“Good” and “Bad” Recreation: The Bitterroot National Forest- Guest Post by Lance Pysher


Photo courtesy of Kurt Krueger – Western Montana Climbers Coalition

I was reading Sharon’s post about good and bad businesses and realized the same polarization is now occurring with recreation., and it seems the Bitterroot National Forest is ground zero for this new conflict. The BNF was the only Region One forest to ban bikes in both Recommended Wilderness and now it is instituting a forest-wide moratorium on sport climbing route development.

“With the sport of rock climbing growing dramatically across the West, the challenge on how best to manage all those new enthusiasts to protect the resource is an issue other national forests are beginning to ponder.

The controversy over the increase in rock climbing on the Bitterroot Forest has been a decade or more in the making.

It mostly centered on a popular climbing area in the Mill Creek area where climbers used rock drills to put in hundreds of permanent anchors to create popular sport climbing routes on what climbers called the Tick Wall.

With the sport of rock climbing growing dramatically across the West, the challenge on how best to manage all those new enthusiasts to protect the resource is an issue other national forests are beginning to ponder.

From the Wilderness Watch:

“Protect the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and WSAs from unlawful and unauthorized bolted climbing routes!

Recently, officials at the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) took steps to protect the national forest, including the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and two congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas, from a massive influx of climbing use that is damaging resources and elevating social conflicts.
The BNF issued a news release reminding climbers that it is unlawful for visitors to develop new climbing routes or trails or install “permanent hardware or apparatus such as bolts, glue, manufactured hand holds; or modifying routes through chipping, cleaning, hammering, or drilling new or existing holds,” on climbing routes while work proceeds on a forest-wide Climbing Management Plan (CMP). It’s a common-sense “time-out” approach that allows climbing to continue while minimizing further damage until a comprehensive climbing plan can be developed with public input and environmental review.

Sadly, a local climbing organization and the national Access Fund have launched a campaign urging the Forest Service to remove the protections, arguing that—get this— the agency shouldn’t take any action to stop the escalating damage until after the environmental review process has been done!”

From the Access Fund:

“The ban was issued as an official order by Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson, and it declares all new route development (first ascents) after the date of the order illegal. The order does not include any allowances for emergencies, fixed anchors that protect natural resources, bolt replacement, first ascents with no fixed hardware, hand-drilled fixed anchors on new routes in Wilderness, or slings for descent. Of further concern, the Supervisor’s Order “reminds” climbers that new fixed anchors are banned—incorrectly implying that fixed anchors were illegal in the past. This implication is at odds with well- established U.S. Forest Service plans across the country, which acknowledge fixed anchors as critical tools for climbing.

“We haven’t seen a U.S. Forest Service decision as egregious and far-reaching as this in 25 years,” says Access Fund Policy Director Erik Murdock. “This Supervisor’s Order overrides a successful, existing agreement between the climbing community and the forest, ignores any public process, and sets a dangerous precedent for all national forests.”

Access Fund is working with Western Montana Climbers Coalition (WMTCC) to push back on this unsubstantiated ban and remind Bitterroot National Forest that fixed anchors are legal in national forests. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll be reminding the supervisor that a significant management decision like this, on our public lands, deserves public process and science-based decision-making. Learn more about this issue and past work with Bitterroot National Forest.”

The reference to science-based decision-making made me think of an opinion piece in the Missoulian here on the evils of collaboration,

“Collaboration is not about right and wrong or about intrinsic values. It’s a cop-out on the part of environmental groups that sully their reason for existence in order to be politically correct.

Ultimately, it’s a process that gives validity to those whose activities are either illegal, incompatible or so damaging to public resources that they have been or are being restricted for that very reason. Within normal data- and science-driven decision-making processes of land management agencies — the goal thereof, anyway — these peoples’ views lack substance and shouldn’t be incorporated into management…

Thus comes “collaboration” to justify misuse of the landscape. Best management practices, using science and best available data, don’t allow high-impact users the unlimited access they desire to meet self-centered, short-term recreation desires…

A Montana example of how wrong this now-popular approach to addressing land management via collaboration is exemplified by the Gallatin Forest Partnership. The Gallatin Range, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, is a keystone of the Yellowstone ecosystem, the last essentially intact temperate ecosystem on our earth. There is nothing more short-sighted than to undermine environmental protections on an integral part of one of the original dozen World Heritage Sites to please users who have no appreciable respect for the global importance of this ecosystem or the future of what little remains of our natural heritage”.

At this point let me start winding my way back to the issue of good and bad recreation. The Gallatin Forest Partnership that so raised the hackles on the above writer was a collaborative agreement between non-motorized recreation groups and conservation organizations for management of the Gallatin National Forest in and around the Hyalite- Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Areas. The issue the writer most likely has issue with, but only obliquely referenced,”high-impact users the unlimited access they desire to meet self-centered, short-term recreation desires“ was continued mountain bike use in areas where it is already established and recommending the remainder for wilderness designation rather that recommending the entire area for wilderness designation.

Although the writer says this is about science and not about values, he sure makes a lot of value judgments about the recreational users he opposes. They are self-centered.
Their views lack substance. Their use is incompatible with public resources. Furthermore they, presumably mountain bikers, have no “appreciable respect for the global importance of this ecosystem.” As far as the science, I’m not sure there is any evidence the wilderness designation is superior to Inventoried Roadless Areas, Recreational Areas, or Wildlife Management Areas. Most of what I have read references the need for roadless areas. As far as wildlife, there is some evidence that mountain bikes may cause more stress on elk than hikers in certain situations. It does not necessarily indicate that bikes are more impactful than supposedly low-impact and approved uses such as hunting or outfitters. What about economic impacts? Should the economic benefits of outdoor recreation be ignored? What about the mental and physical health benefits of getting outside in nature and having fun? The evidence is clear that it is beneficial for the individuals. Should this science be ignored? If these area are closed to recreation, will be people drive somewhere else, increasing their carbon footprint, or will they change activities and still be out in the forest still causing an impact? I think most studies have shown people will drive somewhere else to engage in their preferred activity.

Before I finally get back to the Bitterroot, one more quote from Wilderness Watch in opposition to the imposition of fees in Oregon Wilderness Areas,

““There is something amiss when an American citizen has to pay a fee to hike on their lands, which are really our birthright, not a commodity to be ‘sold,’” said George Nickus, executive director of Wilderness Watch.”

So this brings us back to the Bitterroot and good and bad recreation. First, a little information on the Bitterroot National Forest. Currently half of Ravalli County is National Forest and half of the BNF is designated Wilderness, mostly the Selway/Bitterroot, but also portions of Welcome Creek and the Anaconda/Pintlers. To the best of my knowledge, there no demand for bolting or the development of sport climbing routes in either the Blue Joint or Sapphire WSAs. I confirmed this with climbers coalition. Blue Joint is over 50 miles away from the area of contention in Mill Creek and the Sapphires are in a separate mountain range. The main climbing area is one mile for the trailhead, and despite the hysteria, it will not be confused with the lines in Eldorado Canyon waiting to climb the Bastile.

It seems everyone wants decisions to be science-based, but it becomes clear fairly quickly that science will not give us the answers. There is also not much room for compromise when one side is accusing the other of unlawful and unauthorized behavior. What baffles me somewhat is why the Bitterroot? Any day of the week the trails and lands around Bozeman, Missoula, Whitefish, Jackson are far more packed with people. Last year I saw more people on one backcountry ski tour outside Big Sky than I have seen in a year of biking and backcountry skiing here. Maybe it is because it still relatively quiet. Maybe it is because Stewart Brandborg who lived here in the valley espoused a no compromise ethos later in his life. Is the demographics: young vs. old, or newcomers vs. old timers? Is it because the valley is still rural and mostly conservative? My theory is, it’s the political non-viability of major wilderness designations. Occasionally you can get a wilderness for no-brainer areas like the Rocky Mountain Front, but the odds of ever getting a wilderness designation for the WSA or any significant portion of the recommend wilderness makes these designations life or death decisions for many people in the wilderness community. No one has attempted to get the WSAs in the Bitterroot congressionally designated wilderness since around 1990. (Tester did proposed some additional wilderness in the Beaverhead portion of the Sapphire WSA, but that bill died.) Same thing for any the recommended wilderness along the Bitterroot Front. As the possibilities for congressional support have dimmed, the desire, or depending on one’s point of view, the necessity, of getting the Forest Service to do what Congress won’t has become non-negotiable and any potential threats to the creation of de facto wilderness needs to be fought with all possible means.

Lance Bysher is a skier, biker, boater, hiker, rusty climber, all around lover of outdoor recreation and current president of the Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists.

103 thoughts on ““Good” and “Bad” Recreation: The Bitterroot National Forest- Guest Post by Lance Pysher”

  1. “normal data and science-driven”. I think that has become a bit of a drive-by expression for policies people don’t like. If I were Queen of the World, I would require anyone who says something like this to cite specific scientific papers that support their claim, and engage in discussion with others about the values imbedded in those papers and the framing of the research question, the relevance of the data to the issue at hand, and the research that probably doesn’t exist that would directly answer the question at hand.

    Let’s pick a few.. (1) what impacts to analyze? Not just elk, but ….dogs chasing wildlife, human waste, etc.
    (2) analyze all different kinds of users who visit the areas, seasonality and numbers.

    And at the end, there is no “science” that would tell us how many users of which groups to “kick out.” If we kicked out everyone with an impact, well, we would kick out everyone.

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  2. The lack of wilderness designation can be laid at the feet of environmental groups that collaborate away the possibility and selfish interests like mountain biking, ohvs and apparently now rock climbers. If enviros in these collaborations put the needs of wildlife and watersheds, which wilderness protects best, ahead of their financial incentives we would be designating huge swaths of wilderness, also leading to reduced fire intensity.

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    • John, what financial incentives are you talking about? And I’m not sure that huge swaths of wilderness would necessarily lead to reduced fire intensity, doesn’t it depend on the fuel that is there when the fire goes through?

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    • So it’s “collaboration” to compromise even the slightest bit with disfavored recreation groups to allow them to continue to have tiny amounts of the access they have historically had?

      Also, look at that list of user groups you just wrote. If all of those groups have to be kicked out of their historical recreation areas just to accommodate the desires of wilderness advocates and hikers for exclusive access, who are really the selfish ones here?

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      • Patrick, to be fair, I think some Wilderness advocates would prefer to have “everyone” including themselves, out. That’s not what the Wilderness Act states, but I think that may well be the endgame based on some of the ideas. If you are “protecting” it from people, then no one should be there. But to get support you can’t really say “we’re kicking everyone out for the good of the wildlife.” I don’t think that’s being selfish, but I don’t think that there’s any science behind it, either, without values mixed in. E.g. people disturbing elk are bad, wolves and grizzlies eating elk are good. If I were an elk I would not like either, but much prefer to be disturbed than killed.

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        • Oh I agree that is absolutely their end game. Like I said, it’s part of the inexorable move from the concept of public lands that are open to the people to use and enjoy to something akin to the Kings Forests of medieval England where the common folk are not allowed to go, and are dedication solely to the sovereign’s animals which no one else may touch.

          And people accuse logging and oil companies of being enemeis of public lands. As I see it, wilderness advocates are the real enemy of public lands because they seek to kick the public out of those lands entirely. The rich heritage of American public lands is quickly being lost precisely because of this pernicious movement to protect public lands from the people rather than for the people.

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  3. “Maybe it is because Stewart Brandborg who lived here in the valley espoused a no compromise ethos later in his life.”
    Lance, you are very ill-informed and this comment about the late, great Brandy is a very low blow. I wish he was still here to set you straight. Your sense of civility in arguing for your biking “fun” has been derailed and wrapped around the axle. You can make your arguments without shading people you don’t like.

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    • Larry I don’t realize I was insulting his memory. I never knew him and I respect his accomplishments in getting much of our Wilderness protected. What I know is only what I have read for his speeches, statements, and the memorials I read such as this one, https://mountainjournal.org/american-conservation-movement-has-lost-its-edge. I respect the passion and purity you, Bill , and the rest of the Friends of the Bitterroot have for protecting to Bitterroot. I think you are misguided and I think we would be better working together to protect spaces we all love. I think you hearts are in the right place, I just happen to disagree with you approach, which from talks I have had with Gary sure seem to be that compromise is not an option. Do you really think “Brandy” would be offended by stating that he doesn’t believe in collaboration or compromise; that there has already been too much?

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      • It doesn’t appear to me, Lance, that you brought the late Brandy into you arguments in order to show your respect for him. I think that you are trying to use your (poor) understanding of him to justify your mistaken conclusion that conservationists don’t compromise, which is demonstrably false. Brandy, personally, conceded to and accommodated compromises made in the Wilderness Act as well as other conservation battles he fought. . You may see things only in black and white but don’t project that onto others.

