all over their Facebook pages, including Washington D.C. No, I didn't give them permission to use it, nor did they ask. How did they get it? I entered the image in a photo contest for The Nature Conservancy, who gave it an honorable mention and posted it to their Facebook page, whereupon it got shared all over the place (kinda like an STD). I've found that photo in all kinds of strange places on Facebook. I don't make a living off my photos so it's not that big a deal, but for those of you who do my warning is to be careful when you enter images in contests. I gave The Nature Conservancy permission to use the photo but retain all legal rights, but when Facebook gets hold of it it's pretty much impossible to keep any control (I feel like the Health Dept trying to control an STD outbreak......).

I guess they noticed your post because it seems to be gone now.
 

Duke

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You can stream or podcast KSL Outdoors at KSL.com. It runs 6a-8a on Saturday mornings.

It took me a bit of searching, but here it is: http://img.ksl.com/audio/2013_03_23_ksloutdoors1.mp3


I go back and forth on this. Permits stink, especially for people without the schedule flexibility to plan ahead. By brother is a pilot and he never knows three months out when he'll be flying. Permits are worthless for him..

I think I understand the arguments for them. However, I am a Libertarian and I just can not stand the idea of "The Man" protecting my land......from me! Even if it gets too crowded. Who are they to tell me that i can't go and look at The Wave, for example. Really? I can't just drive down there, hike over and LOOK AT some public land? And the answer is....no, I can't. (sorry, not trying to hijack at good TR thread).
 

Nick

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I totally see where you're coming from Duke. I hate the idea of anyone telling me that I can't go enjoy our public land, especially when I know that I'm leaving it as good as I found it. But at the same time, if the gov just stayed completely out of it, wouldn't you fear that these precious places could become destroyed by things far worse than too many irresponsible backpackers? Where does the line get drawn between that and commercial exploitation and development for example? It drives me insane some of the silly rules I see in place (The Sawtooths is a good example), but I'm not sure what the best answer is.
 

slc_dan

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The answer meets in the middle somewhere.

Should you be able to drive up to something and look at it? IT depends what you are driving over, and what kind of impact you are having on it.

I hate the over-protection of certain places in Canyonlands. You can't enter certain places because no cows were ever there? What's the point of protecting it if we can't even WALK into it and enjoy it. All back country permits being $30 is silly. I'm also not a huge fan of the assigned camp spots, but how busy that place gets, it's understandable-mostly.

The answer never lies in the Government staying out of all matters, that's what they are there for. It just needs to reflect on what is needed. After all, without the Gov't. there wouldn't be any parks.

In the question of Coyote Gulch: It seems obvious that there are too many people that don't know how to act going down there. The rules of no dogs, and no fires should be respected, but it won't be if there isn't anyone down there to enforce those rules. It has been proven that the fires run a risk, as there is no more pit toilet where there once was. It shouldn't need more discussion than that.

I think the first step is having a field officer down there once a week or so and writing citations for people having fires/dogs. I can see this spreading the word that this is a high traffic area, and needs to be treated as such so everyone can enjoy it. If that didn't work, and problems persisted a no-cost back country permit that comes with a small discussion from a ranger is not exuberant. It works very well for CR.
 

gnwatts

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I have a split personality on this. While I understand the need to protect our public lands, I abhor asking the MAN for permission to visit them, or telling me where I can camp. Are these areas over crowded (and in need of limiting access) because there are more people trying to access them or is it because the State of Utah and the BLM are making it easier to access them? Maybe a little bit of both. One case in point: Moonhouse ruin at one time required a 3.5-4 mile hike one way. Very few people visited it in a day. Then the BLM opened the road accessing the canyon rim, eliminating a 7 mile hike. Surprise! Quotas, and the need to ask permission to visit because many people can access it. Is it better to make it easier to access and limit the # of people, or make it harder, thus making a natural limitation because not everyone is willing to walk that far? What about families who won't hike 7 miles but may hike 1?

What if the access to Coyote Gulch required a longer access hike? Hike in from Hole in the Rock Road. Would that make a difference? Making access harder, not easier is a potential solution to overcrowding. The first time we back packed in Coyote Gulch (accessed via crack in the wall) we passed a VW camper parked on Hole in the rock road, where Coyote Gulch crosses it. 3 days later we met the owners of that van, a couple with an infant on their shoulders. I have no idea how far they walked, but they certainly looked happy and content.

I am a fuzzy headed liberal, but when it comes to OUR public lands I have a different way of thinking, kind of Libertarian I guess. I practice minimalist camping techniques, and try to leave as little evidence as I can that I have passed by. I rarely back pack with more than one or two friends, certainly not 10 or 20! But that's me. I now back pack in the off season in canyon country, I like the weather better, with a fraction of the people. No rangers at the plastic stucco Kane Gulch Guard Station (unless that has changed now). Or in season I hike outside the boundaries, there are plenty of places to visit with little chance of seeing anyone else.
 

powderglut

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I'm not quite sure how I feel about permitting the popular spots. I don't know if I could have got commitments out of this crew, 3 months prior, for this Coyote Gulch visit. The fact that we can go in, on the date we just chose a week ago, makes it work out for our planned trip. I still have to try and secure a South Coyote Buttes permit, for our following week at the Stateline CG on House Rock Valley Rd.
I'm hearing White Pocket may be next. I have been there twice, once by ourselves and the other with 2 other groups about 8 people.(Non permitted)
Paw Hole, we saw 1 other person. Cottonwood Cove (separate trip) maybe 6 others. (Both permitted SC Buttes)
THe Wave. We think we counted 24 total including ourselves. We think a Euro family of 4 poached the Wave. (permitted NC Buttes) What does this say? I'm not sure.
I think maybe I'll see how I feel( on the exclusiveness of permits) after the Coyote Gulch camping trip. Also.. if I easily score a SC Buttes permit. I was lucky enough to do both Coyote Gulch and Paria to Lees Ferry, before most of the world knew of either. No internet. Some pictures in books. "that looks cool! Let's go see it!" Mostly going in blindly. It's a new world now, with all that info out there.
I still consider Utah my backyard even though it can take 8-10 + hours to get there.. I like going where I want to go, when I want to. I'm sure I'll have some comments when we return. A little neutral right now.
 

