Dogs on Leash?

1:23 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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Just about everywhere that dogs are allowed in the wilderness they are required to be on a leash.  In California's national parks, they are not allowed on trails at all--in fact, the rule in most national parks is that dogs are allowed only on paved areas--anywhere you can take your car, you can take your dog. 

That doesn't include any trails that aren't paved. 

But we'd estimate that of the fifty dogs we've seen in the backcountry this year, about three of them have been on leashes.  It's the single most frequently broken regulation that we see in the wilderness.

On our last trip to Caribou Wilderness, we ran into quite a few dogs, and only one of them was on a leash.  But that dog was within a mile of the trailhead, just starting out, and we wonder how long he stayed on that leash.   We don't say that because the owners looked untrustworthy--but the trails the Caribou Wilderness are rife with deadfall trees.  We had to climb up and over, or around more than 75 trees on our hike there.  And we can't image what you would do with a  dog on a leash in that scenario.  Our guess is that you would get pretty darn tired of the tangles. 

Of course, some dogs we've met are extremely well trained and behaved.  But not all are.  And we worry not only about dogs interacting with other hikers.  More of a concern is how they might interact with the local wildlife--chasing squirrels or deer, or even worse, fighting with something that might fight back.

 

2:41 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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Great topic!

So this response is coming from someone who has owned at least one dog consistently for 30 years...dogs off the leash is a real pet peeve (pun intended) of mine, even when they are friendly.  I haven't taken a dog backpacking this century, and wonder why folks who let theirs run off-leash don't think about the following:

  • It's the rules, like it or not, in a lot of places to keep them on a leash.  Maybe go somewhere with no leash law instead?
  • Your dog may be the best trained in the world but some are not.  The rules must be followed by everyone or the line gets gray (how trained does your dog need to be to be off leash?).
  • I think if I had a Bengal tiger as a pet everyone would want me to keep it leashed when on the trail. Some folks, including some youngsters, have had bad experiences with dogs and may view them not too different from my tiger.  Come to think of it, do the common rules actually address tigers?  I may have found a loophole!
  • Many dog owners don't clean up after them on trails or around camp. Same reason I don't like sharing trails with horses - although dogs are a "smaller" problem in this regard.  I have no problem with scat but prefer it not to be imported.
  • Wildlife reactions - birds and squirrels, and also bear interactions can be affected and sometimes you don't know where this will lead.
  • Safety - I have seen two dogs injured by old barbed wire and several dogs separated from their owners over the years.

I was having lunch on a bald in the Southern Apps and taking a nap in the sun when a beautiful lab came bounding up and stuck her head into my open bear canister and started fishing around like it was her lunch trough.  I got her out by the time the owners showed up, but there was a lot of slobber on my future meal bags and I lost an energy bar to punctures and drool!  The owners were apologetic at least and we got along well.

Again as a dog lover, we must be cognizant of the rules and how other people may view or react to our beloved pets.  If it was easier to keep them on a leash while backpacking, I would probably have been bringing mine for years!

4:43 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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I am sympathetic to people that don't like dogs.

On the other hand, when you get in the backcountry there really are no rules, at least no way to enforce them which is the same thing.

The only thing that saves the backcountry is that it takes work to get there which tends to attract people with some morality.

For a Park to have rules that dogs cannot be on trails on a leash is totally stupid.

5:17 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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I think that the rules are that dogs are not allowed on trails UNLESS they are on a leash.


Similar to rules about no new fire rings, or cutting switchbacks on the trail?

6:05 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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I see this from time to time in my normal haunts (just last weekend in fact). I've heard the park service here lobs a pretty hefty fine ($500 or more) if they catch you in violation. But the Smokies is the most visited national park in America....

I've personally had two bad experiences over the years; I was bitten once on the AT by an off leash dog that ran right up to me and started growling and snapping. I was in the process of vigorously defending myself with my trekking pole when the owners finally arrived. It was a bad scene all around. Those owners were just shocked because "their dog is normally so well behaved!?" and "had never bitten anyone before!", etc...they actually started suggesting that I provoked it (which turned things even uglier than they were)

Another time I was backed-up by a large snarling dog in the Smokies and was about to start striking it with a large stick when the owners came along. Same story with that dog "Fido never acts like this??".