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        • Bill and Larry In it entirely sure why you find my statement that later in his life that Brandborg advocated for no (or can we agree, minimal) compromise. It is hardly a pejorative. There is a strong contingent of folks within the wilderness community that feels there has been enough compromise already and there should be no more and that large environmental groups are have sold out to corporate interests. I think it is fairly well documented that was part of this community and admired for his dedication. Opposition to the GFP and collaboration in general is well documented. Why do you find it offensive that I stated what seems to be obvious? I consider it a fairly neutral statement. I don’t think it makes him bad or evil, anymore than I think your advocacy makes you bad or evil or even wrong.

          The main point of my post is why is it that the BNF has introduced a forest wide ban of climbing route development that is unprecedented in the FS nationwide and why is it that BNF has a closure to mountain bikes in WSAs that is more restrictive than anywhere in Region One. Every other WSA under management of the FS allows some level of mountain biking. I disagree with these decisions, but I’m more interested in is why here and not Bozeman, or Whitefish, or Jackson/Driggs area?

          I think more land would be protected, more forests maintained as carbon sinks, more connectivity for wildlife. and better quality of life for the people of the Bitterroot Valley by pursuing a strategy and policy of finding ways to protect the landscape in less restrictive fashion than wilderness designation. I presume that the Friends of the Bitterroot believe that a better approach is something like NREPA and there is no need to collaborate, negotiate or otherwise work with recreational groups such as BBC to find a long term political solution as that would derail the democratic process or not be negotiating from a position of strength as Bill stated. If I’m incorrect, I’d welcome being disabused of this notion.

          Larry, you stated my thinking is black or white. Can you provide an example please?

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      • Lance, honestly, the Wilderness Act was written–and passed–to counter arguments like yours. You may or may not realize this, but it was the reality the mid-20th century conservationists faced during the big-dam era of the futility of fighting each and every assault on our remaining wild lands by extractive AND recreational interests singly (remember that each and every one of those gaint “ponds” behind those massive, modern pyramids were plugged by expousing motorboat recreation as one of their benefits) that led to Zahniser/Brandy/ et al of giving so much of themselves to push that act through Congress. Yes they compromised, and to say otherwise is, as Larry said, ignorant. But they did so from a position of strength, not capitulation. That was Brandy’s life-work. He called it “democracy”, and yes, we who had the great honor to know him still pursue it. Sorry if that sounds unreasonable to you.

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  4. Here are some photos and text from a conservationists who lives in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. The photos and information are taken from the Mill Creek sport climbing area on the Bitterroot National Forest in a part of the national forest that the U.S. Forest Service has identified in the official Forest Plan as Recommended Wilderness (MA 6). According to the Bitterroot Valley conservationists who put these photos together, there’s over 500 bolts and 60 routes, spaced on average about 11’ between routes in this Recommend Wilderness Area. Many quick draws and some ropes have been left in place for literally years in the Recommend Wilderness Area. The second photo is of a golden eagle carcass plus a lot of trash.

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    • If there is a popular climbing area in a recommend wilderness and climbing is deemed incompatible with wilderness, maybe that area should never have been made a recommend wilderness area in the first place.

      At some point there needs to be areas of public lands that are NOT considered candidates for wilderness status, where other activities are allowed to thrive. Seems to me this whole conflict is the fault of those who consider wilderness as the only acceptable way to manage federal lands and pushing all activities that are deemed incompatible with wilderness into smaller and smaller areas.

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      • I’m not sure a simple 3 page handout rises to the level of “anonymous actions and info,” especially when I clearly wrote “Here are some photos and text from a conservationists who lives in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.” Anyway, I got the 3 page handout from Van Keele, a member of Friends of the Bitterroot.

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  5. Dr. Pysher:

    You wrote: “No one has attempted to get the WSAs in the Bitterroot congressionally designated wilderness since around 1990.”

    That statement is 100% not true. Perhaps it’s an intentional lie? Or perhaps it’s just an innocent lack of knowledge about Wilderness issues?

    Regardless, since 1993 the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) has been introduced in Congress. NREPA would, in fact, designated the WSAs in the Bitterroot as Wilderness.

    The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act currently has 44 sponsors in the U.S. House (including the chairman of the House Resources Committee) and 15 sponsors in the U.S. Senate (including a number of Senators who are/were running for President of the United States) for a total of 69 sponsors in Congress.

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    • Matthew you are correct about NREPA. I guess I forgot about it since I don’t consider it a serious wilderness proposal that has a chance of passing. It has proposed now for 28 straight years and I to the best I have my knowledge has never has a sponsor from Montana from either party. To me that indicates it has no political support in Montana. But for clarity sake I will change the sentence to “No one from Montana’s congressional delegation has attempted to get the WSAs in the Bitterroot congressionally designated wilderness since around 1990.” Thanks for correcting me.

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      • Dr. Pysher, I wouldn’t confuse a lack of support from politicians in Montana with a lack of support from the citizens of Montana, or the citizens of the United States of American, who are equal owners of these public lands. I’d bet any specific, unbiased NREPA poll of just Montana citizens would turn up close to 50% support. The support around the country would likely be much greater. Support among young people who are concerned with the climate crisis or the extinction crisis may be particularly high.

        Of course, the many groups pushing NREPA lack the resources to conduct such a poll and even when polls in Montana are conducted (such as by the University of Montana) or various western-wide polls (such as the annual one from Colorado College) those pollsters often work closely with groups who are aligned with various politicians so the results (and even what questions or issues are asked) are pretty skewed towards that end.

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        • Well I would be surpised if it pass if it was up for a vote in Montana, but that is clearly my opinion based on voting patterns and who has been elected the last few years. As far as an unbiased poll. Would the poll explain that NREPA would exclude mountain biking and sport climbing from areas that they have established presence? Would the poll state that closing these areas to recreation would not increase their potential to capture carbon? Would the poll include that these areas are already protected as IRAs so can’t be logged or roaded? If the poll is, simply do you agree that millions of acres of Montana should be preserved as wilderness I imagine you could get majority vote.

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          • Dr. Pysher,

            I’m 100% in favor of an unbiased poll, but all your suggested questions are entirely biased and/or factually incorrect.

            For example, IRA can be logged. IRA can be roaded. Wilderness doesn’t “close these areas to recreation”…it would close areas to motorized and mechanized travel. Etc.

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            • Ok then list exactly which groups would be kicked out. Polls have consistently shown that support for wilderness drops dramatically once people learn what that designation means for existing users.

              So tell them that mountain bikes and rock climbing will no longer be allowed. Tell them that existing motorized trails will be closed. Tell them they’ll no longer be allowed to fly drones or paragliders or use snowmobiles. Tell them the Forest Service will no longer be allowed to clear downed trees with chainsaws so existing hiking trails can be expected to deteriorate. And then see how much support there is for new wilderness areas.

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              • Howdy Patrick: Like I said to Lance, I’m busy with doing work rather than writing or editing or speculating about polling questions that will never happen. But if you want to have fun with it, go for it.

                But real quick: “Groups” would not be “kicked out” of Wilderness. The Wilderness Act clearly banned all forms of motorized and mechanized travel. I would think anyone beyond 3rd grade would realize that snowmobiles would not be allowed. Also, rock climbing is allowed in Wilderness. Also, the USFS can make exceptions to use chainsaws in specific instances in Wilderness. Have a good day.

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            • Where did my poll question say, they would be closed to recreation. I specifically stated sport climbing and mountain biking. I suppose I could add kite skiing, parasailing and e-bikes along with ATVs and motorcycles, but I was trying to keep it the context of this blog post. In what way is that factually incorrect. Well I suppose it could be additional climbing route development, but it just as likely that the bolts could be chopped.

              I could have swore you or someone posted about the loophole allowing drilling in the Colorado was blocked by and judge and something similar about logging in the Tongass. How would prefer the question be asked that acknowledge that while possible it is very difficult to log or build roads in IRAs and in general are protected from development?

              Oh, I see I used recreation instead of mountain biking and climbing in regards to carbon capture. If I was to fix that how is inaccurate. It might be biases, but then using mechanized instead of mountain bike is also inherently biases. All questions are biased. That is why people opposed Obamacare but supported the Affordable Care Act.

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              • “Where did my poll question say, they would be closed to recreation.”

                You said it right here Doctor: “Would the poll state that closing these areas to recreation would not increase their potential to capture carbon?”

                I have real work to do rather than writing or editing or speculating about polling questions that will never happen. Thanks.

                P.S. I agree with you about Obamacare vs Affordable Care Act, although I’ve always been a universal, Medicare for All type guy.

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                • Like I said, I acknowledged I said “closed to recreation” and clarified it. As far as Medicare for All, let’s just say I’m not surprised.

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              • Lance, it wasn’t a “loophole”- that’s how it was characterized by others. It was a carefully negotiated agreement with years of public comment collaboration between the State and the Feds to produce a state-specific Rule (ultimately signed off by the Obama and Hickenlooper administration, both Ds). The tradeoff was more protection on some acres and switching out roaded roadless acres with really roadless acres, to get part of a ski area out of being covered by Roadless, the North Fork Coal exception, and clarifying where fuels reduction activities were OK.

                There’s also an Alaska Roadless Rule in the works but none of those affect forests in Montana.

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            • Matthew if you believe NREPA is the best course of action by all means proceed with advocating for it. If you believe you don’t need the support of recreation minded outdoor lovers that is also fine. I disagree with that approach. I don’t even see a need to debate anymore about poll questions and who is right about the level of support. They are my options and not based on empirical data.

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            • Matthew, I’m not sure what you mean by “IRA’s can be logged or roaded.”

              I think we may have discussed this before but I’m not sure…
              I’m pretty familiar with all the requirements of the 2001 (and Colorado) Roadless Rules but I’m not sure exactly what you mean. I think it’s important though, because there are two reasons Roadless isn’t good enough – 1) any differences on restrictions and 2) the fact that it isn’t in legislation (not “permanent.”).

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              • Sharon. You know fully well that the Roadless Area Conservation Rule included exceptions for logging and even building of roads. Sorry, but I don’t have time to help refresh your memory about that.

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                • The 2001 roadleass area rule stated that:

                  “The Department of Agriculture is adopting this final rule to establish prohibitions on road construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvesting in inventoried roadless areas on National Forest System lands. The intent of this final rule is to provide lasting protection for inventoried roadless areas within the National Forest System in the context of multiple-use management.”

                  Yes, the rule did allow for very limited harvesting: “For the next five years, about 22,000 acres could be treated by the limited timber harvest allowed under the final rule. Although this is a significant decline in treatment acres compared to acres that would have been harvested under the baseline, the total acreage affected is less than 1 percent of all inventoried roadless area that potentially require mechanical pretreatment.”

                  I would guess that harvesting in IRAs is still very limited.

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                  • Thanks Steve. Yep, I know all that.

                    My only point, in response to what Lance said, is that the Roadless Rule DID NOT ban all logging and all roadbuilding in IRA. Did it significantly limit it? You bet.

                    As you will recall Lance said “these areas are already protected as IRAs so can’t be logged or roaded“…that was factually incorrect so it warranted a correction. Jeez, people!

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                    • The “logging” part is more complicated.. for a couple of reasons.. but here’s the plain language of the road-building exceptions (keep in mind that parts of the IRA’s were already roaded, hence the discussion of reconstruction)
                      “b) Notwithstanding the prohibition in paragraph (a) of this section, a road may be constructed or reconstructed in an inventoried roadless area if the Responsible Official determines that one
                      of the following circumstances exists:
                      (1) A road is needed to protect public health and safety in cases of an imminent threat of flood, fire, or other catastrophic event that, without intervention, would cause the loss of life or property;
                      (2) A road is needed to conduct a response action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or to conduct a natural resource restoration action under CERCLA, Section 311 of the Clean Water Act, or the Oil Pollution Act;
                      (3) A road is needed pursuant to reserved or outstanding rights, or as provided for by statute or treaty;
                      (4) Road realignment is needed to prevent irreparable resource damage that arises from the design, location, use, or deterioration of a classified road and that cannot be mitigated by road maintenance. Road realignment may occur under this paragraph only if the road is deemed essential for public or private access, natural resource management, or public health and safety;
                      (5) Road reconstruction is needed to implement a road safety improvement project on a classified road determined to be hazardous on the basis of accident experience or accident potential on that road;
                      (6) The Secretary of Agriculture determines that a Federal Aid Highway project, authorized pursuant to Title 23 of the United States Code, is in the public interest or is consistent with the purposes for which the land was reserved or acquired and no other reasonable and prudent alternative exists; or
                      (7) A road is needed in conjunction with the continuation, extension, or
                      renewal of a mineral lease on lands that are under lease by the Secretary of the Interior as of January 12, 2001 or for a new lease issued immediately upon expiration of an existing lease. Such road construction or reconstruction must be conducted in a manner that minimizes effects on surface resources, prevents unnecessary or unreasonable surface disturbance, and complies with all applicable lease requirements, land and resource management plan direction, regulations, and laws. Roads constructed or reconstructed pursuant to this paragraph must be obliterated when no longer needed for the purposes of the lease or upon termination or expiration of the lease, whichever is sooner.
                      (c) Maintenance of classified roads is permissible in inventoried roadless areas.”

