Yosemite National Park -Wilderness Plan

Jan 2016

Once again, the rights of disabled equestrians are being trampled on by the environmental extremists.

Please read about the new Yosemite Wilderness Plan which could limit or eliminate horse and pack stock use in Yosemite. Your action is required!

ISSUE - THE NEW YOSEMITE WILDERNESS PLAN (see attachments) Stock use will be more "managed" in the new Yosemite Wilderness Plan. Management means:
- limiting or eliminating grazing
- limiting or eliminating pack stock on trails
- limiting or eliminating private horse use on trails
- limiting or eliminating commercial pack stock
- limiting or eliminating horse camping, especially the High Sierra Camps.  Stock animals are essential for keeping the High Sierra Camps going.

Due to physical restrictions, many of us could never carry a 30 lb. backpack for 70 miles. The High Sierra Camps make it possible for all citizens, regardless of age or disability, to visit the back country without bringing tent, bag, food and cookware. It's an incredible opportunity that ought to remain available to all of us. The impact on trails and surrounding wilderness by the stock that supplies the camps is a concern that is raised that might threaten the camps, and some is that they contend that the High Sierra Camps don't offer a "true wilderness experience." It's a complicated issue, but, Stephen T. Mather (first director of the National Park Service and guy who dreamed up the first Yosemite High Sierra Camps) knew, the high camps play a huge role in getting people who might not otherwise spend time in Wilderness out there in a way that often makes High Sierra loop hikers some of the biggest Wilderness advocates.

All equestrians, whether they personally ever intend to ride or camp in Yosemite, should comment on this Plan.

For all public scoping documents:

Your input will help guide the planning team in revising the park's Wilderness Plan, including the development of alternative approaches for guiding future management. NPS will hold informational scoping meetings in the near future and the venues will be announced soon. For more information visit:

Comment online:

Below is the letter sent to the National Park Service on behalf of the Disabled Equestrians

Yosemite National Park
Attn: Wilderness Stewardship Plan
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389

Dear Superintendent:

The Disabled Equestrians Organization (DEO) represents individuals that are moderately disabled and use a horse or mule to provide them access to trails in the outdoors.  The causes of their disabilities are varied, and include accidents, old age and disease.   Some of the areas affected are knees, lungs, hearts, backs, ankles and eyesight.  In spite of the diversity of aliments, they all share a common solution to their disabilities: they use a horse or mule to carry their worn out bodies to the places that millions of Americans enjoy: the beautiful high country of the Sierras, the rolling hills of the California coast, and many other public parks and forests.

It has come to our attention that the Yosemite Wilderness Plan is considering significant reductions in horse and stock usage.  I want to remind you that some 30% to 40% of equestrians using these facilities qualify as disabled,  and to deny them the right to access Yosemite is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Park Service should instead actively promote the expansion and improvement horse facilities and trails. 

Many equestrians use the horse camps at Wawona, Bridleveil and Tuolumne Meadows.  Others ride with the commercial packers and get a chance to see the backcountry on those horses and mules.  Others enjoy the trail rides in the Valley.  The very minor and limited impacts caused by horses are far outweighed by the enjoyment of the riders.  When I have ridden in Yosemite, the children and adults are thrilled to see horses and excited to watch us.

Let us remember that horses and mules have been a part of the history of Yosemite since it was first discovered and dedicated.  John Muir rode a horse and used pack mules.  Mounted units from the Army patrolled Yosemite for many years.  Teddy Roosevelt and many other notable dignitaries used horses to discover the wonders of Yosemite. It is essential to note that the  High Sierra Camps are services by pack mules, and back country trail maintenance and patrolling are done with horses. The Park Service is obligated to recognize historical usage of stock and how they played an essential role in the creation and support for the Park.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336 enacted July 26, 1990 and the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II, subtitle A, of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and activities provided to the public by Federal, State and local governments. A disability as defined by ADA is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual”.  To watch the roar of the falls in Yosemite, see the snow-capped peaks of the high Sierras, watch the Pacific Ocean from high on a bluff above, these are truly a major life activity. 

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and usable to physically disabled persons.  This law forms the foundation of the legal mandate requiring federally funded facilities and programs to be accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978 states "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by Federal financial assistance or by an Executive Agency."  This Act further broadens the Architectural Barriers Act in that it requires program accessibility in all services provided with Federal dollars.

To deny disabled equestrians the right to use their horses to access the public trails is a clearly a violation of Federal law and results in discrimination against disabled equestrians.  Opportunities for disabled equestrians to enjoy the same sights as able bodied hikers should not be restricted.   It is also essential that disabled equestrians have a place to board their horse and park their trailer to unload their horse.

We do not want to see our funds and public funds spend on a lawsuit to enforce our rights.  We would rather work with the public agencies to improve the trails, raise funds for outdoor programs, expand horse camps, and raise public awareness.  Hopefully this letter will suffice to prevent reduction of horse and stock use by disabled equestrians.  Otherwise we will be filing complaints with the Department of Justice and other agencies responsible for insuring compliance with Federal and State laws.


Donald E. Pugh


mailto: donp@disabledequestrians.org