Point being no one really knows what an uncontrolled animal will do in a given situation no matter how much they think they do.

11:19 p.m. on September 6, 2016 (EDT)
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One of the big problems I find is in mountain areas like Monongahela NF deep in WV. Their regulation is that pets 'must be under your control at all times'. Off leash tolerance is also common in the Catskills & Adirondacks of New York...

Problem to me is, everybody thinks their pooch is well enough behaved. Rarely do I find people that train their dog for the recall command. Even well trained, great dogs still like to introduce themselves, and say hi... 

I happen to take my 1 year old pup on a few overnight trips a year, but use a waist-leash system, and drop down to use one hiking stick. Like many of you, I have seen hundreds of dogs out on the trail, and only see them on leash near the trailhead.

9:23 a.m. on September 7, 2016 (EDT)
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In the areas that I frequent, both car camping and hiking/backpacking, the law is stated that animals must be leashed or under control at all times. I understand that some people don't like dogs or are afraid of them. I consider myself to be considerate to others. With all that being said, my dog is normally off leash. She minds what I say and is never out of my sight. My dog has a high prey drive and will always try and chase that rabbit or squirrel at home or wherever we are. She can take off wide open and with one shout, she stops and returns to me. Same when we approach other people. If she makes anyone uncomfortable I can speak a command to her and she heeds it each and every time. I often put her on leash when with others who have dogs that aren't as well behaved to encourage them to do likewise. I see very few people where I hike and 90% want to pet or be friendly to my dog. If she ceases to mind or is not allowed in an area she will stay at home. (My German Shepherd is smarter than your honor student) ;-]

10:01 a.m. on September 7, 2016 (EDT)
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Calif State Parks has the no dogs rule. That is why I never visit them.

I avoid Nat Parks mostly except for Yellowstone.

Give me the backcountry that has few rules. 

The concept of "wilderness management" has always bothered me.

10:06 a.m. on September 7, 2016 (EDT)
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ppine said:

I am sympathetic to people that don't like dogs.

joehop said:

I understand that some people don't like dogs or are afraid of them.

 

This always cracks me up when folks start talking about dogs on trail. They like to make it sound as though the victims of bad dog behavior are to blame rather than the owners.

When I am threatened by an uncontrolled dog on trail I never blame the dog, only the owner. I am not afraid of dogs. I don't hate them, in fact I love dogs. I just hate bad owners.

As I've told many of them on trail; Voice command does not mean your dog comes when you call him for dinner. It means your dog responds instantly to your command in all situations. If you don't have actual voice command a leash is mandatory for your dog's safety at all times no matter what the law says. Anything less is abuse to an animal you claim to love.

11:36 a.m. on September 8, 2016 (EDT)
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Didn't Jim Birdwell kick a yapping dog off a cliff once? Or was it John Long?

This topic is likely more controversial than guns on the trail. 

To me, its the friggin' wilderness.  If a dog can't be off-leash there then where can it be?  My dog is kind of the sacrificial lamb; if something mean tries to sneak up and eat me or my kids the dog can occupy it until I have a second to formulate a coherent response. 

When a dog tries to bite me I bash it with a boot/ice axe/stick/whatever is at hand.  If the owner gets mad they can train their dog better next time. 

If there are horses around, I put my dog on a leash because most horses on the trail are extremely poorly trained (like most of their riders) and do odd things like freak out at the sight of a backpack or dog or a shadow on the trail or a suspicious looking twig.   

1:07 p.m. on September 8, 2016 (EDT)
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Even the best trained animals are not at their best 24/7. I agree with Jeff that most horses and their riders are poorly trained. The same is true of most dogs and their handlers. Doing either one well is a lifetime study, most people don't take the time. 

I question the thinking that you are in the wilderness if you are walking along a groomed trail with a bunch of other people around. Isn't that more like a public park? I ask not for the sake of argument, but because I have no experience in that environment. 