  6. Lance is right on with this:
    “It seems everyone wants decisions to be science-based, but it becomes clear fairly quickly that science will not give us the answers.”

    But I don’t think the climbing ban is about science or even about values. This is about policy.

    The temporary ban seems appropriate based on the increased popularity of climbing. The agency can and should expedite some management guidelines (policy).

    Science and values will be important parts of developing management guidance, and obviously scientific analysis will be part of any planning.

    I can’t resist responding to the discussion regarding R1’s management of RWAs in Lance’s post. Because it also about policy and not about science or values.

    I maintain R1’s RWA policy is “de-facto Wilderness management.” The USFS disagrees. The climbing bans specific to the WSAs/RWAs referenced in the links adds yet another to the pile of exhibits supporting my view.

    Prior to R1s policy, only Congress could designate Wilderness. That is a good thing because a lot of Wilderness designation is supremely controversial. It is a matter once thought best left to Congress and the American people. This allows the type of compromise similar to what the The Gallatin Forest Partnership worked out.

    The USFS can and should inventory and recommend. But it should not be able to manage as if Congress designated it Wilderness.

    Again I pose the question: If an activity existed during the inventory and designation of a RWA, why then must that same activity be eliminated?

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  7. One additional comment: I will proffer an answer to the question Lance posed:
    “There is also not much room for compromise when one side is accusing the other of unlawful and unauthorized behavior. What baffles me somewhat is why the Bitterroot?”

    I think is likely that somebody got a grant. Somebody wrote a compelling narrative touting the need for “uncompromising protection of the unparalleled scenic splendor and critical biodiversity” — or something like that. And they got funding.

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    • Ha! That’s sort of funny and also indicates that you may have no idea of the 30+ year history of Wilderness and public lands advocacy from groups like Friends of the Bitterroot and Wilderness Watch and/or the 40 to 60+ years of advocacy from citizens like Steward Brandborg, Bill Worf, Frank and John Craighead, and Rick Meis (who was co-founder of the Madison Gallatin Alliance in the late 1970s and was a co-author of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness proposal). Yep, it’s all about the cash money for these folks!

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  8. “There is also not much room for compromise when one side is accusing the other of unlawful and unauthorized behavior.”

    How many examples do you want Lance? Name a forest and I will show you how many illegal mountain bike trails have been made legal by the FS due to mtn. bike pressure. I am continually battling mountain bikers building illegal trails in designated critical habitat for TES species; in late-successional reserves set aside for the conservation of old growth dependent species; tearing up soils with rooster tails; causing erosion on steep slopes; plowing over sensitive plant species; and degrading water quality in sensitive creeks for salmonid spawning.

    What about the rights of wildlife to live, breed and simply exist in peace? Perhaps what is most galling, for example, the Shasta-Trinity NF has over 5,000 miles of roads and trails. One would think that was enough. But no, the mtn. biking community wants more. The STNF recently authorized another 43 miles of mtn. biking trails of which 35 miles were illegally built, partially in an LSR.

    Mtn. bikers are like a cancer, constantly creating more illegal trails and wildlife be damned. I personally would ban all mtn. biking on public lands at this point. If you want to experience nature for health benefits go for a walk or a hike. I’m not concerned about your “fun” at nature’s expense. How much nature are you actually experiencing flying down a trail at 35 mph, eyes glued to the trail, scaring the animals, can’t hear the creeks or birds, tearing up the soil, flying through the creeks. This crowd is even worse than the OHV crowd. And more and more people are getting fed up with mtn. bikers because they refuse to hold each other accountable. I had one scream at me to get out of his way while hiking in UT. I refused to move off the trail, and he crashed. He could have run into me and I would have sued him for everything he had. Pedestrians always have the right away to moving vehicles and that includes public lands. This is the point we are at. Your “right” to mtn. bike doesn’t trump my right to walk a trail in quiet, or wildlife’s right to exist. Clean up your act or get out of the forest.

    Reply
    • Denise, what strikes me about your comment is that it sounds like you are not afraid of physically hurting yourself or others to prove a point. Frankly, this worries me a bit.

      It also reminds me of when we choose to stereotype large groups of people based on individuals who are irritating or do things we think are abhorrent. It could be religious people (Evangelicals or Muslims), people who belong to political parties (those Rs are racists, Those D’s are socialists). I am not a fan of stereotyping as it’s usually not true. If we thought CBD and TNC were similar because they are both environmental groups, for example, we would be missing a lot.

      Another thing that strikes me is that you say OHV people are not as bad. I wonder if that’s due to the fact that they are often (at least where I live) on their own trails. I wonder how much mountain bike irritation would be helped by them having their own trails as well?

      Reply
  9. Looks like the overton window has moved from the simple human powered recreation = good, motorized = bad, to basically only hiking is good. I wonder how long that will last before hikers turn into bad guys too. This the trend continues for public lands to be treated as proverbial “Kings Forest” where is common folk may not trod.

    “As the possibilities for congressional support have dimmed, the desire, or depending on one’s point of view, the necessity, of getting the Forest Service to do what Congress won’t has become non-negotiable and any potential threats to the creation of de factowilderness needs to be fought with all possible means.”

    This is absolutely true from what I’ve seen in Colorado. Environmental groups know wilderness designation is politically unpopular so they try to do an end run around Congressional designation and force agencies to treat everything as de facto wilderness. We’ve certainly seen that with the PSI travel management with environmental groups pushing to treat roadless areas as equivalent to wilderness and close roads that are even near roadless areas.

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  10. Just want to say I am with Patricia and Lance in principle on this issue. Seems a big need to protect wilderness from the public instead of starting with the Wilderness Act stated purpose that wilderness areas are to be administered for “public use and enjoyment.” For 55+ years the wilderness community led by some interest groups has pushed a vague notion of “wilderness character” that is still not well defined but certainly has distracted most of the scarce resources available for wilderness management. Anyway, I have weighed in quite a bit on the issue of “protecting wilderness from people” on this blog so I will leave it for others to continue the fracas.

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  11. Well, here we go again.

    Let me try to bring a practical perspective to this endless argument. This is how I see it:

    1. As long as Wilderness areas (and WSAs and RWAs) have serviceable trails, people are going to use them.

    2. As long as people are using those trails responsibly, most people aren’t going to care about their presence.

    3. (1) and (2) apply to most mountain bikers and most people who encounter us. For those very few cyclists who are being pests, even other mountain bikers will police them into behaving.

    4. Official law enforcement is minimal. I have heard stories of Forest Service staff who enjoy mountain biking in Wilderness during their off hours. Unless they are supreme hypocrites, they aren’t going to be citing mountain bikers who are riding responsibly (= safely and courteously) in those same areas.

    5. Therefore, the best way for purists (whether private actors or Forest Service staff) to keep out those who offend them is to ensure that the trails are in poor condition or wholly overgrown.

    6. But then, few hikers or equestrians will want, if they even able, to use them either.

    7. And one fundamental precept of the Wilderness Act, that Wilderness is a venue for rugged, self-reliant (i.e., primitive) recreation will be lost.

    8. And over time, as fewer and fewer people become acquainted with Wilderness, political support for it will dwindle. We already see that it’s almost impossible to have new Wilderness designated anywhere that a diverse set of user groups is recreating on an area of federal land.

    9. So, the Wilderness purists would seem to me to have two options:

    (a) Relent on their purism and accept that good trails means human-powered visitors, regardless of outdated agency rules that find little support in the text of the Wilderness Act;

    or

    (b) Cut off their noses to spite their faces, by tacitly or explicitly working to ensure that Wilderness trails are so poorly maintained that they can’t enjoy them either. In other words, cling to the outdated federal agency rules, but at the cost of losing much of their own access.

    Which will it be?

    Reply
    • L- As a hiker and horse rider only, and so I have no dog (leashed or not) in this fight, but a long time natural resource person, I would say that there is at least one other point of view (mine). There is no compelling reason for more designated Wilderness as opposed to the medley of other “recreation only” choices we have. It’s interesting to watch our State and county parks deal with the same recreation vs. recreation issues as they don’t have the ideology of the big W involved. Perhaps we should talk about that. I think people should have to explain why they think a certain amount is needed and why it is better for climate and who exactly it is to be protected from.

      Reply
  12. This discussion shows how selfish and greedy mountain bikers are. Only 4.5% of the USA is designated wilderness. Of that 4.5%, 52% is in Alaska. This includes FS, BLM, NPS, and FWS refuges. How many miles of roads and trails do mountain bikers have in the USA? It is far more than 4.5%. It is time for the mountain biking community to quit asking for more. You already have more than your fair share.

    Reply
    • I recommend you download the Trail Forks app and compare biking trail in the BNF to the rest of the western states. Your POV is difficult for bikes to ever see eye to eye with. Compromise and cooperate with recreation, its the strongest support against industrialized society such as resource extraction and mining. Research what climbers and bikers have done to stop such actions in the Bears Ears National Monument. Recreation and Conservation need to stop infighting.

      Reply
      • I recommend you not ignore the fact that there is less than 2.5% designated wilderness in the lower 48 states. Yet mtn bikers scream they are being locked out of public lands when then have literally hundreds of thousands of miles of trails and roads to ride on in the west alone. Recreation has impacts like all other recreational activities. And mtn bike impacts are greater for many resources than walking or hiking. We are in the midst of climate change and a massive extinction event among animals, that may soon include humans. Public lands are needed for climate and wildlife refugia. If they can’t exist there, they will be gone. YOU can exist elsewhere. Quit being selfish and whining about access, and enjoy the trails you already have legal access to. And for the record, there are many wilderness areas I have been to and many I haven’t – but for those I have never visited I’m thankful for. It doesn’t matter if I ever step foot in it – it is vitally important and I support it being there. I’ve never seen a tiger in India either but I support their existence. That is the difference between you and I ( and many mtn. bikers). You think humans need to use everything to appreciate it. I don’t. And I still don’t believe most mtn. bikers appreciate nature – you appreciate thrills; going fast; careening around curves; flying through the air, jumping off hills and flying down ravines; etc. That isn’t nature and the fact you can’t even see that speaks volumes about the people who mtn. bike and demand they be allowed to go everywhere.

        Reply
        • Denise – Here’s a question, what percentage of federal lands being Wilderness would satisfy you? In Colorado we already have many massive wilderness areas and all other uses for public lands are sandwiched in between them. Motorized recreation areas, mountain biking areas, etc. all feel incredibly crowded because our population has grown tremendously and the number of existing Wilderness areas makes it impossible for new opportunities to be developed for non-favored forms of recreation. Yet it sounds like that is not enough for you. Will you be satisfied with anything less than all federal lands being dedicated exclusively to hikers?

          Also keep in mind for us it’s not about raw percentages but specific places. I can’t speak for mountain bikes, but motorized users like myself and presumably bikers too get very attached to specific places. People travel from all over to ride specific famous trails or areas. And then it just so happens that some of our most popular areas for riding get included in the next wilderness proposal and we would be shut out. Why shouldn’t we be angry about that? How is it selfish to want to continue to be able to ride or drive or climb in the places we most value and have done so all our lives? Who are you to tell us we must loose access just because you think hikers are the only recreationists who matter?

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  13. Can someone please explain what the difference between designated wilderness, proposed wilderness, recommended wilderness, BNF MA6. As far as designated wilderness goes, there are so few climbing bolts in designated wilderness that in 15 years of technical climbing in the BNF, I have never seen or used a bolt in designated wilderness. When we have these discussions we need to be comparing apples to apples and MA6 especially at the Mill Creek North Rim area, does not fit the qualities of designated wilderness, and never will. Sorry but the noise and lights of Hamilton, proximity to motorized travel, shooting range, density of users and every other wilderness quality will not allow it to ever qualify as wilderness.

