Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

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Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Wildhorse » Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:20 am

The Desert Sun today reports new rangers at local trailheads. They article seems to indicate that they are a private group without ties to the City or any other government entity. So far, the article says, they have been telling people to not hike with dogs because of new rules prohibiting dogs in the San Jacintos and Santa Rosas. Has anyone here encountered them or learned anything else about them?
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Ed » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:17 am

I don't know who the Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers are. The article seems to be mainly about banning dogs for the sake of the bighorn sheep. I have long been a sceptic of such bans. Are dogs a problem when you have tons of humans, and cyclists as well? The Ritz-Carleton in Rancho Mirage was a major intrusion into bighorn sheep territory, made entirely for reasons of profits and tax revenues. I actually saw bighorn sheep around there once, from a car, I have yet to see one on a trail in the Coachella Valley, except well up on Skyline.

I used to take my dog hiking on the BumpNGrind trail, then stopped when No Dog signs were posted. Some people still hike on it with their dogs, and I don't blame them. The human traffic is enormous, and there are cyclists as well. The upper part of the trail, above the gate, has a bighorn sheep closure in the spring. Many people ignore it.

I am not opposed to looking out for the bighorn sheep, but I wonder about selective measures. I am certainly opposed to the complete ban on dogs on trails in National Parks and California State Parks, which is said to be for the safety of the wildlife and the dogs. Many of the trails have heavy human traffic, and they allow horses. Dogs today are mainly house pets which I doubt are much feared by wildlife, and the main danger to them is not getting enough exercise. And I suspect most wildlife already keep their distance from trails with heavy human traffic, cyclists and horses.

Below is the link to the Desert Sun article Wildhorse brought to our attention:

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/palm-springs/2019/12/11/volunteer-rangers-educate-hikers-palm-springs-dog-ban-trails/4387461002/

I don't quite understand how the city council of Palm Springs can prohibit dogs on trails 'within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains'. Seems like a bit of overstretch. I assume they mean also within the city limits. And the ordinance says nothing about the purpose of the ban.
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Florian » Fri Dec 13, 2019 8:01 am

The trail rangers started with the Save Oswit Canyon group. The problem with dogs in bighorn habitat is the sheep become accustomed to the canine scent and can lose their fear of coyotes, their natural predator. The original dog closures were BLM i think, or maybe Fish and Game, but were never really enforced.
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby hiiker » Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:20 am

The Trail Rangers will have zero chance of stopping someone with a "Therapy Dog", "Emotional Support Animal" or "Guide Dog". Anyone can claim their animal is an "Emotional Support Animal" and it's end of story. If Miniature Horses can be brought onto a passenger plane how are they going to stop anyone with an Emotional Support Dog? Good luck with that.


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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby guest » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:17 pm

Yes, the pet situation & wilderness has grown a lot lately, especially in crowded SoCal.

At least the Nat'l Park Service has taken a stand to clarify what pets are actually allowed on the trails, here's the wording:

Service Animals

The 2010 revision to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a “service animal” as an animal that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Animals that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including animals that are used to provide comfort or emotional support (e.g. therapy animals), are considered pets and not service animals.

Service animals in training and pets are subject to the park’s pet regulations and are not allowed on trails or more than 100 feet (30.5m) from any road, picnic area or campground. Falsely portraying a pet as a service animal is considered fraud and is subject to federal prosecution under 36 CFR. 2.32(a)(3)(ii). To learn more, please visit our Accessibility page.


The Santa Rosa / San Jac Mnmt. page only states dogs are not allowed on most trails, but does mention the few, where they are, (but no mention of actual rules / laws per se.).

