Tom sent an email to Jim Foote of the BLM today just to follow up on our meeting with him on 3/14/12. Here ’tis:
Jim, thanks again for attending and explaining the BLM situation and policies. It was important for people to understand the various “jurisdictions”, Federal mandates, and other policies you administer. We appreciate the work you are doing to assist the dog hiking constituency. It would be good news to be able to hike all the way to the Cross with a dog. However, we remain disappointed in your position regarding the necessity for leashes on steep trails.
You seem to put a lot of weight on a Veterinarian Dog book and a few bad trail encounters with German Shepherds. To the first point, all Veterinarians naturally feel dogs should be on leash most of the time. They deal with accidents and incidents daily in cities and populated areas, and they draw general guidelines, with which we would all agree. I guarantee you they would also recommend daily off-leash exercise for every dog in a safe environment. That environment exists on the Homestead and Hopalong Cassidy Trails. We must reiterate, it is hazardous to walk with leashed larger dogs on the steep trails. Dogs either “heal” on leash, or they naturally pull. Healing is not possible on the narrow trails, and pulling is hazardous on downhill slopes. A hiker with longhaired dachshunds weighing less than 10 lbs and with two inch legs would have little problem utilizing a leash. It is very difficult for well over 75% of the dog population of our constituency. To the second point, there are always bad apples, but you cannot deny that during our meeting over fifty dogs coexisted in a crowded, long, hot, and hectic situation, with no issues. Interestingly, the only dogs who fussed a bit were the dachshunds on leash!
Your work towards recognizing the upper trail to the Cross as non-invasive toward big horn sheep is admirable. You position on “leash only” is not. We truly believe our considerable constituency has the right to one trail for off-leash enjoyment. We should not be marginalized any more than hikers without dogs, or small dog hikers, or the big horn sheep. We have a right to share and use the Monument. We believe proper signage can notify all hikers of the limitations and permitted uses of each trail section.
Over the past five years, due to a perceived need for “uniformity”, and a strong Big Horn Sheep constituency, the dog hikers have been restricted from a fairly unregulated environment to what is now virtually no rights what-so-ever. We think we deserve one single remaining trail to enjoy. We hope the BLM and the City of Palm Desert would agree. We plan to approach the City about reopening their lower portion of the Homestead trail to off-leash.
Sincerely, Tom Rasmussen and Desert Dog Hikers