    So lets agree as climbers to be more thoughtful about cacheing gear and dispersing bolt intensive climbing. And opposing groups can agree to stop booby trapping life supporting anchors (you are lucky nobody died), planting fake trash, planting dead birds, sensationalizing climbing impacts, creating blockades in the trail, digging up belay areas, lying to the forest service, stealing caches without reporting them first to FS for the 15 day allowance, smearing JB weld all over the wall in an embarrassing attempt to damage bolts, using chainsaws to drop trees, using drones to spy on climbers, and everything should be good!

    Reply
    • Here’s a stab at it cognizant that I am not as much of an expert as others here, but I don’t see that anyone else has responded.
      Designated= voted on by Congress successfully.
      I think proposed is that someone possibly external to the FS proposed it.
      Recommended is a Forest Plan decision with public involvement an EIS and all that. MA6 must be a Bitterroot land management designation, also from the Forest Plan. Anyone else?

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  14. Also,
    Inventoried Roadless Areas are governed by applicable roadless regulations.
    Wilderness Study Areas are governed by the legislation establishing them.

    Much of this issue seems to be about whether a requirement to preserve wilderness character (from either legislation, or forest plan direction) requires or permits an area to be managed as wilderness, or if wilderness designation is necessary to do that.

    Here’s a little information about Forest Service special use authorizations: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/contracts-commercial-permits/special-use-permit-application
    “When do I need a special-use permit? If you will need to occupy, use or build on Forest Service land for personal or business purposes, whether the duration is temporary or long term.”
    This is based on 36 CFR §251.50, which does provide an exception for “noncommercial recreational activities, such as camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and horseback riding.” I would argue that installing permanent climbing hardware is “building and occupying” national forest land for the long term, and is therefore not subject to this exception for other kinds of recreation, and it should require a special use permit from the Forest Service. Implementing this requirement would assist the Forest Service in better managing the problems associated with this use.

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  15. Most everyone agrees that natural landscapes and the animals that inhabit them should be minimally disturbed. The debate seems to be the definition of “minimally” and further, if, how and by whom the rules should be enacted and enforced.

    My take on the whole thing is that by finding common ground and compromise the Bitterroot could serve as an example of inclusive and beneficial management and collaboration and in parallel help to usher in an increasing appreciation for nature within a broadening percentage of the local population. With the increase in environmental appreciation within the general population the forest service and private owners could improve management across the board so that the landscape has a better future.

    Or maybe it would be better to keep this winner takes all thing going and try to exclude user groups from public lands. That way everyone will dislike environmentalist and enviroinmentalism. Then the environmentalist movement will be increasingly isolated and unattractive and (over the long run) its population will dwindle to the point of near extinction leaving the remainder of the earth hating population to do what they will (destroy everything).

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Well stated. Political reversals do not occur as fast as the stock market’s did in the last two weeks, but they do, and when someday there’s a Republican president, a Republican House, and a filibuster-proof 60-member Republican majority in the Senate, all poised to eliminate the Wilderness designation entirely or keep it but with motor vehicles allowed, the purists may have cause to regret having spent decades fighting against rock climbers, Yellowstone and Grand Teton boaters, Yellowstone winter fatbikers, and mountain bikers, who agree with them on almost all public lands issues but would like fairer access to the more scenic parts of the Lower 48.

      Of course mountain bikers and the other currently maligned out-groups would oppose that kind of legislation, but the two cooperating sides would be allies of convenience much as the West and the Soviet Union were during World War II, rather than comrades-in-arms, and hence less effective in defeating it.

      Reply
      • RE: “when someday there’s a Republican president, a Republican House, and a filibuster-proof 60-member Republican majority in the Senate, all poised to eliminate the Wilderness designation….”

        You know what? All of us wilderness, wildlife and public lands activists pretty much lived through the exact situation you describe when George W. Bush was president and the Republicans controlled the House and Senate from 2002 to 2007.

        And guess what, Lourenço Marques? We fought like hell to defend Wilderness, wildlife and public lands in that very scary (especially for activists) post-September 11th era. While we for sure lost some battles, the Wilderness Act and America’s National Wilderness Preservation System survived.

        Perhaps you were out riding your bicycle during that “Triple-R” era and sat out the the big battles for our public lands and Wilderness legacy? What’s ironic is that I too was riding my bicycle during that era…through rain, snow, wind and 20 below temperatures to get to the office and put in 10+ hours a day defending Wilderness, public lands and wildlife.

        Reply
        • Very good. But it sounds exhausting. Wouldn’t you rather have a broader base of support for Wilderness the next time this happens? Some mountain bikers are saints and will help. Many, however, will not be strongly motivated, since they know that land can be well protected short of a Wilderness designation (as Sharon notes above), and can be expected to sit out the next battle.

          If letting the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s managers decide on mountain biking access were any kind of threat to Wilderness values, I could see forsaking potentially valuable allies. But it wouldn’t be. They could still say no. The fear, of course, is that they’ll say yes in some places and everything will be just fine.

          This is fundamentally a struggle between pragmatism and ideological purity, with no real environmental aspect to it. A bicycle has minimal environmental impact and we all know it, whether we admit it or not.

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          • “A bicycle has minimal environmental impact and we all know it, whether we admit it or not.”

            Tell that to the guy who was killed by a grizzly bear after he and his mtn bike ran right into it.

            How do you define minimal? Scaring off wildlife? Rooster tails throwing soils up into the air? How about riding thru creeks with salmonid eggs? Ripping down ravines causing erosion? What la la land do you live in?

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    • Where did the false impression start that environmentalists on the Bitterroot want to exclude climbers or anyone else? We saw a recommended wilderness management area get swarmed on by climbers and over-bolted for a sport climbing area with attendant damaged access trails, garbage, etc. Yes, we took issue with that. The FOREST SERVICE put in a temporary ban on new bolted routes in order to get intransigent climbers to come to the table to talk about new rules. The enviros did not do this. There are no new rules yet, but some climbers are getting all heated up about even considering any rules whatsoever, apparently. Who wants it all? The false impression that the enviros want it all was not started by the enviros, so who is feeding this polarized ‘alternative fact’? You know the answer. The behavior of some climbers can be seen clearly by enviros, the FS and the community. Climbers have only themselves to blame if they insist on playing the blame game.

      Reply
      • Well I suppose it could be a forest wide ban on bolting when there was already a moratorium on bolting in Mill Creek and the letter the Wilderness Watch sent out to it’s members talking about threats to the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness and the WSAs in the Bitterroot unless the ban was enacted. If the issue is Mill Creek what is the need for a forest wide ban while a management plan is enacted? What is the threat to the WSAs?

        Reply
        • Lance, who enacted the ban? Fact: it was not FOB or WW. Yes, we support the ban. That is because we don’t want to see more Mill Crk-like sport climbing areas being developed helter skelter elsewhere, which was in progress as the BNF enacted the ban. A cmp will take time. Meanwhile the climbers would, I am confident, have a bolting blitz to get er done before a cmp was in place.
          Your ‘style’ of debate is very deceptive, maybe too clever by half, shifting from implying that conservationists enacted the ban to referring to or support from the ban. It makes it hard to garner the interest in even trying to have a fact based conversation.
          Take this hodge podge comment for example:
          “If the issue is Mill Creek what is the need for a forest wide ban while a management plan is enacted? What is the threat to the WSAs?”
          Clearly Mill Creek is not THE ISSUE. The damage at the “project” at Mill Crk was sprouting elsewhere, with no regs and no review by anybody else but the climbers wanting to swarm on some first ascents. Hence THE BNF (not the conservationists) enacted the forest-wide ban. If you don’t see the threat of transplanting climbing gym type sport areas to a WSA then I don’t have much hope for meaningful conversation because the disconnect is just too great; I can’t understand how that threat is not obvious.

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          • Larry, thanks for the compliment. I don’t think I ever been told that I’m clever on this forum before. Usually I’m accused of being ignorant or clueless. Although in this case I don’t think it was warranted. I believe in the original article that we are commenting on I stated that the ban was instituted by the BNF. I’m not really sure how FOB or WW could be responsible for a ban on public land managed by the USFS. Either the forest supervisor or district ranger would be the responsible official. The WW and FOB have advocated for the ban as is their first amendment right, that does not make them responsible.

            Getting back to my question on the need for a forest wide moratorium, someone listed a variety of land managers with climbing management plans (CMP). Were any of these plans preceded by a blanket moratorium of route development?

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  16. I’ve been involved with the climbing controversy on the BNF from early on. For me it would not matter if the damage I’ve seen is coming from climbers, backpackers, birders, or mt. bikers. It’s the damage on the ground that matters. Early on when Dan Ritter was the ranger on the Stevi district the idea of coming together to develop a LNT climbing brochure was hatched. It seemed like an easy way forward for all parties. Unfortunately, the Missoula based climbers would not participate, even after repeated attempts to get them at the table by Julie King, then BNF supervisor. Locals and BNF employees met many times developing that brochure. Most of the verbiage in that brochure comes straight from Access Fund literature. Before its final version, Julie King, ran it by the Access Fund and they approved. Why Missoula area climbers would not support developing a LNT brochure is still a mystery to me. I encourage folks to go to the BNF website, click on recreation, click on climbing and click on “Bitterroot National Forest Rock Climbing Brochure”.

    Climbing is a legitimate, appropriate sport on public lands. However, what has happened in Mill Creek is not a good example of how an area should be developed. It seems there was no knowledge that the canyon contains golden eagle nests, is home to peregrines, is an important range for mountain goats, or that it is MA6 – recommended Wilderness. I don’t believe those considerations occurred to them at the time nor was any of the public involved in the process. There appears to be a bolted route within 25 feet of a golden eagle nest. If those developing the area would have consulted with FS biologists, and other specialists to determine what was appropriate, a well thought out climbing area could have been developed that provided access to climbers and protected plants and animals who need these areas just to survive. Following the Access Fund’s own guidelines and LNT principals, in my opinion, could have prevented what has become a very contentious issue.

    What has saddened me the most is what appears to be the attitude from some climbers. Resisting rules or regulations seems to be the fall back, even though some rules and guidelines could protect wildlife, avoid user conflicts, and promote sustainable, ethical climbing on the forest. Self-policing simply was not working. The photos that Matthew Koehler posted are just some of the photos taken over the years, there are many more. Regarding the comment of planting dead birds and planting trash, if evidence of that can be presented, I would appreciate seeing it. I was with the party that found the dead golden eagle and I’ve seen enough trash there to fill several backpacks. I know none of the folks I’ve worked with over the years have planted trash or dead birds. Cole, if you could let me know what evidence you have that these were planted, I would appreciate it. I’ve heard that bolts have been damaged, but not seen that personally. Although I believe the area is too densely bolted (on average one route about every 13 ft.), I disapprove of any action that could damage a bolt; that’s simply not the way to move forward and cannot be condoned.

    Federal, State, and local agencies all over the country have rules and management plans for climbing; it’s very common and the accepted norm. The BNF should not be different. It’s not about banning climbing, demonizing the sport, or excluding user groups as some are saying here. It’s about impacts and developing an enforceable plan that protects wildlife/habitat and promotes long-term ethical climbing on the Bitterroot.

    Vertical Times, the AF’s magazine in the Spring of 2013 issue stated; “The “Golden Era’ of bolting totally under the radar is coming to an end”. That issue has some good information. I hope in the next few months all interested parties can come together to identify issues and find enforceable solutions. Wildlands are getting smaller and recreation is growing. All of us, including myself should be working to find ways to lessen and eliminate our impacts. If it means finding alternative locations we should. The plants and animals who need theses areas don’t have that luxury.

    Gary Milner

    Reply
    • Thanks for this informative comment. I read it with interest. I like your attitude toward mitigating recreational impacts on federal lands and their flora and fauna.