4:51 p.m. on September 8, 2016 (EDT)
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Alot of good points..I see alot of dogs on the trail..Not all dog owners are made equally...If you really haven't trained your dog or yourself with your dog by all means Leash him..I seen it both ways like patman has said and some  people shouldn't have an animal...BTW  If  a dog can't be off leash in the wilderness where can he? The dog park that"s what their made for...

9:59 p.m. on September 8, 2016 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

ppine said:

I am sympathetic to people that don't like dogs.

joehop said:

I understand that some people don't like dogs or are afraid of them.

 

This always cracks me up when folks start talking about dogs on trail. They like to make it sound as though the victims of bad dog behavior are to blame rather than the owners.

When I am threatened by an uncontrolled dog on trail I never blame the dog, only the owner. I am not afraid of dogs. I don't hate them, in fact I love dogs. I just hate bad owners.

As I've told many of them on trail; Voice command does not mean your dog comes when you call him for dinner. It means your dog responds instantly to your command in all situations. If you don't have actual voice command a leash is mandatory for your dog's safety at all times no matter what the law says. Anything less is abuse to an animal you claim to love.

 well said

I wasn't gonna say anything because this topic causes my blood to boil. I've had hundreds of bad senes with dogs and been bit way to many times to count plus a guy i worked with had half his face torn off to the tune of 50plus stiches and multiple surgerys. and many times on the trail attacked. And the thing that gets me the most is how cold blooded almost with out fail the owners have been.

I'll point out one time on the trail in particular climbing over a rise in the trail about a quarter mile from the parking area at Black Rock Mountain st park, came face to face (with in a foot) with 2 fairly large dogs coming up the other side. They were on me before you could blink and if it hadn't been for my trecking poles it would have been very bad seen. I was able to beat them back and the whole time the 2 guys kept saying were sorry i finally had to yell at them to get your dogs. I want to tell you that I am nice by choice not by nature and had those dogs bitten me at that moment there would have been real serious consequences because while I'm a very self controlled person, there was nothing but pure violence in my heart at that moment and I'm not sure I could have stopped myself from beating the crap out of them after I took care of those dogs. then the next day on the way out 2 girls had their dogs running loose fortunately they were on the switch back below me and I was able to worn them but even they had a tremendous amount of trouble holding those kujos because they were so large and pulling the girls all over the place to get at me even tho I'd vacated the trail so they could get by with out incident.

I don't personally like dogs but I do appeciate  the company and the protection they offer people and I'll even concead that they do have a right to let them run free. but I simply put have zero tolerance or patience for them when they fail to take into account other peoples safety and well being when it comes to a animal that is by nature protective of their territory,owners and are quite often skidish around strangers.

Owners help the rest of us out; control your pets we don't want to be mean don't make us be.  

     

7:53 p.m. on September 11, 2016 (EDT)
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John your story is unbelievable. I am sorry you have had so many problems. 

In the West, the density of people and dogs is much much lower especially off the PCT,  and during the week. 

We have a written and unwritten law, that it is legal shoot any dog that attacks a human of harasses livestock  If I ever get attacked I will start with the point of a walking stick and quickly go to a warning shot, to a dead dog. That is very unlikely to happen if it hasn't happened in the last 55 years already.

Come to think of it I always hike with a dog that is very friendly to other dogs and always a female.  Bitches seem to attract all the attention which leaves few issues for humans.

11:52 a.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Jeff said,

Didn't Jim Birdwell kick a yapping dog off a cliff once? Or was it John Long?

This topic is likely more controversial than guns on the trail. 

To me, its the friggin' wilderness.  If a dog can't be off-leash there then where can it be?  My dog is kind of the sacrificial lamb; if something mean tries to sneak up and eat me or my kids the dog can occupy it until I have a second to formulate a coherent response. 

When a dog tries to bite me I bash it with a boot/ice axe/stick/whatever is at hand.  If the owner gets mad they can train their dog better next time. 

If there are horses around, I put my dog on a leash because most horses on the trail are extremely poorly trained (like most of their riders) and do odd things like freak out at the sight of a backpack or dog or a shadow on the trail or a suspicious looking twig.   

Jeff, Amen!!!