At times, it seems that some feel their pets have more rights that the wildlife. I've spoken with Jim DeForge, (Bighorn Institute), and some Fish & Wildlife rangers, as well as other desert educators, and most seem to agree, that dogs do have an impact on the wildlife, (sometimes the humans too, ha, especially when I used to run trails), it's just not known, to what extent.
This has been an issue for decades here in the Coachella Valley, and I do think there needs to be areas where dogs are allowed, like Whitewater Preserve, just like there needs to be some trails mt. bikers can enjoy.
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Ed » Wed Dec 18, 2019 1:42 pm

I would like to see the evidence that a few dogs have a significant impact on wildlife, in comparison to the impact of much larger numbers of human beings. I doubt it exists. For example, Florian passed on an interesting explanation of how the impact occurs. But it is the exact opposite of the explanation we have been given for many years. They can't both be right, but they can both be wrong.

Mt. Baldy is a bighorn sheep area, and dogs are allowed. In the 1970's, I often saw bighorn sheep hiking the Ski Hut trail on weekdays, and the Bear Flats trail on weekends, and usually no other people. Now you don't see the bighorn sheep, you see many people, and now and then a dog. Do you no longer see the bighorn sheep because there has been a huge increase in the number of people, or because dogs are allowed on Baldy? Surely it is the former.
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Plante » Wed Dec 18, 2019 4:44 pm

• I see bighorn on both Lykken trails regularly, especially the south one near Mesquite. Saw three on the north trail near the north trailhead last weekend.

• Service dog owners are subject to two questions:
1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Wildhorse » Wed Dec 18, 2019 5:51 pm

About fifteen years ago, a political effort was made to restrict access to the desert trails for the sake of the sheep. It died because of intense political pressure from trail users. It sounds like the new policy of the City of Palm Springs represents a kind revival of the effort that failed or died or became dormant.

Does anyone know what process or politely events triggered the new restriction or enforcement action? Was it done in the open, or in a back room?

The volunteers appear to be functioning as individuals or through a private organization. At the same time, they are wearing shirts that suggest an official status as rangers and apparently the city may have paid for the shirts. In the photo the rangers look like cops. It looks a little creepy.
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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby zippetydude » Thu Dec 19, 2019 8:20 am

What we lack here is information. I love seeing bighorn sheep on the trail and I want the habitat to be safe for them. I think we all agree on those sentiments. I like dogs and like seeing a goofy, happy dog on the trail with its owner. Not its natural habitat, but a positive experience for both dog and owner. So I'm not against that either. Here is the problem:

1. We do not know if dogs being on the trail actually presents a danger to the sheep in any way.

2. We do not know for sure that they do not.

So, as in many situations, people go with their gut instinct and a debate occurs when neither side actually knows the correct answer to the underlying question. Dog owners are going to (understandably) want to be able to take their dogs with them on trails. Those focused on bighorn sheep will (understandably) want to protect the sheep. It would perhaps make for an interesting dialog if both sides came together and did actual research together to see if similar situations have actually been studied scientifically in the past and accurate conclusions can be drawn.

To me, it seems unlikely that the bighorn sheep, who have lived along side coyotes for millions of years, would suddenly let down their guard after seeing a few tame dogs. But, hear me now, I don't KNOW that. That's just my uneducated guess. It is also possible that the noise of crowds of people and the scent of dogs could place the sheep at greater risk because their ability to recognize danger at a distance will be diminished. But, hear me now, I don't KNOW that either.

I do know that I observed a group of bighorn sheep lounging about 100 yards off the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Road while a bazillion of us were going up and down the road for exercise. Surely you can see that this could be interpreted either way...the sheep are not terrified and fleeing because they are intelligent creatures and see that we're just humans - perhaps some with dogs, or they might be desensitized to a real and present danger and be at greater risk. I will not venture an opinion, as I do not KNOW anything. I would like to see cooperation by both sides in researching the truth rather than contentiousness by both sides trying to enforce their will without real knowledge backing their opinion.

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Re: Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers

Postby Ed » Thu Dec 19, 2019 9:02 am

I agree, Zip, we are expressing views of which we are not certain. I would be happy to see firm scientific evidence on the subject. I have my doubts about whether it exists. The main point I am making is that if you have given the developers and the hikers what they want, because they are powerful interest groups, then claiming that you are protecting the sheep by banning a small number of dogs, and that this is necessary, is in my opinion posturing.
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