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      • Gary, Please call me if you would like to discuss this you can email me cole@hunterbay.com to get my number. I would like to address some comments you made that I think are false.
        1. – “Early on when Dan Ritter was the ranger on the Stevi district the idea of coming together to develop a LNT climbing brochure was hatched. It seemed like an easy way forward for all parties. Unfortunately, the Missoula based climbers would not participate”. This is false, climbers wanted to negotiate with what was in this brochure. We meet with individuals (some members of the FOB) and the meeting quickly fell apart due do wildly different points of view, as we see here. Also we were told that our request for compromise on the brochure’s language would not be heard. The climbing brochure was written and designed by non climbers, and needed much editing, much like the first climbing regulation issued by the forest service this year. The brochure’s language was poorly attempting to use climbing vernacular and was seriously flawed. In my opinion it was a total waste of time and money, and continues to be.
        2. “Missoula based climbers would not participate, even after repeated attempts to get them at the table by Julie King” This is false, Julie has stated multiple times that we were a cooperating party and abided with 100% compliance to her management of climbing in the BNF. Please this link for evidence for our compliance https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/bitterroot/recreation/climbing/?cid=fseprd533499
        3. In 15 years of climbing on the BNF climbers I have been so happy to associate with have packed out hundreds of loads of trash from our forests. This year we will be doing monthly clean ups of trail heads and documenting the work that has been done for years. Last week I cleaned up 3 burn piles and a couch from the Mill Creek Trail Head. I know for a fact that water jugs cached at Mill Creek, in a pack, in a cave for less than 3 days were removed from the cave, emptied, thrown on the ground and photographed then turned into the FS. We have photos of the jugs being used for drinking the week before they were removed from the cached dumped out. This type of deception has become an identifying trait of the parties we have been dealing with. Your post above is no different.
        4. The dead bird was never seen by any climber, not reported to us by our friends at the FS, this is actually the first time we have ever seen this picture, however I have seen the other pictures, all of them, without the bird however.
        5. I have pictures of over 50 damaged bolts/anchors, many videos documenting them as well. I would be happy to send them to you. While you don’t condone this, I hope you know the FS has reached out to us letting us know that they think they know who it is. I wonder what names will be associated with that person when we finally find out also what the legal/criminal implications will be.
        6. This is not true: “Federal, State, and local agencies all over the country have rules and management plans for climbing; it’s very common and the accepted norm. The BNF should not be different. It’s not about banning climbing, demonizing the sport, or excluding user groups as some are saying here. It’s about impacts and developing an enforceable plan that protects wildlife/habitat and promotes long-term ethical climbing on the Bitterroot.” With over 150+ National Forests in the USA there are only 2 formal climbing management plans which are far less restrictive (Rumney and South Platte CO) . Other areas with blanket closures are in areas such as the Red River Gorge and Ten Sleep WY. These areas are international MECAS for climbing. The recent NF release of the poorly written “climbing restrictions” are the most restrictive of all NFs, applying to the BNF that has comparably very small amounts of climbing. We see other national forest areas with thousands and tens of thousands of routes, while bolted routes in the entire BNF are number right around 100, With considerably less than 100 “sport routes”. Also the sport is being demonized and impacts sensationalized. All you have to do is read the FOB or Wilderness Watch website to see that.

        How do climbers do ground up ascents now? This hits at the core of alpinism. Climbers have historically used various methods for fixed anchors. Pitons, webbing, rivets, bolts, slung rocks, metal wedges, stakes, nuts. We need these to explore technical vertical terrain. If we need to combat the impacts associated with increase in sport climbing, climbers are willing to make sacrifices. But these blanket restrictions are not going to work – if we are to retain the tradition and history of alpinism and exploration. Gary what is your stance here? Can you speak for the FOB? Do climbers need prior approval for all fixed anchors in the BNF? Have you though about how this would change the tradition of exploration in the vertical? Should climbers call into the Stevi District while 1000ft up a first ascent to first explain the situation and why they need to leave an anchor? wait for a few months on the wall to hear back? This is the type of climbing that make the Bitterroot special. If both sides can come to an agreement on that point I think we should have no problem cooperating. But the history of cooperation does have some scars and it is important for people to know the story. And to be totally transparent, let me first give some ground. Climbers installed about 20-30 routes in Mill Creek in MA6. This could have been done better, with a few less bolts, route density, and certainly less publication of the area. We installed two very small stances at the bottom of climbs using no more than 6 stakes and a few pieces of treated wood a few feet long. The other belay areas had some local rocks moved to stand on. So yes we technically created a perminant installation. However this was all ripped out of the ground along with existing natural rock anchors and shrubs. This made the impacts to the area look much worse. I witnessed this happen over the course of a few months as did other climbers and hikers.
        To understand how the climbing community has arrived at a place where the Forest service is suggesting a Climbing management plan one must understand the history of controversy surrounding climbing in the Bitterroot. For decades the BNF has been the stage for conflict between parties who oppose climbing, and climbers. In the 1990’s a climber (who has asked to not be named) was the subject of what could have been a homicide when individuals at Mill Creek Canyon (5 miles from Hamilton, MT), dropped rocks from above striking him in the leg. This incident caused serious physical injuries to the climber who claims to have never fully recovered. Police were notified and the individuals responsible were criminally prosecuted. Again around 2010 climbers began seeing an influx of criminal activity, monkey wrenching and flat out eco-terrorism by anonymous parties who obviously oppose climbing. These parties have used unreasonable and dishonest tactics against the climbing community, planting and photographing litter, creating false erosion areas, destroying trails, all while reporting these actions to the Bitterroot Forest Service as having been impacts created by climbers. While there are impacts associated with any use of public lands, the stories relayed to the BNFS on climbing impacts have been almost entirely blatant lies and fabrication. During this same time period many life supporting anchors placed in the rock at our climbing areas were being tampered with, smashed, and left in place for use. On an outing to remove one of these dangerous anchors I tried to use a small wrench to loosen the removable bolt. As I applied pressure on the wrench the damaged bolt spontaneously snapped. Sitting on the cliff edge 200 feet above the ground below I was happy to have removed the time bomb, knowing that the next unsuspecting climber would have died attempting to rappel from it. There were more than 10 rappel anchors in similar condition that I spent hours removing. Each of these damaged anchors could have failed causing the death of a party of two or three climbers. While this information is necessary to fully understand the story. I write with a deal of conflicting emotions, because this was their plan all along. To create public unrest, to create a situation so dangerous, so unignorable, that not only would climbers take notice, but the Forest Service would step in and take action. During the course of the next 18 months you will see the Bitterroot National Forest Service, and especially groups opposing climbing, such as the so called Friends of the Bitterroot, framing the proposed Climbing Management Plan as a way to mitigate climbing impacts and user group conflict.

        Another interesting contrast is that climbers have operated above the board, in personal communication with the forest service, in regards to issues revolving around climbing development. The Forest Service is quoted in their most recent release stating “it is recognized that there is a long history of cooperation between the BNFS and the local climbing community”. However, the parties who oppose climbing suggest that climbers are acting illegally by placing unauthorized bolts. While this conversation has been discussed for decades, there are still no national guidelines for placing bolts on National Forest except that power drills should not be used in designated wilderness. Contrary to climbing development, the tactics of the opposition are so obviously dangerous and illegal that, they have operated in total anonymity, hiding their identity. In daylight, the groups who openly and relentlessly oppose climbing (Wilderness Watch and Friends of the Bitterroot) deny having connection to the damaged anchors and trails. In Fact the recent climbing restrictions issued by the BNFS have only strengthened and validated the tactics of parties who oppose climbing to continue in their ways.

        Reply
        • Cole, I have a few questions for you.

          Regarding the forest wide ban, to your knowledge is there any imminent development of new climbing areas in either the Blue Joint or Sapphire WSA? There are rocks and cliffs in both areas.

          For the non-climbers can you explain what bouldering is and what kind of bolting and or modifications are done to create a boulder problems.

          Let’s imagine you or another climber found a wall that you that thought had potential for a significant cluster of routes and could become popular, but you are not an ornithologist and don’t know if there are any raptors in the area, and you suspect that eventually a trail would be required to access the area. What should the process be, and when should the FS be notified and involved in the discussion? I know when we build a new mountain bike trail it can take several years to get approval and once approved we need to work with them to make sure the design is sustainable and follows FS standards. If we want to build a bridge we need to make the design is appropriate for the area and uses appropriate materials. It seems at some point in the development of a climbing wall the FS should be involved to make sure there are not pictographs or other archeological significant finding in the area in question, that any impact on wildlife is minimal and trails or belay stations are up to snuff.

          Reply
          • Hey Larry,
            Thanks for the questions. As far as I know there are only a few top rope routes in the blue/sapphire. I just figured this out, I have never been there. Less than 5 routes total on the east side. I have explored and hiked the areas extensively and never found anything that would be really good for climbing. I would love to go poke around again and see these areas. Much of the Bitterroot is really poor quality rock. Especially for sport climbing. Its not steep enough and often the rock too fractured and loose. So I don’t think we will ever have an issue with a ton of sport climbing in the Bitterroot specifically because of the geology same goes for the blue/sapphire.

            Bouldering: this is the act of climbing rocks usually less than 20ft tall. Almost always, there is no need for bolts. On few occasions really tall boulders will require rehearsing on a rope first but there are usually ways to create an anchor by using a tree or counter weight on the other side of the boulder. To boulder all you need to do is sweep off the holds from dirt, pine needles etc. The biggest impact from bouldering is soil compaction beneath the boulder. Usually about the size of a tent site. This is from placing pads at the bottom of the boulders. However I have come back to boulders only a year later to see it covered in dirt and pine needles, and overgrown again. The best bouldering in the US is usually in high desert areas or high alpine areas void of dirt and vegetation.

            For your final question: (full disclosure I don’t develop much sport climbing, I prefer traditional first ascents, yes sometimes these require fixed anchors and bolts in the BNF geology) Developing a climbing area that will have high density climbing, this can be crack climbing or sport climbing as impacts are the same with or without bolts. It seems the future will require some type of FS management. Climbers are coming to expect that and except that. However we don’t always know how good an area is going to be. Building a trail or doing site visits and analysis could be a total waste of time. It is so rare that climbers can find good areas in the BNF for high density climbing, its actually pretty grim for us. We don’t always know how many routes are going to be in an area, what the quality of the rock will be. There could be a huge wall with only one viable route. So the first step is to go and check it out. To go explore it and see what type of development is possible. If I came across an area that would need a trail and thought there would be tons of development, I would for sure what to check in with the FS first. This actually was done at Mill Creek and other canyons in the Bitterroot. But as rangers and supervisors are constantly changing these relationships and conversations were fragmented during development and it is apparent that the high density of climbing at Mill Creek was not expected. Admittedly, it was the first time this type of climbing had been developed in the BNF, so no blame should be put on the FS. So in short, I think, It depends on the type of development and density of climbing when it comes to the idea of FS prior approval. The problem with climbing is that it is very nuanced and takes a lot of understanding/flexibility to manage correctly. This is why it has always been so difficult to do so. It seems compromise from both sides (FS and Climbers) and trust will be key moving forward. We have a lot of work to do.

            Reply
            • Hey Cole, I appreciate your factual, venom-free response. FYI, I have taught climbing in CO, AZ, CA, NM, NJ and NY. I have climbed in Baffin, Nepal and Afghanistan. Just sayin….
              I used to be a dedicated climber. Age has caught up. (OK boomer)
              I have always put environmental protection ahead of my recreational activities. Minimizing impacts was easier in days of yore before the hordes of humans and technology like drills, mountain bikes, ebikes, etc

              Reply
              • Larry, you mention having climbed on Baffin Island. Was that Mount Asgard? I have flown by that extraordinary geological feature on a commercial flight. It is an incredible sight. I saw an amazing video of people climbing it. Just getting to its base must be an adventure.

                Reply
        • Cole Lawrence,

          How dare you try and insinuate with ZERO EVIDENCE OF ANY KIND that well-established conservation groups like Friends of the Bitterroot and Wilderness Watch have ANY CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to ANY of the CRIMINAL ACTIVITY you have alleged here. Over the past few decades in the Bitterroot Valley, members of the Friend of the Bitterroot have been victims of violence, including being assaulted by a mob of angry loggers in the parking lot of the Bitterroot National Forest’s Supervisor’s office in Hamilton (as the USFS looked out and watched), had guns fired at their buildings, cabins burned down, etc.

          For you to make it seem like groups FOB or WW had any connection in throwing boulders at climbers is totally irresponsible, and as Larry Campbell pointed out, a total lie since it was in fact local “hooligans from the neighborhood” with zero connection to environmental groups.

          Should we start telling lies about Hunter Bay Coffee, Cole? Please knock it off immediately.

          Finally, you keep saying that environmental groups are totally opposed to all rock climbing. I’ve looked on-line and I see zero evidence to support your claim.

          Reply
          • If you read what I wrote, there is a firm disconnect between subjects I mentions, those being annoymous individuals, parties opposing climbing, and finally actually speaking at the FOB and WW. So for the record, I am making no insinuation directly at the FOB or WW and letting readers know that climbers are being hit from many angles. These range from slighly misleading to criminal activity. And as I said before we are not trying to get to the bottom of it, it should be a job for law enforcement.

            But on the subject of lies and deception, painting parties in a bad light, if Van did find a dead Bird up there, why place it on top of “climbing” trash before snapping the photos? Kind of disgraceful to the magical creature don’t you think? To use the dead bird as a prop in a photo to further an agenda? Was it possibly an effort to sway opinion without evidence? Is it saying climbers kill birds? Why not just leave the animal to go back to the earth as rested? Dave Lockman FS biologists has applauded climbers in writing on helping to collect data and follow falcon restrictions.

