We haven’t had a recreation piece for some time and this is from April, but…the story is very comprehensive and interesting. Check out the whole article in WyoFile.
Then word got out. And as climbing’s global profile exploded in the last two decades, so too did the canyon’s popularity, threatening it with the now familiar fate of so many Western recreation destinations — being loved to death. Parking lots became overcrowded, user-created trails proliferated, erosion began to degrade areas at the base of cliffs and human waste became an issue as dispersed camping mushroomed.
The discovery of heavily manufactured climbing routes — a widely condemned practice in which the rock is manipulated with tools or glue — fueled a battle over ethical development. Before long the controversy boiled over with online fulminations and a nighttime raid by climbers manually chopping bolts from rock faces.
Into the mess stepped the U.S. Forest Service, which in July of 2019 issued what amounted to a moratorium on the establishment of any new climbing routes or trails in the entire Bighorn National Forest.
In the two years since, the Bighorn’s Powder River Ranger District has been drafting a climbing management plan for Tensleep Canyon. It released a scoping document in February, and received nearly 500 comments by the March deadline. The agency will work through the summer to prepare the draft environmental impact assessment.
The issues in Tensleep Canyon made it clear that the plan was overdue, Powder River District Ranger Traci Weaver said.
“Our stance was: ‘Timeout, give us time to finish our climbing management plan, give us time to move forward thoughtfully and work together with all our user groups … and come up with something that’s sustainable into the future,” she said. “What was happening in Tensleep Canyon was not sustainable.”
The plan has the potential to ripple beyond the walls of the canyon, climbing advocates say. As one of only a handful of Forest Service plans specifically focused on climbing, it could influence how the pursuit is managed on national forest land across the U.S.
Lovers of the canyon say they hope it strikes a balance that protects the precious resource while still allowing for human enjoyment of the place. But with more people than ever visiting public lands like Tensleep Canyon, that task only grows more complicated.