My dog is very well trained to heed voice commands, first time and every time. She does, without fail. For this reason she is allowed to be loose. If I ever encounter one of you in the woods and my dog doesn't do as she's told you are welcome to shoot her, kick her, or whip my rear end! Sorry to be so blunt, but there will always be someone who doesn't agree with my views.

1:13 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Glad to hear you are a responsible dog owner Joe. I always compliment owners of obviously well trained dogs when I meet them on trail because they are so rare. To a one these folks are quite pleased to have been recognized rather than demonized for having their dog on trail. All it takes is a little respect for the animal and those you meet, but again, that seems to be rare unfortunately.

Do you keep your dog in line of sight at all times Joe?

1:30 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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LS, yes I do keep my dog in sight all the time. I try and have respect for each and every person that I meet and keep her behind me or very close. If I meet someone who is noticeably uncomfortable I will hold her collar 'til they pass. That being said, it has been my experience that most people that I encounter are very dog friendly. My Heidi dog is usually an easy conversation piece(quite a few people don't realize that there are solid black German Shepherd Dogs) She looks like a big bad wolf and has the personality of an inquisitive sweet little 8-9 yr old girl!

1:36 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Sound like a smart owner and good dog...Have fun hiking with her Joe...

1:51 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Thanks Denis! Like I've posted before, I try to have respect for others that I'm sharing the woods with and I feel that goes a long way to ensure we all have a pleasurable time.

2:49 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Funny how that works. You keep your dog under control and people are happy to see it. Others let their dogs run out of sight and menace people and then complain about "dog haters". I may never run into you two on trail, but I'll say thanks for being one of the good owners all the same.

3:09 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Lol, I can vouch for Joe's dog (and Joe too!) I've met them both on the trail.

 

 

4:23 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Patrick, thank you sir! Have a great time on your upcoming excursion!!!

4:29 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Joe I wish you were more the norm ..I would love to meet your dog, and you, on the trail. 

4:39 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Thanks Phil! I wish cordial people were the norm! 

6:40 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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Yeah. I think what the general theme here is respect for others...if you have good control of your pup it wouldn't be an issue. Those that don't need to think about how that affects everyone's trail experience. Those that do blend in well with all the users. 

I think a new idea could come from this...Wilderness Dog Parks?

9:44 p.m. on September 12, 2016 (EDT)
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ppine said:

John your story is unbelievable. I am sorry you have had so many problems. 

In the West, the density of people and dogs is much much lower especially off the PCT,  and during the week. 

We have a written and unwritten law, that it is legal shoot any dog that attacks a human of harasses livestock  If I ever get attacked I will start with the point of a walking stick and quickly go to a warning shot, to a dead dog. That is very unlikely to happen if it hasn't happened in the last 55 years already.

Come to think of it I always hike with a dog that is very friendly to other dogs and always a female.  Bitches seem to attract all the attention which leaves few issues for humans.

 That's not even the half of it I didn't even mention the folks next door growing up had about 25 dogs and from birth I was running from them or fighting them as I got older they were always killing our chickens and one Hogg  of ours

the west sounds just like the place for me space and more space

i don't have any desire to hurt any dog except the vicious one but I'd sure as hell like to bust a few careless owners in the mouth

good dogs are great we had some that were great company to my aunt in her last 15yrs and I've meet  one girl that was saved from a burglar by her dog so I do appreciate them it's just my personal experience have all most always been bad and I've been made out to be the bad guy and now I'm at the point where I've had enough

7:58 a.m. on September 13, 2016 (EDT)
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We've been talking about the owners who don't take training and control of their dogs as more the norm than folks like Joe or others who do. To be fair, I need to mention my experience this weekend. 

After 2 days of seeing noone in the Middle Prong Wilderness NC, I used the Mountains to Sea Trail to loop back to the car and passed 2 dog owners. The first was off leash but near the owner,  and a quick command heeled the dog. I greeted both and complimented the trainer.  A 2nd pair within an hour but the dog was less trained...still an enjoyable meeting as the girl solo hiking with her pup had it on a belt leash. Both seemed to be enjoying the trail equally. 

If all dog hikers fell into one of these two groups, I don't think we would be having this conversation. 