            Please do not threaten me about my employment or place of work. I am very sorry that this has happened to your group, because I feel as if in another time and place and even in the future I could really come to like the individuals on both FOB and WW. I know we are all passionate about these issues, but violence or messing with peoples lives is not OK.

            Reply
            • Thanks for your response Cole. For the record, when I wrote “Should we start telling lies about Hunter Bay Coffee, Cole?” it was ONLY in direct response to what you have said and insinuated about FOB and WW. It’s not like it came out of the blue, it was taken from your playbook. It also is hardly “threatening” you about your employment or place of work to basically ask how would you like it if people started telling lies about Hunter Bay coffee. I don’t do that type of stuff, and I would never spread lies about a local business, but when I see someone (you) making (up) allegations about groups (FOB and WW) I have deep respect for, it’s often helpful to respond by turning the tables and see how the person making (up) the original stuff responds. Turns out you don’t care for it very much, and I can see why. But, yes, I agree, let’s knock it off and focus on the issues and not suggestion or hint in anyway that FOB and WW are engaged in eco-terrorism or attempts to kill climbers by tumbling boulders down the hill. Thanks. Have a nice weekend.

              Reply
  17. “With over 150+ National Forests in the USA there are only 2 formal climbing management plans which are far less restrictive (Rumney and South Platte CO)”
    Less restrictive than what?
    If you are referring to the moratorium on bolting, it is not a climbing management plan. It was put in place by the FS to get intransigent climbers to the table to work on a climbing plan. FOB first heard about it from the BNF, and support it as an interim procedure until there is a climbing plan. It is just this type of false narrative (equating a temporary moratorium with a cmp) that has wrongly fed exaggerated venom aimed at FOB, WW and individuals.
    If the climbers can reduce the temperature a bit the inevitable cmp public process will be much more constructive.
    By the way, as you know but failed to specify to other reading your comments, the incident about trundling rocks at Mill was not perpetrated by FOB, WW or any other conservationists. It was hooligans from the neighborhood. I’m sure it was simply an oversight on your part not to mention that and not an attempt to pour gas on the fire.

    Reply
    • Larry, please see my response to Matt above. I will continue to tell as much of the story as I can and also give some ground and compromise as I see fair. People need to know that push back on even the boldest climbing in the Bitterroot (Parking Lot Wall, Grey Wall, Pro Wall) has existed for decades and the issues surrounding Mill Creek’s North Rim Sport area are an extension of an existing construct of social push back against climbing. I know there are concerns about impacts, but to deny that there is more at play here is not fair and inaccurate. There are personal vendettas, hard liners who ARE opposed to climbing, a violent history, and a lot of underground controversy as well. We do not know if the FOB and WW have been involved. Let me emphasize that I do not know! But the truth is that there has been a direct correlation between the above the board opposition and the underground actions, in regard to the timeline and intensity of the opposition. It would be good for all parties to actually figure this all out so that there is no confusion or implied insinuation. Thanks for your response.

      Reply
      • Cole Lawrence, Once again I will ask you to IMMEDIATELY STOP insinuating with ZERO EVIDENCE OF ANY KIND that well-established conservation groups like Friends of the Bitterroot and Wilderness Watch have ANY CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to ANY of the CRIMINAL ACTIVITY you have alleged here. If you make even a hint of that suggestion anymore I’ll use my authority as a longtime blog moderator (who ironically has approved most all of your comments) to remove any part of your comment that even whiffs of that unfounded allegation. Thanks.

        Reply
        • This is pretty ridiculous Matt. One more time, I do not know who has ” ANY CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to ANY of the CRIMINAL ACTIVITY”. You are totally biased in your interpretation of what I am saying, not fit for moderation of this thread. Also I hope you would extend your “authority” to both sides of this argument.

          Reply
          • Cole Lawrence: I’m the one who has been approving your comments on this thread. I’ve also approved many of the comments on this thread, including the ones I don’t agree with. Over about the past ten years I bet I’ve approved more comments on this blog than anyone, with the possible exception of Sharon. During that time I’ve approved thousands of comments I don’t agree. All of us who are moderators on this blog do it on our own time, for free, as a volunteer.

            Like I said, any suggestions or hints that longtime, reputable conservation organizations have anything to do with trying to kill climbers will be removed. So thanks for backing off on that tactic. Also, regarding your ‘both sides’ comment, what comment from anyone on this entire thread has come close to some of your original allegations and insinuations?

            Sure, while we all have biases, my interpretation of what you are saying is actually based on the words you are written down. For example, Cole Lawrence, here is a snip from your very first comment in this thread:

            “So lets agree as climbers to be more thoughtful about cacheing gear and dispersing bolt intensive climbing. And OPPOSING GROUPS [emphasis added] can agree to stop booby trapping life supporting anchors (you are lucky nobody died), planting fake trash, planting dead birds, sensationalizing climbing impacts, creating blockades in the trail, digging up belay areas, lying to the forest service, stealing caches without reporting them first to FS for the 15 day allowance, smearing JB weld all over the wall in an embarrassing attempt to damage bolts, using chainsaws to drop trees, using drones to spy on climbers, and everything should be good!”

            Then in another comment you stated this insinuation:

            “In daylight, the groups who openly and relentlessly oppose climbing (Wilderness Watch and Friends of the Bitterroot) deny having connection to the damaged anchors and trails. In Fact the recent climbing restrictions issued by the BNFS have only strengthened and validated the tactics of parties who oppose climbing to continue in their ways.”

            You also have complained about “parties” and “groups” that supposedly “oppose climbing” [even though there is zero evidence at all that any of these conservation groups “oppose climbing] and then make an allegation that “parties who obviously oppose climbing” have engaged in “criminal activity, monkey wrenching and flat out eco-terrorism.” Sorry, but your insinuations are clear based on the words you are choosing to use.

            Finally, Gary and Larry have also already clearly explained that the tossing of boulders, and apparently toilets, over the climbing wall was done by local teenagers, not by any members of FOB or WW. I mean, seriously, you honestly think that FOB and WW who have any involvement with, or knowledge of, teenagers tossing toilets and boulders at rock climbers?

            Reply
            • I am honestly confused Matt. Were the bolts spontaneously combusting? Is it safe to say that people destroying climbing anchors would also oppose climbing? I am not telling people that there is any evidence that this is the FOB or WW.

              I do still think that the trash was staged in the photos as was the golden eagle, to make it looks as though it was all caused by climbers. To which there is also no evidence.

              I am sorry for the confusion. Seriously. And I hope we do find out who has done this all as it is one of the reasons climbers have a chip on our shoulder.

              Reply
  18. Cole thanks for your reply and I will email you. I disagree with some of your comments however. Your comment – “The brochure’s language was poorly attempting to use climbing vernacular and was seriously flawed. In my opinion it was a total waste of time and money, and continues to be”.

    Former Supervisor Julie King got the approval from the Access Fund before the brochure went to press. The AF is the main advocacy group for climbing yet you think the LNT brochure is a waste of time and money. The AF gave it a green light. I do agree with your statement about much editing; we and the BNF wanted to get it right.

    It is not false that the Western Montana Climber’s Coalition would not sit at the table at the Supervisor’s office in Hamilton, MT. WMCC was repeatedly asked by Julie King to sit with us in person. The group choose not to. I would be happy to meet with you, Julie King, and the Recreation Specialist who was at all the meetings to design the brochure to clarify this.

    Thanks for cleaning up at trailheads, I appreciate that. There’s a lot of thrash out there. I’m not sure what to say about the dead golden eagle that I’ve not already said. Myself and one other person walked up to “Tick Wall” and found the carcass about 30 ft. south of the wall. We did not “plant” it there and we reported it to the FS shortly after. I would be happy to meet personally with you, Julie King, and the Recreation Specialists to confirm this.

    I’m glad the FS has let you know who they think is damaging bolts. That type of behavior is unproductive. I would caution however about your statement – “I wonder what names will be associated with that person when we finally find out also what the legal/criminal implications will be”. Placing guilt by association will only serve to cloud the truth. It’s no different than saying the actions of a few unethical climbers represent all climbers.

    You stated – “This is not true: “Federal, State, and local agencies all over the country have rules and management plans for climbing; it’s very common and the accepted norm”. My research says it’s true and places all over the country have rules and management plans. BLM, NPS, and USDA (FS) and others are all represented. Given space constraints, here are just a few (there are many more) and just a brief line about their regs:

    Enchanted Rock State Park – Permit required for new bolts
    Tennessee State Parks – Permit required for new bolts
    North Caroline State Parks – Can prohibit new installation on case by case basis
    New River Gorge National River – Bolts must be approved by Superintendent
    Castle Rocks State Park ID- Permit needed to place fixed anchors
    Arches National NP – Special use permit needed before establishing new routes
    Joshua Tree NP-Power drills not allowed without a permit.
    Canyon Lands NP – white chalk prohibited, new fixed gear requires a permit
    Grand Staircase Escalante -placement of fixed anchors not allowed in WSAs.
    Daniel Boone NF – “Development of any new rock climbing, bouldering or rappelling areas and development of any climbing routes involving the permanent installation of new fixed anchors or new trail construction requires prior FS authorization”.

    This quote from the Access Fund is appropriate and timely, it appears in the magazine “Vertical Times”, “. . .. There are many well-developed climbing areas in national forests that are not known to USFS district managers. Given the increasing popularity of climbing, Access Fund expects a marked increase in USFS climbing regulations and restriction in the upcoming years as many national forests become aware of climbing areas and revise their forest management plans. . . .”

    You mentioned Rumney Rocks and their CMP. Rumney is a very popular climbing destination. I think it worth noting that currently the AF is seeking donations to help restore Rumney from over use. Here’s a title from their home page- Rumney at Risk: Impacts Reach Tipping Point.

    Cole, you stated – “If we need to combat the impacts associated with increase in sport climbing, climbers are willing to make sacrifices. But these blanket restrictions are not going to work – if we are to retain the tradition and history of alpinism and exploration. Gary what is your stance here?” I can only speak for myself and I appreciate you saying climbers are willing to make sacrifices, that is very refreshing. To me a moratorium on new bolts while we work out a CMP seems reasonable. People can still climb; there are no restrictions on climbing. It seems a reasonable approach while all interested parties go through the NEPA process. Ranger Steve Brown indicated this should take 12-18 months. The only restrictions that may apply is the voluntary precautionary raptor closure while cliff dwelling raptors are given a chance to nest.

    Myself nor anyone I know don’t expect a moratorium to stay in place after a CMP is developed. In fact, a CMP could allow a reasonable measured addition of new routes while protecting cultural sites, cliff dwelling species such as eagles, peregrines, and bats, make sure parking/restroom facilities are adequate, prevent user conflict, and guide development where it is appropriate. Waiting to develop a NEPA based CMP in my mind will not interfere with tradition and history of alpinism and exploration. Regarding tradition and history of alpinism and exploration, I think there are several prominent pioneers of climbing who have questioned bolt intensive routes.

    You mentioned belay stations being torn out. User built belay stations are not allowed. I took a picture of one and reported it to the BNF. Their own Wilderness Ranger went up Mill Creek and removed it. I was on a field trip up Mill Creek with him and other FS employees and he also removed a cairin as folks are not to build them. Incidentally it was on the same field trip with FS employees that we found a 3ft crowbar stashed right in the area where a moratorium is supposed to be recognized. The Wilderness Ranger hauled it out. Some of the issues you speak of are simply the FS doing their job. These guidelines can be found in letters written by Sup. Julie King and I can show you copies if you request.

    In your response you state – “In daylight, the groups who openly and relentlessly oppose climbing (Wilderness Watch and Friends of the Bitterroot) deny having connection to the damaged anchors and trails. In Fact the recent climbing restrictions issued by the BNFS have only strengthened and validated the tactics of parties who oppose climbing to continue in their ways”.

    I’m a member of FOB and I can speak for myself and for FOB here that no one in FOB is opposed to climbing. Those defensive blanket statements have become the norm when concerned citizens simply question an activity and document damage. Folks want to see a CMP developed so issues like Mill Creek don’t occur again and sustainable ethical climbing can occur while protecting what little wildlands are left. Honestly, I’m just not sure how to make that more clear.

    Your statement – “Should climbers call into the Stevi District while 1000ft up a first ascent to first explain the situation and why they need to leave an anchor? wait for a few months on the wall to hear back?” I’m not even sure how to reply. To me that’s the kind of hyperbole that we need to rise above.