Dave

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I like going where I want to go, when I want to. I'm sure I'll have some comments when we return. A little neutral right now.

I think it's fair to feel conflicted. It's tough to strike a balance. It irks me greatly what's become of Arches, but I've also talked to way too many people who are not active outdoors but treat their children to the park because it is accessible. Those kinds of experiences are necessary skill-building exercises.

Some places need to stay wild though. Yes, the scenery is part of the allure but so is the solitude.
 

gnwatts

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I read once in an Edward Abbey short story, a suggestion about the Grand Canyon: close of the south rim, make people park a couple of miles away, so they would actually have to extricate themselves from their metal capsule and walk to the rim. Other forms of non-polluting transportation would be provided to those who were not capable to make this trek (30-40 minutes?). Extreme I realize, but a hell of an idea IMO.

What if you could not enter Grand Gulch from the stucco box ranger station, but exited there? One way out Kane Gulch (all other access points would be two-way), and closed all roads, 2 wheel tracks and cow trails to motorized traffic, and allowed parking only in areas along the highway or designated areas off the highway? The rangers could provide electric car shuttling from parking area to parking areas, instead of acting like cops. Plus, I don't believe we would need them as much for crowd control or problems because I think the crowds would diminish to the point that they could serve a better function, education, safety, emergencies etc. No permits either. Drive up and walk (Why do they need to know where you are going and for how long?). Parking areas would be designed to hold only the # of cars the particular areas could handle. This could be applied to Slickhorn and Johns Canyon too. I would not mind walking on a trail the few extra miles to access a place as amazing as this. To quote my wife, this idea should be taken "with a grain of salt."
 

slc_dan

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The idea of E. Abbey is in Desert Solitaire. I love the idea too, and that's basically what is in Zion, except everyone is able to ride the transit system. If you are against the man telling you what to do, I can't think of a more extreme example of that.

I think it would be amazing to have to ride a bike in from the highway up to Island in the Sky and have that kind of solitude.

The problem with public land is that it is only protected as long as people enjoy it enough to protect it. If people are turned off by more regulation, it means less traffic which is awesome for us, but only to a point. I think experiencing the parks from a car, or even a short hike you are only seeing 1/20th of what the park has to offer. If that is enough to get you to support the other 19/20ths that I enjoy, I'll take it.

To quote Abbey again and contradict (kinda) his ideas on National Parking Lots: "The wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders."
 

gnwatts

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All I am suggesting is limiting where you can drive and park, and where you exit the canyon.
My basic point (on Cedar Mesa) is I would rather walk further, without restriction or permit, to gain access.

Seems pretty simple to me, and not very extreme.
 

slc_dan

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All I am suggesting is limiting where you can drive and park, and where you exit the canyon.
My basic point (on Cedar Mesa) is I would rather walk further, without restriction or permit, to gain access.

Seems pretty simple to me, and not very extreme.


I agree on the paved roads. The idea of the Notom road being paved is terrible. There simply shouldn't be a road through Natural Bridges.

"You can't see anything from a god damn car."
 

Nick

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I'm not sure I agree. Making access more physically difficult vs. making access more bureaucratically difficult just seems like a different form of telling someone where they can and can't go, not really a viable solution. I don't think we should go out and build a road as close as possible to everything we want to explore, but I think they should utilized within reason based on viability of a non-motorized route and impact on the ecosystem.

My preferred solution would probably be to just make permit systems more reasonable and provide access to it for those planning way ahead and those not able to. Kind of like the Zion permit system. I love booking some canyons a few months in advance and planning trips around them, but if I decide to go next week, I can always hop on the 'last minute' permit system and get some that way. And if there isn't a quota involved because of heavy overuse, I think permit systems just suck and should go away.
 

gnwatts

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You don't agree? How dare you! :)

I have not backpaked west of the Escalante area because of my impression (however ignorant that impression is) that there are too many people and I don't like the bureaucratic hassle. Plus I am just not that organized to plan in advance.

I have been a happy camper just going to Cedar Mesa in the fall and winter.
 

Nick

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Speaking of permits sucking - whats up with Capitol Reef? I find it pretty ridiculous that the only way to obtain a free backpacking permit is to visit the VC during business hours. Does anyone know if they are known to offer any accommodations on that for people who's travel plans won't put them there during those times? Like maybe a permit by phone and they leave it out for you to snag on your way through after hours? I'm usually pretty good about filling out my 'papers' but if I have to totally rearrange my plans just so they can see my smiling face, it becomes very tempting to just say screw it and go without.
 

slc_dan

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Speaking of permits sucking - whats up with Capitol Reef? I find it pretty ridiculous that the only way to obtain a free backpacking permit is to visit the VC during business hours. Does anyone know if they are known to offer any accommodations on that for people who's travel plans won't put them there during those times? Like maybe a permit by phone and they leave it out for you to snag on your way through after hours? I'm usually pretty good about filling out my 'papers' but if I have to totally rearrange my plans just so they can see my smiling face, it becomes very tempting to just say screw it and go without.

I've had to drive up from the Notom Road, back to the Visitor center before. It is a bit of a pain.

I think intuitive cat has got people permits ahead of time before.
 
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