8:15 a.m. on September 13, 2016 (EDT)
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Totally agree with you there Phil. Just like with thru hikers, it is the bad ones who saddle the good ones with a rep they don't deserve. In both cases I try to give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. Joe's point about respecting others applies to whatever you're doing on trail. If more folks put some thought into that it would resolve most issues of conflict on trail and off.

2:44 p.m. on September 14, 2016 (EDT)
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I bring my dog, a Siberian husky named Juno, on every single one of my trips. She stays on leash the entire time, and the only time she isn't on a leash is because I put her on a tie out in camp.

I can and have navigated almost any obstacle you can imagine with her on leash. It's a finely acquired and tuned skill!

For me, I don't have a choice, if I take her off leash there will be a replay of a scene from Up before my very eyes(she would take off running at the sight of anything remotely interesting...like a leaf)

That being said, the rules in most places that don't allow dogs are because of irresponsible dog owners. Owners that let their animals harass wildlife, run around off leash and harass people etc. I am not one of those people. However, a dog itself if properly controlled does no more harm to the landscape than you do, probably less than we do.

That being said, that is one of the few laws/regulations that I completely disregard and take my chances. A properly controlled and handled dog's presence in the wilderness should in no way be against the law, I find that preposterous and ridiculous. I might catch flak for that on occasion, but I just smile and nod and don't really care what anyone else has to say about it honestly.

People bring their kids on trips, and I have seen WAAAAYYYY more kids of varying ages causing great harm to things, or simply making a mess of an area.

edit: I actually had the law/regulation here in CT changed in regards to dogs not being allowed on backpacking camp sites. Wasn't easy, but at least I am not breaking any silly law by doing what shouldn't have been restricted in the first place.

12:16 p.m. on September 15, 2016 (EDT)
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i day hike with our dog (an 8 year old lab/poodle mix, weighs 45-50) unless the trail is too steep.  been doing that since he was a puppy.  though i always have a leash, i rarely use it.  he's afraid of most other dogs and pretty tentative around strangers, so he is about as un-aggressive as you would encounter.  he's not afraid of cars, so i leash him near trailheads and parking lots.  he is well-trained, always sticks within 25-50 feet of me and responds to commands.  has chased a few deer, though not for very long, and always circles back to me.

most of the local trails around where we live don't have restrictions about leashing dogs, and i can't say i have ever had a problem.  

i don't take him on overnight or longer hikes.

5:37 p.m. on September 15, 2016 (EDT)
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One of the readers of our blog sent us this incident report:

https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/our-blog/moreondogsfromareader

 

 

8:54 a.m. on September 17, 2016 (EDT)
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My son takes his dog almost everywhere.   On leash.  On trails they practice proper etiquette.  When they encounter others, they step off trail, dog sits, and they let others pass.  He carries her poop out.  He starter her on trails very shortly after her first rabies shot.  She's 13 months old now so these are all pup pics.
DSC03513.jpg
Tzofi-and-Zach.jpg
Tzofi-Zach-Trail.jpg



10:58 a.m. on September 17, 2016 (EDT)
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Bill Hudson said:

My son takes his dog almost everywhere.   On leash.  On trails they practice proper etiquette.  When they encounter others, they step off trail, dog sits, and they let others pass.  He carries her poop out


 That is great and all too rare. Just the sort of respect for others that goes mostly unnoticed, but matters a great deal.

11:20 a.m. on September 17, 2016 (EDT)
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My Border Collie carries a pack with a leash attached to it.  I see few people in the course of an average day backpacking.  She is heap smart so calling her brings her to my side and leash is already in place. This is really important around horses and mules on the trail, which I often see more than hikers on foot.  Be sure to give way to equines on the down hill side of the trail.

7:31 p.m. on September 17, 2016 (EDT)
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I'm a critter lover but I'm not a fan of random dogs or any critter running towards me or being angry towards me. I had a 125 lbs American Red Nose Pit even though he was super sweet and goofy he was always.on a leash! You see a dog like that coming at you good things don't happen. It's not the dogs fault but the owners and an uncontrolled dog off a leash can lead to bad thing and injuries to your beloved pet. I'm not trying to be a butt I'm just saying you either train your dog better or keep him leashed. You can get very long leads like police use I want to say the are in 20,30,40,foot lengths if not longer.