    Regarding folks dropping rock from above in 1990, that is well before my time and well before Mill Creek was extensively bolted. I do know that locals (teenagers) would go to the top and drop rocks and toilets off. If you notice the white porcelain at the bottom of the cliff that is what remains of the toilets.

    I believe you are a principal member of WMCC as such, I hope that we can raise the dialog in the next few months without excessive finger pointing, anger, and exaggerations. I know there will be folks with a “take no prisoner” attitude but I’m hoping that the principals from the groups involved and private local concerned citizens will elevate the dialog. The FS has indicated that these will be structured meetings which I think is appropriate.

    Regulations for user groups are common; mountain bikers need authorization before trails can be put in, outfitters need approval for new camps, backpackers usually need permits for NPs, boaters need permits to run many rivers. Climbing should be no different. Wildlands are being subject to a lot of use. Rules, regulations, and permits help reduce impacts and safe guard what little wildlands are left. If they could, I think the plants and animals who live there would thank us for having those safe guards.

    Reply
  19. “Wildlands are getting smaller and recreation is growing. All of us, including myself should be working to find ways to lessen and eliminate our impacts. If it means finding alternative locations we should. The plants and animals who need theses areas don’t have that luxury. ”
    Gary Milner

    Thank you Gary. I couldn’t agree more. More and more and more people are using up certain places and impacting wildlife. Plants and animals don’t speak, have money, or lobby, It is our job to give them a voice. I will gladly give up hiking in an area if that is what is best for wildlife and plants. I’ve yet to hear anything of the kind from a mountain biker or the OHV crowd. They just keep demanding more.

    Reply
    • Once again I cannot speak for mountain bikers, but OHVers do not demand more. We demand the same access we have now. We know it is futile to ever expect a new motorized trail to be built on National Forest land. In CO it’s been decades since that last happened. All our trails are ones that have existed since the 1970s, and most full size trails are mining roads dating to the 1800s. The Forest Service has made it quite clear there will never be another new full size motorized route built in Colorado, and we’re mostly fine with that.

      What we’re not fine is giving up any more of our historical trails for the sake of “benefiting wildlife”. We’ve been doing that for 50 years and our trail system is a fraction of the size it was 20 years ago. There will never be enough trails closed to satisfy environmentalists. They always want to take more away, and we’ve had enough. The wildlife has done good enough coexisting with our trails for many decades and it can keep on doing that.

      Reply
    • Since I’m practicing my “self-isolating” from the corona virus craziness, I’ve had some time to read through much of the above comments, and was gonna pipe in with “well what about the trees and critters” when I saw that Gary did it for me. Thanks from me, too, Gary.

      BTW I heard 2nd hand of an acquaintance at a cider bar the other night saying with certainty the the Friends of the Bitterroot are damaging bolts up Mill Creek. This is an outrageous lie that is apparently well-circulated now (this woman is a casual climber and I’m sure has no first hand knowledge) that the climbing community, to show their integrity, should be actively quashing at every opportunity, and I’m not seeing that here, Mr. Lawrence. Matt’s right. It’s your bad. Quit spreading nasty rumors that actually can hurt somebody.

      I admit haven’t been following the climbing issue up there much but I’ve been around here a long time. I remember the Pinesdale boys who rolled some boulders down on some climbers about 30 years ago (AND GOT CAUGHT!) and I found that appalling and still do.

      I’ve had a mountain bike for longer than that, which is almost as long as they’ve been around, Lance, and have ridden them all up and around these mountains and drainages for years so I not only have “skin” in that issue but on a good few of those rocks up there. So I’m speaking as someone who sure as hell has something to lose in this debate and what I find appalling nowadays is the attitude of mt. bikers and climbers that their sport trumps paying attention to adverse impacts on the Land that are inconvenient to admit or even acknowledge. Reading the above, I understand that climbers and bikers who want “softer” wilderness (read: un-to-underprotected notwithstanding magical thinking to the contrary) don’t see it that way, and, to take you at your word, I can only say you’re fooling yourselves.

      The Wilderness Law is the gold standard for protection, its aspirations are part of our bedrock enviro. laws, (let’s have a whole discussion about “untrammeled”) and that’s what makes the movement that’s generated such kick-ass groups like FOB and etc so strong. Too much has already been given up, global warming is the alarm bell for stomping down on (not feathering) the brakes on thoughtless overuse of these last areas, the W. Law gives us the tools and PHILOSOPHY to do so, and it’s high time for all of us to start giving up some of our temporary pleasures for the sake of the beings we share this planet with. I have and will again. How ’bout you guys. Mt. goats for instance. Have you seen many these days? As many as I used to see all the time on the cliff faces? Not me, not much anymore. Is there a study? Is there a consciousness within the climbing community that those benches between the drainages down where most people climb are where they birth their kids? Couldn’t it be that out of an abundance of caution climbers could at least consider they’re having an impact, and start considering that it’s not all about one’s “exploration” thrills? “Untrammeled”. That’s about humility. And…it’s still the law. Maybe it’s aspirational, but it’s ours if we can keep it and guess what? The U.S. Constitution the same kind of law. Aspirational and constantly in need of defending (a shout-out to your “no compromise” apologia, Lance). Sorry for the rant and no offense meant to anyone in particular but humility is in short supply these days in these “collaboration” threads, and no apologies for the passion.

      Reply
      • Bill,

        Way back in the original spot I made, I included a quote from Wilderness Watch explaining their opposition to fees for Oregon wilderness despite a well documented degradation of wilderness character. Whether fees are the appropriate solution would a whole separate discussion. To remind everyone the quote is, ““There is something amiss when an American citizen has to pay a fee to hike on their lands, which are really our birthright, not a commodity to be ‘sold,’” said George Nickus, executive director of Wilderness Watch.” I assume this birthright is related the the Right to Roam or in Swedish, “allemansrätten” As an aside that I feel obliged to include, in Scotland this right also includes mountain bikers. According to the philosophy of wilderness, do you believe that this birthright is subordinate to the other creatures we share this planet with?

        As far as the philosophical and aspirational goals of the Wilderness Act, and as the “gold standard” for protection would you say that it is the preferred way to manage our public lands. I’m reminded of what someone posted earlier that we can’t build more wilderness, but we can grow it. If so, is there a place for activities that consider not consistent with the wilderness act or is their presence temporary as more more public lands are re-wilded.

        As far as the Wilderness Act being the “gold standard” are there empirical studies that demonstrate that lands being protected as designated Wilderness are more resilient to climate change than other similar areas being managed as IRAs or semi-primitive non-motorized? Same question for carbon sequestration or wildlife health. Is the benefit of wilderness designation the maintenance of their roadless unlogged undeveloped state, or it there evidence that the exclusion of non-conforming non-motorized recreation has an impact other that interference with the aspirational aspects of the legislation? Before Zahniser and before Brandborg, Leopold and Marshall stated that there were costs in designating areas wilderness. For those of us in the recreational community that will absorb those costs, you need to demonstrate that the benefit of more restrictive management will result in healthier wildlife, improved resilience to climate change, cleaner water or improved carbon sequestration. If there is evidence that the loss of access would result in a significant change in outcomes for these goals it would easier to accept; as of yet I have to see a study to demonstrates this.

        Reply
        • Lance,

          Respectfully, I must point out that you are not telling the entire story regarding Wilderness Watch and the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies.

          Once again, a simple, few second google search can be beneficial.

          If anyone takes the time to actually dig just a little bit they’ll clearly see that WW is in favor of the new permits and quotes for limiting and dispersing use as part of the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies. But, yes, WW and some other Wilderness and public lands groups oppose fees, and for good reason.

          See below for what a google search can turn up:

          WW’s June 2017 comments:
          https://wildernesswatch.org/images/wild-issues/2017/06-28-2017-WW-Comments-Central-Cascades-visitor-use.pdf

          WW’s November 2019 comments: https://wildernesswatch.org/images/wild-issues/2019/11-25-2019-WW-Comments-Central-Cascades-Wilderness-Fees.pdf

          WW’s 2018 Action Alert on the issue: https://wildernesswatch.salsalabs.org/centralcascadeswildernessplan/index.html

          SNIP: “Wilderness Watch supports implementing quotas when necessary to protect solitude, minimize physical resource damage, or to provide security and habitat protection for wildlife. We do not support using permit systems as a means of raising money or to in any way commercialize access to Wilderness.”

          WW’s 2019 Action Alert on the issue: https://wildernesswatch.salsalabs.org/cascadewildernessfees/index.html

          SNIP: “While Wilderness Watch supports quotas to protect Wilderness areas from being over-run by people, we are adamantly opposed to the federal government charging hikers a fee simply to take a walk in the Wilderness. The fees are another part of the effort to commercialize Wilderness, and would exclude the public from accessing and enjoying their public lands.”

          Reply
          • Matthew,

            I appreciate you providing the context, I did not do a deep search. That quote came up at the top of the search of their website. It’s great to see that they can support reasonable regulations. Of course I have to mention I support similar regulations for managing recreation in pristine areas outside of designated wilderness , regulations that could maintain solitude and wildlife protections through something like quota or permit systems that would allow access without the blanket exclusions. If it can work in wilderness for hikers, it can work in other areas for mountain bikers.

            Reply
  20. Hi, Bill,

    I’d like to reply to your opinion that mountain bikers and climbers are by and large indifferent to the environment and live only for excitement at its expense. Your comments are civil, unlike those of the frantic mountain-bikers-are-like-a-cancer lady, and it motivates me to reply.

    1. I will never mountain bike in a way that harms flora, fauna, or the land. That is true of every serious mountain biker I know, and I know or am acquainted with hundreds of us. As you know, mountain biking is exhilarating in a unique way, and I suppose climbing must be too. But in my experience, enjoying that wonderful attribute is not accompanied by the lord-and-master attitude you perceive.

    2. However, I am not willing to take the word of everyone in this thread that I am causing that harm. The cancer lady doesn’t even offer any credentials; she seems to be just another “activist.” For the same reason that I don’t rely on fanatical anti-vaxxers for medical advice, I’m not going to rely on her churning, roiling views of who’s causing harm.

    3. That doesn’t mean I’m fooling myself that I have no impact. I do. So do hikers, backpackers, and maybe even kayakers and canoeists if they camp overnight. All of those impacts pale, of course, compared to the impacts of horses, packstock, and commercial pack outfitting. The point is to manage human impacts wisely.

    4. A wise Wilderness management system, which we have not had for decades, would therefore focus on environmental impacts! The current system doesn’t, except incidentally. Rather, it governs according to whether it’s a shoeprint or a tire tread that leaves a trace on trails. We need a management system based on data and actual effects, rather than shibboleths over whose uses are purer or more in line with what Moses and Jesus would have experienced.

    5. As for the humility aspect, almost every time someone invokes this concept they include themselves in the righteously humble (even as they preach and lecture to outdoor recreationists) and assign mountain bikers to the ranks of the arrogant. That is, of course, tremendously off-putting. I do not detect that you’re doing that. I only urge that you use the word “humility” with caution, because it has become a loaded term. It has come to mean, “I am better than you are.” To repeat my disclaimer, I do not perceive you to have that attitude.

    Reply
    • Lorenco, Well, thanks for the thoughtful counter comments. Don’t agree with all of it but time is short and how much do we really “solve” with these threads? I sure don’t know. But a couple high points to counter yours: the “humility” I’m talking about is what “untrammeled” in the Wilderness Law was put there for. Simple. It’s the HUMAN tendency to be self-centered and short sighted, not necessarily a mountain bikers’ or a climbers’ (my god I’m kinda both!) or a hikers’ or a horse packers’. That’s what Zahniser and Brandy were talking about, they called it “making democracy work” (at least Brandy did) and that’s why we have the law, because of deep-thinking people like them. Philosophical? Hell, yeah, and that’s what I think is lacking in these discussions and I see overt denial of it in some of Lance’s posts. I’ve found candy wrappers on the shores of high mountain lakes left by backpackers and would say the same about them as of a climber slamming a bolt into an irreplaceable rock face in order to have more fun that one day. What the hell are you thinking? I’d say. Don’t you know where the law came for you to have places like these to be out here enjoying these unroaded, unlogged areas to begin with? No, they don’t, I’ll answer for them. They are ignorant of why these areas still exist and frankly I see a lot of that here in these threads. I’ve known of outfitters who make their fall wages on the strength having wilderness permits, hauling in chainsaws to cut their camp firewood and “clean up” their camp a little bit with the attitude of “why shouldn’t I? it’s my forest after all not the Forest Service’s and they’re just stupid govt. workers for carrying around those crosscuts anyways” and then complaining like stuck pigs and going whack job when they get busted for it. I disagree with you that there hasn’t been “wise wilderness management” in the past. If there hadn’t been, then the outfitters would have had their way with their chainsaws and then everybody else would have and then you wouldn’t have been able to get away from the sound of a chainsaw back in there these last 4 decades, and that’s a fact and that’s why that law can’t be weakened and compromised without gutting it. What’s lacking at a very basic level these days out in the woods is thoughtful respect for the Land (not “resource”) and the same for how much blood sweat and tears went into making that miraculous law stick to an unholy Congress. It’ll never happen again no matter how much magical thinking of “collaborating with user groups” you guys talk about today. It’s the best we have for protection of the remaining functional areas in and out of the wilderness system, we need as much of those areas as we can get as the planet warms and we look for “solutions” (or solace) and it saddens me how many folks who make such a point of getting out and enjoying these areas are willing, out of ignorance or selfishness, to use the remaining, yet-to-be protected lands as bargaining chips for, frankly, their own pleasure. No offense. Just thoughts. Nothing specific really except to quote Ed Zahniser, Howard’s son, who described the reaction more and more “outdoors” people he knows these days who roll their eyes at the word: “Wilderness!” Oh that’s so sixties!” Is it really?

