[pct-l] Permits 2017

Robert E. Riess robert.riess at cox.net
Tue Sep 27 17:19:21 CDT 2016

Congratulations to the Class of 2016, who were lucky enough to draw a PCTA Long Distance Permit starting at the border, and who had no ADZPCTKO to inspire and enlighten them. I am saddened by what I hope is a temporary halt to the world-class hiking event which for 17 great years gave so much to so many, provided by so few, and who did it so very, very well. I am thankful for the opportunity to have partaken.   

Certainly, a 2016 PCT through hike is an accomplishment of great pride and satisfaction.  Some were not so fortunate.  Some from overseas could not get a permit to conform with their travel arrangements and just gave up on their goal of hiking the PCT in 2016.  At least one hiker known to me had to cancel his airline ticket and rebook to conform with his PCTA permit at an additional cost of over $1000.  Some were scared to death of being stopped by the US Forest Service because their only chance to hike did not conform with the date of their PCTA Long Distance Permit.  They were in genuine fear of having their passports confiscated for “illegal hiking.” Many US and foreign hikers had permits which were at variance with the actual dates of their starts, and many more hiked without a permit of any kind. 

In 2015 and 2016, the PCTA, on its own authority as trail manager, established a daily quota of 50 Long Distance Permits starting at the border during the height of through-hiker season.  I was told by Beth Boyst, the PCT Trail Manager for the US Forest Service, that the limit of 50 permits per day was her idea, stating also that she arrived at the decision based upon exhaustive research into the increase in hiker numbers experienced during the years 2012-2014, and their attendant impact on the first 100 miles of the PCT.   This confused me in that one agency limited the number of permits and another took credit for the decision, so on April 14 of this year, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request asking for all documentation discussing or supporting the 50 permit daily limit.  The US Forest Service reply to my FOIA request providing 4 pages of responsive documents was received on July 7.  I will provide my original FOIA request and the Forest Service’s response by email to anyone who requests them.  I have read these documents many times, and I have found no basis whatsoever for limiting daily hiking permits.  This is the official response of the government of the United States to a valid request for information.  By law, it is exhaustive and complete.  There is no more information to consider.  No anecdotes, no feelings, no opinions, no guesses.   

So, with the 2016 PCT through hiking season drawing to a close, there will be many hikers with recent experiences on the trail who may be willing to share their experiences and offer their opinions regarding the necessity and efficacy of the 2015-2016 permit limitations.  IMO, this is necessary if the PCT hiking community wants to influence the 2017 hiking season on the PCT, either in favor of permit limitations, or opposed to them.  You should not expect to be asked for your experiences and opinions by the US Forest Service or the PCTA.  Some of us recall how the permit limitations were implemented for the past 2 years.  There was no public discussion, there was no opportunity for hikers to state their positions, and there was no advance notice.  Hikers first became aware of the 50 permit per day limitation simultaneously with the opening of the issuance of permits by the PCTA.  There is every indication there will be more of the same in 2017.  Congratulations to the Class of 2016.  Good Luck to the Class of 2017.   BR

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