10:45 a.m. on September 18, 2016 (EDT)
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Wilderness areas by their very nature have few rules.  It is the biggest attraction for me.  

I totally disagree with the statement that "just about everywhere dogs are allowed in wilderness areas that they are required to be on a leash."

A Border Collie on a leash does not work.

In most wilderness areas, livestock grazing, hunting and mineral exploration are legal. So is having a dog without a leash.

7:25 p.m. on September 18, 2016 (EDT)
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Ya know as bad as my experiences have been with dogs I still don't know what the answer is.

I will say this in the parks and wilderness areas where the majority of backpacking is done it would be nice if people would take extra precautions and obey the leach laws but for those folks who hike in areas that have a majority of the preditory animal such as mountain lions wolves grizzlies and such I don't think they should as they would be better protection if they were free to fight back and thus protect you more effectively. 

8:03 p.m. on September 18, 2016 (EDT)
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In most wilderness areas, livestock grazing, hunting and mineral exploration are legal. 

Ppine. ..are you talking about wilderness areas with a capital W or lower case (remote National Forest land not designated under the Wilderness Act)? In the several designated Wilderness areas I frequent, hunting is allowed but not the other two uses you mention, that I am aware of. Any mineral exploration of significance would require road building and clearing, both of which I thought were prohibited.

10:15 a.m. on September 19, 2016 (EDT)
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Phil,

This sounds controversial, but it really isn't.  Capital W.  Grazing is often not that noticeable.  Mineral exploration is legal with either off-road equipment or helicopter support. Both are expensive and seldom seen, but they are definitely legal.  Only high grade deposits make it feasible.

10:29 a.m. on September 19, 2016 (EDT)
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I discussed this a few years ago with a ranger in the Emigrant Wilderness.  He told me that motorized vehicles were not allowed in the Wilderness except for emergency purposes...and emergency purposes were pretty tightly defined.  He was including both helicopters and OHVs in that summary. 

Has that changed?

11:36 a.m. on September 19, 2016 (EDT)
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ppine may be correct in that the majority of acres of designated Wilderness are administered by BLM. On BLM lands, existing subsurface mineral rights and existing grazing permits are often "grandfathered" in. So, a Wilderness area is designated in the 1980's, overlayed over a patchwork of existing grazing permits and a few subsurface mineral rights holders - and, voila, holders of valid, pre-existing permits and rights are given "administrative" access with means of transportation like ATV's, that are forbidden to other users. 

This is much less likely to be true on Wilderness managed by the NPS, and, as an important exception, no land management agency is going to issue NEW grazing permits, APD's or mining permits on top of existing Wilderness. 

<Adjusts glasses and makes a dorky, public-lands-nerd expression>

11:37 a.m. on September 19, 2016 (EDT)
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You bring up a valid point balzaccom.  Each Wilderness Area is managed by a National Forest or rarely another Federal agency.  They stand by their "case by case" mantra.  Each wilderness is different and it makes sense to check with the local interpretation of what is allowable.  For hiking, some have a permit system, some require registration at trailheads and some have no rules at all.

We see many fewer helicopter flights now on USFS land. That is due to an agency wide policy decision to use "pack stock whenever feasible."  That is mostly driven by economics but partly aesthetics.  Helicopters are still legal in most wilderness areas, but you will not see them much except in emergencies.

10:29 p.m. on September 19, 2016 (EDT)
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Seth,

The majority of wilderness acreage is managed by the USFS, not BLM.

Forest Service and BLM lands both have extensive grazing permit systems.

Mineral rights are sometimes patented along with deeded lands on proven claims.  Under the Mining Law of 1872 anyone can apply for a mineral claim on Federal lands and "prove" it by going through the permitting process and working the claim.  Eventually that can lead to deeded ownership.  That includes wilderness areas for the most part, although the logistics are much more challenging.

The National Park System has no designated "wilderness areas."  The backcountry in the larger parks is de facto wilderness.  It is protected by a different set of rules than the Wilderness Act.

April 2, 2020
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