      Reply
      • Bill, I don’t know if we ever “solve” anything by discussing it here, but we can try to suss out what is really going on from different perspectives and see what we agree or disagree about, which may be useful in future possibilities of working together. Mostly, I think, when information is presented we can see how the information is validated, critiqued or interpreted from different perspectives. And hopefully the discussion helps break down stereotypes.

        Reply
      • Hi, Bill,

        We may not solve much in these threads, but they’re a good forum for the people most interested in public lands management. And perhaps they’re a soothing distraction from the crises we all face with the novel coronavirus. I appreciate your amiable reply.

        A couple of comments . . . .

        Sure, some humans are self-centered. I keep having to block off a feature in a local park that a few renegade mountain bikers are hucking over, disturbing land alongside the trail. A few feet away, I have tried to block off a bootleg shortcut that hikers have created, just so they can cut their hike short by 200 feet.

        In Wilderness areas I have seen, along with bicycle tire tracks (which of course don’t bother me as long as people are riding responsibly), motorcycle tracks, litter, and garbage. And, orders of magnitude worse than the foregoing, massive damage done by horses and packstock.

        That is why I would respectfully disagree with you about wise management. Wise Wilderness management would see few if any horses, very little packstock, and no commercial operations that rely on those land-churning mammals. Wise Wilderness management wouldn’t result in the situation in which trails everywhere are being lost, through bad maintenance, no maintenance, or lack of use. Wilderness management is confused and counterproductive, and when it is beneficial, it sometimes seems to be so only by coincidence.

        With regard to chainsaw maintenance, no law or regulation requires the Forest Service to avoid using chainsaws to keep trails open and maintained. My understanding is that the National Park Service uses chainsaws to maintain its Wilderness trails. The Forest Service’s unwillingness to do is simply a strange internal policy. Its preferred ancient maintenance methods, which it hews to (sorry for the pun) and won’t reconsider, aren’t up to the task. If pack outfitters (who I wish would go away) are using chainsaws to preserve Wilderness access as called for in the Wilderness Act (which mentions recreation three or four times, as I recall), it does not bother me. I’d rather hear the occasional chainsaw than lose access to 5,000 miles of trail, which I bet is a considerable underestimate of the actual mileage we’ve lost thanks to unwise Wilderness management.

        Thanks for the constructive dialogue.

        Reply
  21. As I want to make sure we have open lines of communication, I want to apologize for my assumptions made earlier in this thread. I was being careful to not make direct claims at any individual or group, but Matt clearly pointed out my oversight, and few occasions where my writing implied guilt. I think this conversation has identified the need for the FS and law enforcement to get to the bottom of these conflicts. Yes, it certainly has been an unproductive narrative, and there has been a ton of finger pointing. Not helpful. I have sent this link to some trusted FS and law enforcement professionals so that they can understand how important it is to bring closure to the issues climbers have faced and continue to face. This conversation has actually been very fruitful (while frustrating at times) to understand the hurdles ahead and the need for cooperation. Sorry again, and I hope everyone who has been following can empathize with my POV as a climber who has been effected directly by all of this for over a decade while I did not help develop the sport area on the North Rim.

    Also, can someone let me know how to post pictures and format my writing as others have?

    Reply
    • For reference I have included some numbers on routes in various areas. If we are to figure out solutions it is good to have data. I pulled these numbers from Mountain Project which provides an resource for climbing and routes across the country and world. It does not list all routes, but can give us a rough estimate on route volumes.

      Eldorado Canyon 1, 186
      Boulder Canyon 1,699
      Smith Rock 1,103
      Shelf Road 1,127
      Red River Gorge 2,209

      In the Bitterroot and the Mill Creek area in question: Tick Farm 11, Mill Creek North Rim 36. The entire Bitterroot NF 205. In the WSAs: 0.

      It would also be helpful to know how many people there are climbing on any given day. It seems to me it can’t be huge, if folks are wandering around and photographing gear caches and the Forest Service is removing belay stations without anyone being around. So are we talking 10 people a day or a 100?

      I have also included a link the the South Platte CMP, https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=Y2xpbWJpbmdtYW5hZ2VtZW50Lm9yZ3x3d3d8Z3g6MWZiMDEwMmY5OWNkYTlkZA

      I noticed one line the seemed particularly pertinent and probably explains the issue here. “Bolt-intensive climbing routes (e.g., sport climbs, bolt ladders) are not appropriate in
      wilderness and should not be developed.” I am going to be presumptuous here, and state that for the commenters on this post who are for the lack of better term, the wilderness community, are of the opinion that recommended wilderness and WSAs are to be managed as wilderness and there is no level of non-conforming use that they consider acceptable. If I am incorrect, I will stand corrected. As such there is no level of sport climbing development that would considered acceptable, and the absolute number of routes or climbs is relevant. Is that an accurate statement of your position?

      Reply
    • Cole, this is a kludgy way of doing it, but what I do is (if you have a WordPress account, which is free) is compose it in a “fake” blog, which you also get for free, and then copy and paste from the “fake” blog post on your own blog, into the comments. Maybe others have easier suggestions? If not I can walk you through it if you need.

      Reply
  22. Thanks for finding this information, Lance!

    As a non-rock climber, I was interested in these rules about Wilderness

    ALL VISITORS-
    The following are prohibited:

     Wagons, carts, bicycles, hang gliders, unmanned aircraft systems, and other
    motorized, mechanized or wheeled vehicles. Wheelchairs suitable for indoor
    use are allowed.
     Landing of aircraft, or dropping or picking up of any supplies, materials or
    persons by aircraft.
     Having groups of more than 15 persons and/or 10 saddle, pack, or draft
    animals.
     Unleashed dogs.
     Campfires within 100 feet of trails, lakes, or streams.
     Short-cutting switchbacks on trails.

    I’m sure that there’s a story behind “Wheelchairs suitable for indoor use are allowed.” but that raises all kinds of questions in my mind.

    Reply
    • Perhaps that is why the most recently passed wilderness bill (the 2019 Dingel Act) specifically allowed fixed climbing anchors in the new wilderness areas it created, to counter recent agency decisions that they should not be allowed.

      Reply
      • I think those are Congress decisions rather than agency decisions. That alternative language would be necessary to avoid the prohibition of any “structure or installation” by the Wilderness Act, and its overarching requirement for the Forest Service to preserve the “wilderness character of the area” (which we know from elsewhere in the Act means “natural,” “uimpaired,” “untrammeled,” “primeval,” and “without permanent improvements.”)

        I guess I’ll add that I agree that user created trails on rock walls need the same kind of attention from the Forest Service that should be paid to those on the ground – prohibited in some places and managed in the rest.

        Reply
        • I disagree that a route is a user created trail. This has vast implications, which end being pretty unfair. Climbing in general is an extension of scrambling, an exploration of the vertical. There are situations where we need to utilize fixed anchors to do so. Climbing on hardened surfaces (rock) has a completely different impact than compared to multi-use trails which exist on delicate soils and are used by various groups. Rock climbing routes are only used by rock climbers and the impact to the rock is no different in our area than the much more powerful force of frost heaving, freeze thaw, torrential rain and wind. Every year the base areas of walls for example in Mill Creek and Blodgett experience violent natural rock fall and melt cycles that dwarf the impacts climbing. Also trails have certain guidelines to exist in proper accordance with FS regulation. For example the grade of the trail, how the trail will effect water runoff. Climbing’s most analogous activity is camping. Where people come to an area spread out and use the area then pack up and leave. The small tent sites and social areas have an impact on the ground, which is very similar to climbing impacts. The rock however is very tough. To cooperate in the process of a CMP we must be willing to not make generalization like these. We allow 20 people and 20 head of horse to travel in a group in the wilderness. I have spent months in the Bob Marshall and have seen these impacts. I have also seen what good management practices can do. When overused campsites are shut down for restoration campers and packers observer the temporary closure as nature takes over again. However new rock climbing routes, especially dispersed climbing does not carry the same impact as an additional trail. Lets get on the same page here!

          Reply
          • Also, there are user created social trails all over Wilderness areas and I don’t often hear people complaining about them. Such trails are inevitable as long as cross county hiking is allowed. Stopping them would be impossible unless the Forest Service was willing to ban all off route foot travel and was somehow able to enforce that.

            Reply
              • They do build cairns and wear distinct paths into the ground where people frequently travel the same way. The more defined social trails eventually end up shown on topo maps. One of my favorite backpacking trips in the Lost Creek Wilderness relied on just such a social trail for a crucial part of our loop.

                Reply
                • I think there is some confusion here. When Cole mentions scrambling he is not talking about bushwhacking, but rather non technical climbing. Basically most of the climbing mountains short of using ropes, even though some class 4 routes encourage ropes as protection. Plenty of class 3 and 4 scrambling occurs on fairly defined routes. There are only so many ways around obstacles in the mountains.

                  https://mountainmadness.com/resources/climbing-rating-systems

                  Reply
          • Morning Cole,
            I will try to reply to individual pellets in your shotgun comments.
            “Climbing in general is an extension of scrambling, an exploration of the vertical.” – Scrambling generally does not follow the same route twice and should leave nothing but footprints behind. Climbing routes are often named and repeatedly followed, especially when fixed anchors are left.

            “Climbing on hardened surfaces (rock) has a completely different impact than compared to multi-use trails which exist on delicate soils and are used by various groups.” – Yes, and sometimes trails cross boulder fields/talus. They are still trails that encourage, facilitate and concentrate human presence, which can bring a variety of damaging impacts.

            “Also trails have certain guidelines to exist in proper accordance with FS regulation. For example the grade of the trail, how the trail will effect water runoff.” – Precisely the point of a cmp and associated guidelines and regulations following analysis of various issues.

            “Climbing’s most analogous activity is camping.” – Leaving tent frames, pegs and fire rings is not allowed for good reason.

            “When overused campsites are shut down for restoration campers and packers observer the temporary closure as nature takes over again.” – Good point, and a sensible part of a cmp.

            “Lets get on the same page here!” – I’m trying to keep up with the rapid page flipping. With any luck we will end up on the same page. The temporary bolting ban instituted by the FS (!) can provide opportunity for a book discussion group focusing on various individual thematic points one at a time and help to end up on the same page.

            Reply
  23. Folks have mentioned the South Platte Climbing Management Plan for the Pike National Forest. I think it worth noting that of the six people who signed off on that plan, three are Forest Service employees, two are AF reps., and one is the president of the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance. Nowhere in the 11-page document does it mention the involvement of other citizens/users. No birders, or mt. bikers, OHVers, backpackers, hunters, hikers . . . . It seems it was written by climbers and approved by the Pike National Forest. Not involving all stake holders is something I could never support when managing public lands; those lands are for all of us. The South Platte CMP is one of the least restrictive plans and I suspect that is why climbers bring it up.

    Regarding bolting in Wilderness, the research I’ve done shows the AF routinely in scoping comments suggest bolts be used only as a “tool of last resort” and be placed with a hand drill. Currently the GSENM (Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument) restricts all bolts in BLM WSAs. Regarding New River Gorge, bolts are allowed with Superintendent approval.

    Reply
    • Gary, as a person who is a hiker on the Pike, my view of climbing is that is indeed between the FS, climbers and people who are worried about environmental impacts. As another kind of user, I find it easy to avoid areas with climbers so I wouldn’t be particularly interested in the climbing plan.

      Reply

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